What maketh a man? What are the attributes, skills, qualities that go into defining a ‘Man’? Unfortunately for me, the answer to that question did not come that easy. For starters I cannot just say ‘this is man’ and expect everyone to meet that standard. The phenotypic expression of man will be personal to the individual. What I am as a man will not be what you are as one. We are all individuals (I’m not). I have been accused of being ‘manly’. Being told that I can be manly led me to question what exactly this ‘manly’ is. I didn’t personally feel overly manly nor un-manly, so I was curious as to what I was displaying to others, what were they seeing there? No one could answer that question with any sort of satifactiory solid response.
It was just a ‘thing’.
So is this thing inherent in all men? Are there certain qualities that we define as manly that are common across cultures? And are these qualities transferable, teachable?
The more I searched for the answer the more I found it elusive. In fact there more I pressed people for answers the more it seemed to delve in the macho faux masculinity bullshit that defines the facsimile of man. The only way I could define it was through abstract, by defining what it was not – and in that I found abundant examples.
“He’s like a rock. I just don’t know how he feels”
“Domestic abuse is perpetrated by cowards. They are also probably victims themselves”
“I hate it when a guy can’t make up his mind”
“He takes longer to get ready than I do”
These are all quotes from conversations I have had with women. The list of complaints goes on. And on. To be fair, I don’t blame them for complaining. I was somewhat dumbstruck but some of the behaviors I was hearing about.
Through this abstraction of man though, I began to find patterns or common threads of attributes that crossed generations and cultures – what seemed to be a ‘natural state’ of man started to emerge.
I also found that I certainly was not alone in my search for this. The more I dug the more I uncovered other pioneers in this work who, like me, have felt the impending doom of lost Manhood. In fact this theme seems to echo down through the ages, like a cycle. But more on that another time
As I started to see the themes again and again it started to solidify in my head, a kind of ‘treasure map of man’ (cue “It’s Raining Men”).
I saw attributes, attributes that to me could be personified in characters, or archetypes. Ok so I’m a geek and by archetypes I mean ‘D&D character classes’. But still you get the point.
These archetypes came along with a whole slew of psychological ‘backstory’, after all that’s why we have archetypes, to short cut a long explaination. These back stories stating looking a lot like a Maslow’s heirarchy of needs. Of course there’s the obvious link to C.G. Jung’s work here (he’s another one of my ‘Dead Mentors’) but one slight difference. The attributes, for me, boiled down to seven. Now where have we seen that before… (Apart from everywhere). Seven Chakras. Surprise, surprise the seven psychological states of the archetypes lined up with the chakras.
It’s important to point out here that my belief is that we have too much emphasis on the bodily location of chakras (in the western world at least). I see the chakras much more as a psychological step ladder. The points on the body are representative of those states, much in the same way as an archetype is representative (or framework) for a collection of ideas. If I say my gonads we can assume it has something to do with sexuality. I’m not stating my gonads are sexuality.
I now have what’s ended up looking like a hotch potch of ideas and theories throughout time. But it made sense to me, and that’s what’s important, after all this is my search for answers.
It’s through these systems and through observations of my own journey that I began to formulate this construct – The archetypes of man – and thus start to answer my own question: ‘What maketh a man?’
More importantly than just answering it, forming it into some sort coherent legible answer that others can read and furiously agree with (I assume). It’s really a deconstruction of my journey thus far, of the mechanisms I went through to reach a certain psychological ‘awareness’. It’s how I got to outwardly displaying those afore mentioned ‘things’ that are seen as manly.
This is a much more important point that what my rambling notions look like. The fact of self enquiry leads down a path of self analysis, and to know thy self is to know the universe. The question should be asked, and the answer sought, by all people. By asking and then continually searching we start ourselves on a path of self discovery, for both men and women.
So, what is a man?