gift of maleness 1 - fortitude

The Gift of Maleness: Why Men Feel the Way They Feel and Do the Things They Do

Part 1: Fortitude

I’ve been interested in maleness for as long as I can remember. When I was three years old, my mother took me to the shoe store to get my first pair of “little boy” shoes. I was entranced with the red Keds, until the salesmen explained that “You really want the blue ones. Blue is for boys, red is for girls.” I hadn’t realized that maleness had certain requirements, including what color shoes I was allowed to wear. In my first act of gender rebellion I insisted on the red Keds. I write about my experiences in my memoir, My Distant Dad: Healing the Family Father Wound.

We live at a time when maleness is maligned and misunderstood. Some believe maleness is inherently destructive and should be eliminated. In his book The End of Manhood John Stoltenberg says that the notion of manhood is a sham, a trap–and those who would redeem it are kidding themselves, for manhood is a mask, incompatible with truly human selfhood.

Others view maleness as being superfluous. This idea is reflected in the witticism, “A woman needs a man like a fish needs a bicycle.”

Finally, some view maleness as on the way out, unsuited for today’s world. In her book, The End of Men and The Rise of Women, author Hanna Rosen says that the feminist revolution is here. Women are on the rise and men are on the decline.

I have a different view. I believe that maleness has a long and illustrious history, is an inherent part of our human life-story, is a great gift to mankind and womankind, and is needed now more than ever.

Our male linage is ancient. According to mathematical cosmologist, Dr. Brian Swimme and historian Dr. Thomas Berry, in their book, The Universe Story, they say that life first evolved on Earth about 4 billion years ago. Prior to the evolution of sexual reproduction, cells divided into two sister cells. Swimme and Berry call this living organism Sappho. But 1 billion years ago, a momentous change occurred. The first male organism, they call Tristan, went in search of the first female organism, they call Iseult.  Here’s how Swimme and Berry poetically describe this first sexual adventure:

“These special cells were then released by Sappho into the currents of the enveloping ocean. They were cast into the marine adventure, with its traumas of starvation and of predation. Able to nourish themselves but no longer capable of dividing into daughter cells, such primal living beings made their way through life until an almost certain death ended their 3 billion-year lineage.”

But Tristan possessed great fortitude and was willing to face adversity and danger in search of a potential lover, no matter the odds of failure.

“A slight, an ever so slight, chance existed that a Tristan cell would come upon a corresponding Iseult cell. They would brush against each other, a contact similar to so many trillions of other encounters in their oceanic adventure. But with this one, something new would awaken. Something unsuspected and powerful and intelligent, as if they had drunk a magical elixir, would enter the flow of electricity through each organism.

“Suddenly the very chemistry of their cell membranes would begin to change. Interactions evoked by newly functioning segments of her DNA would restructure the molecular web of Iseult’s skin, so that an act she had never experienced or planned for would begin to take place—Tristan entering her cell wholly.”

This 2-billion-year-old story takes us back to the emergence of the first sperm, the beginning of maleness, and our first male ancestor. Think about the fortitude and courage it took the first male to overcome the adversities of life in the primordial ocean to find a female who would allow him entry into her body. This is the first love story and the beginning act to a play that continues to unfold today.

If you’re interested in hearing more of the story of maleness, drop me a note to and put “maleness” in the subject line.

This article first appeared on Jed’s blog.

Photo by Nathan Dumlao on Unsplash

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