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  • Writer's pictureZenho Chad Bennett

Masculinity or Chicken Soup

Anglo-Saxon Protestant Heterosexual Men

-Wendell Berry

Come, dear brothers let us cheerfully acknowledge that we are the last hope of the world, for we have no excuses, nobody to blame but ourselves. Who is going to sit at our feet and listen while we bewail our historical sufferings?

Who will ever believe that we also have wept in the night with repressed longing to become our real selves? Who will stand forth and proclaim that we have virtues and talents peculiar to our category?

Nobody, and that is good. For here we are at last with our real selves in the real world.

Therefore, let us quiet our hearts, my brothers, and settle down for a change to picking up after ourselves and a few centuries of honest work.

I extend heartfelt congratulations to the multiplicity of successful waves of the feminist movement in the United States. In less than a century since the 19th amendment was enacted ensuring women’s right to vote (this is a very short time ago in the geologic timescale of humanity’s development), we are now seeing women earning 80% of men’s salaries in the workplace up from just 59% in 1974. There is still a tremendous amount of work still to be done though we can only expect this trend of heightened consciousness to continue as the sacred feminine is showing great strength, promise and compassion in healing itself.

While this work continues to unfold, I propose turning our attention largely to the sacred masculine. The feminist movement, in general, emerged as a natural response to the oppressive, patriarchical and hierarchical qualities of the masculine and it may be fair to say, then, that it was the masculine that was broken first! (Yet again, the masculine has outdone the feminine!)

As is always the case, when we develop to become more conscious and whole, new developmental stages create new challenges. For many people in the post modern world, we have seen and understood all too well the catastrophic effects of the broken masculine. In reaction to the oppressive and patriarchical worldview, we have come to favor a more conscious “sensitive self”, more inclusive, more compassionate and quite possibly more feminine! Is that what we really wanted?

A difficulty we see today is that in response to the broken masculine, we seem to have cast out the brilliancy of masculine energy as well. Men, in particular appear to have collapsed in shame, surrendering our backbones, placing attention on developing sensitivity, banishing aggression into shadows (leaking it out as passive aggression and resentment) and rejecting healthy qualities such as boundaries, directness, leadership, discipline and warriorship. When we attempt to embody the masculine from the perspective of shame and retribution, we become like a big pot of chicken noodle soup and men, especially, are the noodles! Frankly, this kind of “masculinity” is to be eaten only when we’re sick.

As we begin to taste the higher potentials of adult development we begin to intuit that the most impactful work that can be done in this world will not be in reaction to previous waves of our development. It will be done when our hearts are truly open but first we will need strong backbones to hang them on rather than noodles. Only then can we embrace Wendell Berry’s proclamation: “Therefore, let us quiet our hearts, my brothers, and settle down for a change to picking up after ourselves and a few centuries of honest work.”

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