Samson and Delilah:  A Modern Fable

samson

This is the story of Samson and Delilah.  It is a story of passion, romance, jealousy, intrigue, narcissism and maybe even murder.  Our story takes place in Brooklyn, New York.  The date is 2017.

body builder with long hairSamson was the strongest most well-built man on the block.  He had muscles chiseled in stone.  His muscles had muscles.  He stood 6 feet 4 inches tall and did not have an ounce of fat on him.   Samson worked out seven days a week, twice each day at the Philistine Gym on Gibeon Street.  He worked out before he went to work each morning and after work for two hours each evening.

Samson was easily the most powerful man in the gym.  Everybody admired Samson, but not quite as much as Samson admired himself.  It was said that he could not pass a mirror without flexing his muscles and taking a few moments to pose in various bodybuilding stances.

Delilah lived in the same neighborhood as Samson.  All of her neighbors agreed that she was the most beautiful woman they had ever seen.  She was tall with long blond hair and a perfectly proportioned figure.  Men could not help stopping in their tracks to stare when she walked by.  She looked like an angel.  She was so beautiful that many local artists would try to paint her from memory.

delilah side view

Delilah also went to the same gym as Samson.  All the guys in the gym would flex their biceps or triceps an extra amount each time that Delilah came near them.  All except Samson.  He seldom even noticed Delilah.  Delilah knew the effect that she had on men but she could care less. The only man that she was interested in was Samson.  Perhaps it was the old story about white body builder with long hairwanting something more because you can’t have it.  Delilah had only one other person she admired, herself.  Much like Sampson, she could not pass by a mirror without staring at her reflection and thinking “how beautiful I am.”

Samson wanted to show the world that he was the strongest man who ever lived.  To achieve this goal, he decided to attend the World Weightlifting Championship taking place in Brooklyn the year of our story.  He could already dead lift 1000 pounds and he was determined he would lift 1200 pounds to shatter the then current world record of 1102.3 pounds.

dead lifting

Now Samson was a tad superstitious.  Because he was lifting more each year and had never cut his hair, he believed that his strength grew proportionately along with the length of his hair.  He had let his hair grow for over ten years and his braid was now down almost to his waist.  He was certain that his strength was a result of his long hair.

delilah weight lifting 2Delilah grew more and more desperate in her attempts to get Samson to notice her.   Finally, she hit on the idea to simply approach Samson and remark on his wonderful hair.  So, one day while he was practicing his dead lifts, she sauntered by and casually remarked on how beautiful his hair was.  She proceeded to compliment him on his marvelous muscle definition.  She followed up these compliments with the suggestion that they go back to her place after working out and she would cook him a nice microwave dinner and brush his hair.  This idea delighted Samson and after working out, they both went to Delilah’s house.

delilah weightlifting

As you would guess, human nature being what it was, dinner turned into desert, desert turned into a night cap and a night cap woke up with breakfast.  After that evening, Delilah and Samson were a twosome.  Both loved each other with a passion only matched by their mutual admiration for themselves.  It was a question of whom or which they loved more.

cheating-man

Well, as you may know, narcissists have a short attention span for anything but themselves.  Samson was the first to break the implicit arrangement that seemed to characterize their relationship.  Thus, one evening, Delilah knocked on Samson’s door and much to her surprise another woman in a skimpy negligee answered.  Delilah was shocked but more than shocked she was furious.  She swore revenge on Samson.

Weeks went by, Samson ignored Delilah at the gym and Delilah ignored Sampson.  However, all this time Delilah was plotting her revenge.  She well knew that the big weightlifting event was coming up and she also knew that Samson was superstitious about his hair and strength.  This latter fact was the pillar of her idea for revenge.

samson-delilah-cutting hairDelilah waited until the night before the World Weightlifting championship.  At around midnight, she used the key that Samson hid near his door to let herself into Samson’s apartment.  Moving as stealthily as a cat, she entered Samson’s bedroom.  Samson was a sound sleeper and he had no inclination of what awaited him.  Delilah took the surgical scalpel that she had borrowed from a medical admirer and in one quick slash, she lopped off Samson’s braid.  Samson was totally unaware and did not move a muscle.  Delilah slipped back out the way she had come and placed Samson’s key back where he hid it.

The next morning Samson woke and went to the bathroom to get ready for the big event.  Imagine his surprise and chagrin when we looked in the mirror and found that most of his hair was gone.  Samson was devastated.  He immediately knew that Delilah had taken her revenge.  But it was now too late.  There was no way that he could dead lift without his hair.  His thoughts ran to the best way to get even with Delilah and whether or not her murder would constitute justifiable homicide.

Samson decided to go to the championship event anyway.  Perhaps, even without his long hair, he would still have a chance.  Sadly, he could not even dead lift 800 pounds.  This was the minimum weight needed to qualify for the competitive championship rounds.  The mighty Samson was only a shell of his old self.  Everyone who knew him wondered what had happened to the once proud and haughty Samson.  Was this God’s way of punishing the narcissistic among us?

samson not lifting

History shows that Samson never broke another record and his name was gradually erased from the rolls of major body builders and weight lifters at the Philistine gym.

But, what of Delilah?  Would you like to know how she got her just rewards?  You see every moral or fable must have a denouement.   The good guy triumphs over the bad guy.  The two lovers marry and live happily ever after.  The struggling athlete scores the final points to win the big game.  The starving painter is eventually recognized for her creative genius.  The hero slays the dragon and wins the fair maid.

Unfortunately, neither Delilah’s neighbors or the historians at the Philistine gym have any further records for Delilah.  It is like she vanished into thin air immediately after the big weight lifting event.  There are those who suspect that foul play may have played a role in her mysterious departure.  Many others say she got fat, lost her looks, married a computer geek and is living in Poughkeepsie.

Time for Questions:

What was the source of Samson’s power?  Was it really his hair?  What makes anyone powerful?  What role does belief have in our powers?  Can you really accomplish anything without believing in yourself?  What happens when you stop believing in yourself?

Life is just beginning.

“…it occurred to me that maybe Samson’s hair wasn’t the source of his strength; maybe it was the symbol of his strength. And maybe when Delilah cut off his hair, he didn’t lose his power because he lost his hair; he just woke up the next morning and looked in the mirror, and suddenly for the life of him couldn’t remember who he was.”  — Sarah Thebarge

 

The Fox and the Rabbit

Growing up, I always loved the Uncle Remus stories and the Aesop fables.  The following story melds elements of both authors.  If you have never read tales from either source, you are missing one of the great treasure troves of morals ever written.  Here is my contribution to the genre of fables with a moral. 

wily fox

It was shortly after the race between Mr. Rabbit and the Mr. Tortoise.  Everyone was still talking about how Mr. Tortoise had beaten Mr. Rabbit.  The unthinkable had happened.  How could the slowest moving creature in the forest beat one of the speediest forest creatures?  Of course, the entire episode was an example of how pride and hubris could be the downfall of anyone.  Mr. Rabbit was so certain that he could beat the tortoise that he played the fool and lost the race.  However, Mr. Rabbit assured everyone that he was too smart to ever let this happen again.

The wise old fox was getting long in tooth and short in speed.  Years ago, he would have had a chance to catch a rabbit for dinner but those times were mostly history now.  Instead, Mr. Fox knew that he must rely on stealth and not speed.  Only by using his wit and cunning could he avoid starvation in old age.

moral-lesson-story-rabbit-turtle-race_cf23adab692f68cc

Now Mr. Fox had observed the race between the rabbit and the tortoise.  He had observed the strutting and pompousness of Mr. Rabbit.  He has also heard Mr. Rabbit assure everyone that such a situation would never happen again.  Mr. Fox had another idea though and he thought “This might just be the opportunity that I am waiting for.  I think that leopards rarely change their spots and I will test my theory on Mr. Rabbit.”

A few weeks went by and one day Mr. Rabbit and Mr. Fox were crossing intersecting trails when Mr. Fox spied Mr. Rabbit and decided to put his plan into action.  He yelled to Mr. Rabbit “Can you wait just a minute, I have a challenge for you?”  Mr. Rabbit, always very competitive and certain that Mr. Fox was nowhere close enough to grab him answered back “What kind of a challenge Mr. Fox?”

mr rabbit

“I want to challenge you to a race just like the one you had with Mr. Tortoise”, replied Mr. Fox.  Now Mr. Rabbit knew that Mr. Fox was very cunning but he also knew that Mr. Fox had grown old and slow.  He decided to play out the game because he was curious to see what Mr. Fox was up to.  “What’s in it for me if I beat you” said Mr. Rabbit, confident that there was no way Mr. Fox could beat him.  “Well, said Mr. Fox, if you win I will bring you a bushel full of carrots to eat.  If I win, you will bring me a bushel full of wheat.”  Mr. Fox, did not really care for wheat but he needed to show that he thought he just might win.

Mr. Rabbit, still suspicious of a trick answered “Well, I am agreeable to the race but on one condition.  If I win, you must deliver the carrots to me at a place and time that I will specify.”  Surely, he thought, there will be no chance for Mr. Fox to grab me if I have him deliver the carrots to my warren.  Mr. Fox was agreeable to the terms for truth be told, the situation was working out just as he had hoped it would.

Mr. Rabbit assumed that Mr. Fox would try to somehow grab him during the race and he was not going to let this happen.  No sleeping or napping during this race.  He would move so fast that he would blow the pants off Mr. Fox.  The word went out through the forest that Mr. Rabbit was going to be in another race.  His opponent this time would be Mr. Fox.  The entire forest was abuzz with anticipation.  All knew that for many years, Mr. Fox had tried to catch Mr. Rabbit but with no results.  What was he up to, was the thought on everyone’s mind,

The day of the race came.  Mr. Rabbit and Mr. Fox took their respective places.  Mr. Rabbit made sure he was nowhere close to Mr. Fox at the starting line.  Hundreds of forest creatures had arrived to watch the big race.  Mr. Owl blew the starting whistle and off they went.  Over hill, over dale, through the thickest parts of the forest ran Mr. Fox and Mr. Rabbit.  However, Mr. Fox was clearly outmatched.  Mr. Rabbit was hundreds of yards ahead.  He had such a lead that he could not even see Mr. Fox.  He thought to himself “Mr. Fox thinks I am going to take a nap and catch me, but he is too stupid for me, I will keep going until I reach the finish line.”  Minutes later, Mr. Rabbit crossed the finish line and Mr. Fox was nowhere in sight.  Mr. Rabbit jumped up and down and shouted things like “Stupid old fox, thought he could catch me.”  “Mr. Fox has gotten senile in his old age if he thinks that he can outsmart me.”

fox_and_rabbit. race

Mr. Fox finally crossed the finish line many minutes later than Mr. Rabbit.  Mr. Rabbit had grown tired of waiting and he left a note for Mr. Fox with Mr. Owl.  “Please give this note to Mr. Fox from me” he asked, “It has directions for when and where he should bring the carrots that he owes me.”  Mr. Fox took the note and went home.

A week or so passed and Mr. Fox had collected all the carrots that would fit into a bushel basket.  He also collected a few more that he was going to put into a gunny sack.  He put a note on the bushel basket that he had picked more carrots than required by the bet but he was going to donate them to Mr. Rabbit anyway.  Furthermore, he left the sack to make it easier for Mr. Rabbit to get his carrots home.

Mr. Rabbit thought “My, my, I guess Mr. Fox knows who is the better runner now.  That stupid fox will think twice before he challenges me again.”  Mr. Rabbit grabbed a carrot and promptly ate it.  After eating a few more carrots, he decided it was time to get them back home.  It would not do to be out after dark.

rabbit and carrots

Mr. Rabbit managed to carry the basket home and then came back for the sack.  Letting his guard down, Mr. Rabbit did not notice that Mr. Fox had snuck back to the site where the sack was and climbed inside it.  Mr. Rabbit grabbed the sack and tried to throw it over his shoulder but it was too heavy.  “What is in this sack?” thought Mr. Rabbit.  He opened it to peer inside and before you could say “Jack Rabbit,” Mr. Fox had Mr. Rabbit in his jaws.  Sad to say, that was the end of Mr. Rabbit.

Now, any good story must have a moral and that goes double for stories with an unhappy ending.  I have tried to find a fitting moral to this tale.  There are perhaps several morals that might fit.

  • Beware of Greeks bearing gifts.
  • Pride goes before a fall.
  • The leopard does not change its spots.
  • Always keep your enemies in sight.
  • Long-term thinking will always win out over short-term thinking.

Mr. Fox was not sure which of these morals he had followed.  He only knew that rabbit was a mighty tasty morsel when served cold.

satisfied_fox_by_brommaherman-d4qptx3

Time for Questions:

What moral do you find in this story?  Why?  What would you have put for an ending? Why?

Life is just beginning.

“Because philosophy arises from awe, a philosopher is bound in his way to be a lover of myths and poetic fables. Poets and philosophers are alike in being big with wonder.” — Thomas Aquinas
 

 

Ecclesiastes: The Wisest Book of All Time?

EcclesiastesI want to write about Ecclesiastes this week.  It is one of the 24 books of the Hebrew Bible.  It is among the canonical Wisdom Books in the Old Testament that can be found in most Christian Bibles.  It has been called by some a book of skepticism.  Others see it as one of the most profound and erudite books that has ever been written.  Much of the writing in this book reminds me of the Shakespeare passage in Macbeth wherein he says:

“Out, out, brief candle!  Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player that struts and frets his hour upon the stage and is heard no more. It is a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.”  ― William ShakespeareMacbeth

vanities“Vanity of vanities!  All is vanity,” says the Preacher at the beginning of Ecclesiastes.  In some sense echoing the same sentiments as Macbeth, Ecclesiastes tells us of the folly of wealth, riches, power, fame and even wisdom.  Herein lies the great paradox in EcclesiastesEcclesiastes is a book of wisdom which has the audacity and temerity to decry the power of wisdom.  Whereas most tomes praise the power of wisdom to solve all the evils of the world, to Ecclesiastes, wisdom is also just another vanity.

“I applied my mind to know wisdom and to know madness and folly.  I perceived that this also is but striving after the wind.”  — Ecclesiastes

dissipationIf power, riches, fame and wisdom are folly to pursue, that would seem to leave us with only pleasure left as a goal of life.  A sybaritic existence of hedonistic pursuits measured by the wine, women and song we have endured.  Epicurus said: It is impossible to live a pleasant life without living wisely and well and justly.  And it is impossible to live wisely and well and justly without living a pleasant life.”  The Hedonist position has often been criticized starting with Socrates and Plato who felt that a Hedonist was endorsing a doctrine that was contradictory to right living (see Plato’s Gorgias).

Just when it might seem we have a goal in life that can be mutually satisfying for everyone, Ecclesiastes says:  “I will make a test of pleasure; enjoy yourself.  But behold, this also was vanity.”

Everything is vanity.  If Saint Ignatius was right in proclaiming that “ingratitude” is the fountain of all sins, Ecclesiastes shows us that the other side of the coin is vanity.  Rich or poor, wise man or fool, famous or obscure, death will take us all and care not one whit about our history.  “How the wise man dies just like the fool!” – Ecclesiastes

Another book which I think has a great deal in common with Ecclesiastes was written by Max Stirner and is called “The Ego and Its Own.”  Stirner (a 19th Century German philosopher) has been labeled a nihilist for the pessimism he exudes in this book.  For instance, Stirner says:

Man, your head is haunted; you have wheels in your head! You imagine great things, and depict to yourself a whole world of gods that has an existence for you, a spirit-realm to which you suppose yourself to be called, an ideal that beckons to you. You have a fixed idea!  Do not think that I am jesting or speaking figuratively when I regard those persons who cling to the Higher, and (because the vast majority belongs under this head) almost the whole world of men, as veritable fools, fools in a madhouse.” — (The Ego and Its Own, New York 1907, p. 54)

You may well ask “what is the difference between nihilism and skepticism?”  One answer to this question which I found on the Internet is as follows:

“Skepticism is a critical attitude, orientation or outlook towards a proposition or a thesis.  It typically is characterized by doubt about, or at least dubiousness towards, its substantive truth value.”

nihilism“Nihilism, on the other hand is an attitude, orientation or outlook of indifference towards a proposition or thesis.  The nihilist refuses to engage in an epistemological process of examination, discovery or analysis into its truth value.”

These definitions and more about the differences between these two concepts can be found at http://phenomenologicalpsychology.com/2011/03/what-is-the-difference-between-skepticism-and-nihilism/

Ecclesiastes skepticalTo sum the differences up in my own words, skeptics doubt everything while nihilists do not give a damn about anything.  Some would describe nihilism as extreme skepticism.  Hence, reading the works I noted above might lead you down either path.  You could decide that nothing is worth doing since there is no truth or value in anything we can accomplish so why bother.  Or else you could decide that you simply do not care about the world so why bother with any of its myriad blandishments.  I somehow think both paths might ultimately bring you to the same place.

meaninglessThere are many people who believe that the world is nothing but a mad house and that we are all inmates in one large global asylum.  My father often said that heaven and hell were both on earth and that it was our choice which one we lived in.  As Yoda noted in Star Wars we make a choice whether to go to the dark side or the light side.  Of course, a determinist would say we have no choice, that fate or life has already determined which choice we have to make.  I am constantly at odds with a good friend of mine who has staked this position out for his life and decisions.  In some ways, it is very difficult to refute.  I can refute all of his arguments but at the same time, I can refute all of my arguments against his arguments.  This leads me to the inexorable conclusion that life is more complex than I can explain or understand.  My trying to understand it is my own particular brand of vanity and folly.

“Fear is the path to the Dark Side. Fear leads to anger, anger leads to hate, and hate leads to suffering.” –YODA, (Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace)

If we do have a choice, then I think we have two coins to choose between.  We can choose a coin of ingratitude and vanity, perhaps this is the dark side or we can also choose a coin of gratitude and humility. Is this latter choice, the light side?  Jesus said:

Blessed are the meek,
for they shall inherit the earth.

It is kind of amazing when you think about it how many people today are guilty of unbridled arrogance and hubris.  Does that mean that more people are choosing the dark side than the light side?  My friend would argue that they have no choice.

prideWhen I was young I was taught that “Pride goes before a fall.”  It would seem to be an aphorism that too many of our leaders and people in positions of power have forgotten.  Some people believe that this lack of humility comes because we have forgotten God.  It reminds me of the stories in the Bible about the Israelites in the desert who had to be taught again and again that it was God who was the instrument of their salvation.  As soon as a little time went by, they would forget the help that they had been given and begin to ignore God and act arrogantly.  You don’t have to believe in a God to have this problem.

money is meaninglessWe are all much like the Israelites.  We forget the little people that helped us.  We forget the people that looked out for us or assisted us when we were in need.  We begin to think that we are smarter, stronger, wiser and better than other people.  We develop a mythology that attributes all of our success to our own self-discipline and hard work.  It is true that even Thomas Jefferson believed that luck comes from hard work, but it is also true that all the things that we will ever attain in life can be at least partially attributed to the support we have received from other people.  The Beatles set it well with their song:

I get by with a little help from my friends.  (Click here to hear the entire song)

So what would Ecclesiastes say about the folly of arrogance and pride?  I borrow from my wife’s Revised Standard Version of the Bible dated 1952 for the following:

“In my vain life I have seen everything; there is a righteous man who perishes in his righteousness, and there is a wicked man who prolongs his life in his evil doing.  Be not righteous overmuch and do not make yourself over wise; why should you destroy yourself?  Be not wicked overmuch, neither be a fool; why should you die before your time.”  Ecclesiastes 7:15-17

This passage was from Karen’s confirmation Bible which she received when she was 13 years old.  She still has the Bible and has highlighted, annotated and nearly worn the binding out from much usage.  I am proud to say that my wife is one Christian who reads the entire Bible from Genesis to Revelations and everything in between.  We often have discussions on the meaning of certain passages and I respect her belief in Christianity as she respects my agnosticism.  We both respect Jesus, Mohammed, Moses, Buddha and many other prophets whose wise words have guided us in our lives.

I conclude with some advice knowing full well the old adage “Never give advice. Wise men don’t need it and fools will not heed it.”  Nevertheless, hope springs eternal in my breast and I must break with the aforementioned sage advice to offer the following:

  1. Believe nothing of what you hear and half of what you see. Our senses are deceiving.
  2. Take science and religion both with a grain of salt. Today’s wisdom will be tomorrow’s folly.
  3. Regard both the expert and the idiot with a healthy bit of skepticism.

Time for Questions:

Have you ever read Ecclesiastes?  What is your view of this book?  What wisdom in it do you pay attention to in your life?  What follies do you fall prey to?  Have you found a way to avoid vanity?  How do you do so?  What advice from this book would you give others?

Life is just beginning.

“Nothing in all the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity.”  — Martin Luther King, Jr.
 

December 29th, 2014

We have 3 kerry roper time waits for no mandays to contemplate the year of 2014 before we begin a New Year.  Perhaps, it might be useful to think of the time we have lost in arguments, grudges, misunderstandings and not wanting to say “I am sorry.”  We go on with feuds and squabbles and time keeps fleeing.  We think that perhaps we can make up for lost time, but making up for lost time can be bittersweet at best and at worst an impossibility.  Time waits for no one.  (Forgiveness song by Matthew West)

“Yesterday is gone. Tomorrow has not yet come.  fWe have only today. Let us begin.”  ― Mother Teresa

I have a daughter who has not talked to me for many years now.  I think of the time that has gone by and how we could have spent it together doing things we could never have afforded to do when she was younger.  I think of how as adults we could and should have become good friends with talks by the fireplace and walking in the woods.  She is over forty now and I am nearing 70 and the clock keeps ticking and ticking.  I think of the minutes, hours, days, weeks, months and years that keep moving on by, each moment lost forever to us as this blanket of silence and anonymity shrouds our lives.

“They say time heals all wounds, but that presumes the source of the grief is finite”  ― Cassandra Clare

time_waits_for_no_man___tattoo_design_by_mortar_girl-d67o35cTime is lost forever, or can it be made up?  What if she suddenly decided that she wanted to have a relationship with me?  Could we make up the lost time?  If we started today to try to get to know each other; imagine the events that have changed our lives, the places we have been to, the books we have read, the movies we have seen, the funerals and weddings we have been to, the jobs and careers we have changed, the grandchildren we have helped raise.  So much that has changed each of us.  Could be ever bridge the gulf that now separates us?  Would it be possible to be close to each other or even love each other?

“Unfortunately, the clock is ticking, the hours are going by. The past increases, the future recedes.  Possibilities decreasing, regrets mounting.”    ― Haruki Murakami

It is difficult to imagine making up lost time, nevertheless, few of us would not try if given the opportunity.  It is an opportunity full of promise but also anguish.   We think we can go back to where we wanted to be years ago but while we are trying to make up the lost time, forgive1we feel anger at the waste of time that could and should have been prevented.  It might be water under the dam, but it will always seem like a useless expenditure of time and energy.  I have known brothers and sisters, parents and siblings and former friends who did not talk to each other for over fifty years.  Unfortunately, some of them died and there went any possibility to make up for lost time.  There are no guarantees in life and if you choose to waste time or lose time, perhaps you will never be able to make it up.  It might be too late when you finally realize your mistake and ask yourself WHY?  You will be left with regrets about what might or could or should have been.

“Any time not spent on love is wasted.”   ― Torquato Tasso

Perhaps you have no control over your lost time.  Time spent in jail, time spent recovering from an accident, and time spent in a relationship that was wrong may all constitute lost time.  Lost time is time away from ForgiveHeart-Jessica_Keylife that could have been lived much differently.  It is time that could have been spent more productively and happily.  Can this time be made up?  Better to not lose it in the first place.  But if you have lost it, then do your best to get on with your life.  Live each day the best you can.  As they say with money, don’t throw good money after bad.  Do not throw good time after bad.  The lost time is over and you have the rest of your life to live.  If you can live each day the best you can, you will be able to put the lost time behind you and perhaps even forget it someday.  Then again, maybe the time that was lost was a lesson and you needed to hear the message it was sending.  A good friend of mine was fond of saying: “There are no mistakes in life only lessons to be learned.”  I think of this comment often.  It is a good lesson to remember.

Time for Questions:

Do you have any lost time to make up?  Are you currently losing time that you should not be losing?  Have you thought about how you can stop losing this time? What can you do today to make it up?  What might you feel regrets about someday if you do not change your life today?

Life is just beginning.

Start now.  Don’t wait.  Tomorrow may never come.

 

 

Killing for Machismo

It was a crime of passion

She took me by the heart when she took me by the hand

Crime of passion

A beautiful woman and a desperate man  —- Ricky Van Shelton

I find it ironic that there are Seven Deadly Sins or vices but they do not include the “Sin of Machismo.”  I would venture to argue that there are more people killed in the world every day because of Machismo than any other cause or problem that you could name.  To not include Machismo in any list of major crimes or sins or vices, is one of the most egregious oversights in history.  Is it because Machismo is a uniquely masculine concept that it has never acquired the degree of condemnation that it merits?  Or is it an example of the “Fish being the last one to see the water.”   Some would argue that it is more likely a blatant example of sexism.   

Men extol Machismo, reward Machismo, give medals for Machismo, High Five Machismo, glorify Machismo, drink toasts to Machismo, pat each other on the back for Machismo, die for Machismo and happily kill each other for Machismo.  A Macho man never cries, never shows pain, never is soft, never loses, never surrenders, never shows fear, never gives quarter, never is remorseful and never ever changes a diaper.  You are not a “Real” man if you don’t have Machismo.  Machismo is the foundation for masculinity in every culture in the world.

Ma·chis·mo

  [mah-cheez-moh, –chiz-, muh-]  

1.  a strong or exaggerated sense of manliness; an assumptive attitude that virility, courage, strength, and entitlement to dominate are attributes or concomitants of masculinity.

2. a strong or exaggerated sense of power or the right to dominate: The military campaign was an exercise in national machismo.

 There are two opposite concepts to Machismo.  You may ask how you can have two opposites.  Well here is a case in which two opposites of a concept exist.   The first opposite to Machismo is “femininity.”  Femininity is soft, warm, supportive, nurturing, accepting, forgiving and the first to change the diapers.  Femininity represents everything that Machismo is not.  No one ever killed another or beat another to death because their “Femininity” was questioned.  We don’t go to war because our “Femininity” was questioned nor do we invade another country to protect our “Femininity.” 

 “Machismo makes no provision for preparing lunch, doing the laundry, or minding the baby.”  — Mason Cooley

The second opposite of Machismo is Gayness.  Gay is not tough.  Gay is “queer.”   A “Real” man is not Gay.  Gay men must be feminine since they cannot be Machismo.  Gay men don’t play football or baseball or soccer or box or join the military since only “Real” Men do these things.  If you are Gay, you can be a hair dresser or actor or flight attendant but you cannot be a police officer, firemen or truck driver since these “Real” men professions require one to be Machismo.  Gays and Machismo are antithetical.

 “The tragedy of machismo is that a man is never quite man enough.” —  Germaine Greer

The number of women that are abused each year by men was the recent focus of a World Health Organization Multi-country Study on Women’s Health and Domestic Violence against Women (2013)Among the findings were the follows:

  • One in 3 women worldwide is a victim of physical or sexual violence, resulting in a global health epidemic, according to a new World Health Organization (WHO) report.
  •  Most of these females are attacked or abused by their boyfriends or husbands. “This is an everyday reality for many, many women,” Charlotte Watts, author of the report and a health policy expert at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, said to Reuters.
  • Nearly 38% of all women murder victims were killed by intimate partners, according to the report, which was co-authored by Watts and Claudia Garcia-Moreno of the WHO.
  •  Forty-two percent of females who have experienced physical or sexual violence by a partner suffer injuries, the authors explained.

Common health issues they noted in the study include:

What are the reasons that men kill and abuse women?  Experts identify different reasons for domestic abuse than for murder but the bottom line for both comes down to control and power.

“Most experts say there is no one profile of men who batter or beat women.  Domestic violence crosses all social and economic boundaries.  According to Dr. Susan Hanks, Director of the Family and Violence Institute in Alameda, California, men batter because of internal psychological struggles. Usually, men who batter are seeking a sense of power and control over their partners or their own lives, or because they are tremendously dependent on the woman and are threatened by any moves on her part toward independence.” 

Some reasons given for the abuse by those who study domestic violence include:  jealousy, envy, inferiority, anger, revenge, alcoholism, and simple sadism.  Seldom do you see the issue of Machismo on any of these lists.  However, while there may be different factors precipitating the abuse and violence, without the underlying foundation of Machismo, you would not have the resulting abuse.  Machismo is the “entitlement to dominate.”  If you remove the “entitlement” you remove the abuse and violence.  For instance, if I find my wife going out with another man and I become jealous; it is my “Right to dominate” that gives me the privilege to attack her or the other man.  If I do not believe in a “Right to dominate,” I can divorce my spouse, request counseling, ignore her unfaithfulness, but I will not abuse her. 

Think of all the instances that you read in the paper of stalking, abuse and murder.  In every one of these cases, there is the assumption that is seldom mentioned by psychologists that Machismo gives men the “right to power.”  In fact, not to act on this right is to acquiesce ones maleness.  It is to give up the Machismo that is culturally at the heart of our masculinity.  The strength of this concept of masculinity varies across cultures but few cultures in the world lack the concept of Machismo though it may be called something else:

  • Code of Chivalry
  • Knights Honor
  • Warriors Code

 There is an underlying Machismo in all of these codes that is designed to instill a behavior in a culture which exhorts men to stand up for themselves and their beliefs.  By itself, this would not be bad.  Men must defend their families and countries when necessary.  However, when it comes to defending the more ambiguous elements of honor, reputation, face, dignity, respect and self-esteem, the resort to arms and violence becomes counterproductive.  Solomon Schimmel in “The Seven Deadly Sins” notes that the Sin of Pride led President George Bush to want to humiliate Saddam Hussein while Hussein claimed to be fighting for “Arab dignity.”  How many wars have been fought for national pride or national honor? 

One could make the argument that most if not all wars were not over territory, religion or economics but over national pride.  The Greeks went to war with the Trojans not over Helen but because their masculine pride had been insulted.  Hitler started WWII to avenge Germany’s defeat and loss of face in WWI.  The USA went to war in Vietnam to show the communists that capitalism was more powerful.  Pride is the greatest of all sins identified by religious leaders and philosophers.  However, it is not pride but Machismo which is the trigger to violence and war.  Pride may be the apparent foundation, but Pride by itself does not cause war or violence.  Indeed, a healthy pride mixed with a certain degree of humility is a goal to be pursued by both individuals and nations. 

The danger is that Pride mixed with Machismo creates a volatile concoction which is the source of most violence in the world.  Take any of the Seven Deadly sins: Pride, Envy, Anger, Lust, Gluttony, Greed, and Sloth, mix these with a sense of Machismo and you have the recipe for violence.  Machismo confers the right to act on our impulses and to compel others or dominate others that create our internal conflicts.  Without Machismo, we would have to find other means to dispel the psychological problems that arise in each of us.  Machismo allows us to circumvent any introspection by demanding that our honor be revenged or that our pride be restored.  Machismo demands the duel and the Code Duello specifies the rules for killing. 

“The two men stared at each other. Assumptions were made, judgments rendered, dicks measured.” — Jennifer Estep

Time for Questions:

Can women be Machismo?  What would you be like if you had less Machismo in your character?  Can someone have too little Machismo?  What evil do you see in the world that you would contribute to Machismo?  What positive effects of Machismo do you see?  How can we minimize the negative effects of Machismo? 

Life is just beginning.

 

 

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