Saturday, August 31, 2013

Don't underestimate our innate powers

Every now and then, I get to see examples of a limit nature puts on us humans.  Every boy is a male and every boy has a mother, interested in protecting him, who is female.  She sees him mimicking older boys doing tricks on their moving bikes.  If she is smart, she tends to avoid observing him on a skateboard, trying to outdo others his age and sex in more daring feats such as leaping in the air with the skateboard and riding it along a hand railing above unforgiving cement steps.


A mother may find the drives that propel her son toward flirting with injury, pain and trouble to be inscrutable.  These days, it is definitely possible for a daughter to don elbow pads, knee pads and helmet and start into activities that have a high chance of resulting in scrapes, scars and more serious injuries or even permanent disability or death.

Depending on the boy, his plans and what he feels is a worthwhile challenge, it can be a worthwhile step toward maturity.  If there is an adult male or several near the boy, that person or persons can be helpful in assessing the worth of the risk in football, wrestling, hunting and other activities.  In many cases, taking the risk and emerging whole is essential to development.  The book by the elderly Jesuit scholar Walter Ong called "Fighting for Life" shows that in all cultures, boys of a certain age are given challenges of a physical and threatening sort that they must successfully face in order to pass into manhood.


Males who have undergone such challenges tend to be quite conscious of the value of their own eyes, ears, physical balance, judgment and reflexes.  The inner human is always there to be relied on, to guide, protect and serve as a foundation for all activities and challenges.  Morehouse used to say not to forget that we have the bodies honed by 18,000 years of hunting and surviving.

There is a short scene in "Tea with Mussolini" which might help in putting the male drives in perspective.  A young man, maybe 22, is part of a group of British who have lived in Italy for a long time.  The Fascisti are emerging as a dangerous and erratic political force in the country and the Brits would like to escape the country if the Fascists are going to continue to gain power.  The young man's mother has been using her heartsong and loving-worry to convince the young man to pretend to be a girl to avoid arrest, incarceration or conscription into a foreign army.  The sound and scent of military spirit all around makes him want to stop hiding himself.  Eventually, he loses his temper and says he will be part of a charade no more, regardless of the danger or his fate.

Of course, warfare and fighting and derring-do take the lives and bodies of many men but there can come a point when they simply do not care about the danger, period.

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