Men cannot “fix” death. The alleged prowess and magnitude of man’s magnificence, awesome power, and ability to transcend circumstances hits a dead end wall encountering death.
Men cannot “fix” death. Hence, death irritates and unsettles men to no end. Men were not designed to deal with death. Even less so than women, though they are not either. Death of loved ones is the only space that men are allowed to cry, other than when they are drunk amongst “homies” recollecting some tragedy. Alcohol and death share the same gift to men: permission to experience the emotion of mourning, of loss.
My best friend’s mother just died a few days ago. My mother died about a year ago and oldest brother the year before. These incidents drove home how pathetic men’s coping mechanisms are when faced with the most regular occurrence of the cycle of life — death. The alleged prowess and magnitude of man’s magnificence, awesome power, and ability to transcend circumstances hits a dead end wall encountering death.
I am currently in a small old town in France, so upon hearing of my best friend’s mother’s death I attended a Catholic Mass in an ancient cathedral. I participated in the service as best as I could, given my terrible French (but, I can speak some Latin). I felt helpless before this Triune God to change anything. Nothing I could do could change the finality of a door shutting closed on a life. Being mere “flesh and blood,” I was impotent before this age-old adversary.
Men’s masculinity is defined by whatever the “Hero-Myth” permeates their particular culture. Being of European heritage (mostly Irish) there are many Hero-Myths which feed my conception of what it means to be a good, brave, and strong man. I watched some of the “Spartacus” series recently — a hero-myth of overcoming odds for noble love. Along these lines are the movies “Braveheart,” “Gladiator,” “Unforgiven,” et al. Yet all of them were defeated in some way shape or form, by the unbeatable foe — the mysterious Grim Reaper, ugly old Death.
The most pervasive and influential of all the Western European Hero-Myth is of the Man-God, Jesus (called “the Christ.”) Against all odds, he opposed the fascists forces of his time: the imperial republic of bloody Rome. The official charge brought against him by law-worshipping Roman’s was “sedition.” He (according to the story) claimed to be a king — THE king of the Jews, and Judean territory had been conquered by Roman armies. They, like the Afghanistan and Iraq, were a Middle Eastern country occupied by an imperialistic occupation force of a Republic.
As this particular Hero-Myth goes, Jesus ben Joseph did not conquer with violence and force to reclaim a political sovereignty. The Jewish rabbi won a victory over a much more fearsome foe: Death. Having used the Jujitsu of “submission,” the Man-God overcame the foe of death — through a peaceful act of subversive “submission.” To prove the point, reports from the time in the documents called “the Gospels” (written about 30 years after the events) tell us his physical body overcame the chains of the oppressor — death.
Whether a man believes this particular Hero-Myth or not, the story is impactful. It is particularly impactful for men. For, men are told from childhood their duty is to save not only themselves, their loved ones, their country, and even to some degree the world. Yet, they as men stand utterly powerless before one foe — death.
Death, we as men are impotent to “fix.” Death overcomes all of our reserve, our strength, our courage, our strategy. It all comes to naught before the finality of its ominous sentence. All of our robust manhood seems a sham before the face (or mask) of death.
Though I am a Christian, I am not a Roman Catholic. Yet, it was extremely fitting for me to honor the life of my best friend’s mother by attending a Catholic Mass in an ancient French cathedral, taking part in the body and blood of the one Hero who was triumphant over this ultimate dreadful foe.
After service, I lit a candle on her behalf, to the memory and life of Mrs. Arreseigor. I lit another for my mother and brother, and placed it upon the alter. I bowed before the alter and prayed for a long time, how long, I do not know. All I know is the cathedral was empty when I finally lifted my head. Yet, the light was pouring in through the glorious stained glass of the steeple of the ancient French cathedral. It would appear that at least the sun (if not the Son) heard my silent pleas.
I hate death. I absolutely abhor it. I think of myself as a strong man. I have an advanced Blackbelt in martial arts, have trained for 35 years, I am physically strong. I am educated, successful, consider myself ethical, and at least to some degree, courage’s, to the point of being stubborn when opposing what is wrong. Yet, I am powerless over death — that of my loved ones, my own, and of people I care for. I hate it because, though as a man, I am supposed to “do” something, yet, I am powerless to “fix” it. Death always wins, no matter what tool or trick I try.
All this particular mere man can do is look upon the ceiling of an ancient French cathedral, gaze upon the tapestry of some stained glass, light some candles, and silently pray. Yet, ultimately, I cower before the power of death. Nothing can or will change that. Nothing.
I feel “less than” in the face of such a foe. All I can do is lift my spirit, and imagine that there are powers and realms and dimensions beyond what I can see with mortal eyes. Then ultimately, I have to leave the cathedral’s beauty and rejoice all the more in the glorious and miraculous gift of life. That is all I can do as just one frail, weak man.