We Do Not Box the Air

Scott over at American Dad Web writes:

All of spiritual discipline is like that. I figure, if its something that you personally find hard to do–but God asks you to do it anyway, you should probably do more of it. Struggle with overeating? Restrict your calories more. Struggle with loving your wife even when she is acting unlovable? Love her more. Struggle with obeying your husband because you think you know better? Submit and get over yourself.

So good.

Our conversations in the Men’s Sphere instruct me in the mystery of communication; of how information is transferred and processed; particularly among men. It is amazing. I mean: You talk about one thing, and I disagree. I say so, and then I talk about something else…but that something else has been influenced–pulled towards agreement–by your first statement, and I don’t even know it. And vice versa, and so on back and forth.

And there is the matrix-ing of information. Months ago Oscar recommended to me Mark Rippetoe’s Starting Strength. Well, Oscar is a big strong guy so I listened to him. I buy Rippetoe’s book and listen to his podcast, and do you know what he says is the best recovery for injury? Lifting weights with the injured limb. He says that physical therapy is a sham which trains one to be weak. Compare that to the words I quoted of you.

Meanwhile, last year someone somewhere linked to an episode of Joe Rogan’s podcast which featured a clinical psychologist and professor named Jordan Peterson. His prescription for solving problems (say, a phobia) is athwart our mass media’s prescription. They say that we should make the problem go away, or that the problem isn’t real. Peterson says (I paraphrase), “No, the problem is real and it’s not going to go away. What you have to do is become stronger than the problem. And you can just like everybody else. Use a tool, chop up the problem into approachable pieces, and then overcome them one by one. The problem doesn’t stop being scary. You just learn to become stronger.”

In all three cases (Scott’s post, Rippetoe, and Peterson) what is brought to mind I will quote below. And it makes sense of why we have a physical body which must die; yet why we are to have hope for an eternal life after that. Here is St. Paul from Romans 5:

Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, 5 and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.

That hope is that this–life–isn’t just a game. It’s not futile to get stronger (mentally and physically) now only to get weak and die later. Nor is it just of temporal utility; the strength gained isn’t just to make our short lives easier for now. Suffering here is the opportunity to learn to have faith and so to train for eternity.

(Taken almost unmodified from my comment on Scott’s post.)

Real Men Make Riots Safe for Women.

That thought is at the heart of the the conversations about Ann Coulter’s decision to bail from Berkley. The idea that Real Men make _________ safe for women is a particularly effective seduction to use against men. It infers that he–who wants to be a Real Man–has the power and authority to do something about whatever circumstance some woman or women wants to be made safe so that she or they can participate. He usually doesn’t.

A Crime Boss or a Captive

In some comments SFC Ton made a counter-argument that power is manliness, rather than authority.

Authority comes from power, masculinity is power
You can be a good man and use your power and authority in ways the Almighty would approve of and be a good man.

Or you could use power and authority counter to God’s word. Makes you a bad man

But a man either way

Desire is femininity was settled in my mind a long time ago, and in a future post I will talk about some of that. The nature of manhood took a little longer, and a big part of the reason was because of the way we use the word power. As a word, power is like love in that we use it to mean so many things. It confuses our thinking; mine included. I recognized that, but it still took time to work out.

My first answer was: Manliness is competence. I told this to a friend, and two things happened. First, I was frustrated by my inability to explain what I meant in a way which sounded clear as I said it out-loud. The second was that, while my friend agreed, he wasn’t visibly enthused. My friend is sharp. That lack confirmed my frustrations and I knew I hadn’t got it.

I went through capability, forcewill, and a bunch of words–including several returns to power–each time thinking through the ways each word could be used. That power can be used in so many ways forbade it from me every time I went back to it. Power can mean legitimacy in discrimination. It can mean the force used to exercise discrimination. It can mean the will to make discriminating choices. It can mean the ability to persuade another person to do one or all of those, or to manipulate circumstances to make such events likely!

As I thought about these things, I realized that a common formulation which I learned as a child, was slightly, but significantly, wrong. I had been taught that men have responsibility, and that men who properly handle that responsibility are then given authority. That is wrong because we cannot separate responsibility from authority. We sometimes talk as if we can separate them; as if we are responsible for things over which we have no authority. But that only seems to be true either because we believe lies (like modern marriage “vows”), and because other men in authority sometimes abuse their power. Men are susceptible to this because authority is our thing. We want it to be true when we are told we are responsible. We intuitively grasp that to give us one handle of responsibility should gain us the second handle of power and so the whole of authority. Women, though, are quick to point out their own powerlessness when it true, or even when it merely suits their purposes.

So there is one thing: authority, with two parts: power, and responsibility. When we try to separate them, the effort fails and things go badly because men lose their hearts. Any authority with a those two parts out of balance creates, instead of a man, either a kind of moral monster (power without responsibility), or a pitiful wretch (responsibility without power); a crime boss, or a captive.

Provoked Judgment: The Pareto Principle of Manliness and Femininity

Sexual dimorphism in humans is real. There are sex differences and they cannot be overcome except that they are eliminated altogether; the result of which is less than human. But it is not as pronounced as in other mammals. One poignant example is that no other male mammal spends as much time caring for offspring as human males. Maladjusted and bitter feminists gripe about leaving women behind to care for the children, but men are the most tenderhearted males in the kingdom. A man is more womanly than a lion is lioness-ly. He’s also more godly; since women are also made in His image. The inverse is also true.

The division of male authority and female desire is not absolute. Men have desire too, and women also have authority. For the sake of ease of memory, think of it as another example of the Pareto Principle: 80% of a man’s decision-making is in reference to his authority, and 20% is influenced by his desires. The reciprocal is true for women: 80% of choices follow desire and considerations of authority make up 20% of their M.O.

I’m far from the first to recognize this: Taoism’s yin-yang concept is apt. The difference between my view and the Taoist view is, I think, that the yin-yang is egalitarian, and my view is patriarchal. The circularity of the yin-yang symbol is fundamentally egalitarian; each side chasing the other and going nowhere. I submit that there is an order: Authority–judgment–should rule desire even as desire provokes judgment, and that we should desire to go up, towards God and His authority.

Proposed: Femininity is Desire

The essence of femininity is desire. A woman’s primary mode of operation is to answer the question: “What do I want?” Her primary mode of understanding others is to ask “What does he want?” Desire is to women like physical strength is to men. Most men are much stronger than all but the strongest women, and the strongest women don’t come close to the strongest men. Likewise: Most women want everything more than most men want anything.

For women, two desires that are in conflict or whose satisfactions are divisive, do not cause problems of choice, but problems of encompassment. How to get them both? Men often misinterpret women’s non-prioritized desires is when they have been subjected to the desire encompassment schemes. One way this is expressed is that men accuse women of not capable of loving their men. Of course that’s not true. A woman focused on her desire to help or please her man will do great and terrible things for him that few men would (or even should) do for a woman.

Men who misunderstand what they see in women also routinely accuse them of being irrational, or even thoughtless. That’s wrong. Women can be–and often are–extremely rational in the pursuit of their desires. We lack knowledge of those several desires which they are trying to satisfy at the same time and at the same speed.

Pursuit of multiple wants does cause chaos in their lives and to those surrounding them–especially men. Other women understand the encompassment of desires process even as they might dislike dealing with the chaos. But it is not the result of a lack of thinking. Their brains are always working to solve the problem of how to acquire Desire A, Desire 16, and Desire *. What they have the authority or capability to do is usually irrelevant to them except as obstacles to overcome, subvert, or sidestep on the way to satisfaction. This is very unlike men [1] whose primary concern revolves around what they have the authority to do.

As a comparison example to the ones in Manliness is Authority: If a young woman wants a car she will do whatever she can to get one. And whether she works for it, is gifted it, or never knows how to do anything with it but drive: No one will ever accuse her of being unwomanly. Satisfaction of desire is the measure. She could sell her body for a car. While we would scorn such behavior we still wouldn’t say she hadn’t acted like a woman.

[1] Notice that it is not opposed to authority.

Proposed: Manliness is Authority

The essence of manliness is authority. It’s the need and ability to make decisions, to pronounce those decisions, and to act upon them. Strength, power, command, competency, respect, courage, assertiveness…these are all parts of authority, but they lack the spoken component. Good and right speech is indivisible from authority.

When men succeed, they succeed along the paradigm of authority; be it wise decisions, strength, assertiveness, achievement or any of the other forms of authority. The classic example is the Battle of Thermopylae; which is especially poignant because they all died. Because they died in paramount expressions of wise decisions, strength, courage, assertiveness, respect, and achievement we call them manly, and even though they died we mean that with very high respect because of what went into that fight. They were mighty.

A modest modern example is a young man who decides to get a car. He gets a job to pay for a car and buys it. He learns how to maintain that car. That is manly.

We also count men’s failure along the paradigm of authority. Adam listened to the voice of his wife and ate the fruit instead of acknowledging the authority that was given him, acknowledging the authority that was kept from him, and for at least speaking the truth to Eve when she gave him the fruit. We’re still stinging from that one.

The young man who is given a car, doesn’t take care of it and can’t be bothered to learn how: We call him girly. He is not manly even if that car is a $50,000 vehicle.

Where We Used to Live Isn’t

In the comments to previous post on Traditionalism Oscar astutely posted video of Jordan Peterson, whose talks further spurred me in this direction of thought [1]. It’s one of many in which he talks about his theory that–mythically–it is the duty of a “son” to resurrect a “dead father” by rescuing tradition from irrelevance. I’ve listened to his theory over a dozen times in various videos and podcasts, and I understand him to mean something like synthesis. Emotionally, it is a pleasing concept to think that the son–The New–has a duty to salvage the father–The Old–, yet put his own spin on it.

But it strikes me as trite…and also that the symbolism is fundamentally misleading. The father isn’t tradition. The father is the source of truth and goodness and love and authority. Tradition is no more a father than the buildings I grew up in are my dad.

[1] I can’t say where I’ll end up. These are my thoughts, and implicit requests for conversation.

Real Talk on Traditionalism

If you’re going to make the case for some form of Traditionalism: What you cannot do is make the case that Traditionalism works to keep you, or your family, temporally happy, safe, wealthy, or in any other desirable state. There are so few Traditionalists that to judge its success by material fruits is to admit defeat. To trumpet an earthly bounty from Traditionalism is to wholly discredit yourself. Whatever earthly desires you think you can satisfy with Traditionalism will be put to shame by the proceeds of Modernism.

Why People Choose Insanity

In a comment on yesterday’s post, Greenmantlehoyos wrote:

Man, thanks for being sane.

Hey man, my pleasure. It’s no sweat to be sane on the Internet while writing under a nom de guerre to a self-selected group of like-minded people . Sanity is a more difficult trick to pull in real life. It takes guts because there are risks. People–coworkers, friends, even family–might stop talking to you.

Or the reverse: Maybe you get surrounded by people (a group of coworkers, for example) who want to know why you have such wrong thoughts. Then you have to explain yourself, and then maybe also you find out that you don’t know how to explain yourself because you haven’t really thought these things through as far as you should have.

Maybe you were just going off intuition; which is another way of saying that you once had a glimpse of a true observation before you closed your eyes and went back to work; even though that glimpse has stuck with you. But a glimpse is no foundation for an argument. You’ve got to take a good hard look at the world in front of you to make an argument. Then you have to question yourself–take a good hard look at yourself–to try to know whether what you are now seeing for the first time is real, or if you have imagined it.

The latter–imagining things–becomes a real possibility. If what you see now is real, and if it conflicts with what you’ve always thought to be real, then you must accept that all your life up until now you have been imagining what you saw rather than really seeing it. At first this seems like a complication and a pain in the ass. But if you are brave then it’s an opportunity to elevate yourself above your peers. That’s a good thing. It’s also often lonesome.

Loneliness is tough. Years ago I was at a party. We were laughing and drinking and having a good time. Then my best friend said to me, laughing, “You are a lot more fun when you drink!” I got angry, but he was right. Later, looking at it with open eyes I understood that I got angry because he was right, and I had interpreted it as wholly derogatory of me. But it wasn’t. The thing about alcohol is that it slows down the brain. After a couple drinks I am within actual talking distance of others.

Excellence, by its nature, separates.