Manly Men

I like men. As my mother used to say, “They are the best opposite sex there is!” Which is why I am disturbed by what I see happening to them in today’s culture. As a woman with a fair number of years behind me, I believe it must be difficult for boys to sort out what it means to be a man today.

What does it mean to be a manly man? Is it the chest thumping “Me, Tarzan, your Jane,” brute? Newspapers stories of wife-beating, baby-abusing, cursing louts are common. Too common. The self-gratifying narcissist, seldom seen years ago, is now warned against in social media. It is only a matter of degrees between the cold-hearted, woman-destroying narcissist and the self-centered man interested in his “woman” only for sexual gratification.  And maybe her cooking.

Another version of the chest-thumper is the idea that being a man means beer drinking, being pot bellied, semi-unkempt, and rough talking. Wearing his cap at the table, burping vigorously, he eschews manners as effeminate. Any sign of gentleness is considered a weakness.

In contrast to the self-absorbed sex machines, or perhaps in response to them, culture has tried in the last 50 years to emasculate men, convincing them that being touchy feely like a girl is the way to go. The idea seems to be to remove men far from their past roles of bringing home the deer kill for the family. The man’s hunting, bread-winning prowess provided food; his strength provided protection. And the woman did everything else needed. People somewhere decided the original plan needed to be changed. Now we have a generation of men who do not know who they are or why they are here.

As part of this trend, fashion designers are bringing out clothing lines which make men look like they are ready to be clowns in a vaudeville show. All of this is attempting to remove the identity of a man as a man.  In the confusion that follows, homosexuality naturally seems to make more sense.

Perhaps all the above is a distortion of what a man is truly designed to be.

But what is a manly man? Does it mean it is a given that their interest in sex means that making passes at women is natural and comes with the territory? That to expect otherwise is foolish? Is it possible to be strong and kind, masculine and safe? Creative, productive, reliable? And have their sexual urges under control? I believe it is possible, and we need such men to step up as role models for the young teen boys who are entering a time of seeking who they are to be.

There should then be more positive news about men and hopefully less daily revelations of male lewd behavior. What the country needs is manly men of strength, honor and integrity. There are some, I know; may their tribe increase.

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Swearing and Theology

Swearing and Theology

Come, little children, and gather around. I will tell you a story about swearing. In days long ago there were two main swear words which would guarantee parental disapproval, often emphasized with a soap bar mouth washing. The first was “damn,” a word I heard from my mother’s mouth only once. Never was it seen in the newspaper, or in literature. If a man should accidentally let it slip in a woman’s hearing he would apologize immediately – “I beg your pardon, ma’am!” for no woman was to have her ears offended by crassness or profanity.

For those more extreme situations when a simple damn did not do the job of conveying the emotion of the moment, men would move on to the more serious “goddamn” or “goddamnit!” Then came the uttermost: “Goddamnit to hell!”

This “hell” introduces the second primary swear word that was off limits to children and women, and never seen in print except for Biblical messages warning of a fiery destination for the wicked.

Of course, people have always encountered frustrations when a simple “aw shucks” just seems too inadequate. Work-arounds and substitutions arose in their place. “Darn” was allowed in polite society, as was “Hades” the Greek god of the underworld. On occasion we would use H E double toothpicks, an oh-so-clever way to avoid the forbidden word.

The use of “damn” was so controlled by polite and public society that Clark Gable’s use of it in the movie Gone With the Wind was a shocker, making news and furor across the country. Grandmothers and preachers alike fretted about “what has our country come to!”

Few have stopped to consider what damn means. Its definition is to bring condemnation on, or to doom to eternal punishment or hell. It is ultimately a God function. Therefore, a seriously uttered “goddamnit to hell” is a declaration or prayer that the person or offending thing be consigned to the flames.

Years have passed. Those two words have almost disappeared. In their place has arisen an extensive vocabulary of swear words all of which focus on body parts and sexual function. There is no longer any such thing as polite society, with norms for speech. The words are part of print, news and literature, and every day conversation. Some people are unable to get through a sentence without using one or more of them, betraying a limited ability to communicate.

It also reveals the removal of God and God consciousness in the public square. Without God, damn and hell have no meaning. Without Him, we are left with only ourselves at our uncreative, physical worst.

It does matter, after all, what you believe even down to the way you swear.

Musing on Tension

n38307511_31163642_738Musing on Tension
There is within me a shapeless, unformed stirring. Care, concern, burden? Idea? Perhaps the exercise of writing will help midwife this “thing” and bring to birth a form which can be dealt with, looked at, pondered over.

So, God help me. You alone know the hidden thoughts of the inner man. You alone know your purposes and plans for me. Let us haul to light this gestation to see if there is life in it.

Tension comes from two opposites or a split (dichotomy) in what was once one. I see the world in such a tension. The physical world, divinely created and ordered, is a masterpiece that beggars description. Much of our libraries, much of our accumulated wisdom, much of the efforts of our educational institutions is exploration and explanation of the world we inhabit. Of the accumulating of knowledge there is no end. Often we “liberated,” educated 21st Century scholars are no farther along in understanding than Adam who, at the beginning, was given the job of naming things. We name things thinking erroneously that in the naming is the explanation. To say the grass is green because it has chlorophyll tells us nothing about why grass is green.

In effect, we are trying to describe the totality of the earth and everything visible and invisible connected with it. But it is too much for the human mind either singly or collectively. The complexity, balance, beauty, design and even sheer numbers of things to be found in this world speak clearly of a Designer Mind far greater than any human can attempt to realize. We are in and of the world, yet it is beyond our comprehension. It is a spectacular, amazing world. From whirling electrons to whirling galaxies, hummingbirds to ostriches, delicate ferns to towering pines creation surrounds us with variety to delight the heart and stretch the mind.One Bead

In recent years the many scientific “truths” taught as almost absolutes have crashed in ruins as new discoveries, new technologies surface. Scientists have even been quoted as calling some findings “puzzling,” which generally translates as not fitting in with their firmly held mechanistic or atheistic beliefs. Tension has developed between science absolutists and Designer absolutists, each side sure of its position while certain of the folly of the others.

Tension itself enhances life. Breezes seem more gentle after a wild storm, the body self-destructs without pain to guard and warn, mountains without valleys are not mountains at all. Shadow and sunlight, freeze and thaw are counterpoised and yet help define one another. What is youth without age, joy without sorrow?

The world is full of examples of stress and tension that are beneficial: the hatching chick must peck his own shell, or die; the tree that is wind-tossed develops deeper roots. Tension in fact is part of the variety to be examined as part of the grand Design even if only partly understood. Studying the dynamics of “what makes the world go round” can only give rise to awe.  The two opposing views of this world, its source and meaning are both needed to give understanding to the other.

Disappearing Words

I was pondering today about the disappearance of some words from common use in our culture. Words like splendor and majestic. Integrity and honor. Virtue. On the negative side we have lost words used to describe disapproved societal values: vile, fornication, sin.

When was the last time you heard or used them?

Words are powerful, more powerful than we realize at first look. The words we use shape the very way we think, the way we relate to one another. They can be curse or blessing. In our personal dialog the wrongful use of words is the chief reason for breakdown in relationships. Careless use of words has often caused lasting pain. Nothing is more inaccurate than the childhood singsong: “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words can never hurt me.”

New ideas begin as thoughts. Thinking uses words as building blocks; it is hard to imagine thinking anything without words, which represent concepts, being a part of the process. Our vocabulary is the stockpile of building materials available to us. Therefore, if it is common or vile, our thoughts will rise no higher than the bricks we have to use. For many, their list of adjectives has few words that exceed four letters.

There are, of course, morally neutral words, e.g. the cat is under the bench, but my concern is the diminishing of grandeur, culture, dignity, grace and virtue which is concurrent with the loss of those words is the public dialog.

As the common vocabulary, both spoken and written, has changed, so has our behavior. That which was once considered shameful or unspeakable is now accepted. Boundaries have been breached, jettisoned. There seem to be no restraints. In fact, the concept of restraint has changed from personal self-discipline to physical things like handcuffs and white jackets.

To change public behavior, then, would require a change in the way we talk and write. Society will rise or fall to the level of our language. Let’s talk (and think) it up.