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Final Post of Men on the Moon

30 June 2014

If my grandfather were still alive today, he would have turned 100 this month. Raymond Hitchcock made it to 88, having lived a generous, courageous life. There were the remarkable occupational elements of his career: he exercised considerable skill in farming, automobile repair, business management, and real estate. He did everything with great determination. He was and is an icon of manly strength to me. All importantly, Raymond was known for his kindness. He showed tenderness to his family, friends, and neighbors. He demonstrated sacrificial integrity. He told great stories. He was famous as the designated hugger at his local Methodist church.

I mention Raymond Hitchcock as I close shop on this long-standing blog. It was started six years ago as a way to explore aspects of masculinity in the modern world. So often manliness is understood as a kind of oppressive imperative, some kind of social conduct which burdens men with high, even unrealistic, expectations. This blog has tried to show that masculinity can affirm many of the great traditions for men without demanding of them exact codes of conduct and being. Men can walk on the moon.

I close this season of my e-life with gratitude for the men in my life who instilled in me a solid core. My father, my pastors, friends like Mark and Travis and the guys from the Round Table and MKP. Men like Raymond Hitchcock. They affirmed that men can strive to be true men – from a starting point of real manhood. My grandfather had a center, and from that center he lived joyfully.

I wish the same for you, friends and strangers. May you be free men.

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Arriving at Cures for Man-parts the Hard Way

24 June 2014

Once a year my wife lets me shave a mustache. I use the word “lets” very loosely. She chooses not to change the locks to our house on the one day a year I shave the caterpillar of doom. The truth cannot be denied: it is a nasty feature on my face. Even so, once a year I elect to desecrate myself and risk my marriage.

In the past my mustache day has corresponded with pheasant hunting season. This year I may use up my prickly grace for a good cause: the Mustache Dache in Sioux Falls. On July 12, 2014 hundreds of men, women, and children (some with real facial hair) will race five kilometers in an attempt to raise money for men’s health. According to the web site (http://mustachedache.com/), funds go to a battery of ailments facing men: testicular cancer, prostate cancer, mental health, etc.

There’s a certain logic to it all. Who wants to think about the prostate, that funky little piece of flesh controlling the tubes down in the nether-regions? No one. But each time a disturbing mustache flashes into view, people can say to themselves, “As much as I don’t want to consider it, there are man-parts in need of care. Especially in men.”

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Y Chromosome Differentiation 180 Million Years Old

24 April 2014

Just published in Nature is a study revealing the origins of maleness in mammals. The team of Prof. Henrik Kaessmann at the Center for Integrative Genomics and the Swiss Institute of Bioinformatics concludes that the key male-differentiating features in the Y chromosome appeared 180 million years ago in placentals and marsupials with the arrival of the sex-determining gene, SRY. Curiously, the AMHY gene, performing the same function in monotremes, appeared independently 175 million years ago. In other words, testicles have been around for a good long while, but not as long as one might have imagined.

The study, which required 29,500 computing hours, was done by isolating special Y chromosome genes among fifteen mammalian species. It is the largest study of the Y chromosome to date. More information can be found in the current issue of Nature or here.

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The Other Woman

16 April 2014

My wife and I saw yet another ad for the revenge-flick, The Other Woman. In it a woman discovers her boyfriend is cheating on her. He has another girlfriend and, as it turns out, a wife. The three become conspirators, gleefully torturing the adulterous man, usually through demeaning sexual pranks.

I told my wife that men would never be able to get away with that sort of thing, making a movie about systematically humiliating a libido-driven woman in such ways.

But I was wrong. That’s the script of most every porno ever made.

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Echoes

10 April 2014

During a little adventure in Hot Springs, SD, my fatherly influence was again confirmed.

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Manning up with Casting Crowns

28 March 2014

Casting Crowns arrived on the music scene in 1999. By a long but steady ascent, they have become one of the few Evangelical bands to move between Christian and secular radio, touting positive messages for general audiences. As such, their lyrics hold special insight into values popular among conservative American believers. Among the consolidation of virtues Casting Crowns is responsible for is a set of gender expectations for men. In particular, their code turns on concepts of moral integrity, inner piety, protection of women and children, and evangelism.

In 2011 Casting Crowns released the single “Courageous,” which accompanied the film by the same name. With a story about a police officer in the background, the song laments the loss of traditional manliness, when men “were warriors on the front lines, standing unafraid.” Now, men are “watchers on the sidelines while our families slip away.” The golden days of patriarchy have waned into the dark days of men without backbone and purpose. The refrain that Christian men are “taking back the fight” does not refer to a program to subject women. Rather, the fight is directed at the heart, turning to a life of prayer. This battle to regain the authoritative self starts with the regaining of the authentic self, “on our knees with lifted hands.” Those who “reignite the passion,” the song goes on to say, “become warriors.” Accordingly, the battle for one’s place in the family has been internalized to take place on the war-field of the heart, in which lethargy and cowardice are put to death via prayer. The song ends with the promise, “In the war of the mind I will make my stand.”

Casting Crown’s inner masculinity continues to the be the basis for external masculine honor in 2014’s “Heroes.” The woman of the song expresses her valor in financial ways, supporting her two children (notably after her breadwinning husband abandons her). The high school boy in the second verse “walks against the flow” in fairly nebulous moral ways, not following “the hopeless road” but “willing to stand alone.” His manhood comes through principally in a moralistic separation from the world (though this is somehow equated with seeing the school as “his mission field”). Again, the battle is fought in internal terms, battling for moral integrity through self-discipline and prayer.

Through both songs one hears the moralistic theme of Promise Keepers set in the militaristic language of John Eldredge’s Wild at Heart. Thus lead vocalist Mark Hall confesses his penchant for uber-manly movies like Braveheart, saying, “I think that’s my spirit in me longing to be the warrior that God created me to be.” Yet his battle-loving language is simply the key through which he sings of a longing to return to traditional values beginning with the conquest of self. Notably, this sort of Evangelicalism is still psychological and inward-facing while much of the rest of Christianity is turning toward the social sciences and political action.

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Just a Little Idea for a Valentine’s Day Man-Gift

14 February 2014

heartsteak

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