Crying in the Rain

As a young boy I was used to the phrase “big boys don’t cry”, it was supposed to be a motivation for me to hold back my tears when I felt it necessary to let it rain. And then I got older and became a “big boy” and then the phrase changed to “strong men don’t cry”.

The show of emotions among men has long been seen as a sign of weakness, from the early civilizations of Egypt and Greece to the Romans and the Persians even to the Chinese and Aztec empires of old, the man has been trained and taught to be stoic and emotionless. In the African society where I live it is almost a taboo for a man to cry and in some African cultures it  is even abominable to be seen playing and laughing with your children or wife. So children grow up feeling unloved by their fathers and struggle to understand why. So it becomes absolutely impossible for him to show love because he never saw it shown, he never saw his dad express a positive emotion so he can’t comprehend the need to express it.

To say that the African society is male centric is just stating the obvious, across the plains of Africa are many cultures that have transition rituals into manhood. Teenage boys most of the time have to go through these rites of passage to be seen as men in the particular culture in question. The requirements vary from circumcision to living apart from your family for a while. It goes from the mundane to the scary and dangerous. All tailored to turn the mind into a vault from which emotions cannot leak out consciously or unconsciously.

There is an absolute human type, the masculine…

Man superbly ignores the fact that his anatomy also includes glands,

such as the testicles, and that they secrete hormones…He believes he apprehends objectivity.

Simone de Beauvoir

The result of these indoctrinations are both positive and negative but does not take into consideration the fragile psyche of some of these boys who in the name of transition become unhinged for life.

But today my focus is not on the vast psychological disadvantages of gender stereotyping but on the one flaw that is largely unnoticed when these boys become men; their inability to have appropriate emotional responses and have proper emotional connections.

At some time in history it might have been necessary to teach a boy that crying is not a masculine past time, but in the affairs of today, the ability of an individual to own his emotions and express them freely and appropriately gives him an edge in life. Ever wonder why the rate of hypertension and strokes are spiking among Africans, or why the African male has a shorter life span than that of the woman?

The stereotype that a crying man is a woman or less of a man has made a lot of men learn to bottle up their emotions , positive emotions at that and have no problems manifesting the negative ones. So a man that will find it difficult to laugh with his wife, who wants to appear serious all the time so that he can maintain a semblance of authority, has no qualms in beating the wife or the child into oblivion because he has to be the man. His inability to express his positive emotions gives the “dark side” a lot of playing ground.

In movie terms since his dark energy has no good energy to balance it out, the dark runs wild because there is no counterbalanced effect of the good energy.

I know psychologists will have a beautiful name to give this malady, but in a way it is not more than a systematically cultivated emotional apathy.

Today the savvy man finds a way to let out these emotions, even though some women may also term him emotional, but all the same he finds a way to rejuvenate himself and be human.

To feel is to be human, to agree that you feel makes you even more human and to express that feeling put you on top of the species.

As a man you have to liberate yourself from the same shackles that held your father down, I am not talking of economic chains or political ones but of emotional restrictions that have made us servant to our negative emotions.

I am learning everyday on how to express how I feel, to play and laugh and roll on the floor. I don’t want my kids to ever question my love for them or my wife to think I cant share in her pain. I want to be able to cry with my family when the time calls for it and laugh when it’s necessary.  I don’t want my kids to keep difficulties and challenges from me because I look unapproachable.

I may sound selfish, but that’s just me I don’t want to cry in the rain anymore, I want the people I love to see me express my feelings and own those feelings. I know its a long tortuous journey, but moving is better than stagnation.

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A STAKE THRU’ MY HEART

I was a self confessed movie buff growing up, I lived and breathed movies. I was drawn especially to two genres of movies; action and fantasy. Fantasy movies fed my imagination, even looking back now I know I had an overactive imagination and this was kept very much alive by the movies I watched. In those days vampire movies were truly horrific, with corpses rising from graves and almost always wearing dark capes and having pointed teeth. You could identify the vampire in every such movie, this was the early eighties.

And then technology revolutionized the movie industry, costume design was revolutionized and story lines also shifted a bit from the traditional representation of vampires. The result was that in more recent vampire movies, we began to see vampires dressed and appearing like ordinary people, the black cape and long finger nails were gone , the sleeping in coffins were also gone mostly, the pointed teeth were absent for the most part except during their characteristic killing bite. So in more recent vampire movies it may be a tad more difficult to identify these night dwellers.

And it got me thinking of how we have made our shortcomings in life to be glamorous, how the evil that we plan and   execute in our minds has been rebranded to something else. What I call our inner vampires has been rebranded to become attributes to be desired, qualities to be searched for. Our selfishness, greed, wickedness, uncharitable attitude, exploitation, envy, jealousy, lust, animalistic behavior and much more have been renamed and exalted over and above lofty ideals.

A man’s nature runs either to herbs, or to weeds; therefore let him

seasonably water the one, and destroy the other”.

Francis Bacon

In business it’s easier to engage in industrial espionage if you convince yourself that “it’s not really stealing company secrets it’s just to help me know who am dealing with”. In schools parents cheat for their children and even help them cheat in exams because they convince themselves having “worked hard”, let me just give my child a  push to the next level. In individual relationships greed is redefined as “taking what is rightfully mine”, inordinate ambition described as “charting a course to success”. Bribery is said to be a “short cut to accomplishment”.

But deep down we know the lies that we have transformed our lives into, when we sit down and reflect our consciences condemn us for the wrongs we have done but most times we ignore it. We have made the world to be an urban jungle where we believe primitive instincts should determine our survival. It is a kill or be killed situation.

“Conscience is the inner voice that warns us

somebody may be looking”.

L. Mencken

Selflessness has been murdered by selfishness, love has become comatose since hatred came to the scene and charity has been thrown out the window because it was unsustainable. We live in a world where ambition rules all, be it positive or negative, nothing done to achieve success horrifies us anymore, and we are no longer ashamed of the evil in us because in glamorizing them we think they have lost substance.  We no longer have character because the priorities have changed.

Time was in this world when people related to others on the basis of trust and truthfulness, today we call them medieval sentiments because we have given over the kingship of our lives to things that were meant to be beneath us. About the nature of man, the great English poet Alexander Pope wrote:

Created half to rise, and half to fall;
Great lord of all things, yet a prey to all;
Sole judge of truth, in endless error hurl’d;
The glory, jest, and riddle of the world!

Don’t be deceived, I am not writing from a position of superiority. I too battle my own evils that I consciously or unconsciously re-brand. Sometimes I feel like I have lost sight of what it is to be truly human in the full sense of that word. After some actions I sit back and think that I could have behaved better, I could have been more civil or less judgmental or more loving or less angry, I could have given more time to this person or I could have tried to help more. I try to keep my conscience awake, sometimes I succeed and sometimes I fail.

We cannot appeal to the conscience of the

world when our own conscience is asleep.

Carl von Ossietzky

A lot of us have discarded the compass that directs our human journey through life, for them the only time that matters is the NOW and everything is directed towards making sure that it is what they want it to be. They can afford to isolate relationships for ambition; there is no friend that cannot be ditched along the way.

The essence of being human is our realization that we are constantly trying to be better than who we were yesterday in terms of character, relationships, motivations, goals and cultural tendencies. The drive to be better is not a business attribute rather it is a human one and we can only be better when we learn to see our actions through unbiased eyes. This may be difficult to achieve based on the fact that we have so numbed our senses to others opinions that left to us they don’t even exist anymore. But to begin to try is way better than sitting and surrendering to the darkness.

It starts with a genuine desire to identify the evil I do and rationalize and moves on to a rational approach to do away with this evil most of the time and a plan to completely modify that action and transform it to a better more community building character.

In those movies you can only kill a vampire by driving a stake through its heart, I have started preparing my stakes and I hope my desire to be a better human being will give me the needed courage and strength to drive a stake through my heart.

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