One year ago today, on January 13, 2016, I saw for the first time, a story that I wrote posted on goodmenproject.com. This is the website for The Good Men Project, which was started by ordinary men telling stories about times in their lives when they came to question what it means to be a man. Questions like: how does a good man act? How does a good man think? What does a good man want to be able to feel? Can the adjective “good” be used to describe the noun man? Is it good to have words for man and woman?
The Good Men Project doesn’t seek to describe the good man, so much as it gives men and women opportunities to tell their stories about their search for good manliness, to see if it might inspire someone else who seeks the same. The Good Men Project makes great allowance for the search to be a very personal one. There is no one behind The Good Men Project claiming to be the ideal or near ideal man, at least none that I have encountered. The focus is on how stories about men can make for meaningful conversations, with no dictates as to where these conversations should lead.
My story that was posted on goodmenproject.com was about how I had been involved with supporting men who suffered from alcohol and other drug abuse and addiction, to consider how treatment for substance abuse could make them better lovers, to the point that they could become thankful for their prior suffering. The back story was that I never had thought of myself as a man who would be supporting other men in considering such intimate matters, but it felt good doing so.
The story behind the back story goes something like this:
Once upon a time there was a boy whose story was mostly about going to school and being off from school, who grew into a young man whose story was mostly about going to work and being off from work to enjoy family, having fun and mowing the lawn, who grew into an older man who developed Parkinson’s disease and had to stop working, then didn’t have enough to do.
This older man had some physical things he wanted to do, and some mental things he wanted to do, but that disease and revenue wouldn’t allow him to do, in the way he wanted. It turned out that writing stories well enough for The Good Men Project, to want to edit and post, was one of those things that could be done.
In writing that first article, I started a new satisfying narrative for myself as a man.
A narrative that was much better than the sad tale of forced retirement and social/emotional painful and pathetic insecurity. This is not to say that writing stories has made my new, no longer employed life all sweetness and light. Far from it, but much closer and in many ways transcendent over what the main narratives of my life used to be.
There have been more than a few articles since. I came to believe that if I could do some writing that there might be other things I could still summon up the neurons to keep doing and enjoying and affording to do. I believe that these beliefs were the main factor in finding ways to do what I now believed was still possible. It was all about controlling the narrative.
The title of my narrative had been, “Parkinson’s Disease Is Neurodegenerative, Progressive,and Incurable. How Much Dignity Can Dave Hold On To Given The Fact That While Things Are Bad They Are Going To Just Get Worse.” Geez, who wants to live out that script? Writing well enough to get edited into shape good enough for The Good Men Project suggested a different story line. I looked forward to what story was I going to write about next? There has been a regression in the amount of editing that my stories have needed. Who knew this could happen?
“Control the narrative,” was a big part of the professional celebrity’s, (said celebrity also played football), O.J. Simpson’s murder trial. Mr. Simpson’s “dream team” of attorneys controlled the narrative of his ex-wife obviously being hacked to death by Mr. Simpson, so well, that a jury couldn’t say for sure that he’d done it. His wife’s blood was found everywhere;it shouldn’t be if Mr. Simpson was innocent, but this fact was no match for the story line that just maybe members of the Los Angelus Police department somehow put it there. The fact that some LAPD police officers like to bloody people of color, when there was no need to, was enough of a distraction for O.J. to get away with murder.
The narrative for the prosecution that articulate, good looking, respectable and even famous men can be very violent with former and current loved ones and get away with it, didn’t play so well in the real court room.
People are still gushing over how well the made-for-television series, The People V. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story was. The narrative here is that the most important lesson we can take from this tragic miscarriage of justice is how well famous actors can tell the story. Or at least appear to.
The news today is mostly the telling of stories.
Brief stories with well defined good guys and bad guys, are the most readily believed and not too may facts, please. Facts are no fun anymore since the invention of “fake news.”
The most famous of the famous are now famous for being famous and for nothing else. The other famous who do something are more famous for their fame than for what they do or did. This doing doesn’t have to be good either. Matter of fact, it works better if it is bad, or ridiculous, or gross, as long as it’s sexy.
For me, the most sympathetic of the real-life characters depicted in The People V. O.J. Simpson, was the least dreamy of the defense’s dream team of lawyers, Robert Kardashian. As per the television series, he was selected not for his legal expertise so much as for his long-standing friendship with the defendant. His role was to cool his friend down, when O.J. got too hot and bothered participating in his own defense against the advice of counsel.
Kardashian so wanted to believe in his friend’s innocence that he needed to ask himself if there was any credible evidence to the contrary. The other defense attorneys stayed focused on the fact that they were being paid by Mr. Simpson not to care, to enable their client to get a fair trial, even if justice got screwed.
Kardashian’s painful parting with his friend and siding instead with the obvious truth made the family name, Kardashian, a name recognized throughout the civilized world. Errr, wait a minute. I’m not sure that this narrative is the origin of the popularity of the Kardashian brand. I think Robert’s wife, children and others on his family tree deserve more of the credit. I am sure that many people who like to get away with bad things paid close attention to the O.J. Simpson trial verdict.
More and more narratives of the life styles of the rich and famous and reality TV ridiculous, grasp our attention. So, too, do narratives about racial and other minority group conflict with more powerful majorities. These distract from the narratives of the most vicious evil doing imaginable and beyond the imagination of many.
To think that the evil doers of these narratives purposely create and promote the distracting narratives mentioned above, for many is unthinkable. It is unthinkable, because after a grueling day of work it’s time to kick back and be entertained by them.
I know that not working is a key to what narratives have my attention. I take more time with selecting my entertainments because I am no longer too exhausted to bother doing so. I am becoming increasingly stunned by the nature of the shit that used to entertain me. I have been made afraid by becoming more aware of the evil forces in the world that this entertainment has distracted me from.
The most frightening of these narratives, is the one that evil doers aren’t just hiding in the shadows.
They are telling their stories of evil-doing in a most public way. Once you get that much of what is served up to you is harmless recreational story telling, such as shows about injustices and people’s bodies being ripped apart, it is very real and very much ongoing…you got trouble. Like the stories that include a manically evil genius who cackles at the stupidity of his victims and the glory of his power.
Narratives about flawed super heroes are quite popularly lately. I worry that we may run out of Marvel comic book chapters soon. In the most popular tales, the flawed superhero rights more wrongs in the end than they create. In real life the outcome is much more uncertain.
What stories do you tell yourself about yourself and the world? What stories have distracted you from your truth? You live out the stories you believe to be true, don’t you?
As I finish this article, I ponder if I should write another one. I believe that I am writing about truths that need more writing about. I‘m just not sure I am the best one to be writing about them.
If you have an opinion on that, please let me know.
Photo credit: Getty Images