Now that gender equality in terms of income has been achieved in the younger generation, and educationally women currently surpass men, most of us ordinary men find ourselves staring irrelevance straight in the face. A friend of mine recently observed that women are “taking over” his department at his former company. Except in specialized occupations that require male minds or bodies, women do indeed appear to have the upper hand. However, I observed to my friend that the top remains largely male, while the middle is dominated by females. The bottom, like the top, is predominately male. Unfortunately for us men, there’s a lot more space at the bottom than at the top.
So what does that mean for men who are not among the fortunate few? Are we destined to be lowly peons shoveling muck out of gutters? For many of us, our fate could be worse than that. Gutter cleaning pays fairly well, at least according to the last bill I saw for that service. The future certainly does look grim, but could there be anything redeeming about our new status as disposable goods? Yes, there could, but only when we learn to accept and finally embrace it.
Bound by a sense of duty and responsibility to family, employer and country, men demanded certain guarantees in return. All these guarantees can be summed up in one word: fidelity. We expected not to be cheated, lied to or abandoned. Sadly, all these things have come to pass. Perhaps our own complacency is as much to blame for this as anything else, but our betrayal is a fait accompli. There was the inevitable denial, rage, and despair, but finally we find ourselves at the point of acceptance.
Accepting such a great loss of security, confidence and trust is a very difficult thing to do, but it is profoundly liberating. Whereas before one was shackled to deceit and resentment, now the fetters are broken, the cell door opens, and suddenly the world is revealed. Feelings of guilt, inadequacy, anger, envy and disappointment dissipate in the open air; ought gives way to is. When one arrives at this state of mind, all of the countless obligations, worries and responsibilities lose their sting. It becomes clear that reality – the way things are – is our only true master. We owe no debt to anything or anyone else.
So once a man throws off his countless restraints and goes all the way up the chain of command to take orders from the top, how does he deal with his only boss? Perhaps surprisingly, dealing with reality is very simple; it is only a matter of “can” and “cannot.” There is no want, should or ought with reality. All those are subjective, and have nothing to do with the sun setting or things falling when dropped. A man who has a good idea of what he can do has a great deal of choices and ability, because there are infinite things men can do. Of course, there are always consequences. For example, you can jump out of an airplane without a parachute, but you cannot survive it. This is where judgment comes into play. However, although dealing with reality requires good judgment, letting other people do so for you requires absolute faith in their judgment AND their interest in your own welfare. That’s a risky bet.
Once a man is freed from the bondage of others’ expectations and desires, all that he does comes from his own heart. Any help or affection is freely given and not in any way coerced. His love and goodwill are pure and free from any taint of flattery. Likewise, any malicious acts are undertaken only by his own initiative. His heart and intentions are made clear through his actions. Because reality is truth, he embodies honesty.
These principles apply to all people, whether male or female, but the loss of direction among men in our civilization is a fairly recent development, and needs to be addressed. At this point, a politicized “men’s movement” might be counterproductive, because it would lead us down into the sewers of contemporary discourse. But a spiritual awakening, accompanied by a recognition that we have our own priorities, is sorely needed. Women rebelled against their social obligations and limitations and threw them off. Men, too, can do the same.
When men see that bondage is a state of mind – often an unconscious choice – they realize how easy it is to cast it aside. Our own bondage came from the guarantees that we demanded, which slowly created obligations that we came to see as inevitable. But now that the guarantees have been removed, we find that we are still in chains, and herein lies the great liberating opportunity afforded by injustice. Without the shock of betrayal and loss, we might have plodded along forever, devolving into something akin to oxen, fit only for heavy burdens and the whip. But that will not happen now. The deal we’ve got is clearly rotten, and there’s no good reason to haul that load.
The uplifting feeling one gets when laying down a heavy burden does much for the spirit. The bitterness over loss and betrayal is forgotten as the realization sets in that one’s life is in one’s own hands. What others want, think or expect becomes no more important than anything else, because all that matters is what IS and how one chooses to deal with it. When men know that, they know true freedom.