Man Up

When I was in grad school I had a course on gender dynamics. (Having returned to school later, I was good ten years older than most of the students.) In every class we divided up the men and women into two groups, then came up with a list of questions we wanted to ask the other gender. It was a fascinating exercise. One of the things that moved me deeply was to hear how deeply these young men felt the weight of traditional expectations for men and how much they wanted to be able to bring their whole selves to relationships and life but had few models for doing that.

The Good Men Project is addressing some of those very issues. Here’s what they say about themselves:

The Good Men Project is a diverse community of 21st century thought leaders who are actively participating in a conversation about the way men’s roles are changing in modern life—and the way those changes affect everyone. We explore the world of men and manhood in a way that no media company ever has, tackling the issues and questions that are most relevant to men’s lives. We write about fatherhood, family, sex, ethics, war, gender, politics, sports, pornography, and aging. We shy away from nothing. Our content reflects the multidimensionality of men — we are alternatively funny and serious, provocative and thoughtful, earnest and light-hearted. We search far and wide for new stories and new voices from “the front lines of modern manhood.” And we do it without moralizing and without caricaturizing our audience; we let guys be guys, but we do it while challenging confining cultural notions of what a “real man” must be.

Guys today are neither the mindless, sex-obsessed buffoons nor the stoic automatons our culture so often makes them out to be. Our community is smart, compassionate, curious, and open-minded; they strive to be good fathers and husbands, citizens and friends, to lead by example at home and in the workplace, and to understand their role in a changing world. The Good Men Project is a place where that happens. We’re glad to have you along for the ride.

Their website is an amazing resource for men (and women who happen to know men) as well as parents who are raising sons (and daughter.) I commend it to you.

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6 ways to find 3 things that 4 successful people do

6 ways to find 3 things that 4 successful people do

Yep, I’ve been guilty of it myself. The old numerical blog title. I’ve written them. Goodness knows, I’ve tweeted them.

The reason folks keep writing such headlines is that they work. When I analyze my tweets, those numerical headers always get some of the best responses.

I suspect that it’s because our minds like order. From our earliest days our mind works to create patterns, making order out of this world of shapes and colors. Eventually we learn that round shapes are balls. (My dog is quite puzzled by apples which seem to be balls but are not.)

In general our need for order and classification serves us well. Imagine how difficult our days would be if we had to start from square one every day. Hmmm… this is a round thing… I wonder what it is. I have to learn its name.

Yet our need for orderly characterization also does us a disservice. There’s a reason we refer to the life of the spirit as a journey and not a system. We never have it nailed down. We never have all of the right boxes and organizational cubes into which we can fit everything neatly.

The Spirit is wild, as unpredictable as wind. It brings order out of chaos but sometimes brings chaos out of order. In the life of the spirit sometimes when we are most unsure we are most right. Sometimes when the path seems least clear we’re not lost but rather exactly where we need to be.

The life of the spirit is more perpetual discovery than learning a body of knowledge. (And sometimes we have to unlearn as much as we learn.) Just when we think we have everything nailed down the wind blows again and all of our neat lessons are jumbled and tossed.

Gospel says that this is good news.

In this summer week, may we have the courage to believe that it’s so.

Tim Duncan and Plan B

Tim Duncan and Plan B

Even though we’re a long way from San Antonio, a lot of us here in Winston-Salem are celebrating the San Antonio Spurs’ NBA championship won last night. If you’re not a basketball fan, one of the key players in the Spurs’ five championships has been Tim Duncan, who is without question one of the greatest players ever to play the game and the only man to have won titles with the same team in three different decades. Some of us here in Winston started watching Tim play when he was a skinny, unknown kid from the Virgin Islands. Duncan played four years for the Demon Deacons of Wake Forest. (Duncan is one of the last great players to postpone the money of a pro contract in order to play four years and earn his degree.)

Here’s what you may not know, unless you’re a diehard Wake Forest fan. Duncan wasn’t the big man recruit everyone was excited about. Makhtar N’Diaye was a Sengelese player who came to Wake by way of Oak Hill Academy and was considered a top recruit. But before he played a minute for the Deacs he was declared ineligible due to concerns about the recruiting process. He transferred to Michigan and then to UNC. He gained notoriety for his bad behavior on the court. He signed as a free agent, played about 4 games in the NBA and then spent his career playing in Europe.

Tim DuncanThere was a lot of gnashing of teeth by Wake fans when Makhtar left. He was the big man we were counting on. We were stuck with this Tim Duncan fellow, whom only one other US college had seriously recruited. It didn’t take too awfully long before we realized that fate may have given us the better part of that deal. Tim went on the become National Player of the Year and help Wake win its first two ACC championships since the early sixties.

Duncan was the first pick in the 1997 NBA draft, won rookie of the year, two time NBA most valuable player, three time NBA finals MVP and fourteen time all-Star. And, as of last night, help lead the Spurs to their fifth NBA title. He makes news off the court by not making news.

When you put the two careers side by side there is really no comparison. While few knew it at the time, Wake got the better end of the deal all the way around, both on and off the court.

One of the things that is tempting for us to do as human beings is to create stories about our lives. Actually, in telling the story of our lives we find and weave the threads of meaning. But too often we create too quickly, creating stories out of incomplete evidence – or no evidence at all. As soon as something happens in our lives we have to make a judgment that it’s the best thing or the worst. We tell ourselves that because things didn’t go as we’d planned that it’s a disaster.

We create stories about what we’re sure other people are thinking when we actually have no idea what they’re thinking of us – or even IF they’re thinking of us. We think it’s a terrible thing that we’ve lost the best recruit from this class when in fact, we’ve opened the door for one of the greatest players ever.

The next time you’re ready to make a quick judgment and write a sad story of your life, remember a swimmer from the Virgin Islands who was Plan B.
His name is Tim Duncan.

Photo: AP Photo/Alan Marler