Stephen D’Evelyn on Being a Real Man

It’s a misty Friday. I have worked through a check-list of tasks. I can at least see the piece of paper and feel I can point to things I’ve gotten done this morning. But perhaps inevitably it feels there’s something I haven’t done.

So I go outside. The air is fresh and cool. It must have rained overnight. I realise that today may be a day of planting, of starting things growing, helping things move along. The heavy ache of eyestrain lifts somewhat in the cool overcast light.

For some reason a passage from scripture comes to mind, one of the epistles of St Paul, 1 Cor 8: 3-5 describing how a husband and wife should please and satisfy each other. The wording ‘please his wife’ came to mind. Please, pleasure, but also entreaty, wooing, asking permission, knocking to see if a door is open, feeling whether a boundary is porous.

Mutual benefit seems to flow from opening myself to the flow that moves through the particular tasks I do, even if I list them, or even do them, at least in part to make myself feel I am doing something.

Going outside into the cool air and pale, pellucid-leaf-filtered sunshine helps. I put into perspective more of that passage where it describes how husbands should love their wives with complete self-giving generosity as Christ loved the Church.

Men are often ego-driven, libido-driven, power-driven creatures. It is easy to smile at the exhortation to sacrificial love even if you take it seriously. But it seems also to point to a letting go of rigid boundaries of self-definition and accomplishment, of being a hero, bringing home the bacon (or its vegan equivalent), winning the bread.

Self-worth comes through doing good things yes but through not just achieving and maybe not even just giving but opening ourselves and letting ourselves pour out and being poured through. The sky is covered with thicker white cloud. A drainpipe trickles persistently.

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