Thursday, April 26, 2007

Finding the masculine genius

~an interview with Anthony Esolen by Zenit

Q: There has been a lot of discussion based upon Pope John Paul II's discussion of "the feminine genius." What about the "the masculine genius"?

Men have a passion for the truth, and they seek that truth not generally by means of the affections, but by complex structures of various sorts.

These may be structures of authority or intellect, so you have the great university system invented by the friars and the student guilds in Europe, whose curriculum was often a kind of Euclidean geometry or Newtonian calculus of theological and philosophical propositions.

Men fashion "grammars" -- means of organizing and understanding almost impossibly disparate phenomena. Even the humble back of a baseball card, with its grid work of subtle statistics, testifies to this fascination.

Without this literal "discernment," I mean the clear separation of what may be predicated of a thing and what may not, with systematic means for judging the matter, there can be nothing so intricate as law, the government of a city, higher learning, a church -- not to mention philosophy and theology.

Even men who do not possess powerful intellects naturally fall in with such structures of order, and here the affections do play a vital role; men will fall in admiration of a leader, with a powerful combination of loyalty and friendship, as naturally as they will fall in love with a woman they may wish to marry.

If a society does not train boys to become such men, or if it does not allow mature men to form such natural alliances with other men for the benefit of civic life, it will degenerate.

I won't claim that this is a theory. It's a fact borne out by American and European cities right now.

Q: What could men learn from Christ, the ultimate man, in terms of developing masculinity?

The first thing they could learn is not to be embarrassed by their manhood. It is holy! It has been created by God, and for a reason.

Then they might notice that Jesus is not the cute boyfriend that many of our churches make him out to be, the one who never goes too far -- forgive me if that is a little coarse.

Jesus loves women, as all good men must; Jesus obeys his mother at Cana; but Jesus does not hang around the skirts of women; he speaks gently, but as a man speaks gently, and when he rebukes, he rebukes forthrightly and clearly, as a man.

His closest comrades are men, though they are not necessarily the people he loves best in the world. He organizes them into a battalion of sacrifice.

He is remarkably sparing in his praise of them; certainly, as is the case with many good and wise men, he is much more desirous that they should come to know him than that they should feel comfortable about themselves.

From his apostles he seems to prefer the love that accompanies apprehension of the truth, rather than love born of his own affectionate actions toward them.

In fact, they respond to him as men often respond: They admire and follow with all the greater loyalty the man who rebukes them for, of all things, being frightened when it appears their ship will capsize in the stormy Sea of Galilee!

Men can learn from Jesus to seek the company of other men, at least in part for the sake of women, and certainly for the sake of the village, the nation, the Church and the world.

They can learn that there are two ways at least in which man is not meant to be alone: He needs the complementary virtues of woman, and he needs other men.

A soldier alone is no soldier.

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