With so many insecure and wounded little boys running around the place these days, posing as men, it's refreshing to meet a real one. We did, last night. Sadly, he was a man in bereavement, so I must be careful to respect his privacy; more in a moment. In the meantime, I woke this morning thinking that it would be useful, on this new blog "about men," to reflect a little on what I mean by that.
I tend to assess a man's character based on what I judge to be his integrity. By "integrity," I mean, in the idiomatic phrase, "having it all together"; and by "it" I mean the four basic qualities that constitute the fullness of the human experience: the intellectual, the physical, the emotional, the spiritual. To lack any one of them, or to have these qualities in some way out of balance, is to lack the integrity, the "togetherness" I'm talking about. What those wounded little boys who pose as men most frequently lack is the connection to their emotional lives, and they wreak a whole lot of damage on those they purport to love--and, needless to say, upon the world at large. Think George W. Bush. Think Vladimir Putin. Think other world "leaders"whose damaged egos lead us into wars...
So it was good to be sitting on our balcony last night, as the sun set, and getting to know a man who had just arrived in our lives. No need, at all, to say more about him than that he was a man bereaved of his partner in life, the man whom he had loved, and with whom he had lived for the past ten years. We listened, rapt, as he told us of his loss with both poise and dignity, and with frequent moments of undisguised emotion. There was no attempt to disguise, or minimize, his grief and pain. We listened, too, as he read letters of profound wisdom and consolation from a distant, previously unknown sympathizer--a person whom he discovered to be a woman who had made the decision to live her life as a man.
And I found myself reflecting on all this, this morning, as I woke. How our manhood has little to do with who we love, or even what we have between our legs. To be a man belongs to what is within, a sense of self, a inner clarity about who one is and where one belongs in the world. A man's strength derives not from the macho posturing that is often mistaken for strength, but rather from his security and the vulnerability this allows, from his compassion, his sense of purpose, and his dedication to the service of something greater than himself.
So when I write "about men," this is the kind of man I think about, the standard by which I measure other men. I know that I'll be writing frequently about those little boys, because they are so many. But I'll be holding them to the standard of a man such as I have just described.