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To Be a Man

One of our Companions, Matt Pierce, said it clearly in one of his emails:

To me, our chivalrous inclinations are almost a genetic desire to behave like men.
     Men want to behave like men, but changes in society and the things we value have distorted what we think being a man is.
     You could make the argument that men who live outside morally acceptable behavior probably see themselves as acting in "manly." You could even argue that serial rapists and some mass murderers probably had their "genetic chivalry" stripped from them, either by a domineering parent or society, to a point that their psyche lashes out in an effort to bring balance to themselves.
     We have become so concerned with appearing to behave as men that we have lost site of what it truly means to be a man. We have lost connection with our truer, inner selves to a point that we are imploding and dragging the world down with us.

He hits it right on the head. As a man, our greatest desire and highest calling is to be just that, a man. But what does that mean? Our culture fails to define it.
     Madison Avenue presented their plastic, two dimensional versions. Nothing real to be gleaned there.
     We've seen rebels without causes. Their loud, confident bravado misses the mark entirely.
     Movie writers create ridiculous personas of men, and then script their parts accordingly. Only then do celebrity actors bring them to life on the screen. These images are not men. They are caricatures.
     Criminals strut around in prison as if to say "I'm tough. Nothing is more manly than me."
     Men of power exude self-importance and control over other people. They pretend to know everything to maintain images of superiority.
     Raging young rap singers move like synchronized puppets, their animus scourging a world that turns its back on them. What are their bitter complaints looking for? Love? Respect? A place to fit in? Or a clear definition of what the world expects from all of us? Their often hateful words strip away the social veneer and express the raw plight of most men, lost, angry, disgusted with the entire world for leaving them stranded.
     Political leaders, while mouthing family values, gaze upon sovereign nations as pawns in a chess game. Drunk with power, they place morality aside whenever they please. Hundreds of thousands may die for the benefit of… what??? The desecration of highest values?
     Religious leaders? Can we look at the world today and seriously trust any of them? So-called men of God have taken the idea of religious jihad and proudly behead innocent people for public attention! They equate slaughter with the will of God, while many others feel they are right! Priests rape children! Preachers who condemn moral indecency are found guilty of the same. The gospel has been reshaped by the unscrupulous to infer that "blessed are the rich."
     Should we look to any of these men for a spiritual or cultural template that we can proudly hand our sons?
     If not, where do we find it?
     Chivalry-Now tells us to stop looking to others for what we seek. It is an exercise in futility fraught with illusion. There are no authorities on the subject. Just other men looking for the same, or surrendering to the lure of ignorance.
     The template we seek is in ourselves, in our spiritual DNA.
     Where else could it be? It is found in our natural longing to be heroic, to have purpose and meaning—in other words, to be a man!
     Our cultural roots, developed by people who were closer to nature, closer to human nature as well, tell us in broad strokes what that template is composed of: Truth, strength, respect, courtesy, good deeds, justice, equal partnerships with women, unselfish love. All the things that contribute to personal honor.
     We were born with this template, but today's culture refuses to recognize, much less nurture, it. It prefers, instead, to equate manliness with material success. Why? Because that's how those in control make their profits. They play on the insecurity of our discontent. They don't want us to think for ourselves. Businesses thrive on the herd mentality. Politicians too. Religious leaders and jihadists and bullies and men of power all derive their influence on fear.
     Chivalry-Now points to a better way: the way of freedom, introspection and self-discovery. It tells us that the ideals of manhood exist in us all, or did before we killed it. It encourages us to seek truth for ourselves, and not be swayed by any man's authority. Learn from them, yes; but "follow" them? No!
     We are the final arbiters of our souls, and that demands we think for ourselves. Being a man is building a man, not shaping ourselves to someone else's expectations. No one has to tell us right from wrong when the truth is right in front of us. Consider:

  • Justice is not some abstract concept found in the realm of lawyers. It is treating people fairly.
  • Romantic love does not fall from the sky. It comes from our own values and commitment.
  • Defending others is the most natural male instinct of them all, setting aside childish self-interests for others in need. This is where the hero in us is truly born.
  • Honor is nothing less than the maturation and cleansing of pride.
  • Respecting women as our natural partners is no great leap of ethics. Nothing could be more obvious.
  • Scandal is a vicious waste of time that shrivels the magnanimity of men's souls. Nothing is more effete than a man who gossips.
  • The value of courtesy toward others is self-evident, the natural result of the Golden Rule.

There is nothing special or esoteric in all this. Just common sense.
     What does makes chivalry special is its invitation, its inspiration, that would not inspire any of us if there was not something of its kind inside us already.

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