Thursday, June 5, 2014

Real Men!!! Rawr!!!

The fact that you can pose with a chainsaw does not mitigate the fact that you are shaving.
 Yesterday my wife and I were video chatting with my parents to congratulate them on their 31st wedding anniversary. The conversation wandered, as conversations will, to gluten, autism spectrum disorders, the emerging links between ASD and autoimmune disorders, and the prevalence of hand sanitizer parents. We agreed that children probably need more dirt and less hand sanitizer in their lives to give their little immune systems more practice. Big, strong, barrel chested immune systems, that's what we need. This led my wife to tell a true story about her great-grandpa. 
One day, while he was working at the saw mill, a fan blade fell off of a scaffold and hit him in the head. It knocked him over and cut his scalp open. So he climbed down to the ground, picked up some dirt and stuck it in the wound to stop the bleeding, and then climbed back up to finish work. After the job was done they drove him four hours to Seattle, where the doctors opened and cleaned the wound and put in a steel plate to replace the missing piece of skull.
Of course both my wife told the story with gusto, pride and appreciation, and my Mom listened to it with the same feelings. How could you not? That is a Real Man
I looked at my Dad and said, "You see how they are both in awe of that? Just watch! What would happen if either you or I ever did anything like that?" 
My Dad laughed at the memories (he actually has things like that a time or two and so speaks from experience). "Oh, we would be dead! The fan wouldn't kill you. The wife would when you got home!"
As a case in point, when my dad got his leg caught in a grain auger, which miraculously broke and did not drag him in and chew him into sausage, he did not bother telling Mom because it was just a scratch. He only lost a few square inches of skin and muscle, and a pint or so of blood. Nothing to worry her about. He let my brother and sister know when he got home, expecting them to let Mom know when she got home. It wasn't his fault that they did not pass on the message, and her first clue was the blood soaked socks on the bathroom floor. Oddly enough, that did not go over so well.
It is part of the paradox of manhood, I suppose. I have written about it before, how women always want a "real man." They are attracted to men with strength, courage, determination, and a certain hardiness or indifference to physical hardship and danger. These virtues can take a lot of different forms, from soldiers, firefighters and rescue workers, to youth ministers, farmers, fishermen, mechanics, outdoorsmen, what have you. These virtues can also be found in men who work white collar jobs, although they may not be quite so obvious.
The point is that while these virtues may be attractive, they can also be inconvenient. Nearly every virtue is at some point. My wife doesn't like me to tell her about my Afghanistan days when I was digging up IED's with my field knife. She is all for having fewer IEDs in the world, but she doesn't want me to be the one doing it (I don't either. It was a pointless mission). A firefighter's wife might agree that someone should be putting out fires and rescuing the people trapped in them. She just doesn't want it to be her husband who has to do it.
That's why I love this picture. That is strength. The strength to be crucified. I have to remember that, but not only when endurance of pain, hardship or risk is required. I also have to remember it when the desire for these things comes. You see, if we are honest, I think we men admire stories like that, and sometimes we take the tough guy thing to an extreme because we want to be tough guys, and we want to be known as tough guys. I am not suggesting that Great Grandpa or my Dad was doing that, but I know that a lot of my crazier adventures, if I am honest about them, have not really been strictly speaking necessary. I did them to prove to myself that I could. A more enlightened manhood, I think, simply does what is necessary. If it is easy, he can live with that. If it is hard he can handle that too.

Occasionally he wrestles bears too. Just because it is fun.

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Smoke Rings

The young man with blond scattered beard
And weird, scattered dramatic wit
Relit his pipe of aromatic
Wilshire blend, and then
Drew too deep,
“This is why I never smoke or drink,
Alone. You know I think
Between x-box, youtube, podcasts and texting
I would just inhale the bowl and go on to the next thing.”
And we three nodded,
Watching each other blow slow billowing smoke puffs
Sharing what wisdom was given
Us. Curiously,
For Heaven.