MrMary on Love: A Man’s Journey


I have for a moment decided to let Stendhal sleep and to share some thoughts of my own about love and talk about a few things a reader who liked this series of posted asked me a question about. No worries Stendhal and I will be back in a few days with another post, but for now I’m flying solo. Hit the like button if you like this

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In all of literature there are two stories. There is Homer’s Iliad: a study of forces beyond our control conspiring to bring the lives of thousands of men together in a wide-sweeping, earth shattering, world-encompassing event. Men are haphazardly pitted against each other and over the course of battle are brought to the brink of their humanity. Next there is  the Odyssey, the epic journey that brings a man beyond the known, beyond heaven and hell, past and present to the moment. It is an epic journey the depicts symbolically  a man’s journey. 

The search for Meaning

The search for meaning is central to the human existence. Through our search for meaning we become intimately familiar with the highs and lows of life and sometimes if we are lucky what lies beyond that duality. When a women has her first period she becomes a women. traditionally a boy had to accomplish something that was a feat of intelligence, endurance or faith to be recognized as a man.  Unlike a  woman, a man had to undergo an initiation created and judged by other men. Let me give you an example

Satere-Mawe bullet ant glove

This is one of the most extreme tests of strength and courage. Bullet ants are woven into a pair of gloves that the young men must wear for 10 minutes four separate times. The sting of a bullet ant feels like being shot and is the most painful sting of any invertebrate. The venom is specially evolved to stop the body from releasing painkillers. It can leave these men trembling uncontrollably for days afterward. Being able to endure this ordeal makes you a man and gives you acceptance as a useful member of the tribe.

This maybe hard to fathom. However if we remember that the internet and Fresh Direct doorstep deliveries weren’t always present and we had to hunt for food, or protect our communities from belligerent communities or wild animals, then some of this ritual initiations start to make a little more sense. Since the Industrial Revolution as some psychologists like   Michael J. Formica, assert in his article Male Initiation in Post-modern Culture, that:

Men, since the Industrial Revolution, have lost the elements of their socialization that spoke to similar social rites of passage. With the father, or father-figure, working outside the home and the tradition of apprenticeship all but lost, boys have coincidently lost the context of their own manhood. There is, for males, no sense of place, and so, no point of reference for a genuine sense of self other than that sense of self that is attached to the roles laid out as socially appropriate. Fold in to this the mixed messages of gender socialization fostered by the feminist movement and men find themselves not only not knowing where they belong, but also not knowing who they are or even whom they are supposed to be. All of this feeds into the sensibility of covert male depression that is so prevalent in post-modern society. Since depression in men often presents as anger and irritability, the sullen, cave-dwelling stage of male middle adolescence becomes a way of life, a way of being in the world – the template for the neutral-or-pissed-boy/man.

Concerning relationships and Love

For some guys  being able to have and support a family is the sign that one has become a manhood. While this is commendable, I feel that one has to be both secure in one’s individuality and before one can be available for another. Exupery the french writer had something telling to say about what love is.  He said:

Love does not consist in gazing at each other, but in looking outward together in the same direction.

I feel that to look outward together requires one to be able to stand up straight on one’s own. No where do I see this illustrated more than in the journey of Ulysses. He undergoes so many trials and tribulations mentally physically emotionally and spiritually. He left his home for war where he proved himself. On his 20 year return home he has to face himself, his faults, his hubris and in order to earn his place and title again in Ithaca. His journey is, in terms of myth, the spiritual journey of a hero.

Joseph Campbell said once as a joke that the surest sign that our hero Ulysses had definitely  become a completed man was the fact that after meeting with his wife who he had not seen in about 20 years and they had had their fill of love-making, he let her talk first about her trials and tribulation and he listened. This is a very interesting point that I will pick up on in the next part. Here is the following Quote from the Oddysey:

When Ulysses and Penelope had had their fill of love they fell talking with one another. She told him how much she had had to bear in seeing the house filled with a crowd of wicked suitors who had killed so many sheep and oxen on her account, and had drunk so many casks of wine. Ulysses in his turn told her what he had suffered, and how much trouble he had himself given to other people. He told her everything, and she was so delighted to listen that she never went to sleep till he had ended his whole story.

 

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