Thursday, July 06, 2006

Manliness

Sorry, my faithful readers-- another philosophical post...but hey! it's a much-debated topic, and I want to get some feedback! I've already noted the obesession of my Kentucky-friends with "manliness." I even asked Sina about it, and she laughed and said "it's the seminary thing."

In a teasing back-and-forth with a Kentuckian,
it was brought to my attention that manliness is a VERB, not an adjective. So the question in question (hehehe that was clever) would be "How does one do manliness?" That sort of set me back a little, girls-- I mean, sure, we all have our ideas, and we are convinced, deep down, that it surely isn't all about sweating and burping...but how exactly is it succinctly expressed? Though I'd guess most of us could recognize it when/if we saw it, I sort of wonder... how does one "do" manliness?

I had the chorus of the song "The Measure of a Man" stuck in my head, but didn't find it very helpful. Sure "what's in the heart defines," but what, in a heart, would define it as "good"? I decided to go to the professionals for help, and this is what I came up with:

From John Piper in Recovering Biblical Manhood & Womanhood, comes this summary of "manliness:"

“at the heart of mature masculinity is a sense of benevolent responsibility to lead, provide for and protect women in ways appropriate to a man’s differing relationships.”

And the corresponding definition of "womanliness:"
“at the heart of mature feminity is a freeing disposition to affirm, receive and nurture strength and leadership from worthy men in ways appropriate to a woman’s differing relationships.” [Chapter 1]

And of course, I had to consult C.S. Lewis...in his mind, the medieval knight was the ideal man, because his character combines fierceness and gentleness:

“The important thing about this ideal is, of course, the double demand it makes on human nature. The knight is a man of blood and iron, a man familiar with the sight of smashed faces and the ragged stumps of lopped-off limbs; he is also a demure, almost a maidenlike, guest in hall, a gentle, modest, unobtrusive man. He is not a compromise or happy mean between ferocity and meekness; he is fierce to the nth and meek to the nth. […]The medieval ideal brought together two things which have no natural tendency to gravitate towards one another. It brought them together for that very reason. It taught humility and forbearance to the great warrior because everyone knew by experience how much he usually needed that lesson. It demanded valour of the urbane and modest man because everyone knew that he was as likely as not to be a milksop.”
~C.S. Lewis, Present Concerns, "The Necessity of Chivalry" Time and Tide, Aug. 1940

What do y'all have to offer?

1 comment:

Bart said...

Hey Christina - I like your blog. I'm not an experienced "blogger" but here goes a "post."

My thoughts on "manliness" would include:
(1) it's a noun
(2) only men can exhibit it
(3) it can be expressed:
man to woman
man to man
man to child
man to society

For example, the men on the Titanic who put women and children first were quite the definition of "manliness."

And, a man who holds up a child over the heads of the crowd to see the parade also has a kind of manliness.

I would also say the businessmen who said, "Let's roll" and forced the terrorists to crash into a field instead of the capital were quite "manly" (there's the adjective).

It would seem as though manliness could encompass both violence and gentleness - and it's hard to pin down. Perhaps it also involves servanthood and leadership and initiative, somewhat wrapped up into one.

Thinking over some of my own experiences "as a man," the times in which I've felt I've fulfilled the calling of husband/father/protector have been, well, surprising. Like burying Anna's cat, Smudge, and crying along with everyone else and digging the grave and holding Anna and praying during our impromptu funeral service.

But, maybe I'm off base and being too wishy-washy about it!