Monday Aphorism: A Failed Boy

“A man in America is a failed boy,” said John Updike. What a vision: that boyhood is whatever is wonderful, a life in itself that it goes on and on; or that it somehow should. The courage of eagles, the heroics of hunting lions wrapped in a package of mock combat, far from whatever are the enduring realities of a grown-up’s life; free from…Failure as a real boy requires a kind of bouncing back, a super-seeding, to become All-American.

Ambitions for all of life, perceived by the short experience of teen age’s expanding chests and swollen shoulders; gaining strength, gaining confidence, always gaining. Nothing yet at plateau, no settling-down, no distractions. No looking back because there is as yet no history: to inform; to battle.

Manhood: at war with what and whom I might have been.

Life after high school: a perpetual reliving of the home runs I might have hit, or the goals I would have scored.

  • Calvin Rosewater

    Last weekend, I was reading a speech given by a writer I attribute much of my Weltanschauung to and he was speaking about how “Rites of Passage” into adulthood have been lost. The speech was a college graduation speech given sometime early 1980s or late 70s. He stated that there is no longer these Rites of Passages, which makes the task of joining adulthood–but more important taking roles in society necessary to continue civilization’s momentum–difficult. (I was going to say progress forward, but that is clearly erroneous, since society moves in various directions and speed… I could talk forever on that, I digress)

    Then this past weekend I was speaking to a colleague and friend, who is a Peruvian Shaman. That same weekend I read the speech, he was upstate on a Men’s Initiation retreat. We got to discussing how these rites of passage have withered in our Western American culture. I then got into him with: Men’s and Women’s retreat, can we have co-ed? Doesn’t that create a binary? What about transgender? Raised in a non-Hetero-normative environment, I am constantly wondering about gender roles, GLBT equality, and all that brouhaha. He did not have any answers: just more things to ponder. This often occurs in our conversations: nothing is ever solved, just more is revealed, thus more needs analyzed.

    When reading this aphorism by you, I feel a loss of meaning in the role of the male in the “traditional” nuclear family–the nuclear family is far from organic or traditional. I am currently entering into “manhood” and dealing with the various roles I must play. I do not see manhood as being “at war with what and whom I might have been.” I see manhood… I do not see manhood, I see adulthood. With adulthood, I see an acceptance of realities and responsibilities that are required to function within our society. There is the loss of romanticized notion of “I can do anything,” but with that loss comes the gain a maturation and understanding that one is capable of anything, so long as the discipline and work is willing to be put in.

    Harvey, I have so much to say about this, but lack the time to finish. This post was cobbled together in a rush before my students get in here after lunch. They are here: time to go. This was a scattered thought, apologizes.