On Redefining Masculinity

Welcome to the Living Revolution 🙂

Well, friends, I survived October.  The last couple weeks have been an incredible trip, fraught with emotional perils like I’ve never encountered. Much of my internal universe has shifted significantly and continues to bend, flex, contract and expand as I process these new feelings and all the excellent information I received from the friends and family with whom I sought counsel. I am looking at the world through a very different lens as I write this now, and I want to share with you some of what is going on in my head :).

Two stories in the popular media grabbed my attention this month. First, a communal act of bravery and unselfishness demonstrated by a team of middle school football players. The second, a bullying scandal from another football team, the Miami Dolphins. The actors in this story are, by most conventional definitions, considered adults. The actors in the first story are boys, just delving into puberty, young men, at best. Both stories are emotionally charged, but they inspire feelings on opposite ends of the spectrum of human behavior. The Dolphins story pisses me off and makes we wonder how some human beings are infected with so much negative energy and darkness they forget how to treat the people around them with dignity and respect. The first story inspires me and reminds me there are good things happening all around us, and changing the world in a positive way still takes place on a person-to-person level. It makes me ecstatically happy to see compassion, camaraderie, courage, and love acted out by children who probably don’t yet understand the gravity and influence of their actions.

In light of challenges I’ve been working through recently in my personal life, I am looking at these stories and asking questions about what it means to be a “man” in both these situations. What impact does gender have on stories like these? What are the cultural implications for men when we recognize these kind of stories on a national level? What kind of precedent is the current generation setting for acceptable male behavior in modern society? What changes must be made now for men who wish to live healthier, happier, more fulfilled lives? What lessons must we teach our sons to ensure they won’t suffer or create suffering as a result of their emotional immaturity and ignorance?

Here is the link to the blog article that got me thinking about all this:

http://www.grantland.com/story/_/id/9939308/richie-incognito-jonathan-martin-miami-dolphins-bullying-scandal

Here is a link to the story about the middle school football team:

http://elitedaily.com/news/world/can-learn-lot-middle-school-football-team-video/

I believe we are all familiar with how our culture and American society views and expresses masculinity, and how this culture defines being a “Man”. Boys are taught to be tough, to go for the kill, to compete, engage and destroy. Men are reminded to never show weakness, to suppress emotion, to grow beards and build muscles,  to overcome, pillage and conquer. These notions and ideas are antiquated leftovers, the dregs of a mentality that has little practical applicability to modern culture. However, these ideals persist, and we find the negative consequences from this kind of thinking in aspects of culture ranging from professional sports to politics to business. Problems arise when our men and boys don’t see these attributes and behaviors as metaphors, but rather as tangible characteristics they should develop and express. Problems arise when we forget to teach our boys and men how to temper aggression with empathy, sympathy and compassion, and how to turn off the “killer instinct” when it is inappropriate.  In the sport-specific examples above, we forget these men and boys are playing a game, not fighting a war, and we forget the “ripple effect” these stories have as they reverberate through our collective consciousness.

For  my part, I will tell you where my focus has shifted. While I value my “masculinity’ and what it feels like to “be a man”,  I am also learning how to subvert this way of thinking and open myself up to expressing my manliness in ways that have nothing to do with aggression or violence. For example, I am learning new ways to express  humility toward my partner and my children through the domestic endeavors of daily housework. I am learning compassion and patience from my kids, as I attempt to understand life from their perspective, and frame our interactions knowing they are still figuring out how this crazy world works.  I am learning more about trust and love as I work to make myself emotionally vulnerable to my partner and my intimate friends. I am stretching my boundaries and learning about courage by pursuing my desires without attachment to an outcome, but rather enjoying the process and the journey of what my life is right now.

None of this is easy work, and I am confronted by challenges on a daily basis that make me sit down and think hard. But, I’ve recognized the value of this work, and I continue to see positive changes in my own behavior, and I continue to recognize how my positive energy impacts the people with whom I interact. So, I am writing this post for a few reasons. If you are male-gendered and reading this, I encourage you to check the links I posted and feel how you react to these stories. I want you to turn a critical eye inward to determine where you find yourself on the spectrum of human behavior. Do you embody and express empathy, compassion, and sympathy in your everyday life? Why or why not? What example are you setting for other men, OR if you are a father, what example are you setting for your children? If you are female-gendered and reading this, I want you to check the links, and think about how you interact with men in your life. Do you continue to accept and allow aggressive, offensive, hurtful behavior in your daily life? To what standard do you hold the men in your life? How can you take action to teach men this nastiness is unacceptable and it is time for a BIG CHANGE?

Ultimately, this isn’t a gender issue, but a HUMAN issue, and I understand that we all need to be working to prevent behaviors like bullying, racism, aggression and interpersonal violence. We all need to be working harder to proliferate behaviors of kindness, compassion, empathy and sympathy, because life is already hard enough, without any added interpersonal bullshit. This post is part of my commitment to change, both in my personal life, and in the world around me. Won’t you join me? Thanks so much for reading this, and for participating in the Living Revolution :). Until next time…

Peace.Tobias.

Literally!!

Hello Friends,

I often wonder about the power and meaning of the words we use when we speak. Do we tend to say what we think people want to hear? Do we tend to overuse metaphor, rhetoric, or other literary devices that often distract from our original point? Do we attempt to understand the world around us by way of fables and parables because we find the literal lessons to be too off-putting? Do we find it difficult to simply say what we mean, and mean what we say?

Some of the frustration I experience when I think about the coming revolution comes from the fact that we could be accomplishing so much more if we just decided to ACT as passionately as we SPEAK. That is to say, if we started behaving literally. Can you imagine if we all started talking about our dreams and plans and goals and fears and desires and everything else in literal terms? Or even if we just started talking about a fraction of our thoughts in literal terms? I believe it would be a truly incredible shift to see manifested. But we have to remember that if we actually behaved this way, our accountability and our responsibility toward to the Community around us would increase exponentially. We would be forced to consider the well-being of those around us to such an extent that we might actually put their needs above our own. We would do this because we would understand that the realization of individual dreams has such little value unless those dreams can be shared. And you can’t share something with someone unless you understand their desires and needs, and understand how to meet those needs. And you can’t undestand someone’s needs without communicating and connecting with them on the most profound, basic, literal level. And you can’t connect and communicate with the community around you if you can’t speak in truth, if you can’t speak literally.

Sometimes it is fear that keeps us from saying what we mean. We can’t predict how someone will respond to what you are going to say, and we worry that we might hurt, sadden, or anger that person. We are worried we might be ridiculed or shunned for speaking our true position, and we believe that shunning would be worse than the injustice we serve ourselves by not speaking truthfully(LITERALLY).

Sometimes it is pride that keeps us from saying what we truly want. We don’t want to admit how important something is to us. We can’t admit our vulnerability, because we don’t want to admit that we can’t function effectively without someone or something.  We don’t want to appear insufficient and we don’t want to appear weak.

Whatever the reason, it is time for our strange, unsuccessful patterns of communication to stop. It is time for our words to carry all the weight of our beliefs and desires. It is time for our actions to match our words, for our words to match our thoughts, and for our thoughts to be inspired by action. It is time for our lives to become literal manifestions of our hopes and dreams and failures and successes and fears and everything else. It is time to speak what we want to see happen in the world and in our lives and in our relationships, and then ACT to make those words a tangible reality.

Let’s do this together. I want to see a Living Revolution take place on this planet in my lifetime. I want to see equality and natural justice. I want to see Liberty in it’s purest form. I want to be a good father to my children. I want to love and respect my partner. I want to live so there will be no questioning what I believe to be true and right. What do you say? Drop a comment, or write me an email and tell me how we are going to change the world. Until next time…

Peace.Tobias.