“IF MEN WERE WITHOUT VANITY MIRRORS WOULD NOT EXIST! IF MEN WERE NOT VULNERABLE TO FEAR OF FALURE THEY WOULD NOT BOTHER TO CHECK THEMSELVES IN THE MIRROR OF DEFINED MANHOOD! IF MEN DID NOT BOTHER TO CHECK THEMSELVES, ALLOWING THEIR SUPREGO TO DRIVE THEIR AMBITION TOWARD MANHOOD IT WOULD NEVER ATTAIN A SOCIALLY REMARKABLE LEVEL OF REFINEMENT!”
I. WHERE IT BEGINS
I once knew a man who was mortified at the prospect of growing old and of maturing away from the boyish charms he’d cultivated with splendid proficiency. He wondered what would come to represent him after his adolescent gawkiness was no longer considered to be aesthetically pleasing or socially acceptable. He should now have to begin to define himself anew, cutting open and stepping out of the fragile cocoon of his evanished boyishness. Being a child was in no way comparable to being a man the latter being infinitely less forgiving but it was a transformation that he must make or run the risk that he would be forever left behind in the attainment of the ultimate goal of manhood.
He had not yet realized that by contemplating its gravity and navigating its complexity he had already begun his journey toward manhood leaving boyhood behind him. But that was not enough. Manhood, he would soon discover, is far more than an intellectualized plateau it is a treacherous and uncharted mountain path roughest as we climb it but paved smoother behind us with the residual of our own deeds and vegetated with the philosophy of our conscience. The road in every way equals the man set upon it. We are the exact, quantifiable equivalent of our lives no greater and no less in spite of what we or others hope for us or envisage as our potential. As a man is raised from childhood the eyes surrounding him see two distinct men, the one who is simply the man before them and the man they hope or fear he may become… Every man visualizes himself through a filter that is a mixture of how he imagines he is perceived by the world and the way he perceives who he is. A man who possesses a sound understanding of and comfort with his philosophy of life is able to effectively manage the critical relationship between perception and reality as it uniquely applies to him. That is to say that without prejudice a man may know and accept that he is fundamentally evil or corrupted as measured by mainstream standards and be equally as harmonious with his nature as a man who knows and accepts that he is fundamentally good and uncorrupted; the two men are equal and opposite. A pragmatically thinking man will easily abandon philosophical ideals in order to address the immediacy of practical human need. Many lofty ideals do not so easily translate into something that is useful to basic humanitarian need. Exaggerated concepts of manhood are always empty of substance because they are not rooted in tactile, practical relevance having become far too regimented and dispassionate to effectively serve human need. Nobody wants a macho machine; they want to cuddle up to a breathing, thinking, and compassionate man.
II. THE COLOURS AN ARTIST PAINTS
The goal of manhood is to understand how the physical and psychological transformation of our bodies redefines our humanity. The objective is to explore the full spectrum of the human experience in order to understand what it means to be human, what society requires of us in our role as a man and what we must do in order to earn distinction as a man in the eyes of society and in our own. It is clear that upon becoming a man one must commit to living an exemplary life devoted to humanitarian deeds expressed as a reflection of ones journey along the road of manhood itself. It is understandable that while this commitment is relatively simple for any man to comprehend it is far more difficult for him implement with any manner of consistency if he allows the fear of failure to prevent him from ever trying and that is where this article steps in, of course, in the persona of a man whom I have carefully prefaced.
If men were without vanity mirrors would not exist! If men were not vulnerable to fear of failure they would not bother to check themselves in the mirror of defined manhood. If men did not bother to check themselves, allowing their superego to drive their ambition toward manhood they would never attain a high level of social refinement!
O’ how I digressed in order to get back to the man who is also the man in many of us albeit in varying degrees; threatened, horrified, intimidated or just plain afraid of the herculean task of manhood and the possibility that they might fall short of achieving its gilded laurels. It is perfectly natural to fear the unknown, to have a healthy competitive fear of competition and of performance. All men face the fear of living up to the lofty and mythic ideal of manhood itself but wise men understand that it is ultimately a universal aspiration which even among great men never comes close to Godly standards. Great men are born and die every day, they are actually quite commonplace meaning that younger, less experienced men will always have a bountiful resource of examples they may assimilate manhood thereby exterminating the fear that it will be too formidable a goal to obtain. Fear of manhood could develop at any stage of a man’s life when he is faced with carrying the burden of new and uncharted manly responsibilities. These responsibilities could manifest in many ways but they share a common thread, fear of change. One could almost classify the fear of manhood with a broader category called “Morphobia” or fear of change.
III. A SOLID BALANCING ACT
There is one critical couplet that all aspiring men must poses and that is honesty and integrity. Always remember that the measure of the ratio between honesty and integrity is a sliding scale that swings from good to evil. A successful strategy for identifying ones fear of success balances honesty and integrity to keep the scope simple and manageable. Once identified multiple fears should always be isolated and dealt with one at a time. Since we are not always mentally ready to deal with every problem we face we have to be able to evaluate which issue presents an open window we can exploit today. This is why we say becoming a man is not an overnight process, it takes many years of continual self-evaluation and we must literally wait until we mature enough to effectively deal with some issues.
The most critical decision a man can make is that of his affiliation, his constitution; will he aspire to be a good man or an evil man. A man might choose to be a hero or villain of his own design and the eyes of others depending upon the interpretation of righteousness he serves. Therefore, one of the first tasks of manhood is to decide which path to take. It is not the purpose of this article to determine the difference between a good man and an evil man as that is a matter of self-examination and evaluation by the jury of humanity itself! Once manhood is acknowledged society will also judge it against the standards of history and that is why becoming a man requires a consciousness of intrinsic and extrinsic value. That is to say as certainly as a man is at peace with himself a good man knows he is beloved and a villain knows he is generally despised. That is not to say that every man whom society has labeled as a villain is evil. There are always contradictions to every theory and history proves that society has wrongfully demonized its share of righteous men. This is why it is so very essential for a man to concurrently develop his sense of self-esteem while aspiring to manhood so that in the rare event that society has misjudged him he will have the fortitude to persist in his struggle. In many instances a man must escape his fear of society in order to fulfill his commitment to honesty and integrity in the face of a corrupt society or of some specific corruption within society. This too requires great thought because men tend to blindly celebrate their own theories in contempt of society which they feel has wrongfully persecuted them for their freedom of expression. Feedback is the greatest gift to a man of conscience and he must coordinate the popular views of the day with his own instinct for survival.
IV. AS THE GAVEL HITS WOOD
While it is hopeful that all males will one day discover they have successfully achieved manhood it is not promised and it is all too true that many males live and die having never achieved true manhood in their own eyes and in the eyes of the world. A true man must satisfy both pairs of eyes even if one pair, that of society does not understand that it has been duly served. So how then does a young man overcome his fear of manhood? There are two fronts of manhood as identified before the personal and he external dimensions. Both dimensions must be satisfied in order for manhood to be achieved and therein lay mankind’s fear, the fear that one or both will not be sated or that the combination though blessed with some achievement will nonetheless fall short of a totally arbitrary average manufactured in the mind. That is why while it is essential to be able to process feedback from society an individual must have the strength of mind to identify and qualify his achievements toward achieving manhood; society is preoccupied with its own fears and vanities and might miss the substantial manly achievements of the individual’s. So we cannot always wait for congratulations from society which may easily have missed our heroism in manhood; it is enough to have a clear understanding that our deeds are relatively consistent with what society upholds as a standard.
There is only one way a man can overcome his fear of manhood and that is by climbing to the top of the highest diving board he can find, standing at the edge of the precipice, looking directly into the eye of his present destiny and trusting in his ability to pull through unscathed finally diving into the pool head first wearing a very good life preserver. Whilst offering what is certainly critical advice I might suggest adding to the repertoire of safety features a good crash helmet should one happen upon shallow water. It is a big and vacant thing to say merely that a man must be confident and brave when he is facing his greatest fear. So a man must learn to separate himself from his fear by identifying it as other than himself. If a man allows himself to become his fear then he opts for the most difficult task of all which he will almost surely cheat at; that is the challenge of defeating himself. Defeating yourself is nearly impossible because you will always know your next move and be able to correct for the next crucial blow. Personifying one’s self as one’s own fear is a powerful but vulnerable mind game. The weakness lies in ones perception of fear as a human thing real as you and I which it is not; fear is only a concept, a vacuous, arbitrary concept men have named to represent mysteries they cannot understand but do not have the patience and humility to respect from afar.
V. FINE FODDER FOR MEMOIRS
So let us then name a fear to begin the exercise of defeating it. For instance, a man might fear that he will not be able to support himself financially in a career which will make him independent. He must soul search assessing what level of independence he has achieved and determine how he can escape the dependencies that keep him from his goal. He may fear society judges him against his peers who have attained a higher level of economic success but should not confuse the primary importance of eliminating his dependencies with merely matching the achievements of others; they are two separate issues. Eliminating his dependency might be as simple as saving his money and getting an apartment of his own. While this may not be the same as owning his own home it is a comparable success to his peers who no longer live at home with their parents having established households entirely under their control and is thereby a measurable degree of independence, a point earned for manhood. The second example deals with the more social focused goal of being an esteemed pillar of the community. A man who compares himself to the leaders of his community must ask what they did in order to earn esteem and he must also be honest about whether he sincerely has a passion for community service. If he feels that is not his calling he must determine in what other ways can he generate positive outreach that will serve the needs of others? These options may not be as obvious as those to which he initially aspired but no less if not more effective. So he takes a job delivering mail and has such pride in his work that he ensures mail is delivered on time and takes special interest in the patrons along his route. In many ways this man has served a far greater social need than the councilman he looks to as a mentor because he interacts with the unknown faces of the constituents a politician never sees. For many reasons people are far too busy with their lives to hold politicians accountable but they know if their mail man is efficient and polite because the mail he delivers plays in integral part in their day today lives.
VI. SUMMING IT UP NICELY
The previous examples demonstrate that a man who fears his ability to become independent within the intrinsic domain governed by his self-consciousness and fears his ability to assume responsibility within the social/extrinsic domain governed by the opinion of his community can successfully navigate a path to a state of manhood that cultivates a co-functional partnership between both domains simply by naming his fear of failure and developing a strategy to transform it into a tangible goal partnered with a simple and practical plan of action to attain it. They demonstrated that a successful strategy will always balance honesty and integrity within its scope keeping the model simple and manageable. Because manhood is such a subjective topic it is impossible to cover every angle but isolating the personal and interpersonal domains is a basic formula for mastering a healthy ratio between the private and public demands that hallmark that celebrated institution we know as manhood.
WRITTEN BY: BIGDADDY BLUES
A GALLERY OF IMAGES OF THE AMERICAN NEGRO BASEBALL LEAGUE