past, present and future man

3 Ways To Live Your Life – Which One Is Yours?

When was the last time you had a vision? Mine occurred when I was on a plane, watching the clouds drift below me.

A Boeing 747 is making its way through the evening skies thirty thousand feet above the ground, and I see three men.  Too busy with their lives they can’t see me, but I see them. I feel I know them, we are long-time friends. One is clearly a man of the past, the second of the present. Now the third one – he is a mystery.  I want to get to know him better.

The Traditional Man
A good, reliable person, this man lives a proper life. He is focused on career, he values marriage and respects organized religion. He accepts authority and dislikes uncertainty. He has firm views on life, but they are often unexamined, since he lacks self-reflection. He is driven by ambition, but it’s often blind, passed on to him.

He doesn’t question or examine his choices often – he is not a man of doubts. He accepts, he pursues, he conquers. He can be satisfied if his life circumstances allow him to be successful. But too often he is preoccupied with pleasing others, living the life he is expected to live, losing sight of who he should be, and what can make him genuinely happy.

The Modern Man
An intelligent, forward-looking person, this man lives an informed life. He looks pragmatically at career, indifferently at marriage, sarcastically at religion. He is a nonconformist and has a great capacity for critical thinking. He neglects ideas such as ‘human nature’ or ‘right and wrong’, since for him they are all subjective and culturally-biased concepts.

He believes in total individual freedom and equality. Often it means that he is suspicious of duty or sacrifice. He is free from the dogmas and prejudice of the past – belief, family values, traditions, norms  are all signs of bad taste for him. But too often he has nothing to substitute them with, and so he preoccupies himself with healthy food, fitness, animal rights and the preservation of nature.

He lacks firm convictions about life, but has lots of anecdotal opinions. He believes in justice, but not in forgiveness. His cynicism only thinly disguises the emptiness he often feels, and protects him from failures, that inevitably accompany an engaged life of ideas and actions.

Lacking answers to the most important questions of life, he focuses on a biological existence, in which physical life is sacred, but nothing is worth living or dying for. Much too often his life oscillates between restless boredom and quiet, meaningless suffering.

The Conscious Man
This man tries to live an examined life of inner reflection and outward exploration. He sees marriage as formality but seeks partnership and harmony, career for him is just one way to do important work, religion can be uplifting if it brings unity and expands consciousness or destructive if instead it narrows the mind and divides people.

Being fully aware of man’s flaws and imperfections, he also believes in his potential for growth and change. When the Traditional Man says “it’s all God-given”, and the Modern Man says “a man is a product of his genes, upbringing and society – tough luck”, he answers “it’s all true, but man is also endowed with awareness and intelligence, with potential to transform his life, and lives of the people around him”. He isn’t interested in the question of freedom of will – it’s too academic for him. He just knows that believing that you have freedom promotes responsibility and allows potential to unfold.

He doesn’t deem himself to be in control of his life – he has no illusions about man’s limitations. But at the same time, he believes that fulfilled life is attainable: by bringing awareness and responsibility to life; by coping with doubts, not escaping them; by making choices, not avoiding them; by venturing, not standing still; by failing and quitting but not without trying.

He is proactive but not out of self-confidence or blind decisiveness, but out of a painful awareness of the finiteness of his life. He thinks about death a lot – it serves him as a constant reminder to live fully. He rarely uses words such as “destiny” or “fortune”. He is often lost at words.

He believes that man deserves a special respect and dignity. Being aware of his own imminent end, still he is trying to pursue a life of meaning and happiness… man is a tragic and a comic figure at the same time. Lost in a world devoid of any inherent meaning or order, he struggles to find meaning in relationships and projects that are doomed to fail or finish. But he struggles, never the less.

The Conscious Man is often restless and anxious but almost never bitter. He might be confused, but he admits it; he might be lost, but he is searching for his path.

***

Three men, three ways of living. In which of them you see yourself?

17 Replies

  • Hi Mike, thanks for sharing.

    At first I though I can’t put myself in any of your predefined templates, but then-again these are your personal views of yourself as you progressed (I’m guessing here of course).

    I myself am somewhat of a mixture of your “Modern Man” and “Conscious Man” but a lot less solemn then yourself.
    For instance you claim that “death” is a subject that on the mind alot – I find it not to be true in my case, I never contemplate on death, not as a destination or as a subject in general.Not suppressing it, just doesn’t come to mind.
    And in general I am an optimistic sceptic: although I don’t believe in accepting claims as truth until they are proven, I do believe that anybody can achieve their own version of “good life” providing they take responsibility of their lives (although there is no scientific proof that this is true – for the sceptic in me).

    I think a quote from John Lennon puts your essay above in context for me:”God is a concept, in which we measure our pain.I’ll say it again.
    God is a concept, in which we measure our pain.”

    Maybe I’m not so focused on pain, since I don’t actually believe in God :), and to paraphrase Lennon once more from the same song:
    “I don’t believe in ….., I just believe in Gal (Myself) and my loved ones Matty (my wife) and Matan and Shai (my sons)”.

    I’m not sure where it puts me on your scale 🙂 but that’s the best I have at the moment.

    •  Hi Gal, the interesting thing is that I really didn’t think about myself when writing this piece – I thought about combined portraits of people I know. But of course, that includes also myself 🙂

      Interestingly, the progress from the Traditional Man to the Conscious Man occurs on two levels:
      1) on the personal level of a single man – as both you, and @google-92941bf9168d923a525d11e89fededf3:disqus pointed out. A kid doing what his parents expect him to, studying hard, going to college => A young man, disillusioned with the world, he is cynical and distant => A mature man that finds meaning through engagement with the world. Coming full circle, he is back in the world, but now on his own terms

      2) on the level of mankind as a whole – as we move from the traditional societies of the past, through alienated individualism of today, and hopefully to the interdependent, hyper-connected and spiritually rich community of the future.

      ***
      You talk about your loved ones, as the object of your belief. That’s the way of the Conscious Man to live his life – to find meaning in relationships. Not because it’s the way it should be, and not because there is nothing else to do – but because this is the right thing for you to do – to love your wife, to nurture your children, and to be enriched by them.

      And just to make things clear – reading this blog makes you a Conscious Man by definition, so it’s all good 🙂

  • Very good — I feel it reflects your own evolution through the years.

    Best quotes:

    * “believing that you have freedom promotes responsibility and allows potential to unfold.”

    * “find meaning in relationships and projects that are doomed to fail or finish.”

    Q: “man deserves a special respect and dignity.” — special in relation to whom? To animals, plants and minerals?

    • @google-92941bf9168d923a525d11e89fededf3:disqus Thanx 🙂 Quoting favorite parts in text must be the best way to complement a writer – shows that you bonded emotionally with the ideas.

      Regarding ‘special respect and dignity’: man deserves *more* respect and dignity then either God or animals. God because he isn’t going to die, animals because they aren’t aware of their inevitable death. Man, this wretched creature, torn away from the crude bosom of nature, but refused entrance to paradise is stuck between the two. That makes him a tragic figure. And this tragedy is what elevates him.

  • Totally
    Modern Man. Haven’t found the path to spirituality and courage yet. But hope to get there someday.

    • The fact that you admit it so freely and unequivocally tells me that you are on path of self-discovery, and reflection – otherwise you wouldn’t recognize yourself so quickly in the description. And self-discovery is the way of the Conscious Man to become the one he ought to be. So while the road is long (isn’t it for all of us), seems that you are moving in the right direction 🙂

  • Mike,

    I’m not a man…however, I am married to one. 

    I don’t see the kind of man he was…the kind of laid-back, geeky mechanical engineer type who just isn’t very ambitious, preferring a come-what-may attitude towards his career and not thinking too much of changing the way things are (until his second lay-off has caused him to have a lot of time to reconsider himself).  His father died when he was 21, and was not a nice guy anyway, so he really has had no guiding male presence in his life of ANY kind.

    He’s 39 right now and something came along just in time to give him some direction.

    I think you and your readers might enjoy something my husband just finished.  It is a book by David Deida called The Way of the Superior Man.

    There is a free pdf to download here.

    http://smilyanov.net/download/pdfs/The%20Way%20of%20the%20Superior%20Man.pdf

    From the introduction…

    “This book is a guide for a specific kind of newly evolving man.  This man is unabashedly masculine—he is purposeful, confident, and directed, living his chosen way of life with deep integrity and humor—and he is sensitive, spontaneous, and spiritually alive, with a heart-commitment to discovering and living his deepest truth.”

    I would say that the superior man is definitely along the lines of the conscious man.

    I’m not going to say much more about it, but it truly makes a lot of sense.  My husband, who lost his way…is regaining a new sense of strength and his self-esteem is growing by leaps and bounds. 

    From my perspective, I am aware of his growing strength and integrity and I have to say, it’s like I have a brand new husband who is very, very attractive to me now.  And I think this writing with resonate with you. 

    I’m reading the book as well, and between the changes I see in him, and what I’m reading in the book, I have to say this is exactly what we’ve needed at this point in our lives.  It’s revolutionizing the way he sees himself as a man.

    • Hi Casey,
      Thank you for this warm reply (and sorry for my delayed response).

      Your husband goes through a substantial personal growth, and it’s benefiting both of you. Often we indeed need a crisis in order to embrace a change, and in this way it can be a blessing in disguise.

      From what I read in the introduction, Deida’s book indeed addresses similar points, primarily focusing on the development of a more balanced and authentic sexual identity. The book looks indeed interesting, I just wish it wouldn’t have been called “The Way of the Superior Man” – the allusion the idea of a superior race immediately and unwillingly suggests itself 🙂

      A nice quote from the introduction, which I gladly embrace:

      “This newly evolving man is not a scared bully, posturing like some King Kong in charge of the universe. Nor is he a new age wimp, all spineless, smiley, and starry-eyed. He has embraced both his inner masculine and feminine, and he no longer holds onto either of them. He doesn’t need to be right all the time, nor does he need to be always safe, cooperative, and sharing, like an an-drogynous Mr. Nice Guy. He simply lives from his deepest core, fearlessly giving his gifts, feeling through the fleeting moment into the openness of existence, totally committed to magnifying love.”

  • Hmm, interesting. Taking each classification independently, I am 0% T, 33% M, and 82% C. Normalizing them as a group yields 0T + 0.29M + 0.71C. Interestingly enough though, after the first reading I intuitively identified myself mostly with T, while admitting that I strive toward C without much success. If the calculation is correct and intuition is wrong, then I’m too modest 🙂 Or, more likely, my intuition is simply out of date. A couple of years ago I was probably much more T than C. I guess I’ve progressed nicely.

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