The Manhood Ritual.
Throughout history, in most cultures, boys went through rites of passage called manhood rituals. This signaled to all around, given the boy passed them, that he was now a man. Whether this be a dream quest, a solo hunt, stone lifting, or in some cultures, some really bizarre and at times awful things. While not all manhood rituals were agreeable or moral, there was a purpose to them.
Manhood rituals served a purpose in signaling when a boy was ready for the rights and responsibilities of being a man. He would take a family, his place in his clan, take up sword and hunt and behave in such a manner that was of benefit to those around him. He protected and served his family and his clan. He went to hunt, he went to war, he went to council and he acted like the man he now was.
In today's modern age, we have all but lost these rituals. Manhood and masculinity is looked at as something unhealthy and "toxic." Instead of challenging our young men to rise, we pamper them and assault the culture as gross and hateful because we assume the boys gender. We give them participation trophies and video games instead of bow and life lessons.
Instead of lifting 250lb stones to chest height and carrying for 10 paces, we weigh 250lbs of gelatinous goo and we live in mommies basement playing Mario Cart and internet trolling those men who act like men. We write books on Toxic Masculinity and march in the streets screaming about the evils of men who have applied themselves and succeeded in life.
Instead of victor status earned, we claim victim-hood and demand entitlements. We want free room and board and a government check.
While we do have some rituals in the form of sports, they are not universal for men in our culture. In fact, while many may watch, very few play or compete in anything. When our children do play, they get an award just for showing up. They are greeted with instant gratification and in many, probably even most cases, putting in effort is looked upon as an aside.
As an aging male, like every passing generation, I look on the next one, and sadly most of my own, with little more than scorn. We are soft and complacent. We have foregone our manhood in attempt to fit into a society that hates signs of strength unless they are attached to wealth and excess. A pampered fool with daddy's money is heralded as the mans man while the hard working and skilled male is often seen as gruff and unkempt.
Signs of manhood like the beard have been taken away and used as fashion for the weak and impotent in attempts to appear manly while being physically depleted and useless with anything but their wallet. A wallet they could not defend themselves.
Now of course I blather on about strength only because I am a proponent and exponent of strength sports. Those who are strong are more useful and harder to kill. We are better defenders and protectors but manhood rituals do not necessarily need to be focused on who can lift the heaviest stone. We no longer live in an age of sword and shield; but there is still a need for ritual.
A mechanics son can learn the trade from his father and at the right time is given an engine to rebuild. a farmers son can plow and harvest his first field alone. A hunters son can go on his first solo hunt and provide food for his family. These rituals, whether based on strength or stealth, should however, require physical and emotional effort. It should be a trial. It should be daunting. In completion it should offer a sense not only of relief but in achievement.
These rituals serve just as much of a psychological test as they do physical. The show not only the community but the boy, now a man, that through effort and hard work, he can achieve great things. That there is a sense of satisfaction in setting a goal and earning the reward at the end. A sense we will never understand if everything is handed to us.
These rituals teach personal responsibility and we start to hold ourselves accountable for our own actions instead of looking for a constant scapegoat.
We do not have to remain in the field we were raised of course. Just because your father was a farmer or a mechanic doesn't mean you have to be. But mastering a trade and passing the ritual will show you that your desire can be achieved, whether that be the first college graduate in your family, a chef, or a general in the armed forces. Diligence and hard work will take you a long way.
I think it is time to bring back the manhood ritual. To appreciate what makes men, men. I by no means think we need to glorify war and conquest but I do think there is something healthy and natural in honoring the masculine within ourselves. It is not something that needs to be shunned but there is more to being a man than just loading a stone.
We need strong fathers who teach their sons about honor, respect, and humility.
Being a man is about living out our duty and our purpose as men; protector, warrior, priest and councilor. It is knowing when a soft touch is needed and when a strong guiding hand is required. It is knowing the balance between the two and trying our best to do so gracefully.
Bruce Lee said that you cannot change a man with your fists. This is true most of the time. Some times two people just need to duke it out and come apart having earned the respect and the beating. What I think he was getting at though was that in many cases, we teach by example. We create strong men by being strong fathers, strong husbands, strong friends.
We should strive to be as wise as we are strong or vice versa.
There is nothing about being a man that says a strong calloused hand can't gently make a braid in his daughters hair or wipe a tear from her glistening eye. A strong and gentle father will make strong and courageous women, but this is a topic for another story, another time. For now, let us heft the stone and our hearts and be courageous and compassionate, driven yet respectful. Let us be men.