-in my meditation garden-
Today is "Father's Day" in America - a day on which all the rigid stereotypes about what it means to "be a man" are brought into the spotlight and given center-stage.
On "Mothers Day" the qualities of femininity are celebrated- gentleness, compassion, kindness, tenderness, forgiveness. Many Americans celebrate "Mothers Day" with flowers and family brunches, often in some elegant restaurant setting.
On "Fathers Day" we highlight the supposed qualities of masculinity- courage, boldness, taking control and making decisions - men are the risk-takers. This day often finds families in back-yard barbecues where "Dad" throws around the football and cooks up some "masculine" kinds of food like steaks that are cooked rare.
I actually find these feminine-masculine stereotypes to be fairly ludicrous and perhaps even dangerous. It teaches boys that to "be a man," they need to be rough, rugged, take charge types who should not show emotions or express tenderness. After all, "men" are supposed to maintain a certain distance and aloofness even with their children and families, as a way of enforcing discipline and garnering respect - let the women and the mothers do the nurturing.
These stereotypes often keep men locked up and alone within a self-important ego as they keep others at ams-length on a life-journey that must be travelled hand-in-hand if deeper peace is ever to be found.
I actually believe that kindness and compassion have little or nothing to do with femininity, and boldness and courage are hardly masculine traits. In fact it's risky business to be vulnerable enough to be in touch with how you feel and willing to express that to another. It takes courage to be tender, compassionate and a loving person especially in a "me-first" culture. Forgiving another is "hard work" and only the bold have enough stamina to break out of a self important ego and give themselves for the welfare of others as nurturers and reconcilers in families, with friends, with strangers and even with enemies.
On this Father's Day as I think about what it means to be a "real man," it gives me pause to reflect instead on what it means to be a "real human" - fully human and fully alive.
There is a passage from Saint Paul's famous letter to the Corinthians. This "Canticle of Love" is popularly read at Christian wedding ceremonies, but I think the qualities of "true love" elaborated in this canticle can be applied not just to Christians or to believers, or to married people, or to women or to men. This is what it means to be human - fully human and fully alive:
Love never gives up on others.
Love cares more for others than for self.
Love doesn't want what it doesn't have.
Love doesn't strut,
Doesn't have a swelled head,
Doesn't force itself on others,
Isn't always 'me-first,'
Doesn't fly off the handle,
Doesn't keep score of the sins of others,
Doesn't revel when others grovel,
Takes pleasure in the flowering of truth,
Aways looks for the best,
Never looks back,
But keeps going to the end.
Happy Father's Day!