Bob Marley’s lessons for men on freedom, responsibility, and living are greater and more profound than simply telling our boys to ‘man up,’ says Geoffrey Philp.
The kid was bawling his eyes red. The father, towering over him, screamed, “Man up! Man up!” I guess he was trying to tell his son to be courageous. I don’t think it was working. The more the man thundered, the smaller the boy became.
But I don’t think he was trying to be cruel. Without the proper context, the father’s actions in themselves don’t make him a bad father. Sometimes we need what my father used to call “intestinal fortitude.” But tears do not weaken us. In some cases, they may be a way of mourning something that no longer serves our idea of who we are. But merely saying “Man up,” without an explanation, is almost like a situation that I had with my son.
My son was helping me to paint a wall in our home. I showed him how to hold the brush and how to do some simple brushstrokes. Then, I turned my back and began to work on my side of the wall. After a few minutes, I sensed something was wrong. I turned around and my son had done an excellent job of painting the wall, but the floor was splattered with paint. I was just about to get angry when I remembered that I hadn’t showed him that first he had to cover the floor and then, begin painting. I had assumed that he would have been following my example of putting down newspaper first and then, painting. Boy, was I wrong.
That was one of the most important lessons I learned as a young father. Never assume anything with your children. For although that may be watching and listening, as I later learned that my daughter listened to all of Bob Marley’s CDs on her road trip from Seattle to Miami on her way home, sometimes you have to spell it out for them.
So, here are a few of the t’ings that I learned from Bob Marley about being a man and hopefully, a good father.
“Dready’s got a job to do and he’s got to fulfill that mission.” (“Ride Natty, Ride”). Bob’s life was livicated to love and he expressed his love through music. He had found his purpose for living. Music was his life and his life was music. His values of respecting his life and the life of others is what endeared him to many fans. He just didn’t sing his songs, he lived the words: “Every man got a right to decide his own destiny” (“Zimbabwe”).
“Most people think great God will come from the sky/ Take away everything and make everybody feel high” (“Get up. Stand up”). No one is coming to rescue you. Not your father, your mother, uncle, aunt, niece, nephew, girlfriend, or boyfriend. Not even the mailman. It may sound harsh, but like me, you’re on your own in creating your life. So stop waiting for miracles to happen, and for outside magical people and things to save you. It ain’t gonna happen. The only miracles are those that you will create with your own two hands: “”But if you know what life is worth/You would look for yours on earth /And now you see the light/ You stand up for your right.”
“If I am guilty, I will pay.” (“I Shot the Sheriff”). There comes a point in all our lives when we will have to face the consequences of our actions. This isn’t a bad thing. The more we take responsibility for our actions by choosing to live and love ourselves and others consciously, then our choices to live in the present expand and there are rewards: “And what is to be must be.”
“Forget your sorrows and dance.” The past will hurt you, but only if you let it. “Forget your troubles and dance.” And if you think these are idle words, listen again to “Them Belly Full (But We Hungry)” on the Live Forever CD and realize that just hours before he recorded that song, Bob had been told by his doctor that he only had a few months to live. I can’t think of a bigger problem than a physical death sentence. Yet, after a three-hour sound-check where he sang, “I’m Hurting Inside,” over and over again, Bob went out and gave the performance of a lifetime. “Them Belly Full” had always put my “sorrows” in perspective and Bob’s performance in Philadelphia redefined courage for me. In the face of ill-health and death, Bob continued to live joyously with the time he had: “Forget your sickness and dance.”
“Live for yourself, you will live in vain/ Live for others and you live again” (“Pass it on”). Your life is your story and stories are never complete unless they are shared. Share your story by word and example with those around you and those who will come after: “Help your brothers in their need/ Pass it on.”
So, keep your stories to yourself and shed a few tears for the times you thought you’d be rescued and didn’t have to take responsibility for your life. “Cry to me” over not living joyously in the present or because you’re afraid to do what you really want to do with your life.
And then, man up!
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