Being Nigel

I recently expressed some of my dissatisfaction with my current career:

It received much more of a response than I expected, but I stand by this statement 100 percent. And it’s not “yardwork” per se that I enjoy (though I do). It’s actually creating something and doing something that does not involve wallowing in minutiae while sitting at a computer for eight or more hours per day.

There is a deep undercurrent of dissatisfaction with the contemporary office job. This is for two main reasons:

  1. It is highly unnatural; and
  2. There is little to nothing to show for your efforts.

Where’s the sense of accomplishment in shuffling through emails? What pride can there be in spending hours contributing something infinitesimally minute to some project that you have no ownership over and does not affect you?

And in the case of law, everything is air. Everything is made up. A law doesn’t exist. It’s a shared fiction that everybody agrees to abide by under pain of financial injury or physical imprisonment. However, these things can be changed relatively quickly–today’s wrong is tomorrow’s right.

Plus, it all keeps coming. All of it. There is no end to the busy work.

This can’t be unique to law, but at least some other jobs probably provide a more tangible sense of accomplishment. I think of somebody working on creating software, or designing a building, or even a guy on an assembly line or out landscaping: At the end of the day, you’ve created a thing. I know it’s easy to romanticize physical labor, and I know it often doesn’t pay as well as our wonderful brand new “service economy.” But hear me out.

Remember the movie City Slickers? Remember when it’s “Career Day” at Billy Crystal’s character’s son’s school and the other dads have interesting jobs, but Billy Crystal’s character, who sells advertising space on radio stations, finally admits that he “sells air”?

That’s a lot of us out here today. Men, especially. No wonder Billy Crystal, Daniel Stern, and Bruno Kirby decide to do something traditionally masculine and become cowboys. It’s a comedy, sure, but there’s an undercurrent of something real there.

Some days, I have an overwhelming urge to fight. I want to fight and get hit and hit other people and not know if I’m going to make it. I want to bleed as much as I want to make others bleed.

Other days, I want to go out in the forest, chop some trees, and build a house. Or a palace. Or make a castle out of huge rocks. Just because.

Although I hate the term “midlife crisis,” because it’s usually used to mock men who are unhappy with their work situations, the feeling is totally understandable. And I’ll tell you what I think it stems from: doing what we were told we should do. Continue reading “Being Nigel”

Would John Wayne Approve?

Guys are funny, right? And immature. Definitely immature.

You’d think this if you see nearly any movie with a male protagonist. He’s an overgrown man-child, always there with a quip or an obnoxiously immature pastime that holds him back, while the kick-ass riot grrl rolls her eyes and does all the real work, maybe letting the dude accidentally do something right or lift something heavy.

Maybe it’s be a male character full of power and competence who still has to be funny. Because serious people–adult males, especially–are boring!

Or so hundreds of Hollywood screenwriters would have us believe. Not just screenwriters, but novelists, TV writers, and those in the comic book business.

Jamaul over at Jamual Writes discusses this in a great post called “Always Be Funny.” The new God of War video game, and its strong, silent, and brutal male protagonist got him thinking about the phenomenon:

So, I was just on Twitter talking about the new God of War video game, which I’m watching via YouTube.

I love this damn game. It’s amazing.

But I did notice something about the main character – Kratos.

Dude is uber serious. Never crack jokes. Never smiles.

Even Wired wrote a piece on Kratos – and his appetite for violence, claiming that’s he’s toxic.

I disagree. I think Kratos is just a personality type. Strong, but silent type. A warrior. And that’s the thing with the personality type – they don’t think, they just do. Tough, stoic.

Much like the John Waynes, Clint Eastwoods of the old Westerns, which I love.

These characters don’t talk much, quick to anger, disagreeable, grumpy, strong, leaders, and blaze their own lane.

They’re my favorite type of characters. Which seems to be a relic, nowadays.

The pathetic state of video game journalism aside, imagine a world where a quietly bad-ass character is considered “toxic.” Throw out all your old John Ford westerns and Mickey Spillaine noir thrillers, I guess! Nope, men have to be seen as non-threatening, cute, cuddly teddybears.

I think what Jamual is noticing is that male characters used to have some kind of danger to them, an edge, an element of unpredictability that could erupt at any moment–and here’s the important part–against the bad guys.

Charles Bronson wasn’t mowing down the innocent in Death Wish. Clint Eastwood wasn’t abusing women and children in Dirty Harry. Richard Roundtree wasn’t beating down the righteous in Shaft.

These guys were just bad mofos doing what had to be done. Even Han Solo, grumpy and quippy himself, was competent, and his humor fit the character and his swashbuckling way of life. Which is masculine. Which is why, I think, our cultural elitists in charge of making this stuff need to neuter the men. As Jack Donovan is so fond of saying, strong men acting together are the biggest threat to the nanny state. So the “gang,” if you will, must be broken. Continue reading “Would John Wayne Approve?”

Get Some Help

I'm not going to lie: famous, successful, and beloved people committing suicide freaks me out. Anyone killing themselves is terrible, but the rich and famous seem to have fewer reasons to do so. Don't they?

Of course not. There are many reasons why people take their own life, and those who seemingly "have it all" also have as many mental and emotional issues as the rest of us.

And like the rest of us, they didn't get the needed help that may have prevented this.

Help is a funny thing. We all know it's good, but so few of us ask for it when we should. And this doesn't just go for mental health issues, but any aspect in life.

I've had recent, chaotic experiences that brought this home. Stuff happened, and then more stuff happened, and I found myself overwhelmed. It was not my finest moment. I survived with minimum damage, but it was still brutal.

So focused on staying afloat, I didn't even think to ask for help from anyone. I also kept agreeing to take on more duties, because of the "I can do it!" attitude that some may mistake for stubbornness, but I like to call…

Okay, it's stubbornness.

But the point is this: people like to take on too many burdens, and delude ourselves into thinking we can handle it all.

We can't. Not always.

And since I'm a man, and men kill themselves at appalling rates, and I'm also a white man, and white men kill themselves at an even more appalling rate, and I tend to write about what I know, I'd like to share a hypothesis as to why men tend to not ask for help:

Most of the available resources are women.

In fact, as recently as 2013, there were 2.1 female psychologists for every male one.

There are many reasons for this gap, which mirrors the general widening gap in educational attainment, and the reasons for this could open up another whole can of worms that I don't want to get in to here.

But before you call me a "misogynistic, patriarchal, heterosexual subhuman," hear me out: I'm not saying it's a good or a bad thing; it just is. Maybe it's societal. Maybe it's biological. I have a strong suspicion that it's a bit of both. Continue reading “Get Some Help”

Working Stiff Blues

It began like any other work day. 

Dressed in my suit and tie, I grabbed my stuff and said goodbye to my family before I head out to greet the workday.

“Stay here daddy. I don’t want you to go to work. And I don’t want to go to school. Let’s play!”

“Believe me, kiddo, believe me: I don’t want to go to work either.”

The words pass almost unconsciously from my lips. After all, nobody wants to go to work. Work is bad, right?

Well, no. Work is necessary. Work equals survival. Without work, nothing ever would get done. We’d still all be hunter-gatherers and there would be no civilization to speak of, modern or otherwise.

Maybe one doesn’t like their job, maybe one doesn’t like being away from their family for so long, maybe one would rather be doing something else for work, but work itself is not the problem.

“All jobs suck.”

“That’s why they call it WORK.”

“No pain, no gain!”

These things are true. But is that what kids hear? Are they able to parse these truths from generic statements like “I don’t want to go to work”?

Kids are sponges. We all know that. It’s what made me stop saying this to my son. 

Maybe I’m paranoid, but I don’t want him to equate “work” in his little mind with “bad.” Because if I do, what’s going to happen whenever he has to work at something, especially something difficult? Continue reading “Working Stiff Blues”

Being a Church Man

Being a man. Much of it involves standing up for yourself, for your friends and family, and the weak. And a lot of times, “standing up” means fighting back, physically or with words. 

And then there’s being a Christian. Love your enemies and pray for them, even as they revile you. Be meek, because the meek shall inherit the Earth. Turn the other cheek. 

These are in conflict, right?Yet there’s something strange brewing in the realm of Christendom. And it’s not necessarily a bad thing.

You see, something I’ve noticed, thanks to the Internet, is that there are a lot of young, passionate Christians–far more than I remember growing up. And these Christians fight back.

When the culture punches them, they punch back. Hard.

There is even some armed resistance in regions of the world where Christianity is being stamped out by evil religious fanatics who claim to worship the same God. There’s not enough, but at least it’s there.

I applaud this and am energized by it.

Here in America, things haven’t yet come to blows (though the so-called Antifa thugs are starting to change this).

In a culture hellbent on denigrating your beliefs, sitting idly by gets you nowhere.

And this is important, because culture is far more important than politics in and of themselves.

So three cheers for Christians who actually defend themselves. Using the weapons of Scripture and snark in equal measure, logic and reason coupled with fearlessness and effective rhetoric, we refuse to go quietly into that dark night of decline. In fact, the goal seems to be to increase the numbers of the faithful, and bolster the strength of our various churches.

You see, the prevailing culture has successfully turned Christians into John Lithgow’s character from Footloose (1984). 

I’ve never seen the movie (there’s only so much Kevin Bacon I can take), but I know the stereotype all too well. In Footloose, Lithgow plays the villain, Reverend Shaw Moore, a fiery Christian preacher who hates dancing and bans dancing and music in his community.

Now, it doesn’t matter that Reverend Moore has powerful personal reasons for hating dancing and music, and later has a change of heart when he realizes that dancing and music are not the problems he thinks they are. Christianity in movies gets associated with hating fun. You see this in so many films, TV shows, and books. 

The Jesus freak is always puritanical, bigoted, and violent. And nine times out of ten, a complete and utter hypocrite, who is usually stupid for good measure. 

Why? Because Christ, of course.

I see a lot of this edifice eroding in the face of Christians who prove that you can be a churchgoer and bite back. Have a sense of humor. A sense of mischief, even. 

This is all well and good . . . but is it really Christ-like?

In other words, is fighting back contrary to Christian teachings?

Is being a masculine man incompatible with being a church man? Continue reading “Being a Church Man”

Who You Gonna Call? No One

Periodically taking stock can bring to light aspects of your life you’ve been overlooking. 

We’re all busy, right? Sometimes it’s difficult to spend time alone with our thoughts. Even uncomfortable. But it needs to be done. 

Recently, I sat and I thought and reflected on the last fifteen years of my life and sort of looked around the room in bewilderment as I came to a startling, sobering, conclusion:

I have no friends. 

I have acquaintances, sure. Online followers, yeah. And you’re all great. 

But as far as flesh-and-blood friends, especially male ones? People I can call on the phone or meet up with to talk with, laugh, and share hopes and fears and anxieties, knowing I’ll find a supportive ear and a confidant who will tell me what I need, and not want, to hear?

I have one, maybe two. 

Why is that?

If stuff I read is to be believed (hint: it’s usually not, but bear with me), men are really bad at forming and maintaining friendships. Especially in a marriage or other long-term relationship. 

Is this all about gender stereotypes, “Men don’t share feelings!” and all of that? With men killing ourselves at alarming rates (while no one really cares), you’d think we’d be encouraged to form other male friendships. 

But nah. 

Why is that?

It can’t all be “gender stereotypes,” because when I was younger, I had more friends than I could count. I had no problem making and maintaining friends. 

On my 26th birthday, one of my best friends there an impromptu party for me. He just rattled names of close friends of mine off the top of his head. When the guest list was completed, there were 46 people at the restaurant. 

Forty-six! And close fiends, all. 

This was ten years ago. Of those 46, I regularly keep in touch with two of them. 

Two. 

And by “keep in touch” I mean “call once a month, maybe, and text occasionally.”

Why is that? Continue reading “Who You Gonna Call? No One”

The Treadmill of Life

Real-and-Inspiring-Getting-Off-the-Treadmill-of-Life.png

“Are you stuck in a rut? Does life make you feel like you’re on a treadmill, constantly running and getting nowhere? Well, stick around because boy, do have the answer for YOU!”

The above sentence is, of course, complete nonsense. And yet, there’s a lot of this going around.

Look, I love the Internet. There is more knowledge, more communication, more connection than you could ever handle in a lifetime. There is also another thing that gets forgotten: More inpsiration.

That’s right! Like lots of other people, I have discovered what is sometimes called the “manosphere,” but which I just like to refer to as “men.”

Like most males of the species, I do not have many friends that I see on a regular basis. My “social support group” or whatever you want to call it can be counted on one hand. Through nobody’s fault but my own, I have let my friendships dwindle down to mere acquanitences, and it feels futile, and even daunting, to try to rekindle them.

Enter the Internet. There are lots and lots of men talking about these things, and how to navigate a life that seems not quite deisgned for you to live in. A lot of it is in good fun and the spirit of true self-improvement. Some of it has even been helpful!

I’m not here to knock any of it, even though I don’t agree with all of it.

But sometimes I do look at these people–older than men, younger than me, the same age and me–who seem to have it all figured out, and I have to tell myself, before I get too depressed, that everyone is different.

And also that this is the Internet. Lots of people are trying to sell themselves. While 99% of what they do is given away for free, and it’s eminently fair to offer that remaining 1% for a price (usually low), there is an element of puffery.

Still, it’s inevitable that we compare ourselves to others, even when we know that can sometimes be a fool’s game. But without something to aspire to, where do we go?

Sadly, I know the answer to that. You go to a pretty dark place and it’s tough to get out.

But at least a dark place feels like SOMEWHERE, even if it’s not a somewhere you want to set up permanent shop.

Being on life’s treadmill, though . . . treading water . . . is almost more miserable in its mediocrity.

You’re just going . . . nowhere.

Or as one of my favorite bands puts it:

Runnin’ twice as fast to stay in the same place
Don’t catch my breath until the end of the day . . .

–Faith No More, “Ricochet

“It’s temporary,” you might say. “We’re all in this situation at some point.”

True . . . but fifteen or so years can sure seem like an eternity.

So while I have no answers for how to get off, I can continue to use my life as a cautionary tale to make sure that you don’t get on the treadmill of life. Continue reading “The Treadmill of Life”