Ode to Wisdom
Did you hear the Good News this morning? That even in the patriarchal times of our ancestors, they saw wisdom in the feminine form.Duh! Wisdom was considered to be the first thing God created, and has been called the bride of God. Wisdom, as you heard, danced and laughed at all God had created because wisdom knew it was good, it was very good. Wisdom experienced harmony and justice and peace all sustained by love. So we have been shown that wisdom is not just the knowing of a lot of things, but rather the foundation of wisdom is found in valuing the right things. That’s wisdom.
The advent of Father’s Day caused me to speculate what I would write to my own two grandsons if I, following the work of Fredrik Backman, were to write a letter to them conveying what it means to become men. I apologize from the start for the blatant gender imbalance here but Nancy and I have yet to be blessed with a granddaughter. Grandsons are what I have personal experience of and if I didn’t think it a little interfering upon heir own parenting, I might write something a little like this.
Dear Bennett and Harrison: They say that sooner or later the majority of men turn into their fathers, their fathers into their grandfathers, etc. I hope for your sakes that is not true. Not that your dad isn’t a great guy, but the hope of evolution is that you will evolve into even better men than we are.
It is unfortunate that you will never know your great-grandpa Wright. Now there was a different kind of man than I or your father are.
A prouder and tougher man. A man with different skills. A man who knew exactly how to determine the quality of a car by simply kicking its tires. A man who could take any electrical product and judge if you paid too much for it simply by weighing it in his hand. And you always paid too much. He never stopped to ask for directions. He never asked for help. He was a stoically independent man. He never argued about money, only principles. He could never understand why you would pay someone to do something that you could do yourself. Just as I or your Dad could never understand why you would want to do something all wrong, instead of paying someone who knew what they were doing. Great Grandpa was a different breed of man, pure and simple. He knew how to use anything that needed an extension cord. You could wake him in the middle of the nigh and he could tell you today’s mortgage rate right down to the decimal point. He always slept with the window wide open and never wore a hat because he never got cold. And, although he could have well bought his own books, he treasured his library card until the day he died. Just imagine, being able to read books for free! That’s the kind of man he was. He could go out onto the lawn at dawn empty handed, and come back in on a newly built deck. Your great grandfather built his own house WITHOUT GOOGLE. He was like a Swiss Army knife with a brain.
However, the whole idea of shared parenting was foreign to him.
He wasn’t great at talking about things he couldn’t kick the tires on or weigh in his hand, but he could work. If fact, he defined hard work. He could file his own taxes, fix the clothes dryer, and change the drive belt on the Lincoln. He was the kind of man that tamed his environment. Do you know that he didn’t even have Wi-Fi when he was growing up. His entire childhood was like an episode of Survivor.
But, I want you to know that it will not be easy for any of us, your great grandfather, myself, or your father, to teach you what it means to be a man, to even show you, because with each new age, how the role of masculinity changes. And that’s the whole point.
In my day, people used to shout, “Stand up and be a man.” It took me a few good years to understand that real men can also stay seated, shut-up and listen. Bennett and Harrison, I am a product of my time. I am a white, heterosexual, colonialized, privileged man with and\ education and a job. There is not a single organism in this entire universe who knows LESS about equality than me. But I am trying to learn and I am hoping that you will teach me.
I also hope you will never misinterpret the fight for equality as a war between the sexes, like Billy Jean King and Bobby Riggs. Who are they? Never mind. It would take too long to explain. The point is, I hope you’ll never believe that a woman doesn’t deserve the same rights or freedoms or chances that you do. I hope you will learn that most people are not looking for special treatment, and that most people don’t want everything to be the same for everyone, they just want things to be fair.I hope you also do not get it into your heads that just because a woman deserves the same opportunities that you do, that you have to stop holding the door for her. That you’ll never think that it is impossible to be a gentleman and treat woman as equals at the same time. Be mindful that as much of a man’s man your great grandfather was, he never would have been able to conquer the world unless Great Grandma hadn’t taken care of everything else.
But I also don’t want you to be intimidated by strong women. I married the strongest woman I have ever known-your Grandmother. GranNan can beat me in a foot race any day of the week. She gets people. She’s someone her students and friends trust. I can easily think of a hundred people who would follow her blindly into war. I can hardly get anyone to follow me on twitter.
And as far as brains go, that’s a hard one. She’s definitely smarter than I am, hands down. On the other hand I got her to marry me so I still feel like I am one up on her.
So, it is not easy to teach you what a real man is. I can tell you this. Never let the terms of your masculinity be bound up with sexuality. In my day, it was a common thing at sporting events to shout out, “Ah, you play like a girl!” as if that was the definition of weakness. But one day, you’ll be holding the hand of a woman as she gives birth and suddenly you will experience a strength and courage that you never could have ever imagined.
And if you want to know what it really means to be a man, ask Gareth Thomas who stood up in a locker room and told his teammates on the Welsh National Rugby Team hat he was gay. I can assure you that no one in that locker room was more of a man at that moment than he was.
They say that sooner or later all men turn out to be like their fathers and their fathers like their fathers, and so on down the line. I know that is not true because the day you both arrived, we all became better men. Men who could wrap you in their strong, muscular arms and whisper into your ear, “I love you.” You taught us those words. It is the only way forward. Be wise, little men, and teach us the way forward.