Why hang out with men, anyway?
At Man Skills Class we went over splitting wood with a knife, tying some knots, and removing a bra efficiently. These are all skills a woman can have; these are all skills a man doesn’t actually need.
So what’s the point?
My guest blogger suggested: “This class is aimed towards the guy who may feel… uncertain in his masculinity. Unskilled. In need of some self-assurance.”
While I agree that this may be part of the appeal, I think there is more to it. For example: me. I feel like I’m doing a pretty good job of being a man. I think I do well coping with my testosterone, respecting women, protecting children, treating others kindly, etc. All the really crucial aspects of being a Good Man.
And I’ve done some “manly” shit, too. I’ve hacked my way through a jungle or two. Spiders, snakes, and scorpions, oh my. I’ve gotten out of tense situations without a fight: manly. I’ve explored five continents, usually by myself. And, I have successfully removed a bra or two in my day; even without instruction.
If all that’s true, why would I be drawn to Man Skills class? Because there are other elements, alligators lurking in the swamp of my manly soul, and I think the organizers of this group have tapped into these desires, which are common among men in my generation.
Anyone who sits in front of a computer all day moving zeros and ones around in a hypothetical universe, then gets up at the end of it to find the physical world unchanged, all his energy channeled into a plastic box that provides pale reassurance of his importance, might feel just a bit…unsatisfied. But when you set the solid weight of the survival knife on the wood, feel the thunk as it bites in, and see the wood fall apart with a crack?
Tangible reward. Satisfaction. Confidence.
Then what? Then the real fun begins. Because as pleasant as splitting wood in a room in the city is, it’s not really real until you do it in nature, arrange the pieces properly, and produce a healthy fire to warm, cook, and protect you from the night. That’s when a simple task has a subtle hint of adventure.
These mundane tasks are a vehicle, to take you into a natural setting, which nourishes the human soul at a profound level that is just not possible in a city. It makes sense of a biological level. Our ancestors quickly learned, and imprinted in our very genes, that a green place, growing things, running water and fresh air, was a good place to be. They hardwired us to find this important, relaxing, healthy. A gray expanse of barren dry rock where nothing grew was a place of stress, anxiety, and fear to be avoided.
Which of those two landscapes does a city more resemble?
These things alone would be more than enough to draw me to a Man Skills meetup, but there is something else. Something explicitly acknowledged by the organizers in a show of vulnerability that surprised me, and provoked smiles and nods among everyone in attendance…the whole tribe, so to speak.
Isolation is one of the main themes of my life. It lurked around before I started traveling, and I walked openly with it down Serbian streets, through Salvadoran cityscapes, feeding leeches in Malaysian jungles, down the glass canyons of Hong Kong, and beside Venetian canals.
But now, as I move away from open-ended solo traveling, I want to put my life back in balance. I revere the Feminine energy (and will talk at length about the salvation for our species that I think it offers), but have found myself almost ridiculing the Masculine, which seems more intent on smashing beer cans on foreheads and tanks through front doors than on improving the human condition.
But that is not what it means to be a Man. Mindless aggression is for boys and fools. Nor does being a Man mean you have to know how to chop wood, tie a knot, or unclasp a bra, but somewhere in those things (and the multitude of other possibilities), one can find a format, a framework, a setting for the experience of Masculinity and Brotherhood.
That’s the secret fifth element of the Man Skills class, for me: an openness to brotherhood and community. “Social media” is all well and good for cute kitten videos, but it’s hard to fit camaraderie into a comment thread; time spent doing satisfying things with like-minded people? That’s a tribe.
If you’re looking for the same things, drop me a line or check out the Man Skills homepage at manskills.academy. And you’re going to LOVE the camping trips…