A Tale of Two Wolves: Men, Masculinity and Violence Chapter 1: War in the East

28 images Created 16 Apr 2015

An old man told his grandson, “My son, there is a battle between two wolves inside us all. One is Evil. It is anger, jealousy, and ego…The other is Good. It is love, empathy, and kindness.”
The boy thought about it and asked, “Which wolf wins?”
The old man quietly replied, “The one you feed.”

- Cherokee Proverb

A Note on Motivation

This work is an exploration of the struggles and uncertainties that have shaped my life and, I believe, the lives of many men. For as long as I can remember, I shouldered my prescribed masculinity as a vivid and somewhat dubious identity that has, at once, afforded me privilege, influence and existential distress. Over the course of my life, I harnessed it for good and bad and hope, like many men of my intense temperament, that the former outweighs the latter. The truth—if that concept has any place here—would vary depending on who spoke. Some would recount my virtues and others mostly my demons. In my own conflicted perception, I believe that for the many privileges that male sex has afforded me, it has complicated my emotional and interpersonal world in equal measure.

Like most men, my relationship with manhood and masculinity is layered, premised on a common, cultural male narrative and refined through personal experience. Chief among such experience was the revelation, when I was in my early twenties, that I was raised by one man but sired by another. The men involved are, in many ways, archetypes of the imagined divide between good men and scoundrels. The man who raised me from birth, who I call my father, is the broadly endorsed standard of male goodness. He is a generous, intelligent, and docile man who is, above all things, loyal. Under no illusions, he committed to raise children that were not his own, a role that many men reject and that some claim runs contrary to male nature. The sire, who is elusive in my life, bears the superficial hallmarks of what we, as men, are discouraged from being—transient, philandering, and non-compliant. I know little about his life, but I know that I am but one piece of his scattered genetic evidence.

Prior to this revelation I believed that the man who raised me was, indeed, my biological father. He and my mother separated when I was a small boy and their eventual divorce—which I perceived as the split of my creators—caused me great anguish. Like many kids, I spent childhood torn between the people I wanted most desperately to be together. Tears and longing punctuate my earliest memories.

But like most boys, I gradually awakened to the powerful social principle that emotional vulnerability was somehow at odds with my nascent manhood. I didn’t know why, exactly, but the behavioral parameters were clear and policed by coercive social ridicule. The instructors and enforcers of masculine code appeared ubiquitous; boys and girls, men and women.
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