Why, exactly, am I writing this blog?
It’s a fair question, since on one level the ever-more-crowded blogosphere seems to represent nothing more than the elevation of the uninteresting by the uninformed. More talk. More opinions. “Words, words, words, I’m so sick of words,” Eliza Doolittle cried to the pathetic, love-struck Freddy Eynsford-Hill in My Fair Lady. “I get words all day through; first from him, now from you! Is that all you blighters can do?”
I’m with you, Eliza. So, too, was John MacMurray, whose fundamental thesis was “All meaningful knowledge is for the sake of action, and all meaningful action for the sake of friendship.”
The older I get, the more interested I am in creating better friendships with men, who have generally not been as big a part of my life as have women. My family is dominated by women – I have two sisters (no brothers), two daughters (no sons), only one living male first cousin (to nine women) – and many of my closest friends since high school have been women. I value my guy friends, to be sure, but Susan and I have moved a lot, and in general I have not been as successful in sustaining friendships with men, who write fewer personal letters and emails, than women. (And when it come to not keeping in touch, I confess that I have often been the guilty party.)
Blogs, it seems to me, were born at the intersection of available technology, the downgrading of the status of experts, and the democratization of public discourse. “Hell is full of musical amateurs” said Shaw. Well, my ticket to hell may not be through music, but maybe I’ll get there by writing about men!
I claim no authority on the subject. (A surprisingly good book was, I thought, Robert Bly’s Iron John: A Book About Men.) But if I can’t claim authority, I can certainly claim an intrinsic, deep, feeling investment in what it is to be a man. And again, I cite “my man” John MacMurray for his corroboration that feeling is a legitimate motivator for action: “What we feel and how we feel is far more important than what we think and how we think.”
So I’m acting on my sense that I need, and can, do more to stay in touch with myself as a man, and with other male friends and colleagues, than I have done previously, and the way to do that – beyond my direct contact with the men (and women) in the Burlington Choral Society and Onion River Chorus – is to put a little more of myself out there.
Which makes me feel very uneasy. The most influential role model I had growing up was my father, a man of grace and accomplishment who did not talk about himself very much because he had no reason to: recognition and respect followed him his whole life. To indulge in the self-referential world of social media would have been the very antithesis of what it meant for him to live with dignity (and, let’s be honest, with the noblesse oblige of the fortunate and successful). My father died in 2001.
You are what you do, not what you say. I believe that. But since I’m one of those people who doesn’t know really what he thinks until he writes it down, for me the act of writing A Year of Guys will, I hope, be the action that helps me think and feel more deeply and with greater intensity about what it means to be a guy.