I suspect there are plenty of men out there who feel what I do, creates Scott Atkinson. We know that fighting is dumb, but we still have the subconscious desire to do it
About a year ago, I was merging roads on the superhighway during an hour-long trek to a job interview when, in my rearview reflect, I verified a midriff paw curving furiously at me. Cutting the other driver off had been my fault, and so when he changed paths to zoom up beside me I turned in my tush to motion and mouth an overstated and lip-readable ” I’m sorry “.
I could speak his cheeks, too.
” Pull over !” he was shouting. He had also swopped paws, and was now pointing at the shoulder of the expressway beside me.
This was where we were to fight.
And so I did what you do when you’re a radical person who educates college writing and drafts narrations for a live. I shook my front and squinted at him like he was a lower, more barbarian life-form, and I meant it. One of three aftermaths was possible:
1) He beats me up
2) I beat him up
3) We square off until one of us backs down
In any scenario, the fact that I cut him off doesn’t change, and I’m late for a chance to pick up some freelance wield. If my kids had been in the car, it might have been an opportunity for a good reading: “thats how you” ignore an idiot.
All good reasons, and yet there was something else at work: a consuming, spine-level electric humming I like to call The Fear. And with it, my subconscious was calling me out.
” You have never been in a fight ,” it said.
I have never been in a real one, regardless- and by that I intend a streetfight with no regulates , no refs , no squishy surface under our paw. This shouldn’t inconvenience me but at times, I feel like I’ve missed a required rite of passage to become a man.
I’m not supposed to feel this way. I am a suburban daddy, a mower of lawns and packer of lunches. I miss my son and daughter to grow up feminists, and in an period when our presidential candidate openly talked about about the size of his penis, pandering in thinking about the difficulties of manlines exclusively deepens my shame.
I started learning Brazilian jiu-jitsu at 17, about half a lifetime ago. My ears are now somewhat misshapen and I have a small collection of medallions acquired after twine the seams of other humanities until the government has ” tapped out”- that is, signaled they can take no more. I have rebounded in three bars and done the kinds of things one does in that job. I have sparred with MMA boxers, been tossed by wrestlers and punched by boxers, and as a result have a pretty good idea of what I am and am not capable of.
But then, perhaps I don’t. And sometimes, I can’t help it: I want to know what I would be made of.
Modern guys, specially radical ones, are not supposed to feel this way, and so we experience a doubled disgrace. The first comes from a small voice deep in our caveman brains, the one questioning our maturity if we back up from physical conflict. We feelthe second shame immediately after because manhood( and its arbitrary markers) is something we’re not supposed to be worried about any more- certainly not the more base aspects of it, like violence.
” We have a weird, spooky, cultural position toward savagery. We want to be above it very badly, and hitherto we’re absolutely haunted with it ,” John Gottschall told me a few weeks ago on the phone. He’s the author of The Professor in the Cage: Why Mortals Fight and Why We Like to Watch and formerly I started reading his work, I couldn’t stop. When I emailed him to tell him about my secret dishonor, he wrote back:” Wow. We are apparently the same guy .”
So we were.
Now a professor with importance, when Gottschall started the research for his book, he was in his 10 th year of adjuncting and feeling mostly nasty about a lot of things. Across the street from his office was a mixed martial arts gym, which he joined, starting a two-year journey into volume making while preparing for his one and only MMA fight: his chance to finally see if anything fundamental would ever change for him after indulging in violence.
My interview with Gottschall was supposed to be serious, but it quickly turned into a cathartic care discussion. The most serious question I questioned might have been,” What the hell is wrong with me ?”
If there was anything I took away from our discus, it was that I wasn’t alone- and not only because Gottschall and I had so much in common. In his notebook, he details how” a diverse array of species- from beetles to birds to digests to mantis shrimp” all share strikingly similar “dueling” behaviours. In other words, for every two people you’ve seen at the bar puffing their chests at one another before returning to their tables to tell their onlookers what they would have done if, there is certainly species all over the planet doing the same thing( I exclusively wish we could ask the beetle how it felt after it backed down ).
If you believe some strands of evolutionary psychology, there are lots of reasons we’ve progressed this space. Sex is supposed to be a big part of it: the remaining notion that a strong man capable of acquire a fight is often seen as more desirable.
Maybe, but in my own home and others, evolution seems to have moved closer. My wife is always more impressed with me when she comes home to our favorite beef stew made from scratch( I are ready to cook ), or when I gladly go to the theater( I was raised by musicians) than when I tell her stories from the jiu-jitsu gym.
Growing up, a strict form of manliness was never instilled in me, either. Their own families owns a building busines, but I never heard my daddy or my uncles ever talk about opposing when we were on a chore site, and they seemed to have sentiments about those who would( idiots ). My dad didn’t go to the bar after work, didn’t engage in tough-guy talk, and in the few moments I appreciated him “re going to have to” stand his sand he ever did it in the way that I now do: with words.
I was lucky to have a pa who would come home some periods in coveralls, take a shower, and leave in a tuxedo, cornet occasion in hand, to play a gig with the concert. In retrospect, it’s probably from him that I learned the lesson that has driven much of my life: that it’s always possible to remain calm, and pacify means you’re in control.
Tribalism is another reason Gottschall quotes- the need to protect your property, beings and pride. It’s also another area where I impress out. Even in high school, I could never muster the necessary school spirit to work on the homecoming floats. Didn’t my classmates be recognised that had they been born even five miles away they’d be at another school, claiming to hate the very people they were now with, based on arbitrary boundary lines drawn by others?( I wasn’t much fun at parties .)
But for my friend Mark, it was all about reputation. We recently went to a neighbourhood hockey competition at a rink where we’d both played growing up. Back then, Mark was the team fighter. He pointed to the far corner of the rink and told me that was where he’d gotten in his biggest fight- not biggest in terms of blood spilled( although there was that) but the one where he’d had to fight the toughest guy on the competitive school’s unit. His reputation, which he’d gave through his crusades, was on the line.
” I never implored starting a honour ,” he told me.” But once I had one, I clung to it desperately. You just don’t shun it. It’s like a golden cape. It’s a supremacy, whether falsely created or not .”
I must not have wanted one naughtily enough. I played hockey extremely, and once I almost got in a fight by pushing a guy in the back when he turned away from me. I do remember that I wasn’t really mad when I did it, either. Rather, it felt like I should have been mad. And so, with the same kind of curiosity with which someone might take their first puffed of a cigarette at that age, I jostle him, and the refs stepped in.
Later, in the car, I remember my mommy asking me what that had been all about before telling me that she understood, that it was so hard sometimes to walk away.
But the thing was, it hadn’t been hard-boiled, and so the only lesson I could draw from it was that my momma, elementary music coach, vocalist, and master of hugs, had more battle in her than me.
When I told my partner I was writing about this, I was flustered- not because I’d never crusaded, but to admit that I sometimes thought about it. We are now in the kitchen, and she leaned across the island counter and said she had no doubt that I would oppose if I is necessary in order. No uncertainty, she repeated. And there it was, my golden cape.
She had no doubt, but I still do. I called one of my first jiu-jitsu tutors, Matt Thornton, to help me figure out why. When he’s not teach, he’s traveling the nations of the world, teach and lecturing about martial arts and violence. He’s also been at work on a notebook that explores what he calls” a healthy relationship with savagery “.
So I asked about what that meant.
” Just like with procreation and copulation, if you talk to someone who doesn’t have a health relationship with special topics, they’re going to end up on one of two extremes ,” he pronounced.” They rotate it into a fetish where it’s something they’re attracted to in an unhealthy path, or they can demonize or repress it … My argument would be that neither of those is healthy .”
What is healthy, he said, is acknowledging it.
We talked about why someone like me would think about these concepts, but( this is how Matt educates) he made the issues back to me.
” Why wouldn’t you think about that ?” he ask questions.” I entirely get onto, that’s the cultural standard you’re instruct, but why wouldn’t you think about that ?”
Matt argues that we’ve evolved this route. We still carry around DNA of our more murderous ancestors, he articulates, and it’s instilled in us a natural bia toward violence. He’s not the only one to establish that arguing: evolutionary psychology bolts a lot of our worst demeanors on more brutal ancestors. But this analysis- the entire field of studies, really- has nevertheless been harshly blamed as a cop-out for those working behaviors.
The thing is, whether it’s from ancestors or not, savagery is in me. It’s in a lot of us. And what matters, Matt added- and this is what stuck with me- is how we choose to deal with it.
It’s about the kind of men we choose to be.
The man in the car accepted me for about 15 miles that day, past plenty of exits. Really, he gave me plenty of opportunities if fighting was what I required, but I elapsed them all until his auto finally is slow and disappeared in my rearview mirror.
I knew I formed the best choice, but I still crusaded him in hundreds of imaginary engagements in my attention afterwards- equal segments heroic and pathetic.
Watch with me. Watch as he hurls a privilege cross that I am, due to all my years of training, able to slip as I descend my center of gravity to set up the double-leg takedown, shooting my shoulder into his waist and driving him to the ground. Maybe I’ll finish with fists, or maybe jiu-jitsu, taking his arms between my legs and wrenching until I hear the gristly pop of a hyperextended elbow.
Can you attend him?
Can you examine me, victorious?
I’ve seen it more, but it doesn’t last long. It’s speedily replaced by embarrassment and I pressure myself to think of other things. Stuffs that matter: my kids’ education, the lawnmower that needs its oil changed, my wife’s birthday- or the interview that I will soon go to, and crush, before I construct the long excursion dwelling and tell my partner of my success.
I might even tell her the story of an stupid I realized on the road who wanted to fight me, and her seeings will dilate at the barbarity that still exists in this world before we move on to other topics. And beneath all our talking, somewhere deep in a situate I’m not proud of, I’m still back there on the road, chin down, fists up, itching for a fight I know I’ll never choose.
Read more: www.theguardian.com