Every man needs an act of defiance in his life.
Eyes peer above the long grass in the African Savanna and the predator looks at his quarry, readying for the attack. But things are different this time as the prey has become the alpha predator. The boy readies himself and prepares to move. With a glint of metal shining as the spear soars through the air, the lion experiences fear for the first and last time in its life. The metal pierces its mark and fells the king of the beasts.
This is the rite of passage among the nomadic Maasai tribe. A boy becomes a warrior with only stealth, a leather shield, and the tip of his spear as his allies. It is an uncivilized act of defiance that will prove his manhood among his peers and mark him as one of the Ilmeluaya (fearless warriors).
Every man needs an act of defiance in his life, a specific point in time that marks him as a fearless warrior. The problem is that we now live in the digital age, and uncivilized actions are looked at as barbaric, savage, and crude. The march of time has even influenced the Maasai tribe. The lions are disappearing from the savanna and the Maasai boys, like the boys of countless cultures around the world, are losing their rite of passage and have no clear alternatives.
The term “man-child” has become synonymous with young men of this generation as video games have replaced many real life adventures. “Call of Duty” and “Halo” are now the simulated rites of passage to manhood, leaving men aching for adventure with no real outlet.
So what can we do as men to live with uncivilized excellence?
1. Become a Gentleman-of-Fortune
A Gentleman-of-Fortune is an old term first used in the 18th century, and is defined as “an adventurer” by the Merriam-Webster dictionary.
Like many of you, I spend most of my day staring at a computer screen, mentally chained to social media, email, and notifications. I lose track of time very quickly and have often looked up to discover that the day is already gone. I have become a fat middle-aged dad who until several months ago was asking, “What happened to MY Daring Life?”
Also, like many of you I didn’t have a clear rite-of-passage a distinct moment in time that was an uncivilized act of defiance that would prove my manhood. And honestly, I really didn’t care to have one. But here is what happened: I had two boys and they started picking up my bad habits. It is one thing to look at yourself in the mirror and realize you have let yourself go, but it is an entirely different thing to see the worst of yourself in your sons as they sit idly on the couch watching TV and eating cheese puffs. I do not want either of my sons to be defined as a “couch potato” or a “man-child.” Instead, I want them to be Gentleman-of-Fortune, adventurers ready to change the world.
2. Wrestle an Alligator
Most of my adult life I defined myself as a “gamer.” I’m good at “Call of Duty” and each time I saw my name at the top of the list of Hardcore Free-For-All I couldn’t help but get a surge of dopamine and adrenaline.
Don’t get me wrong. I believe it can still be an awesome form of entertainment, but it became much more than that to me. It became a “virtual rite of passage.” But unlike a real right of passage, there isn’t a true act of defiance that leads you to become a warrior. Instead, there is only an ongoing and unending building of a character that at the end of the day doesn’t matter to anyone but you. It is the saccharine substitute of success, and although you may think it is sweet at first, it leaves a bitter aftertaste.
If you really want to be a Modern Warrior you need to have an ache for real adventure again. Take the time, discipline, and effort to plan those adventures and do something distinctive.
My act of defiance was taking a day and wrestling an 11-foot alligator. I personally wanted something that was different, dangerous, and daring. Wrestling those alligators didn’t make me a man, but it gave me a boost of confidence and charisma that I hadn’t had before. Even as an overweight guy in my 30’s I can accomplish daring things in this life. I can also show my boys that it is never too late to be a contender. Figure out what your “alligator” is in this life and dive in!
3. Respect your Relationships
I am convinced that having “uncivilized excellence” in a few key areas of our lives is essential for a man. But there is another element for the Modern Warrior.
Clubbing a woman on the head and dragging her back to the cave isn’t an option anymore or even something I would recommend trying. It’s a much better option to respect a woman. We live in a world of the powerful and independent woman. She no longer needs you to take care of her or her needs. If she wants to have something, she will go after and accomplish that on her own. This “modern woman” has stupefied men for the last several decades. The generations before us put a lot of weight in providing for their families, but now many of us share that role with our wives. As men in a digital age, we have to redefine our roles, respect our relationships, and find ourselves again.
According to the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism, “A new study has found a ‘substantial’ drop in U.S. men’s testosterone levels since the 1980s, but the reasons for the decline remain unclear. This trend also does not appear to be related to age.”
I personally believe men are losing their testosterone because of the lack of use in the digital age. Men have lost their way and need to rediscover “uncivilized excellence.” As women blazed a trail and found their voice in our society, men in many respects lost theirs. That isn’t the fault of women, but rather a failure by men to adapt and respect what women have accomplished.
If you are going to be a Modern Warrior it takes effort and intentionality to become a Gentleman-of-Fortune, wrestle alligators, and respect relationships—but that rite of passage is worth it in the long run.
Enjoy the adventure and let me know how it goes!
Photo: Getty Images