I've touched on it before but the challenge of a man in a modern context, is to evolve a new sense of self, not based on environment, not based on cultural roles, not grounded in archaic ideas of invulnerability and strength.
The modern man must find a grounded sense of security within himself. But this security will not look like what we expect it to look like. It will not be a pervasive projected identity of flawlessness. It will not be essentially paternal. It will not always be strong, good in bed and impervious to fear.
On the contrary, the masculinity will embrace the fragility of life. The new man, like the samurai of old, will make peace with death, with insecurity, with the trials of being human. But unlike the warriors of the past, he will not exist in a permanent state of frustrated trauma.
How can this happen? What would such a masculinity look like? Good question, and it is one that goes to the heart of what it means to be be a man today.
As well as abandoning the archetypes, myths and expectations of our tribal and judeo-christian heritage, we also need to save some of the good aspects of our inherited masculine culture. Some of the key aspects of being a man in traditional culture include notions of leadership, innovation, courage, self-dependence.
But what these all point towards is a quality more relevant for men than it has ever been. It is the quality of what I call, “something from nothing.” I think this is the closest I can get to describing what I see as the truth about the masculine spirit.
What creating something from nothing means is the ability manifest the new. To evolve realities that are otherwise pipe dreams, fictions of an overworked imagination. Incidentally, that used to be the chief criticism of me as a little boy. “Jamie is a smart boy, but he has an overactive imagination that will get him into trouble one day.”
Sound familiar lads?
However, it is exactly this ability to conjure new realities that has created the better part of our society. It is at the bottom of the boldest political philosophies, scientific discoveries, artistic achievements and technological advancements.
Why this quality is extra-relevant for men today is that their sense of who they are is really going to have to come from nothing. What I mean is that they are not going to be able to rely on their fathers or their forefathers, certainly not their mothers, and by no means must they look to their culture for their masculine identities.
Men are going to have to literally innovate themselves, and in doing so, face the prospect of intellectual annihilation. The very idea of being a separate, distinct gender, a masculine self, will be at stake. The familiar archetypes, however, confused, are what we rely on, but we must be prepared to face a complete wholesale existential shedding of the skin.
It is time to rise out of the masculine depression. Don't be coy. You all know exactly what I fucking well mean by that phrase. It is time to rise above the security of destructive patterns of behaving, and to face the reality of modernity as, not only new men, but new kinds of human beings. A new psychology of masculinity – hell, a new neurobiology!
And that frustration you are feeling right now, as you read this, as you think - “Jackie-boy, what kind of crap are you talking now? You're giving me all this high mindedness, but you are not giving me substance. Where's the punchline?” - all that, is actually the brutal reality of nothingness I am talking about.
There are no answers, father-figures, paradigms, or guiding lines for us here. There are no more fundamentalisms, no more doctrines, religions, and ideologies.
All we have is philosophy.
What I mean by that is the activity of conjuring new truths. New realities. Not arbitrary truths, but new, refreshing and functional truths about what it means to be a man in a modern context. For this there will be no logical proof. There will be no guarantees. Only a willingness to experiment with new and innovative ideas about who you really are.