Thursday, January 12, 2006

Communicating with friends

I've been spending less time blogging lately -- and more time trying to connect with people I've met over the past few years.

This past year has been a bit of a rough one from a spiritual perspective, and one of the things I've decided is that I haven't kept the friends updated and with me that I should have. On that front, I've discovered something interesting. The guys are no problem to connect with -- no baggage, they understand that I'm saying hi.

The topics they usually want to talk most about are:

  1. Cars
  2. Technology (cars are a subset, but a big enough one to merit their own entry)
  3. Politics
  4. Sports
  5. Sports
  6. Sports
On the short list, you might have a close friend, in which case you can talk sometimes about stuff like
  1. Family
  2. "The Wife"
  3. Housing projects
  4. Hobbies
Really close friends can finally hope to bridge the gap of things like your sex life, spirituality, personal development and so on. The point I'm driving home is that I have very few male friends that will focus on such items -- certainly not outside of one on one situations. Group bonding is almost the exclusive domain of the first group.

Unless you count church -- specifically Sunday school situations, in which case you rarely get the kind of depth that you really need. Usually you get canned material, dumbed down concepts and so on. I've actually given up on Sunday school for my personal development -- the last scenario involved some jock-strapped moron who kept making sports and sport team references to spiritual growth issues.

Sorry, I rarely find the simplified rule-sets of sports to map into the complex multi-dimensionality that the complex "game" of life tosses your way. Actually, what I find instead, is that watching a game of sports is enjoyable for several reasons:

  1. You know the score -- the "losing" team is easy to identify. Pick the losing team in a game of divorce, for example. Right, you now understand why coaches rarely are employed as marriage-counselor gurus.
  2. Everyone can easily tell what's going on. Unlike the complex game of life, sporting events present the observers with easy to judge situations. It would be unthinkable, for example, for someone to get to the end of a Browns game, and have one of the referees simply call the entire game because he was in charge. This kind of stuff happens all the time in real life.
  3. Everyone can easily identify who is on what side of the good/vs/evil equation and so on. No need to guess like in real life.
These kinds of things make sports a bad paradigm map for something like spiritual growth. Unfortunately, talking about your growth issues with someone who's trying to bring Mickey Mantel into the conversation tends to dampen it a bit if you can see where I'm coming from here.

So I gave up after a few tries, trying to find a Sunday school situation where true spiritual growth would be the topic on the table. Instead, I used a couple of good friends and my wife as the place for this to happen, and it (mostly) works. The problem is monoculture.

Now we're back to the real issue at hand. The culture of being male in this country kind of goes contrary to the direction of focusing upon spiritual growth. It's really bad, actually, for a lot of guys from what I can tell. Since women can, in fact, easily focus upon stuff like that without worry, they tend to (from my experience, so far) be a lot further down the pike.

This arms them to better survive difficult situations, but doesn't help you if you have any kind of male-centric things to talk about (much). The problem is perception oriented. Thinking you know what it's like to be a guy in this society is akin to believing you know what it's like to be an airline pilot cause you've seen it done on TV.

These are all observations (and general ones at that), but I think some of you are silently nodding your heads in understanding. Where is this headed? I don't know.

I'll talk more about it in the next blog entry.


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