“Every generation revolts against its fathers and makes friends with its grandfathers.”
This is the quote presented to me as I click on the ‘about’ section of artofmanliness.com; a site I became aware of while living with five/six/nine other guys – it fluctuated dependent on the amount of food, warmth and booze in the house – in my university days. All of the guys in that house were Christians who were, and still are seeking God. We’d been close for years before that, and are still close friends to this day.
Every now and then over a communal dinner, someone would mention something interesting they read on AoM; whether it be a better way to tie a tie, a new way to make spag bol or the best way to build a fire. Or even how to avoid conversational narcissism. They also had their own suggestions on dating, relationships and family. I found it fascinating, perhaps because of the novelty; I hadn’t seen anything like this. The only men-only publications available were magazines like FHM, Nuts and Zoo. Or if you had an extra few quid, GQ.
I’m thankful to have had friends who didn’t spend any time on the aforementioned magazines, and I despaired at the culture that generated them. The Art of Manliness filled a void that we subconsciously sought filled.
I haven’t paid much attention to it in the last little while, for various reasons. I became a touch sceptical as I learned that it’s difficult – and maybe even not right – to package maleness into a one-size-fits-all box. But its intentions are good and I applaud them for it. It was through AoM that I felt obliged to read classics like The Great Gatsby and anything by Hemmingway, as well as what’s proven to be my favourite biography of all time: The rise of Theodore Roosevelt, by Edmund Morris.
Recently, while scouring the internet for a new wallet – my lunch breaks are spectacular affairs – I came across an article on the site in question. Visiting it for the first time in years brought back many memories of previous articles I ingested… It felt like walking around your old school.
As I took a quick virtual stroll through the site, I was presented with the opportunity to sign up to a series entitled: “30 days to a better man”. I was intrigued. Their goal? To encourage men to be better in all areas of their lives. They argue that specific plans work better than ethereal intentions. They promise to send an article that gives a specific task to accomplish that day. “The tasks will cover a variety of areas of a man’s life including relationships, health, career and money, and style.”
I’m interested, but I’m suspicious. Men – or women – don’t need self-help as much as they need Jesus, but grace isn’t opposed to effort as it is earning. I’m going to take the challenge over the course of January and February and see if it has any influence on my life at all. It’s not coming from a faith perspective, and that’s fine. If it’s truth, it’s God’s.
I want objectively assess – admittedly through anecdotal rather than any empirical evidence – whether I’ll be a better man in 30 days. My plan is to record a few seconds of video every day for each task. I’d love to hear the thoughts of the rest of you as I do this, so feel free to join me and we can generate a bit of discussion in the comments. I intend it to be a light-hearted look into what the value of a resource like this that isn’t coming from a faith-based direction, while maybe probing the value of gender-specific resources in general.
Editor’s note: To keep up to date with Thomas’ challenge, read his reflections after one week.