Profiles in Positive Masculinity So Far

Manly Men We’ve Covered So Far

We’ve had nine Profiles in Positive Masculinity so far, and I continue to enjoy the little bits of research. I think it’s very worthwhile to be constructive with regard to masculinity – not instead of deconstructive, but rather, to have something worthwhile left over. Popular culture continues not to really offer a positive alternative to toxic masculinity on the one hand and…nothing on the other hand, except agreement that toxic masculinity is bad.

Here is the list of scions of positive masculinity that I have discussed so far, with links in case you missed any and are curious. I’ve gotten some feedback, including encouragement as well as challenge, which has been helpful as I organize my thoughts and choose whom to profile. And don’t worry, we have plenty more coming!

Michael Forbes, who showed more backbone than the entirety of the US Republican Party

Justin Trudeau, who solved the puzzle of the Trump handshake

Nick Offerman, sawdust-covered oracle of self-reliance

Jimmy Carter, the nonagenarian former US President who will probably die with a hammer in his hand

Common, maintaining his moral compass as a hip-hop artist

Aziz Ansari, comedian, actor, writer, director

Newt Scamander – here I just shared a cool video about one of the heroes of Fantastic Creatures and Where to Find Them

Neil deGrasse Tyson, science educator and actual heavyweight wrestler

Mister Rogers, who deserves the title “Saint” if anyone ever has

What I’ve Learned So Far

I don’t have a standing theory, or thesis, on what precisely positive masculinity is. Just the strong intuition that if there is toxic masculinity, there must be positive masculinity that exists in contrast to that. It can’t just be rapist dude-bros on the one hand and a silent mass on the other. Right?

So, what is common among these men, in my view? Not to be an exhaustive list, but as I go back over what I’ve written and thought about and learned, these are things that come to the forefront.

Strength

Strength could come in many different forms, but I think that part of positive masculinity is some kind of strength. It could be physical strength, like Neil deGrasse Tyson, or moral strength, like Mister Rogers or Jimmy Carter. Part of this strength is courage, since a person has to be there in the moment in order to bring their strength to bear.

Integrity

Not all of you who have been following along have liked all of my choices, which is not surprising. But I think it is fair to say that each of these men is very much themselves. They have a strong sense of identity, and uphold a particular set of values, and you don’t have to look at them for very long to figure out what they are doing with their lives. Some of them ignore outside pressures to do what they think is right, while others simply have lives that hang together over the long-term.

Creativity/Making

Each of my examples of positive masculinity are makers. Common makes music, Aziz Ansari makes a television show, as did Mister Rogers. I’m not sure Justin Trudeau is a maker in the same sense, but I would argue that some creativity comes through in how he has governed as Prime Minister. Michael Forbes is a farmer; Nick Offerman makes beautiful canoes. And so on.

So then, for now, maybe positive masculinity is being strong, being yourself, and contributing something beautiful or useful (or both) to the world.

We’ll see what the next crop of many folks adds to this list…

What would you list as aspects of positive masculinity? What have you noticed that I missed? Feel free to comment. 

Edit: Had a friend point out something I had missed – an attribute of positive masculinity as I am looking at it. That attribute is a commitment to make the world around them a better place. Each of these men, in their own way, is speaking out and/or taking action to make other people’s lives better. That’s a crucial attribute of positive masculinity, I think, and it definitely goes on the list with strength, integrity and creativity/making.

Suicide

I do not like telling stories about myself. It isn’t that I think people should not tell stories about themselves generally (though memoir is one of my least favorite genres of writing) – if you have a story to tell, more power to you. I just feel like…the stories I have to tell are about other people. Mostly made up people, if you get down to it. Make of that what you will.

I don’t think my life is particularly interesting, and I also have a really bad memory. I don’t remember whole swathes of my life, for reasons I can only guess at and don’t want to get into. Suffice to say, in the rare event that someone tells a story of something they remember me saying or doing, especially years ago, there’s a good chance I’ll have no idea what they’re talking about. They say that people with depression have smaller hippocampuses, and maybe that has something to do with it, I don’t know.

But I listened to Mike Perna’s episode of Bard and Bible a few days ago, and I decided, OK, I’ll tell a few brief Doug stories. These stories are about suicide, so if you don’t want that, now you know to skip this post. (These are not all of my stories about suicide, but they are the ones I’m telling today) I respect your time, so I’ll keep them as brief as I can while still maybe making sense.

First, I’m perpetually the New Guy, and before that, was perpetually the New Kid. I counted, and I’ve moved 24 times in my 37 years of life. No, I’m not a military brat or anything like that. I’ve just moved a lot – with my family as a kid, then as an adolescent, then as an adult.

As the perpetual New (Fat, Nerdy, Short) Kid, I had to sharpen my natural defenses. The key was always humor. After being pretty steadily beaten up and bullied and made fun of up through elementary school, I put together that if I was able to be consistently funny I would generally be safe. Not all the time, but most of the time. Being my dad’s fifth child and my mom’s third child meant lax parenting, so I watched a lot of late-night TV even as a kid. I watched a lot of comedy specials, and as much as I could, I’d absorb them, and then replay them at school with my own spin in order to shield myself with laughter. By Middle School I had a pretty solid repertoire of Robin Williams and Richard Pryor, among others, and was always someone who was trying to be funny. All this to say, Robin Williams in particular saved me from a lot of ass-kickings. Beyond that, he always seemed like an amazing person. He’s a lifelong hero, the kind of rare, wild genius that I feel privileged to have shared the world with.

Next, I’m a teenager and I have a crush on this girl. She and I are really close friends, actually. We hang out a lot; when I sneak out, it is to go hang out with her. She knows I have this boundless teenage love for her, and she does not feel the same way, and we’re both aware of all of that. It was what it was. But I’d take what I could get, so we spent a lot of time together.

One night, I’m dropping her off at home (I had an early birthday and was an early driver among my friends), and she tells me that she’s going to commit suicide. I beg her not to, but she has made up her mind, tells me goodbye, gets out of the car and goes inside. I’m just sobbing in this Chevy Blazer for I don’t know how long. Eventually she comes back out, gets back in, and tells me that she won’t. If I’ll stop crying, and go home and go to sleep, she promises she won’t.

Then she does.

Next, a year or two later, I’m in my dad’s office. It’s very late, and I’m so depressed and upset and angry and sick of the shitshow of being alive that I have taken down the case where he keeps a revolver. Six bullets shine in little shaped holes like board game pieces. (Not a simile I thought of at the time) With shaking hands I open the mechanism that lets the cylinder fall to the side and I start putting a bullet in each chamber. Why more than the one bullet I’d be using? I have no idea. Symmetry, maybe.

I remember the nauseating weight of it in my hand.

I hold the gun, hands still shaking, feeling like I’m going to throw up a clot of darkness out of the pit of my insides; thinking about whether I’ll feel the impact of the bullet to the side of my head, or just feel a hot dry shove and then nothing, or what. Will I go to Hell, or just fall and never hit the bottom?

I would love to say that Jesus came to me then, or that I thought about the people who loved me and how I’d hurt them, or what it would be like for my dad to wake up to a bang and find my brains all over his shelves. I thought of those things, but I had already thought of those things, and yet there I was in that room, in that moment, weighing whether to end everything because that would also end the pain of being. I knew I would hurt people, but I thought they were misguided. They didn’t understand, would be better off without me.

What happened was, I hit bottom. Whatever step there was before the very last step – that’s where I stopped. I felt like I had fallen a long way, but had slammed into a cold concrete floor, and would not fall any further. I would hurt horribly, would be miserable, but I would not fall farther than that. Not now, anyway.

Feeling like I was going to pass out, I put the gun and bullets back exactly as I found them, went back to my room, told no one. I’d continue to fantasize about killing myself for the next fifteen or so years, but never did it. Obviously.

Next, I’m working as a barista in San Anselmo, California, while going to seminary. I’m at Marin Coffee Roasters and in walks Robin Williams. My hero. The shimmering barrier of humor between me and innumerable ass-kickings. The guy who, for all intents and purposes, is the person I want to be. Yes, he suffers from depression, I’ve read all about that and his marriage troubles and his drug abuse and so on – but he does all of these things and is also world-famous for being hilarious and wonderful. Meanwhile, I’m a broke, depressed Seminary student. He did things in the world – I was just a fan. Yeah, I’d trade lives with the guy, no question.

He was a big bike-rider at the time, and Marin Coffee Roasters was kind of a bike hangout, so he comes in and orders a small mocha. I make him his small mocha, and he says thanks; shares a small smile. I am literally clamping down on all of the things I want to tell him, just boiling up inside of me, because honestly he looks exhausted and I don’t want to impose on the guy. Well, I want to follow him home like a whimpering puppy and hope he takes me in, but the mocha is all I give him.

Last, Robin Williams commits suicide on August 11th, 2014 – three years ago today. Three years later I’m still basically without words. He got to that moment, and bottom for him was just one step farther down than it was for me. He fell past where I stopped, and that was that. The person I desperately wanted to be for years was dead, and I was alive.

And then Prince, and then Chris Cornell, and then Chester Bennington, about whom Mike Perna spoke so eloquently on the Bard and Bible podcast, which set this post in motion.

If you want someone to talk to, I am always available, for this, for anyone, any time. I don’t advertise that, but maybe I should. I have talked to other people who have been in that place, and I have been there, or somewhere like it.

You can also talk to other people who want to help, and who want you to live.

I don’t have a conclusion for this. No summation, no lesson to walk away with. Just what I wrote. Just that and no more.

Seems Legit.

You Are A:

Neutral Good Elf Cleric (6th Level)


Ability Scores:
Strength- 11
Dexterity- 13
Constitution- 11
Intelligence- 16
Wisdom- 14
Charisma- 16

Alignment:
Neutral Good- A neutral good character does the best that a good person can do. He is devoted to helping others. He works with kings and magistrates but does not feel beholden to them. Neutral good is the best alignment you can be because it means doing what is good without bias for or against order. However, neutral good can be a dangerous alignment when it advances mediocrity by limiting the actions of the truly capable.

Race:
Elves are known for their poetry, song, and magical arts, but when danger threatens they show great skill with weapons and strategy. Elves can live to be over 700 years old and, by human standards, are slow to make friends and enemies, and even slower to forget them. Elves are slim and stand 4.5 to 5.5 feet tall. They have no facial or body hair, prefer comfortable clothes, and possess unearthly grace. Many others races find them hauntingly beautiful.

Class:
Clerics- Clerics act as intermediaries between the earthly and the divine (or infernal) worlds. A good cleric helps those in need, while an evil cleric seeks to spread his patron’s vision of evil across the world. All clerics can heal wounds and bring people back from the brink of death, and powerful clerics can even raise the dead. Likewise, all clerics have authority over undead creatures, and they can turn away or even destroy these creatures. Clerics are trained in the use of simple weapons, and can use all forms of armor and shields without penalty, since armor does not interfere with the casting of divine spells. In addition to his normal complement of spells, every cleric chooses to focus on two of his deity’s domains. These domains grants the cleric special powers, and give him access to spells that he might otherwise never learn. A cleric’s Wisdom score should be high, since this determines the maximum spell level that he can cast.

Detailed Results:

Alignment:
Lawful Good —– XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX (23)
Neutral Good —- XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX (26)
Chaotic Good —- XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX (23)
Lawful Neutral — XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX (18)
True Neutral —- XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX (21)
Chaotic Neutral – XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX (18)
Lawful Evil —– XXXXXXX (7)
Neutral Evil —- XXXXXXXXXX (10)
Chaotic Evil —- XXXXXXX (7)

Law & Chaos:
Law —– XXXXXXX (7)
Neutral – XXXXXXXXXX (10)
Chaos — XXXXXXX (7)

Good & Evil:
Good —- XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX (16)
Neutral – XXXXXXXXXXX (11)
Evil —- (0)

Race:
Human —- XXXXXXXXXXXXX (13)
Dwarf —- XXXXXX (6)
Elf —— XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX (16)
Gnome —- XXXXXXXX (8)
Halfling – XXXXXXXXXX (10)
Half-Elf – XXXXXXXXX (9)
Half-Orc – XX (2)

Class:
Barbarian – XXXXXX (6)
Bard —— XXXXXXXXXXXX (12)
Cleric —- XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX (18)
Druid —– XXXXXXXXXXXXXX (14)
Fighter — XXXXXXXXXX (10)
Monk —— XXXXXXXXXX (10)
Paladin — XXXXXXXX (8)
Ranger —- XX (2)
Rogue —– XXXXXX (6)
Sorcerer — XXXXXXXXXX (10)
Wizard —- XXXXXXXXXXXXXX (14)

Hard Reset

Current goings-on in my corner of the world, combined with a question posed by Margaret Weis this morning in Facebook, have combined to get me thinking about the idea of the hard reset.  Holding down the power button and counting slowly to ten and then powering back on.  The technological nuclear option.

I think about the need, sometimes, to hard-reset a creative project.  Margaret Weis’s question this morning was about writer’s block – when does it happen, what do you do about it, etc.  I realized that writer’s block happens for me sometimes (often?) because I am avoiding the fact that what I’m doing is going nowhere and a big chunk of work has to be tossed.  On a few projects, this has meant completely re-writing the whole thing, starting over essentially from scratch (Epic is definitely one of those, and continues to be).  Other times, a project dies on the vine because I am not willing, or ready, to prune as drastically as is required.

Ironically, I have just recently had to hard reset this very blog.  It was hacked, and had was registering with Google as spyware.  My RSS was spamming and soon.  So I migrated, brought my posts over with me, and restarted.  I have no idea if this will work out – we’ll see.

I’m part of a number of institutions, one of which is the Presbyterian Church (USA).  I honestly believe that this institution, if it is to return to functionality and meaning, is going to have to hard reset.  One good example – of the students who graduate from seminary (which is graduate school for ministers), only 20% of them have any hope of getting a job in the thing for which they just spent tens of thousands of dollars and 4+ years training.  There are only jobs accepting first-time pastors for 20% of the people looking for those jobs each year.

Life is kind of a roller-coaster sometimes.  Imagine if a roller-coaster cost $40,000, not counting cost of living (you still had to pay rent and get groceries while in line), and the line lasted 4 years, and then once you got on, there was a 80% chance the ride would break down.

We would rightly shut down that roller-coaster, fire everyone involved in building it, and apologize to everyone who has ever ridden on that disaster.

For those following along at home, the roller-coaster is the PC(USA) ordination system, and among other things in the denomination, it is time for a hard reboot.

What Would It Look Like…?

What would it look like if I got my shit together?

I have what seems like a relatively common problem – I care about too much.  I want to do too much. As a result of the overload in my life, I’m either working all the time on various projects, or wasting time and trying not to think about all the things I’m not doing.  The switch is on or off.

Periodically, I even finish things.  Over a year ago, I finished the final draft of Parsec, and we’re now working on getting it up on Kickstarter.  I finished what I think is an excellent resource on the issue of the ordination of sexual minorities.  Every week I finish a sermon and other stuff for worship, as well as the many other things that I do for work.  I finished editing the first five chapters of a friend’s novel as well as editing the system chapter of a friend’s roleplaying game.  I’m collaborating with two colleagues on a new website, including weekly video posts and building up a Twitter and Facebook audience.

Typing things like that makes me feel a little better about the whole situation, but I don’t even want to start listing the unfinished projects – even if I limited myself to only listing ones that I’d spent, say, a hundred hours or more working on.  There are – Way.  Too.  Many.

If I was inclined to triage well and to discipline myself, this wouldn’t be a lingering problem.  I have yet to figure it out.

I imagine that the answer is to say no, to say goodbye, to projects that I really care about, but which I don’t have the insight or time to bring to fruition.

I really don’t want that answer.  Which means it is probably the right one.

Make Sure You Vote

Specifically, among other things, make sure you vote for How We Came to Live Here (Best writing) and Day After Ragnarok (Best setting).
Ironically, I think that both products could easily be up for both awards – HWCTLH for best setting and DAR for best writing – but that’s just my humble opinion.