Maturity and Masculinity Part 1: Introduction
Introducing the framework and clearing up "toxic masculinity"
This is part 1 of a series on Maturity and Masculinity.
The elephant in the room in the debates about just about all Western social justice issues is the misunderstanding of masculinity, specifically in viewing masculine and feminine as polarities while ignoring the polarities of adult vs. child.
I present to you an alternative trimodal framework: man, woman, and child.
Biologically, we know that initially, the fetus is undifferentiated in the uterus before hormones are introduced. We define this at the bottom vertex of the triangle, where the child is completely undifferentiated in terms of gender.
Then, as the fetus develops, sexual organs form. By birth, the sex of 99%+ of infants are unambiguous. However, it’s still difficult to tell infant boys and girls apart when the genitals are covered. Then, as prepubescent children, boys and girls slowly start to differentiate in behavior, but if you swapped their clothing and told them to stand still, it’s still difficult to tell them apart.
Sexual dimorphism doesn’t really happen until puberty, when the secondary sexual characteristics develop. Physically, post-puberty boys and girls are very different. As people get older, the genders differentiate more and more and this continues even into biological adulthood. The question is who much they also differentiated mentally. We will address that and gender identity in a future article. For now, we will focus only on masculinity.
In the Heideggerian sense, every male is a Being-towards-masculinity. Every human being is a Dasein (Being-in-the-world). We are thrown into the world and project ourselves onto the possibilities that exists in it. Being-toward-death refers to a process of growing through the world where a certain foresight guides the Dasein towards gaining an authentic perspective. Being is not simply a series of linear events from the past to the future. Your death is already part of your being and your experience of death is something only you can own and nobody else can substitute your death. As long as we are alive, we are constantly doing metaphysics. Everything that we experience is colored by our moods and aesthetics.
Being-towards-masculinity is what I call the male mode of Being-towards-death. It is phenomenological rather than empirical. Only you can own and experience your own death as a man. Dying as a man is something that’s already part of your being. A man isn’t simply anyone born with XY chromosomes; most boys never grow into men. A man is someone who has fulfilled every stage of life as a male is and prepared to face his own death.
In simpler language, the man is the physically, mentally, and spiritually matured form of the male who is content with his life and would have no regrets if he dies today. Peak masculinity is someone who has purged all of his childishness and naïveté and is respected as a wise elder.
As a child, my grandfather taught me this: In Chinese, “忍” means “endure.” It’s written as “刃,” meaning “sharp part of a blade,” on top of “心,” meaning “heart.” You are truly enduring if you can handle the edge of a knife touching your heart. This is something men, especially warriors, must do, and it’s not expected of women or children.
To be masculine means to be wise. To be wise means to be able to thrive in any circumstance, regardless how stressful, risky or chaotic they might be. The most masculine man can handle all that life throws at him in a calm and collected manner because he’s prepared and experienced.
This is why many cultures converged on there being a “God the Father” archetype. God the Father represents ultimate wisdom. He has been there and done that. He has seen it all. He is infinitely experienced, thus, he behaves optimally in all scenarios. To Him, nothing is random, all is determinist. If God is omniscient, he cannot be fooled by randomness. Yet all humans are fooled by randomness. This is the vast gap between the finite man and the infinite God. God cannot be caught off guard. He does not get overwhelmed by anger. Even when he expresses wrath, his internal experience is calm and he’s expressing it in a controlled way for didactic purposes. Even if you don’t believe in the literal existence of a God, this is how you should interpret the qualities of God and the significance of God in an anthropological context.
To be masculine is to express these characteristics of God. However, no man can even reach even 1% of God’s ability to deal with stress, risk, and chaos. So does that make all of us feminine? No. If God has a lifespan of infinity and we only have a lifespan of 100 years, even the oldest man is still an infant relative to God. We aren’t feminine relative to God, that’s an insult to women. We are childish and naive relative to God, or if you prefer, the ideals of absolute masculinity.
It’s tragic yet hilarious how many people naively strawman God and masculinity. They project the childish flaws of their fathers onto God and masculinity.
An abusive man isn’t “toxically masculine,” he’s just the slow kid at masculinity school who rides at the back of the short bus along with the soyboys and the gender confused. I don’t mean to simply insult them. Special education exists because it’s intended to solve a very real problem. We should have compassion towards special kids, but also acknowledge that they are objectively behind in terms of their cognitive and psychological development. Choosing to despise “toxic masculinity” yet have compassion for LGBT, or vice versa, is hypocritical. They are just different superficial expressions of the same root problem of immaturity. You can choose to treat both with human dignity yet also recognize the childish foolishness in their ideas and behaviors.
Boys in their teens and early 20s love to display machismo and engage in questionable activities. Naive girls and low-testosterone boys tend to misinterpret that as “hyper-masculine toxicity.” These were boys who were just infants years ago and were just handed their first knife (metaphor for masculinity), and now they are recklessly swinging it around out of excitement. Sure they are dangerous to women and children, but a skilled swordsman can dispatch them effortlessly.
The mature masculine are not afraid of youthful “toxic masculinity,” but also do not despise it. They understand that the “toxicity” is just immaturity. It’s nothing more than an over-calibration towards risk-seeking behaviors so that they may learn how to deal with risk. Grown men look at that with nostalgia and a calm yet warm desire to mentor the youths. They remember the dumb things they’ve done when they were young, but also recognize that if given a chance at acquiring life experiences, everything will turn out just fine in the long run.
I read somewhere that the problem of the world is not that it is patriarchal but that it is puerarchal- that is, it is run by immature boys masquerading as men. There’s a lot of truth in this.
I’m interested to see how you develop this thread. I can see your perennial themes of East vs West, anthropology, Heidegger*, Taleb, the Tao and Sun Tzu all already starting to line up nicely.
*Being-towards-masculinity made a lightbulb go off. A point that is obvious in retrospect but very illuminating on first encounter.