Friday, May 11, 2012

Men: How to Survive Mother's Day

Dear Fellow Men,

This article is for men only, please. So, before we begin one must use the ancient mudra, “tongue-in-cheek.” It requires entering the breathless state first wherein no critical remarks or sharp retorts are possible. So, now, let’s begin:

Yes, it’s Mother’s Day again and we’d be wise to stock up on flowers, chocolates, and thoughtfulness and be ready to dispense the stuff like, well, candy. It’s practically a cliche to say that this “new age” is becoming an age of women. The cliche further adds that “It’s about time!” And we don’t argue, do we? In fact, we remain silent in the great and long tradition of men everywhere and in all times, golden age or dark age, notwithstanding.(1)

You see our secret weapon is silence even as theirs is loquaciousness. A woman with a three-inch tongue can destroy a man over six-feet tall! As women free themselves from oppression by men, so we men must learn to free ourselves from the oppression of women. The latter takes of course a different form than ours over them.

It is commonly asserted that women are, by nature, more intelligent than men and I would be the last to argue with that, even if I would qualify it in certain ways. But why quibble? What the world needs today are people who want to relate to one another, to understand and appreciate one another, to respect each other, to cooperate harmoniously, and to create hope for a better world. And women are, for whatever reason or none at all, simply more inclined in that direction than men. The need for this is patently obvious and it is a better solution than war and ruthless competition or galloping consumption of resources. It is pointless and stupid to respond otherwise.

It doesn’t change the fact that I prefer doing tasks that I can complete myself and that don’t require me to depend upon, satisfy, communicate with, or otherwise need permission from anyone else. Which is why I am writing this dumb article. And I don’t think I am alone in this tendency. Sure it sounds egotistical and sure men are often described that way. But on this score I will stand my ground and say egotism is definitely 50:50. I simply find my own satisfaction and creativity and ability to get my ego out of the way enhanced in such circumstances. Working with others, especially in groups, for me, reinforces ego-active tendencies and brings out competition or criticism. From observing women, I would say, for them, it’s just the opposite, speaking of course (as I must), generally.

This new rising consciousness is a grass-roots movement. That is why in positions of worldly power the influence of women is less obvious. We don’t yet have, for example, a woman president in the United States. But it isn’t far off, I’m sure we would agree. But on the grass roots level I see around me that the change of status and roles are affecting both men and women.

Women are generally happy about their new found freedom and men are too, except when we are unemployed or earning less than our wives and lovers. House husbands are increasingly common and most are very happy with the opportunity. TIME Magazine ran a recent front-page lead article on how the earnings of women are outpacing those of men.

While we congratulate women on their rising status and freedom, we, as men, need to figure out where we go from here. No more bison to bring down, no more bread to bring home triumphantly at night to the admiring gaze of our womenfolk and dependent children! Ah, a sad day has dawned. Or, has it?

Our secret weapon, then, to return to our theme today, is silence. I don’t mean cold, aloof, indifference. I mean something far more elevated. Let me explain in a roundabout way (heck, I hate short articles, don’t you?).

With the freedom of self-expression that women have achieved, the initial benefit for men was a lot more available women who were eager to explore and experiment outside the dreaded commitment that used to be called marriage. It was, and remains, a candy store for some men and women. But this kind of so-called freedom comes at a high price for both men and women: whether emotionally or health-wise, or in terms of true satisfaction or happiness. Easy to enter a casual relationship but difficult to withdraw from one; then there’s those nasty and dreaded diseases. Well I could go on but in fact this part is pretty much outside my own lifestyle and life experience. But I am going somewhere, trust me.

The rising visibility of women is on all levels: from the obviously sexually titillating level to roles of leadership in business, politics and religion. This high level of activity and interaction has made women much more “in your face” for men. Gone are the armies of men-only, whether in the military, the club house, at the shop or factory, office, or corporate boardrooms.

So the first phase of this new reality can be seen in the two-steps forward, one step back evolution of rules of engagement (now called “etiquette”) in the workplace and in every place (since men and women commingle practically everywhere, even dorms and bathrooms in some places). Learning respect, professional conduct and how to be friendly without being too friendly, these are all new patterns for both men and women. But, not surprisingly, this is generally easier for women than for men. And this is where our secret weapon has to begin its hidden (from women) research and development, top-secret phase.

You see, no matter how much society and its rules insist upon equality in all matters we can never simply erase the primordial powers of magnetism and attraction between men and women. But, now, as much as in every other century or society, we have to find new ways to re-direct and circumscribe (or is it circumcise?) this powerful force. In the past these temptations, urges, and otherwise uncontrollable actions were limited by limiting contact between men and women. But that can no longer work.

Let me pause and say that I am not merely describing sexual urges, or even simply romantic ones. That would be downright silly. Studies have shown that even babies or toddlers may behave differently in the presence of the opposite sex.

No, what I mean is this: how do men avoid becoming, well, let’s say “effeminate” in this new world where men and women are equals? Forget the idea that being equals means anything literally. Yes, you might have the same title, position, pay, or rank as a woman who is your peer, but your influence and behavior around each other will, social myths about equality notwitstanding, will be marked by certain characteristic attributes (speaking, of course, generally).

Ok, now listen: during the last few decades of what is called Feminism, women tended to simply imitate the behavior and attitudes of men. Then it began to dawn on women, those who “made it” into the mens’ world, that such behavior is a betrayal of their own, innate tendencies and contributions to the workplace etc.

So, we, too, then, as men must seek to discover our own traits that are ours to contribute. That is the point of this article. But I’m not going to explore those traits because I still have another point to make.

We come back, then, to silence. As women may be quick witted, fluid, adaptable and good socially, men can learn to be adept at being non-reactive to what can only be called (at great expense to one’s life and limb, publicly) the more feeling and mood “rich” environment in which we live, work, and play. To be men, we need to be thoughtful, observant, reflective, and then, when we act, including making a decision, to do so decisively with quiet, firm conviction. We need to draw upon principles and ideals in our language and action; to behave according to what is right duty, not desire or mere feelings. To avoid being self-indulgent in word or action. We should keep our emotional distance from women, being considerate as duty and circumstances dictate, but avoiding familiarity, or “back-slapping” good ‘ol boy behavior when there are no longer any “good ‘ol boys” around.

We need distance and perspective taken with the sole intention of acting, thinking, and feeling according to the highest standards of principle that we can relate and aspire to. We need to be self-disciplined in habits of food, exercise, continuing education and improvement of our skills. We need to become good listeners. We should aspire to be wise and to understand that kindness and compassion are the wisest principles of all.

In sexual matters we need to be self-disciplined as well; appropriate, certainly; committed with integrity to a meaningful, mutually serviceful, respectful relationship. We should avoid making fools of ourselves in such matters. If we treat our wife and her body with respect and tenderness, she will respect us more, or if she prefers lascivious behavior, well, maybe that’s not the right relationship. We shouldn’t encourage our wife or girlfriend to dress in revealing ways, whether in private or public, for we sew the seeds for the cancer of familiarity, moods, and disrespect. Even at home, and yes, in bed, we should be modest in dress and comportment. The Achilles heel for men in respect to women is the eternal temptation of sex.  

Whereas women can be insatiable in their need for attention and interaction from men, men tend to be insatiable in their thoughts about and attraction to women sexually. Both benefit from being more secure in themselves and less in need of approval from one another.

As women come into their own in our society, men, too, should come into our own center of Being. The “real man” is self-contained and unemotional while yet possessing the deep commitment to and passion for truth and high ideals, including helping and protecting others.

The silence of which I speak is, ultimately, derived from the practice of meditation and prayer. To see our source of strength as coming from God, from a higher Power, brings both wisdom and perspective. To avoid one's strength (whether physical, mental or emotional) becoming the instrument of rank egotism, a man needs to be receptive to the Divine Will. It would be especially helpful for a man to approach God in the form of the Divine Mother. 

It would also be helpful to view women as mothers and sisters, even when their behavior or appearance is sexually alluring. Watch your thoughts and notice where the eyes (and mind) roam. A woman who flaunts her allure reveals only her own insecurity, debasing her own soul and inviting men to grovel in the mud of maya with her. See such, instead, as a mere child, ignorant and lost, but, of course, keep your distance mentally and otherwise. Silence. Distance. Wisdom. Self-restraint. Calm. Kind.

What we seek in our desire for companionship with a woman is to be only truly found within our own souls as children of God. To yoke our actions and intentions to the chariot of truth and to be obedient to the dictates of a compassionate, divinely inspired wisdom is to become channel of strength and grace to others: in your marriage, family, workplace and community.

So, men, deliver your flowers and candy with a smile and a gentle, respectful, and grateful kiss for Divine Mother who has given us life and love as One and the Same!

Aum! Nayaswami Hriman

[1] Withdrawing my tongue, momentarily, let me say that I, too, welcome the rising influence of women in the world today as not only beneficial to humanity at large but necessary for human survival (not to mention the world and its teeming life of plants and animals everywhere).