Living Like a Heroic Man – Introduction
Whatever you think of the term, I’d like to suggest some middle ground, so we can stop arguing and get to work figuring out how to create strong, responsible, socially engaged, tolerant men.
I suggest that an important step toward a solution is to stop focusing on toxic masculinity in the first place. Yes, let’s acknowledge that something is happening in modern society that is causing men to be overly aggressive, lonely, and unhappy. Admitting there’s a problem is the first step to finding a solution.
With that out of the way, then everyone on both sides of the debate can focus on taking action, rather than flapping their gums endlessly while men suffer.
No, toxicity is NOT endemic to masculinity. What IS toxic is the “programming” men are receiving, skewing their perceptions of the world towards cynicism, loneliness, and violence (both physical and mental). It’s time to turn the conversation around to what’s virtuous, honorable, and positive about men.
It’s time to take a good look at how society teaches men to behave, either through direct indoctrination or an undirected process of passive cultural “osmosis.” I argue that the latter is the bigger problem: men not getting enough guidance and direction when they are young so that they are forced by desperation to piece together their attitude toward the world on their own.
This approach usually results in young men suffering through the unstructured “school of hard knocks.” It’s no big surprise, then, that men struggle as they age because they’re given no cohesive, tangible path to follow.
Too many fathers and male role models expect boys and young men to “figure out life” on their own to “toughen them up.” This wrong-headed version of male social Darwinism is one of the causes of toxic masculinity.
Leaving any human being to their own devices in a world awash with seemingly infinite clashing ideologies is a recipe for creating lost people. Young minds, in the usual human search for a purpose in life, eventually fall victim to one of the dogma warring for their devotion. This is a sure-fire way to create generation after generation of directionless, restless, and ultimately desperate men.
This doesn’t have to happen, though. There is a way to create better men. And it’s a path almost as old as humanity itself.
The Rise of the Heroic Man
So, what’s MY suggestion for how to teach men to live well in the world? First, it’s time to stop arguing about whether or not we’re toxic. Let’s step out of the hamster wheel of unending debate, take hold of our destiny, and focus our energy on finding a better path forward.
I suggest looking to a human-focused worldview based on the mythic hero’s journey. This is an ancient tradition shared by cultures around the world.
All societies have hero stories, and for good reason: we as a species have always created heroic tales to anthropomorphize our desire to conquer the challenge that is life. These tales were not just created to entertain, but to address the very problem men are experiencing today: to avoid becoming directionless and therefore angry and desperate beings.
Let there be no mistake: life is a tapestry of beauty and ugliness, and we are not meant to focus exclusively on either aspect. We are meant to acknowledge that life is all things, a blank canvas of possibility on which to paint our lives. This is one of the core tenants of what it means to be heroic.
Heroic myth transcends the partisan and exclusionary dogmas human beings have unfortunately created over the millennia. I believe the reason heroic myth is so universal to the human condition is because it focuses on humanity first, not on external forces like fickle gods and human-made power structures. It is a way to take back our personal power and focus on self-certainty, rather than the Sisyphean task of trying to make the world and other people conform to our wishes.
This is an introduction to a series of articles that will dive deeper into various aspects of what it means to be a Heroic Man. Some of the topics will include:
Beware the Certainty Siren
Throughout history, humanity’s vain efforts to make the world around us safe and “risk-free” has caused us to create hell on earth. The search to reach unattainable outward certainty in our environments has made us desperate enough to commit atrocities. It is at the root of all holy wars, pogroms, and genocides.
The heroic ideal takes the opposite approach: work and train yourself to become skilled and confident, so that no matter where you go in the world, you have the only type of certainty that genuinely exists: certainty in yourself. Read How to Slay the Certainty Siren Like a Heroic Man.
Cultivate a Gratitude Attitude
The contrast between dark and light, positive and negative, is not meant to frustrate us and make us bitter and resentful. It is intended to drive us to struggle and overcome. But many of us let the darker side of humanity make us cynical and distrusting of others. Cultivating an attitude of gratitude helps us avoid the vanity of feeling superior to other human beings.
Be an Empathetic Individual
There is a saying that goes: “Be kind, because everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.” When we acknowledge that life is a proving ground for the soul and that everyone is tested by existence, we gain much-needed perspective on the human condition. All human beings are in a cycle of success and failure. This is why empathy is so vital to becoming a well-rounded person: when you realize everyone is in the same struggle, you are more willing to join forces rather than stay divided.
Be Strongly Vulnerable
Heroes know that sheltering one’s mind and heart from the world does us, and everyone around us, a disservice. The world is made of people, not dirt and air and water. We must connect with other people in order to grow, and to avoid becoming warped by isolation. Heroes approach the world bravely, with open-minded and prudent caution. It’s good to be strong, but not so tough that we don’t let ourselves be vulnerable and, therefore, human. Showing emotion from a place of self-aware strength is the goal. If you have self-confidence, even the worst rejection won’t stop you.
In future articles, I’m going to explore these and other aspects of the Heroic Man in more detail, to provide men with the guidance they may never have received, or only received piecemeal. This is a truly epic quest in the grand tradition of the hero’s journey. Let’s create a new Heroic Man together!
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