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Writing on Air by Jim Paredes

Archive for October 19th, 2010

Life doesn’t wait forever.. Kailan mo pa gagawin? 1

Posted on October 19, 2010 by jimparedes

On becoming a man 1

Posted on October 19, 2010 by jimparedes

HUMMING IN MY UNIVERSE By Jim Paredes (The Philippine Star) Updated October 17, 2010 12:00 AM

I am reading the book Wild at Heart by John Elredge who writes about how men today are not being raised the way men should be raised. Men these days, he says, are too soft, too weak of character and too shallow.

Generally, Elredge asserts, men of this generation and all the generations after World War Two, are failing the substance test. Men today, probably because of how their equally weak and lost fathers have raised them, have lost the grit, the courage, the passion and the long-distance runner dedication to be true to the causes they believe in.

This intriguing book, recommended by a psychologist friend, is a very interesting read for someone who is a) a man, and b) a father to a son.

He laments the fact that many boys have been emasculated by the society that has raised them. Every day, schools, families and society in general, assault the rough, strong and active masculine energy that is innate in boys. It is a control issue. There is too much taming and domesticating going on, resulting in boys that are too “nice” because they have been denied an outlet for their innate roughness.

Elredge points out that more than raising boys to be nice and decent, we must also allow them to feel that they are “dangerous,” which, he says, is one of the strong essential points that comprise male energy.

He relates how his son felt when they wrestled and the boy cut his father’s lip. Elredge says that after the initial shock of seeing blood on his lips, and upon hearing him say it was all right, he saw his son strut — not just walk out — but strut out of the room in triumph. And that was good.

There are three symbolic things a man must do to be a man, Elredge writes: “A man must fight a battle, go on an adventure and get the girl.”

Reading this, memories of my childhood role playing came back to me, dressed as Davy Crocket with my air gun, or Jim Bowie with my authentic Bowie knife, I explored the empty lot beside our house in Cubao, in search of wild animals I could kill. I also loved to go camping, building a fire and cooking the small birds I had shot down.

I cut myself a few times while playing with knives as a Boy Scout. I had fistfights in school. I even shot myself accidentally with my own air gun but I never told my mom about it because she would surely confiscate my gun. I also played with dangerous things like firecrackers. I was quite adept at tying knots with a rope, a scout’s skill I took seriously. Once I attempted to swing from one tree to another using a rope and got a bad case of “rope burn” because I could not really carry my own weight. My palms were scraped and raw, and were unusable for almost a week.

All of the above, I suppose, are enough testimony to the adventure part of Elredge’s checklist on being a man. The “getting the girl” part was something I did quite well once I got over my initial shyness. I must have kissed my first girl at around nine or 10 years old. Even at that age, I felt I was on cloud nine. A large part of it must have been about “male conquest,” that primal feeling where you sense that you are as manly as you could ever be, even as a boy. If I could shoot a bird, I could get a girl!

And in life, it isn’t just one girl. The whole idea of conquest is mythological and large. The ritual of dating and all that it entails has many implications on becoming an adult male. One is really in search of the woman to whom a man can be a hero.

My “fighting a battle” experience came in college. While it is true that as young boys, we fight many small battles like shyness, discipline and the “devil” as we try to control our urge to sexually express ourselves solitarily, the real battle for me began in college with my political awakening. This was expressed in small skirmishes with authority by joining demonstrations against the Marcos government and speaking out against martial law. The battle was a long one that seemed to culminate in EDSA in 1986, but it continues to this day.

Elredge writes about how a man can retake his manhood and be a more complete person. Every man, he says, is wounded as he is growing up. It is a wound that can slay his true masculinity, the power source, and makes him aim lower, or not at all, cower before the challenge of life, or even fall into addiction.

Pornography is popular, he says, because it is one way a man “gets the girl.” But it is a false promise that, in many ways, a man pays too high a price for because he risks being addicted to it and ends up feeling more emasculated after.

Men are looking for the answer, and they think it is in women. But while a woman can validate a man, she can also invalidate him. And so, he suggests that perhaps women may not be the “one” who can bestow on men the hero status that they crave.

There is a strong Christian orientation to this book. It has a lot of scriptural quotations that do not exactly appeal to me. But I can relate with Elredge’s idea of boys being raised to be too “nice,” safe and not feeling “dangerous” enough. It is certainly something worth pondering.

When sons bond with their fathers, they talk and do more daring, challenging things than when they interact with their moms. I liked the idea of delaying my son’s circumcision until he was 11 because it was a clear initiation, a ritual that separated him from the younger boys. It was a physically painful threshold he crossed and that was good for him. Physical breakthroughs are important because they tell a boy that he has what it takes to be a man.

Since my son was eight years old, we would often race when we saw an open field, and I would beat him, of course. But it was really just a matter of time before he grew big enough and the day he beat me, he had something to crow about. And he sure did!

I remember how he once showed a lot chutzpah in challenging himself to learn the lead guitar parts of the song Ventura Highway on the first day he held a guitar. He still had to learn his first chords and he was already aiming for the hard stuff. He asked me to play it a few times even when I repeatedly told him the song was way beyond his league. To my great surprise, the kid stayed up all night and proudly played it flawlessly before me the next morning!

I would often tell him that physical discomfort, like lack of a heater during brownouts, walking long distances, or missing a meal was good because it helped build character. My wife on the other hand would always make sure all her children were safe, fed and comfortable. I guess that’s where masculine and feminine energies play out differently, as they should. Masculinity is about exploration, extension, conquest, while femininity is about comfort, relating intimately and keeping things within boundaries.

In my view, a man must honor both energies since in truth he possesses both of them. A man needs to be both dangerous and nice, bold and sensitive, and tough and soft, when needed.

In this age when society works to make things very safe for children, it is important that fathers and mothers do not deny their sons their natural expression of masculine adventures. Sure, boys must be guided and disciplined but it is not enough that we raise them to be just moral and decent. We need them to be passionate about life as well. We need bold and tough men (and women, too!) to tackle the bold and tough battles that humanity must face in the new world.

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1) Creative For Life Workshop (Two-Day Run). This used to run for six separate sessions. Now it is compressed to two days but still with the same punch and impact you will feel for life. This will be held on Oct. 23 (9 a.m. to 5 p.m.) and Oct. 24 (1:30 to 5 p.m.). Fee is P5,000. Visit http://tappingthecreativeuni-verse.com for FAQ, syllabus and testimonials.

Call 426-5375, 0916-8554303 and ask for Ollie. Write me at emailjimp@gmail.com for questions and reservations.

2) Basic Photo Workshop in Dumaguete on Nov. 20. A day in the outdoors! Call 0916-4305626 for details and reservations.

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