What does it mean to be male?
On our farm we have a handful of studs who work about one month a year and lounge in shade othewise. We also have a handful of men who work seven days a week 12 months of the year, despite the elements. Both roles are invaluable and carry their own dignity.
Over the past month, Susan and I have enjoyed the privilege of taking two trips to our family home in Ontario. Both times I ran into discussion about maleness, which suggests it is time to for reflection, so it may rest more easily. The first was Susan mentioning that I was more male than the group we had just departed. Sensing entrapment, I asked whether that was a compliment or insult. She replied, "Both!" I was right! This last trip, an esteemed colleague referred to me as an alpha male. Never having thought of myself as such, it seemed time to reflect on the meaning of all of this. It is difficult for a man to make it through the day, if he doesn't know how to define his maleness.
Most wars are perpetrated by men, as is most domestic and societal violence, speaking to untamed greed and anger. Incidents of war are declining historically, which is heartening, but the number who wreak physical havoc within our own culture seems to be growing. This represents truly shameful permformance, largely by men.
At the other extreme, men can be exquisite caretakers. Clark husbands his own family plus 200 head of cattle and 200 sheep, among a collection of dogs and hogs. Mike stewards 600 hens. These men tend to their charges daily, constantly moving them forward, regardless of weather. This is executed with finesse, without force. This level of faithfulness and skill allows these animals to thrive. None of this comes easily; physical and mental work is constantly required. This work and these men are an example of manhood at its best.
A bit of research into the definition of Alpha Male, yields some surprising results.
1) He is humble, can laugh at himself, and admits his failures.
2) He is learned; he likes to read and explore new concepts.
3) He takes care of his body, and is in good physical shape.
4) He relates to people of all standing.
5) He is authentic, and faces his own fears.
6) He is respectful of others, and listens well.
7) He honors and dignifies women at all times.
8) He believes in the power of words and uses them carefully.
9) He is driven by values, not competition.
10) He works hard and is persistent.
11) He is stubborn about his purpose and passion.
12) He is generous.
Gosh, almost makes one want to be male!
The point is these are human qualities we all strive for, regardless of sex or status in pecking order. The human condition is always fluctuating, calling for different parts of ourselves at different points in our lives, sometimes even at different points in a day. Nobody is strictly alpha, beta, or omega. We are parts of each, which allows us to adapt to uncertain currents in life.
In general, I submit that if men behaved more like women, the world would benefit. But the physique with which men are endowed is sacred, allowing them to engage closely with the natural elements of life and even to blend into them. Through this, personal authenticity is often realized and invaluable contribution is made to society.
This young male below is not much of a believer in work, but rather is more interested in going places. He'd rather ride than walk, anyday. It appears he lost his tail in a bar-room brawl, but with enough rest and relaxation, it will surely return to adorn him.
With dry weather, beavers are moving out of the wetlands and back to the creek.
Part of every journey is taking risks, whether we live in urban, suburban, or rural worlds, and whether we are involved with the land, computers, or social work. A recent risk undertaken, on our end, was to process the steaks of a ten-year-old cow. Sometimes they are tough as nails, and have to be sent back to be ground up. Other times, they are deep, mellow, and tender, like an aged wine. The picture below is steak of the latter description. It was so gratifying to taste and provided a boost, in suggesting that we just might survive the errors of our journey. It was accompanied by fresh peas from Ontario, mashed potatoes, and freshly grown heirloon tomatoes, from Bob's garden -- exquisite steaks in themselves.
Hopefully next round, we won't have to drive to Ontario to find manhood, but will find it perched on our own two feet!
In the quest,
Drausin & Susan