THE MASCULINITY CONSPIRACY

08: Conclusion cont’d

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To create new thinking spaces we can return initially to the mirror. When we look in the mirror and begin to notice the disconnect between our interior and the person in the mirror, an obvious question bubbles to the surface of our consciousness: Who am I? Whether your worldview is spiritual or humanistic, this points to a fundamentally existential line of thought which is crucial to exposing the conspiracy. The conspiracy wants to tell you who you are, populating our interior with all those assumptions about masculinity (and femininity) we have worked through in the previous chapters. But the existential line of questioning has no time for such packaged answers: it wants to know the fundamental question: Why?

If you can, go and pick up a copy of Irvin Yalom’s Existential Psychotherapy (actually, any of his books will probably do the job, and also be lighter to carry home from the library). Yalom does an excellent job of unpacking the four existential ultimate concerns: death, meaninglessness, isolation and freedom. (As it happens, I’m not convinced these four concerns are equally ultimate. For example, isolation and freedom are like water off a duck’s back to me, but death and meaninglessness—two sides of the same coin—routinely keep me awake at night).

I would suggest if you have not wrangled with these issues at some point, you are not paying sufficient attention. Yalom demonstrates how many of our neuroses come down to trying to address these issues, often in unconscious or inarticulate ways. We grapple with death: how do we live in the face of death, what strategies do we employ in an attempt to cheat death? We grapple with meaning: How do we construct meaning, what’s the damn point of it all if we’re going to die anyway? We grapple with isolation: How do we navigate this bleak territory that keeps us isolated both from ourselves and other people? We grapple with freedom: How do we accept the horror that we are free to choose (and, indeed, have already chosen) or at least interpret the circumstances in which we find ourselves, rather than putting the blame elsewhere?

These four concerns alone are sufficient to fill a lifetime of contemplation and anxiety. I am told it is possible to move beyond this line of questioning and if not to find actual answers then at least make peace with the questions. I’m not convinced of this personally, but at 37 years old am nevertheless open to changing my mind on the matter at some period in the future when I have discovered mental tranquility 🙂 The point is, this line of questioning will open up the thinking space necessary to counter the conspiracy. I don’t care what your conclusions are at the moment: I’m simply suggesting they will at the very least disrupt the hold the conspiracy has over you. (Of course, it’s not necessarily good: there are some dangerous conclusions, such as extremists who go to murderous lengths to demonstrate some kind of post-ethical freedom to be who they want to be). In short, existentialism is back!

CONTINUE >>>

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Written by Joseph Gelfer

August 17, 2011 at 7:04 pm

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