Manthology: What Makes A Good Man In The Modern World, by Jim Misner
Being a man in the contemporary world is not easy. We live in an age that still depends for what little hope it has on men being self-sacrificial and protective and engaging with the world to solve problems but which continually attacks men for real and imagined moral failings and views men as a problem rather than as part of the solution to a myraid of social evils including dysfunctional families and a society that has seemed to lose its way. It is little surprise in such a world that there should be a proliferation of books that discuss what sort of man one should be , of which this book is an excellent example. And this book’s approach is demonstration of the fact that being a good man in the contemporary age is particularly hard, requiring a set of qualities that are seen as highly contradictory and certainly not easy to simultaneously cultivate in a world where to be a good man at all is to be scorned by those who see it as necessary and proper not merely to attack the excesses or absences of male behavior but to see manhood itself as problematic.
This book is a fairly short one at a bit over 150 pages and it consists of just over 30 essays dealing with various aspects of manhood. A great many of the essays involve various qualities that a good man should possess, like being handy at fixing things (2), responsible (4), strong (6), courageous (7), independent (9), self-controlled (11), protective (12), tough (13), working (14), confident (15), in control of his personal finances (17), good-humored (18), present (20), wise in selecting a spouse (21), competitive (22), accountable (23), playful (24), fair (25), respectful (26), a friend (27), disciplined in vision (28), passionate (29), a leader (30), a lover (31) and someone who finishes what he starts (32). Other essays remind men that ladies should come first (1) and that men should be chivalrous (3) and committed to personal growth (5), possessing high moral standards (8) as well as a strong belief system (10) as well as being honorable about his word (16) while also in touch with his feelings (19). The essays themselves tend to blend the author’s personal discussions about his own life while also containing a great many references to notable men from the past who modeled certain aspects of the immensely complex view of manhood that the author wishes to promote as desirable for men to attain to.
Ultimately, it must be admitted that the view of manhood that the author urges is immensely complex and at times seems somewhat contradictory, as when he urges men to be both immensely tough but also in touch with their feelings, qualities that are seen by many men as being antithetical to each other. At other times, the author urges men to view the consent of women to any advances as being an important manner but also has a strong desire to promote some more old-fashioned male virtues like being skilled at repair work, possessed of a strong sense of personal honor, and being chivalrous in one’s dealings with womenfolk. There is no question that in the author’s eyes being a good man is both a noble and an immensely difficult calling, requiring someone to be well-rounded and committed to personal growth and development in all aspects of one’s life. And there is no question as well that achievement of this ideal would mean that there would be no just criticisms of the behavior of men by those who want the well-being of men and women. The main concern is that it is easy to feel about the attainment of such qualities the way that Elizabeth Bennet felt about not knowing any women in her own acquaintance that met such a demanding standard.
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