The name of our site can be translated, "Know Thyself". The saying is associated by some accounts with Socrates, and is said to have been the inscription above the entrance to the Temple of Apollo at Delphi.
The subject and focus of this Web site is the human male, which we will refer to as "The Boy". If we may modify the old saying, The Boy is Father to the Man. Our reasons for this choice of term and of topic are explained briefly below in our list of Basic Tenets (Theorems) and their Corollaries.
There is no hidden agenda behind this site. Some might feel otherwise, since we touch and skirt around potentially sensitive and controversial issues. Questions and concerns should be sent to us via eMail, and we will attempt to address them as we revise and develop.
Our reason for focusing on the male has everything to do with supporting all people, of enriching each individual, and of advancing humankind. It has nothing to do with any false notion of the superiority of one sex over the other. We focus on males and being male because the authors of this site are male, and we see a need for the presentation of this perspective.
We strongly encourage a similar group of women to mirror this site and focus on The Girl. We are sure that virtually everything presented here has validity for females as well, and as we emphasise elsewhere, one is not more important than the other.
While there is considerable overlap between the experience of being female and that of being male, there are some significant differences. We males cannot know, for example, what menstruation or giving birth feel like, and if we tried to assert any authority on these subjects we should be derided. By the same token, women cannot know what a visible erection or concerns about prostate disease feel like, and it would be laughable (or worse) if they claimed such expertise.
The group (consortium) responsible for the site at its founding in 2007 no longer exists, as three of the individuals departed this life during 2013, quite naturally but nonetheless quite sadly. The original consortium included a developmental psychologist, a musician, a graphic designer, a lawyer, and others. The founder and primary author of the site, Gerald Jones, Ph.D., with help from friends, colleagues and (hopefully) readers, will take full responsibility for it going forward, and may incorporate its features and philosophies into his personal site, exitinterview.biz/ which also was inaugurated in 2007.
Sometimes you will see "We" and sometimes "I" used as the personal pronoun in something written here. Don't worry about it. Several of the original participants have written for publication and have been teachers; one of them was a prisoner. Perhaps one day a (real) book or two will develop from these pages. For now, the site will offer verifiable documentation of claims and statements to establish credibility. Beyond that, you can judge these opinions any way you choose.
We welcome any comments and criticism that is intended to be constructive. If you are inclined to send hate mail, please do the following instead: 1) bend over and 2) stick it up your arse (or, if American, your ass). Yes. a couple of our Web group grew up on the streets, so we are able to be brutally direct once in awhile.
The site will evolve. Visit us often, and share us with your friends, companions and families.
Human behavior flows from two forces: constructive motivation and defensive motivation. Both are present in mixtures in each individual, of course, and each is functional in certain situations. Problems arise when one acts defensively in situations where constructive motivation would serve better, and vice versa. This marvelous duality is proposed in the brilliant work of Stanford University Professors Lee J. Cronbach and Richard E. Snow (1977).
The most important human attribute is humility, as long as it does not involve [psychological] surrender. Suffering is a very helpful and enriching part of child and early adolescent development. Paradoxically, it is unthinkable to wish or impose suffering on any person. The lesson, then, is that we must teach young people positive strategies to deal with and benefit from suffering when it happens. The strategies themselves may be helpful, even in the absence of suffering. Giving the impression that suffering must be avoided at all costs is counterproductive.
In any society that differentiates females and males beyond the physical differences such as genitalia -- and most societies do recognize role/behavioral differences to some degree -- the developing human tends to look to other people of the same sex for cues on how to grow until some time around puberty. At that point, when the capability to reason and think is fully developed -- Jean Piaget (1896-1980) has called this "formal operations" -- humans now gain the ability to realise that they can learn most of what they need to know from persons of either sex. Research on intimacy and friendship patterns consistently has shown that girls' friends tend to be girls, and boys' friends tend to be boys. These patterns continue, though less exclusively, through adulthood.
Relating to the point just above, men in general are sensitive to the process that boys go through in becoming men. Some men are particularly interested in relating to boys and helping them optimize that process of growing up.* Lord Robert Baden-Powell (1857-1941), founder of the Scouting movement; Father Flanagan (1886-1948) of Boys Town (Nebraska, US); and Bob Mitchell (1912-2009), founder of the Mitchell Singing Boys who performed in scores of Hollywood films beginning in the 1930s, are examples of such men who literally devoted their lives to the betterment of boys.
Some have claimed that adults whose lives are more or less child-centered suffer from "arrested development". Some do, and so do some adults who couldn't care less about children, but a life focused on children and their development does not itself imply arrested development. This concept was developed and is believed by people with narrow minds -- first psychiatrists then people in general -- in a feeble attempt to explain those who may be different. A child-centered outlook is better described as a type of social orientation, a personal, individual idea of what's important in life. Nurses typically believe their main purpose is to help sick people; many day-care workers feel it is their "calling" to devote their time and energy to toddlers. These are social orientations, not examples of arrested development. Volunteering to work with permanently disabled people does not mean that one wishes to be disabled. Likewise, enjoying the company of children is not automatically the same as wanting to be a child.
It is said of some children that they are so wise they seem to have an "Old Soul". Perhaps the man who enjoys associating with and helping younger males can be said to have a "Young Soul". And again, as noted elsewhere on this Web site, the same is likely true for women and girls.
(Our thanks to TomCat for helping to develop the concept of the "Young Soul".)
(*Some others are interested in exploiting boys, and they are not included in this point nor are their actions condoned by the group that publishes this Web site.)
Human development has only two stages -- childhood and adolescence. All other transitions and substages are just milestones within these two processes. This idea is summed up in a wise saying, the source of which is unknown, fixed to the wall in the studio of the late Paul Beaver (1928-1976, an American musician and sound engineer in the 1970s): "An adult is just a Dead Child". In a way, childhood is the journey to the City, and adolescence is building one's home and tending one's garden in the City. The marvelous gateway is puberty.
It takes a village ( Hillary Rodham Clinton [born 1947] was right). The human capacity for making sense of one's environment is not unlimited, nor can it depend on one or two caretakers as if in a vacuum. The rearing of children requires input and cooperation from people inside and outside of family. The continued nurturing of human beings at all ages, moreover, must take place in relatively small groups. The prospect of a world-sized community joined by mass media is simply too large and overwhelming for human beings. Said differently, for optimum human development two is too few, and six billion is too many. A better concept is a world-sized community of villages.
As children develop toward puberty and enter adolescence, we must put less emphasis on protecting them from the world, and put more emphasis on preparing them for the world. Protection is stifling. Preparation is empowering and energizing and motivating.
No law can protect youth from seduction.
Only instruction can do that.
--John Henry Mackay (1864-1933),
"Gehoer! Nur einen Augenblick! Ein Schrei"
["Listen! Only a Moment! A Cry"](1907)
translated by Dr Hubert Kennedy
(some other translations have "enlightenment" in place of "instruction")
Intergenerational contact and interaction is essential. Peer interactions are useful and probably necessary, but too narrow to provide the "nutrients" necessary for full growth. The benefit of intergenerational contact also works in both directions. For the young it provides breadth and depth of life experience without the need to learn it completely by trial and error, a technique for which one lifespan is never enough time. For the old it provides an antidote for the waning motivation and the decline of abilities that is inevitable as we age. In short, it gives the young structure and substance, and it gives the old support and sustenance. For both it can be invigorating.
One can then wonder why there is enormous pressure in Western society to keep the generations apart, and to emphasize peer interactions as the ideal route to development. Those who doubt this is true can consider how people always notice (and comment, and gossip) when older women and younger men (or "vice versa") "hook up", or how the education of young people is strictly controlled in every way, and assigned, at least in recent years, to women only as teachers and parents. Perhaps the reason Western society compartmentalizes the generations is the same reason it tends to perpetuate poverty and keep wealth in the hands of the few. Perhaps the unspoken fear of the culture is that society might spin out of control if the wealth is shared, or if the life-power inherent in intergenerational interaction is unleashed on too many youngsters.
Terminology is very important. An adolescent is not a child. If you really believe that the word "child" applies equally to a 5-year-old and to a 15-year-old, then the word loses all its meaning, and you are ignoring the fundamental differences that puberty brings. We are also doing a disservice to both the 5-year-old and the 15-year-old if society treats them the same.
Children and adolescents are the property of no-one, any more than adults can be owned by others. Kahlil Gibran (1883-1931) said it brilliantly in The Prophet (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1923, p.17):
Feminism is a good and necessary social process, long overdue. Unfortunately, powered by an instantly global media machine, the process is moving too quickly for the human race to absorb. One result is what some call male-bashing, a process of portrayal -- in television advertisements, film plots, &c. -- in which for some reason someone always has to "win" and someone always has to "lose". The winner is virtually always the female. Of course, this inequality will even out over time, but on a human scale of many millennia it may take generations. In the meantime, i.e., now and here, the males who must endure this humiliation will suffer the consequences, and society, including females, will be the worse for it.
In general, there is a huge disconnect between the present media-saturated technological society and all previous human history. In other words, much of what it means to be human was relatively constant until about the 1970s, and now some very basic things have changed dramatically in a very short time. Natural evolution -- accomodation, adaptation, if you will -- is going to happen, but we have to understand that it's going to take generations, not months, to re-wire our instincts.
The contemporary media-driven disconnect requires particular attention to how we view, evaluate and use the past. Because of the new power of instant worldwide communication, those who understand how to use it can also easily misuse it. Manipulation of the minds and behaviour of huge numbers of people by means of advertising and other techniques has never been easier. One common technique is often referred to as revisionist history, which in simple terms is the practice of lying about the past. This is different from omissions or mistakes made by incompetent historians, and is the complete opposite of the legitimate practice of challenging long-held views and assumptions with new, rigorous and verifiable scholarship. Revisionist history is the intentional (though sometimes subconscious) modification or suppression of evidence from the past in order to support a contemporary point of view that otherwise may be unsupportable. It can be practiced by individuals, even groups of people or whole societies. A perfect example is the often-heard claim that the Holocaust of the mid-XXth century, in which millions of Jews and others considered undesirable were exterminated under the Third Reich in Germany, never happened.
Revisionist history is an unacceptable, heinous and ultimately dangerous practice that cannot be tolerated. It is essential that History instruction at all levels of education include not only facts and timelines, but information about how history is discovered, documented and presented, so that young people will be able to identify and, if necessary, crucify those who might try to manipulate their thoughts and impressions about the past without verifiable evidence.
Spirituality within an individual is beautiful. Organised religion is probably more damaging than helpful if accepted uncritically.
Religious doctrine and secular philosophy are, paradoxically, both wrong and necessary. They deal with the unknowable, but help people approach understanding of the unknowable. The rest of the journey is up to the individual and will be lifelong.
Diversity is essential. Conformity is a killer. We must be prepared to accept as many different types of humans as there are humans on the earth. Of course, there won't be that many different ways of life or identifiable individual styles, but we must never give in to the tendency to believe we've seen or that we know all the types there are.
Homophobia must be eradicated. It is harmful to heterosexuals as well as homosexuals. Compulsory heterosexuality (a term popularised by Adrienne Rich [1929-2012]) is destructive as well. Heterosexuality will always be the majority preference. It does not need encouragement, nor do alternative lifestyles need to be exterminated in order for the human race to continue.
There is a social ecology at work, and life will take care of itself the way it needs to. Discovering and realizing one's calling, or "niche" in this ecology is perhaps the only truly meaningful human endeavour. This idea has been part of human wisdom probably since the beginning. For example, the Rev Dr Rick Warren (born 1954) draws on many biblical sources to support the notion that "Each of us was uniquely designed, or 'shaped' to do certain things. "(The Purpose-Driven Life, Grand Rapids MI: Zondervan, 2002, p.234). (Rev Warren's elaboration of this principle may be limited by his contemporary Christian world-view, but the idea is much greater than any individual's conception of it.)
Monogamy may not be essential for humans, and may not necessarily be a requirement for healthy families.
With regard to children and teenagers, abuse is not the same as molestation is not the same as sexual contact with peers and older partners. Many people, especially in Western societies such as the UK and America, consider all these to be undesirable (to say the least), and their disapproval needs to be respected. Still, these are different behaviors that come about in different ways, are motivated by different factors, and affect the participants in different ways. They must be discussed, considered and researched separately if we are to understand and deal with them effectively.
Rape is not sexual behavior. Force, coercion, abuse of power, and trickery are wrong. Statutory rape is not rape, it is prohibited sexual contact. Using the term "rape" in that context dilutes the force and meaning of the concept.
Each human life hangs, like a charm, on Life's unending necklace. Life comes in one side and goes out the other, and the necklace connects us to the universe.