Why is it that males are so easily distracted from the things that matter to the things that don’t and from the things that will last to the things that wont? This is a question that has been on my mind for some time now; one that I don’t yet have a complete answer for. In my search for this answer, it is becoming clear that there wont be a single answer but rather a diverse multitude of causes. I am equally confident that these causes will ultimately group into a very small number of root causes. One such root cause is crystal clear to me, I even wonder if it will end up being THE root cause; I will call it The Great Hunger Within.
In my last post, I raised issue with the current state of male priorities and my observations that many men have swallowed the “breadwinner heresy” hook, line, and sinker. As you may recall, western culture has, and is, currently, waging war against authentic manhood. The war is in the final stages and authentic manhood has, for the most part, lost. Our opponents are now in the ongoing containment phase with no real battles left to fight; at this stage it’s more about controlling the insurgents and keeping the prisoner camps in good working order. Teaching males that their primary role in the family is as the provider (AKA “The Breadwinner Heresy”) is a pillar of the opponent’s manhood containment strategy. Relegating males to mere breadwinners is problematic for a multitude of reasons that include limited engagement as husbands, fathers, and community members. The issue is not that we are compelled to provide for our families, that is a good and natural part of what it means to be a man; the issue comes when we believe that our primary role is to provide financially for our families without proper boundaries around what it means to provide. The issue is that when we believe that, our vocation takes a place in our life priorities that it was never intended to have. This trap is one of the primary reasons why our marriages are a wreck, our families are a mess, and our communities reflect the worst of both. It stands to reason when we consider that our best minds, our greatest talent, and our strong male “will to fight” are locked away in boardrooms and cubicles busily winning bread.
The truth of the matter is that most of us could provide financially for our families inside of more healthy set of boundaries than we typically do; that is to say in fewer hours. Then why is it that we so eagerly accept the breadwinner heresy? Why is it that we put up so little fight when work calls for another night away from the ones we love and who desperately need us? Why is it that we continue to allow our vocation to keep us from living life? I think it has a lot to do with the Great Hunger that lives deep within each of us. Understanding your Hunger, harnessing it, as opposed to being harnessed by it, is an important step in making the trip from mere male to man. The Hunger Within is unlike physical hunger; however, a parallel might be helpful here. Do you know why humans crave sweets? There are several reasons, but the primary reason is that most Americans are getting nowhere near enough protein. Your body needs fuel to survive and is designed to use protein sources for that energy. If you don’t get enough protein, you brain goes into survival mode and sounds the alarm: give me energy now! At that point, you crave sugar, the easiest and fastest way to get your body energy. Protein requires energy to convert to energy, sugar requires less, so it is an easy, but short-term fix, to your body’s need for energy. So we all know what happens when someone consistently consumes too much sugar. Our physical human bodies hunger; there is a right way to satiate that hunger and there is an easy way … both have outcomes. In that way, The Great Hunger Within you is similar; there is a right way to satiate it and there is an easy way … both have outcomes. One reason we are so keen to work, work, and work some more is because work can be like sugar. It can become one of the easiest ways to satiate the Great Hunger, but like sugar, it is not what the Hunger needs … it’s the last resort of a starving Hunger. I’m not introducing anything new here, just some a new way of thinking about an age-old reality. The Jewish or Christian person would call The Great Hunger “the flesh”, to the Buddhist the … “the incarnation”, to the Muslim … “the carnal”. Each of these worldviews has a version of it and a name for it, and each a spiritual solution for the eventual freedom from it; Paradise, Heaven, Nirvana, Moksha, Nibbana. The spiritual solution to the eventual freedom from The Great Hunger Within is not the topic at hand, living with it is.
The Great Hunger Within is, in many ways, similar to physical hunger. If you know nothing of nutrition and little of how the human body works, and even less about how your own body is unique, and then are presented with a seemingly unlimited set of food options, you might naturally gravitate towards that which is not good for you. That is the way that many of us live in with regards to The Hunger, and for good reason. This Hunger tends to be a very powerful and intimidating force and understanding it requires a journey into your inner-self, a journey that is not for the weak at heart. When The Hunger comes calling it’s so easy to throw it a dozen donuts and keep going. When uncomfortable emotions start to creep up, feelings of insecurity, of fear, of uncertainty … we go to that which makes it all better with as little dissonance as possible. For some guys, work is the dozen donuts that quiets the hunger; for a little while at least. It doesn’t always have to be work: simple sugar comes in many forms. It could be work, women, porn, food, social media, sports, or any other short-term fix. But we all know what happens when you eat too many donuts, at some point they catch up with you. That is what is happening to the males who have not taken the journey to understand their own Hunger. I know because I have lived both ways. I spent many years feeding the Hunger Within whatever it took to keep it satisfied, to keep it from raging out of control. My donuts were work, money, and power and I would chuck them over the fence in growing portions to feed the beast until his sickness became my sickness. At a pivotal part of this journey, one of my mentors told me, “You have two choices. Take the journey into the dark night of your own soul and finally grow up or keep on going the way you always have. One will almost kill you … the other will for sure.”
I chose to make the trip deep inside myself to find out. My hunger was evident, but I never knew why I was hungry or for what, in reality, I was hungry. The journey took me to the very edge of myself. My own abilities were not sufficient; no amount of stamina or willpower was enough to sustain, and it was my faith that enabled me to keep going. A males emotional hunger, what I’m calling The Great Hunger Within, is more complex than any human hunger could ever be. For lots of guys, it’s like a Stones song on repeat, “I can’t get nooo … sat-is-fac-tion, I try and I try and I try and I tryyy.” For me, I hungered to be “somebody”, I needed significance; work, power, and money were just easy fixes, fixes that had huge opportunity costs. Later, I discovered that deep inside, I didn’t believe I was anybody and that, until I did, all the work, power, and money in the world wouldn’t make me feel like a “somebody”. I learned that I needed power to combat a feeling of powerlessness and I needed to control because the world was an unpredictable and scary place. As I discovered these things, I began to know myself better, the Great Hunger Within was no longer something to be feared but something to be understood and harnessed. There was one exception, there was a hunger that I could not cognitively understand, that I could not quantify, nor was I able to address it in any human means. I was deeply hungry for something eternal, for something transcendent. I needed to answer The Big Four, a topic I wrote on some time ago. Where did I come from, why am I here, who made the rules, and what happens when I die? Having always been a spiritually open person, this was not a difficult journey for me. I started life as a protestant Christian, took a turn at intellectualism, stopped over at naturalism, passed by Buddhism, and came full circle to Christianity; however now, at a much deeper level than ever before. During my journey it became deeply personal and very real. The light bulb went off when I finally recognized that a coherent and cohesive spirituality that fully addresses life’s largest questions, is not a nice to have, but absolutely essential.
I began with a question. Why is it that males are so easily distracted from the things that matter to the things that don’t and from the things that will last to the things that wont? I have discovered that The Great Huger Within can lie at the base of this, and many other, of our distractions. I will leave you with a few final admonitions and an encouragement. First, take a chance on this journey. Socrates said that, “The unexamined life is not worth living.” A bold statement indeed; bold and true. You will never be your “best self” until you know your “full self”. Too many males today are living unexamined lives. Secondly, you will inevitably discover, as those before you have, that you are fully incapable of fully satiating The Great Hunger Within without a real and personal spirituality. And now the encouragement. We all see the reality of the world around us, broken families and a broken world … sick people in charge of sick governments; there is no ignoring it anymore. I started this little side project called The Mantastic Revival just five months ago and already, between the Facebook fan page, blog followers, and Twitter this post will reach over one-thousand people. That kind of response only comes when a message hits home with an audience. Just imagine what a group of strong, focused, and un-distractible men could do. Imagine our world, imagine your community, imagine your family, imagine your life.