Monday, June 22, 2015

Being Human

"A Summer's Day"

I was rather entertained by a story in our local paper yesterday. As a tribute to “Fathers’ Day,” several area restaurants banded together to offer menus that featured “manly meals.” I wondered just exactly what a “manly meal” might look like, and when I went to explore the menus further I realized that, since I don’t eat red meat and am very careful about controlling my carb content, there was literally nothing on those “manly meal” menus that appealed to me. Most of them featured stuff like pork belly bacon, enormous cuts of steak thrown on a grill and lots of potatoes.

The whole idea of a manly meal did, however, get me to thinking about these odd distinctions we make between what is manly and what is feminine - what it means to be a real man and what constitutes a real woman. Supposedly women are gentle, nurturing and tender, they exhibit qualities of kindness and forgiveness, whereas “real men” are rugged, “red-meat,” kinds of guys. They take-charge, they are analytical, bold risk-takers –perhaps sometimes even harsh and judgmental.

As I see it, these gender distinctions are not only ludicrous but also inherently dangerous. These stereotypes often keep men locked up and alone within self-imposed societal stereotypes, alone within a bloated ego, always keeping others at arms-length while on a life-journey that must be traveled hand-in-hand if deeper peace is ever to be found.

When I look at our common human condition, I actually think that kindness, compassion and forgiveness have little to do with feminine characteristics, nor do I think courage and boldness are particularly masculine traits.

We are most “human” (neither male nor female) when we have the courage to break out of the restrictions of a self-contained ego and give our selves for the welfare of others. We are most human when we have the courage to forgive, the boldness to be compassionate and the willingness to take the risk of living a life of generous kindness in a culture of self-centered consumerism.  

We do not walk the path of wisdom as a man, nor as a woman. We walk the way of wisdom as a human – living “fully human” lives.

Many centuries ago Saint Paul wrote a canticle about what it means to be fully human. In essence he proclaimed that human beings are most human when they are most loving.

Saint Paul went on to spell out what “love” looks like. He went on to articulate the qualities of the fully human life:

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 have a swelled head,
doesn’t force itself on others,
isn’t always me-first.
Love doesn’t fly off the handle,
doesn’t keep score of the sins of others,
doesn’t revel when others grovel.
Love takes pleasure in the flowering of the truth.
Love always looks for the best.
Love never looks back,
but keeps going to the end.

On the path of wisdom it’s not so important to be a real man or a real woman, what really counts is to be a real human.

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