Man. Who is he?
We will never really know who had the idea first or exactly how we inherited the understandings we have of ourselves as humans on this planet, but one thing that is for sure is that is it getting harder to deny and live as if there isn’t a huge problem all around us – everywhere with humans and their behaviors. We just can’t agree yet on what the problem is. It’s called the blame and denial stage.
I like to refer to it as mythology because, for me, that is exactly what it is. Our American mythology – the words, stories, the beliefs, behaviors, and rituals are failing us. But while there is blame going on about who done it and the correct view and solutions, I propose it is a systematic institutional problem which means no one group or person is responsible – or correct.
I don’t blame anyone alive today. I think just like Henry Ford couldn’t foresee the results of inventing the car, the cultural stories and rituals about man that were created in generations before this one, had no concept of the results. We inherited what we are living and live in it. But we have inherited specifically the results of specific people who took specific actions with specific beliefs before us. We have to acknowledge that. So the people responsible are dead and gone. On the other hand, I think everyone is responsible to do their part in whatever that might be that needs to be done.
So I want to make this clear. I don’t think it’s evil or sickness or just the way humans are or some unavoidable fate we are living about man. I think there is human error of thought in what we inherited and what is actually correct about humans living on this planet.
The good news is that we can correct it with accuracy. Even more promising is we can correct it quickly if we nail it right and are motivated to change it. Just like the European belief that the world was flat gave way to the reality of the earth being round, we have got to come to learn what is not correct about the reality about the relationships of people to the planet, to each other, to each’s own, and to the rest of all non-human life. We need to remove our mythology and replace with accuracy with fundamental missing basics that bring health, wholeness, harmony and satisfaction to us all. I have no doubt this is possible. But we have to address the error(s). Whatever our institutions have done, it is, in fact, in error.
So what IS the error?
Well, I think it’s complicated and you have to be able to tolerate the paradoxes that actually explain it because we’ve got misunderstanding about all the relationships about humans and man. A mass produced error in a trillion ways is what we got. I’ve seen one right correction work like a set of dominoes. As there is a domino effect to harmful experiences there can be domino effect to positive ones. The world changed in a few years when a new technology spreads or Trump runs for office. Just like all relationships changed once you know the world is round, all relationships change from what you know that has all been misunderstood from man about man and his relationships. But mainly it is the lapse of the correct environmental aspects in the life of normal man. You must give up what you think about normal man. We’ve been handed a taboo about talking about men, so don’t let that stop you from reading on.
When you change location in reference from flat to round, what was thought as up might be down, or might be neither. You must question what you think. Location and size to what is is important to description of man. He is not as big as the sun nor as small as dragonfly. But our images and creations change the size and location of man. That is the case we have before us. You might believe, but life has a way of defying our beliefs and proving to us what is really there. This is the challenge here. Questioning beliefs. Seeing what is right there to see.
So I begin with what has often been avoided, overlooked and unquestionable in the past. That is, Man. We have been taught that Man is the standard for Human. The words are used interchangeably. In our human mythology, you can’t use the word She to represent all of humanity and have it fit our way of thinking. He, on the other hand, can be he or she, or all of humanity and it still makes sense – to us – even when we give pause to the illogic and untruth in it.
Peace on earth Goodwill toward woman does not give us goodwill to all humans as the phrase good will toward man is suppose to mean. But there is one problem with this.
Man does not represent all humans. In fact, what man represents isn’t fully human.
For starters, he is an opposite sex to another human, we are told.
Somewhere along the line, someone did this, put the pieces together to explain the relationships Man has…and it was mass produced so that we all think about the same. (That is minus those that are actively changing it for themselves.) But man and woman as opposite sex isn’t the only way we see man. We see man in relationship to animal, to primitive man, to alien creatures, the entire world and universe and this meaning of man, though thoroughly understood, is rarely properly critiqued.
When I say Man now in this writing, I am speaking generally. I am not speaking about individual men. I am speaking of the Normal man. Did you know we live
every day with the idea of what a normal man is, but no psychiatrist, no man has ever really explored what it is we believe is a normal man. They have no official definition and no description. Ask the government. Ask a psychiatrist. Ask a priest. They can only give you their individual opinion. There is no written official documents defining Man.
There is only one explanation for a group of supposed experts and officials to go about labeling people as abnormal while being totally unconscious and unscientific about what that abnormal is being measured against. It may have been assumed that everyone knows what normal is so its not necessary to know it, define or study it. This is definitely not the case for everything else the way our social world behaves. And man has always found it more desirable to study what is other and outside of oneself than to explore honestly internally with certain parts of himself. Again, I am speaking of the normal man in our mythology. What has he studied? What does he know? You might think everything if you read the historical writings of the portrait of a normal man.
Man, that is, men as a group have studied the universe and the microorganisms and everything inbetween. The planet has been studied in almost all corners but man has blind spots, claims some things are incomprehensible or too messy or impossible to study, and has avoided looking in the mirror with all his technologies at himself- honestly. And it is only in recent times that it is even possible to have anyone actually discuss this. Man has been the authority that no one was to question. Obedience in action prevented discussion. Over the last century, or perhaps, even scattered here and there in earlier times, some people have defined and sometimes changed the ideas that we have about the normal man. In fact, it is normal to change at least some of the ideas about the normal man. That is because otherwise we would have to deal with the inaccuracies that become obvious.
As a painter, a creator of images and a writer, my elements that I study are words and images, so my approach here is to talk about normal man as a stereotype. A stereotype comes from words and images. I don’t claim to speak for all places and all times. That is impossible. But I speak from my center from my life from years of being in the US and what has been quite obvious in the large social institutions. And within them, there is a normal man; the stereotype.
Psychiatrists and what they promote that becomes popular culture is based on decades of describing the abnormal man and abnormal people, but there is no popular theory or explanation for the normal man that one can look to as official terms. There is no books in psychiatry that I am aware of that define and describe the mentally healthy man. It is assumed the normal man is the healthy man. How can we honestly know what is the abnormal man if we don’t have any definition or explanation of the normal man? So I will point to the obvious of this idea of normal man as the human standard that we all live with.
Psychiatrists must use stereotypes in order to evaluate someone so quickly as they do in their practice. We all now live in a system where we have to engage with strangers and make quick decisions about who these strangers are and what we are to do with them. For many it is a job. For others, it’s just navigating life. It’s relationships of quantity over quality that matters to work our present systems of mass productions.Our system forces us to stereotype each other in many ways.
We use words and images in seconds flat to get a gauge on who someone is and immediately react as we plant our accumulated images and words on someone we barely know and in some cases, will never even meet. All our words and image creations do this. And we have lots of word and image creators now with new technologies that not too long ago didn’t exist. Previously the making of words and images of man were only in the hands of those few people with privilege and wealth – so there was little disagreement.
I believe that we need to be aware. My own experience shows me that even if I spend years with someone I think I know I may learn something new or they may change from what they were. Our ideas of the world are being disproved on a daily basis with what is happening now. Humans are not the static ideas we have of them. It is wrong to think in such terms. Humans can’t fit any one fast description but we act and live as if this is real and possible. Humans consistently defy the way we currently think about them. But many people believe the error is in the human who is not behaving according to our own ideas. This inevitably questions freedoms. We often don’t know how to live beyond the wrong ideas we’ve been taught.
I propose that just as the heavens were not a dome finite above the flat earth, our beings and experiences are so wide and so deep and so never-ending (compared to the brain) that years and years of research (nowhere existing now) would catch and cover the proper descriptions of billions of people. We must reconcile this. If still treat each other as if man and humans are on that mythical flat earth. Man is the center. But there is no center. Each person has a center and is the center of their own world. If honest, we open up with more infinite questions than any short and fragmentary study or statistics can cover. We must return to comfortableness with the mystery of life and people along the way. Einstein said it.
‘The most beautiful thing we can experience is the mysterious.
It is the source of all true art and science.”
To think about what I’m saying is to touch on the mysterious. Instead we live on the surface of what we all really are in a shallow mythology of ourselves rather than face the larger view. Isn’t anyone concerned for the minimalistic way we see ourselves as mere chemicals, for example? We all know we aren’t just these parts but an entire organism that defies our human intelligence. I’m not a science heretic. I’m just saying our present logic is not logical, but myth. We need proper perspective of what we know and more science.
In looking at our popular culture and examining the words and images, as I have done, as a writer and artist, I believe that man has been described in parts and fragments in other ways. Not just chemicals. There are many different groups that have specialized words to describe humans and you can pick and choose your own language preference.
But here I am speaking about the normal man in our social context that doesn’t really have a specific group, specialized language or social location or even an identified group of origin for such common words. We all use them because they are our inherited culture. Who tells us what is the real man? Who tells us what a real man is not or how man must live? Where does that come from? Check sources.
The words about normal man are fundamental, inherited from social fathers from a few centuries ago.We may think that these ideas about man are complete, rational, proven and logical. They are instead not complete, not proven, and not logical. If everyone together maintains the man myth and it is beyond need for analysis and serious study, we live with contradictions. I say this because most all of our beliefs from two centuries ago have already been tossed. It makes no sense to keep the normal man belief system. Man does not represent All of humanity. A real man or a good man is also understood as exhibiting only part of what is human. The other parts of being human are considered NOT being a man. Did you get it? The total contradiction in the last 3 sentences? Read them again.
Up until the 17th century, Eurocentric views of Man were understood as a status. There was no biology. And man was considered the only sex. Woman was perceived as a deformed, or inferior sub-man. Yeah, the obvious was that the big difference was one human gave birth to new humans. The other did not. No opposite sex theory, though. No two sexes. No science here, but ancient myth informed man about his status about who he was in relationship to differences around him. This, to me, is at the root of the error. This antiquated myth about Man is harming us all because it fails to describe reality accurately despite the most advanced sciences and serious studies.
Man is not as it has been described. This is obvious. Man is in fact fully human and so is woman. So is every human on the planet. When I say this I mean the real individual humans. Being alive with a uncontrollable vitality of life is something beyond man himself.
The normal man as created in image and text as stereotype is just an image and word on paper or now screen. There is no real normal man. No one person can come forward and say He is the one that shows all the rest of us what is normal. The paradox of being classified as a normal human being is that one is also uniquely one of a kind.
Just as a tree drawn on paper or written about in words is not a real tree. Words written and even photographs taken of man is not a real man. A snapshot of a man is a dead product apart from something that has life. The problem is that we have been so filled with images and words about man that we live in a state of merging real with paper and film and screen as real. We have lost the difference.
As an artist who has studied the history of image making, it is easy for me to know how recent it is that we have images of man like never before. I paint so I know first hand the difference between having a painting and having a photograph. It impacts relationships and human functioning. Before there was a camera, the only image of man was either painted or drawn. And with that, it was only artists that created those images. Mirrors and water reflections provided much less encounters with self image.
It is hard for me to imagine social relationships and a world without created images, but I try to imagine what it was like before the camera. Just as our children will not know what it was like before the computer, we don’t know what it was like before the camera. But I imagine that people had different ways to know each other. Their lives were slower and took more time with each other to know the person in front of them. They had to.They had different ways of seeing each other. Plus they didn’t have the convenience of traveling the distances we do.
Along with this image making, someone came up with the idea that there wasn’t one sex, but two. And the opposite sex theory took hold as a belief that each sex was opposite of the other. So each man and woman supposedly had only half of what was full humanity. But Man didn’t see himself just as opposite to the woman. He also saw and described and created images of himself as the standard against others he saw as different. The many ways he, whoever it was, saw himself, described others in varying ways. But the bottom line was that whoever did this conveyed that Himself, Man, was the standard for humanity, and the Superior one with the superior or valued qualities. The abnormal man, therefore, carried similar qualities to the woman, the man with different features. The ‘other’ than man. Non-man.
You see, it was the white man with Eurocentric training in US society who had the money and resources and access to the technology to create images of himself and others. There were people who only recently have gained that access.
So the stereotype of a man as the standard human aligns with normal where as the stereotype of other than man, or non-man is the abnormal in the way that this was created and mass produced. Of course, normal in our society also means the majority and the abnormal the minority. But with Man as standard, we make allowance for man as majority even if the numbers don’t hold out. They were the majority in only specific locations, however. We identify non-man people as minorities even if in numbers they are the majority. The historical normal man didn’t count those minorities because he didn’t think they mattered. This can only happen when it is Man who describes himself as standard and the majority in a distorted but very particular way. It is only one way among infinite possibilities.
Abnormal in our society also carries with it the lesser desired or devalued parts of being human as Man the standard superior one described. The lesser, inferior humans as abnormal would then easily fit in words like bad, sick, wrong, evil, crazy, etc.
The superior human would then fit in the categories as good, healthy, right, divine or sacred, etc.
So although we may not be in the category of normal man because of varying body parts, all of us feel the pressure of being a normal man-human even if we can never attain it based on our physical bodies. And I’m only beginning at describing this very complicated phenomenon. So I need to point out that, for example, women live with contradictory messages about who they are and what they should be. There is a standard for being a good woman that is different than for a man. This means that there are double messages, and maybe even triple. Catch 22s. The abnormal man lives consistently with the reality that he is not living up to a normal or real man. And in our society a person has to behave certain ways in order to be perceived as a normal man. Any man can fall from normal man and must work hard at being normal unless it’s fully trained.
My perspective is that if we can get rid of this outdated construction of the social pressure to be only a type or kind of person that is part human that we can become free to be fully human in full acceptance of our humanity in all our differences.
Now I will describe in detail some of what you can consider thinking about and accepting and doing so that you can free yourself to be fully human, beyond man.
The normal, mentally well, man-human is rational. I say man-human because this definition of man is now apply to other humans at the same time the underlying standard of man and other than man still exists. The abnormal, mentally, ill or person other than man is irrational stereotypically. This has nothing to do with real sickness or brain damage in bodies. The rational man is non-emotional. The abnormal, non-man human stereotype, for example woman, that can apply to others has often been understood as the emotional human. Man remains a real man as not-emotional. Humans are not pieces and fragments of being human.
It is absurd to believe that certain humans are never irrational or emotional. The belief actually distorts our ability to see the irrationality and emotions in a normal man – by stereotype. We see the same behavior described as something different. All human beings are both rational and irrational, emotional and non-emotional.
Intellect was a category that grew over many centuries. Imagine a time before humans were perceived in parts like intellectual and tested for it. We have tests to determine people’s intellectual abilities, but we don’t have tests to evaluate emotional abilities. There isn’t a socialized structure that values emotions enough to be tested other than in negative ways and that still exists in this undefined area of man in which, ironically, we do not separate out mental from emotional. In fact, there is no value gauge or concept of high emotional ability. This is a result we live with because the superior human is perceived as intellect and non-emotional.
Another behavior for the stereotypical man is one who is understandable. The abnormal man is stereotyped as incomprehensible. The Normal man is competent. The non-man humans historically and today are often believed to be incompetent at least in some part. Women and others were often considered incompentent in sweeping ways. The competent man is also goal directed, coherent and capable. The abnormal non-man humans is incoherent, unable to manage one’s self and life with goals. What does this mean if we decide to live a few days free of goals to fulfill?
I need to point out here as I go through these characteristics that I am describing the media stereotypes and not the reality of human beings. It is what we perceive despite what the reality is. Just as Jack Sparrow is a character only in which the real person is Johnny Depp, the normal man is a character that is not only in image and text, but can be played out in role playing in society in the same way Johnny Depp plays Jack Sparrow in film. I just listened to an interview that David Bowie explained how he became a character he portrayed in media in his early years of singing Ziggy Stardust. In a society of stereotypes, we can unconsciously role play. Many of us know the feeling of coming home and releasing ourselves from the roles we play in the outside worlds we must engage in.
However, there is always some real person behind the character. Sometimes some people fit the stereotypes so well, they feel they are real and one and the same. And some times this has truth. But often, it is ill-fitting and conflict producing to maintain images and perceptions of others and ourselves rather than finding a way to see us all as fully human.
The Normal man is considered independent; no matter the real interdependence that exists. The Independence is defined by ignored parts of the relationships that would highlight a more realistic interdependence. Dependency is something that every human experiences at times throughout their lives, but an abnormal person is perceived and may be experiencing life in a way as to need help, and guidance consistently. The normal man is superior because of high performance. The abnormal man is non-functioning.
I have found in examining this that even what we call as non-functioning is a very strict and narrow view of a socially defined functioning role. The only real non-functioning human is Dead. If one is alive they are functioning, even if they sit on a sofa all day long. It’s a matter of what functions we value and consider superior and the aligned social pressures to behave in certain ways.
The normal man is assertive and firm and can be positively aggressive. The abnormal non-man which may be a non-christian, or dark skinned or a woman may be perceived as inappropriately aggressive in relationship to the superior man. The abnormal non-man is perceived as passive and flexible. These behaviors are devalued for the standard normal despite how useful and common these behaviors are. This explains many of the controversies and heated discussions.
Some of these characteristics also fit like a hand in glove in the social dynamic of king versus slave, authority versus subordinate, adult versus child.
It may not be a perfect description, but I think what I am describing is worth taking some time to consider and observe how it functions in your life, in our media productions and social institutions.
One of the characteristics that was never acceptable for the standard and superior man was displaying fear. The superior was courageous, strong and brave. The abnormal, inferior man was fearful and weak. These days women are in a rat’s cage over stereotypes of being a victim, survivor and warrior. One can be condemned or applauded for any of it.
What we inherited as I describe is harmful for everyone and for the planet, but when this description was first written and given along with man, woman, and child descriptions, it was not in pressured social conditions based on media productions. In other words, I imagine not too long ago that although people may have come to believe these ideas of being partially human that they lived without them as well. They lived in moments, times and spaces where they were free from them nor were controlled and defined by them.
I say this now because the next part I am to describe is very important and also the most crunching that each person has experience in our society under these stereotypes to the point that young children and adults who train them try to have humans fit these descriptions. Humans can never be reduced to images and words. They can’t fit a stereotype. It’s not just trans. Today we have babies and children trained early to be stereotypes described from some other place and time. The result is that now children are getting more and more abnormal labels as the idea of normal child, still nothing more than stereotypes is held up as a way to perceive child. They can’t fit. They can try, but images and words are fragmentary, dead things. The human is alive and to be fully alive and fully human one must be able to live beyond the descriptions, pressures and stereotypes. But this brings rejection, criticisms and punishments.
And as I have witnessed, the stereotypes of babies and young children are taking hold in many ways that didn’t exist 50 years ago. While there have been beliefs in the past, babies were still free to be babies. Men were not to be babies. Growing boys were not to be babies. But today even babies are pushed to not be babies. The baby I mean is the one that has characteristics we were taught to see as undesirable human qualities. This, despite, the very need for those qualities for human existence. With child development charts that put children on some man-made timeline and pressure to fit in a group by age, the child is less free sooner. With many people who spend their lives apart in age segregated groups that do not give them much experience with babies and different age persons, the lack of experience is problematic and quadruples stereotypes. And at the same time people are exposed more to media images and stereotyping that more often than not has a baby as a prop for drama in movies. The crying baby is known but the happy baby seems just an illusion – not the actual state of a baby. I challenge this belief. I witness babies are very happy when their needs are understood and met. It is usual to have some parents in a quandry about why the baby cries. Of course, the normal historical man never took care of babies and would not know.
And I point this out because man has described himself as a grown man also opposite of not just woman, but baby. And it is very unpopular and often mocked to growing boys that it is not okay to be a girl and not okay to be a baby. But even in the most respected social institutions we live a belief system that insists that humans that are adults do not carry the characteristics of a child and there is social pressure to not be ‘childish’. I question this because while maturity certainly has valid goals, I think the prejudice has created fossilized world of adults.
When one looks into the other parts of being human apart from the intellect and rational, we find the parts of passion and creativity and characteristics that make adult lives worth living. So while adults may not know how to feel and have the life they want in the daily grind, they must understand that it is the very messages of characteristics devalued from superior grown man that are the ones that make their life come alive. In truth, the characteristics of baby, child, man and woman are in all of us potentially at any age and those behaviors are useful for many needs in life. The normal man failed in comprehension of understanding full humanity creating imbalanced and lopsided values.
The socially defined feminine and childlike qualities are known in artistic types, but there has always been acknowledged that the artist walks close to the line of a crazy person. Another word for the abnormal non-man.
But if you actually become questioning of this, you can start to see that the crazy man is simply someone we don’t understand and behaves in ways that we think illogical, strange and irrational. So the superior man, instead of acknowledging his own lack of competence in understanding someone different than himself that actually in reality may be very understandable, instead throws that his flaw on ‘other’. This is common. The superior man devalues any other as crazy rather than admit a lack of one’s own comprehension. A superior men never lacks comprehension in myth. In other words, crazy is a stereotype, too. A prejudice and a false judgment. A mythical man. If one finds understanding in the accused than the label of crazy becomes invalid. The more understanding the less crazy applies. The more crazy perceived the less understanding applies. You can only have a crazy person labeled from one who lacks understanding.
A normal man lives a life socially defined as not feminine. The abnormal man fails at being a normal man by inadvertently displaying socially defined feminine qualities. If you understand that we are all fully human, then the categories of feminine and masculine are useless and unnecessary. They are only necessary if we want to maintain a superior-inferior or partially human understanding of who we are. And the complications of what is actually feminine apart from subordination is something that must be investigated that I will take on at another time.
And when it comes to violence, the man-human that is normal and mentally well is appropriately violent as socially defined as good – no matter the violent behavior. The abnormal man-human is defined as socially inappropriately violent – no matter what treatment he gets. Sometimes this is dependent on who gets killed and how socially important they are. An example of this can be seen in women’s history when any woman who was violent was perceived as an unnatural and abnormal woman, even if she used self defense. Was it really socially abnormal for a woman to use self defense? Yes, but just in the same way as it was abnormal for a slave to fight against slaveowners. The mentally ill stereotype often includes an idea that these abnormal people may be violent and unpredictable. A well person is understood to be obedient and cooperate and not violent towards superior man-humans.
This is especially telling because it isn’t so much that the abnormal non-man humans are violent that is so threatening, but that the normal man as superior finds the abnormal man as incomprehensible as well and therefore must position himself in extra defense from not just potential body harm but from what he does not know. This contradicts the stereotype of superior man.
With the abnormal non-man human any utterance spoken is often taken as not credible until proven true. Whereas the normal, man-human is credible with anything that is spoken until proven false.
If you are thinking this isn’t entirely true, you are correct. I am describing stereotypes that are pressure cookers for us. What individuals do with such stereotypes is wide and varied, but it is still absolutely essential that we consider what pressures we live with to be only partly human.
And deviance from the above list of characteristics I’ve described can be understandable due to circumstances for a normal man-human. The field is actually open and free for the man-human. But any deviation from characteristics assigned for the non-man human are incomprehensible and not, never, ever due to circumstances, but instead perceived as some flawed characteristic within the person.
Therefore, any variety of behaviors are acceptable as Man. Any variety of behaviors are unacceptable for the non-man human. Anything can fall into the category of inferior as ill, sick, evil, wrong, stupid, crazy yet these same behaviors manage to be perceived in opposite terms as good, well, divine/sacred, right, intelligence, genus when in the stereotype of man-human.
These days black people, women, disabled, any person can be stereotyped as a man-human or non-man human apart from body markers. By behavior alone. Yet not so. Simultaneously, body markers still inform us who is man or non-man.
These days the layers of complicated ways we see each other can not be described in a whole book, let alone a few paragraphs.
Nonetheless, historically and in today’s world we live with what I have described above in some places and some times. It comes through our media productions and large social institutions that uphold the old mythical ideas about a normal man.
Once a person is labeled as man-human, mentally, well and normal that person remains in the superior category and controls, appropriates others and his life and is perceived well except if, for some reason, he fails to be a man-human and another man-human deems he is not a man-human.
Once a person is labeled as an abnormal, non-man, mentally ill, or defined in other newer ways such as autistic or trans, a person is condemned to the inferior category by many members of society until a man or man-human controls and appropriates the person as officially well and qualified for the man-human label.
Accepting full humanity with an honoring and demanding full respect for all people, all ages, all behaviors, all of what is human would abolish this outdated construction about superior and inferior humans. There is a better way to define humans and the result would be freedom for us all to be fully human; not having to live up to some artificial, man-made acceptable social standard.
And if we can get real about who we are not just against other humans, but against animals and nature as well, we may find our way back to right relationships with the planet and each other that ends the harm and violence we are witnessing today and brings us to a harmony defined beyound man..
Are you in? Are you willing to become fully human, beyond man?
In fact, I have never met anyone who doesn’t want that in some way.
For a quick view, see