The modern male identity is fragmented. Men are expected to be breadwinners and protectors, yet the courage and strength required to fulfill these roles has been pathologized as "toxic masculinity" by the academic influencers of our culture. Being a man has always meant taking on a certain way of being. It has always meant putting on a mask: a mask of traditional masculinity that gave men purpose, power, and a sense of meaning. It made him dangerous, respected, and worthy of love.
Society wants us to take the mask off.
Men feel isolated, sometimes depressed to the point of sexual isolation or suicide. Deep down, men want to wear the mask, because they know that there is honor in wearing it. As men, no one knows who we are until we put on the mask.
But without a group a man can be accountable to, he has no mask to wear. He is without a role, and without the constraints that make improvement within a role possible.
He is alone.
Once man finds a group, he has an us. He knows who he accountable to, and in what ways he can bring value to others. He can orient himself, and can determine a direction worth moving in.
Interacting with the group is an ongoing social negotiation. Everyone is constantly trying to figure out where they fit, what works and what doesn't, in the collective pursuit of the shared vision. Some members fade away, while others prove themselves. Each member gradually develops a sense of stability in the external world as he begins to understand the other men in his life. As the group accomplishes more together, the individual members begin to trust one another.
When shit hits the fan, the members of the group learn that we grow the most when things go wrong. Real brotherhood arises more from shared suffering than from shared enjoyment, because real understanding comes from pain, not pleasure.
Within the context of the group--united by a common mission and shared values, and bonded by endurance through real hardships--males can become men who feel like men. Meaningful individuality becomes possible through sincere purpose that justifies risk and sacrifice. The man within the group begins to understand what he is capable of. Slowly, cautiously, his confidence grows in tandem with his abilities.
Life takes on a different hue. It looks essentially the same, but with deeper clarity and intensity. The world does not feel as though it's passing by behind a windshield or on a screen. The man in a group is not an observer, but a participant; a motivated actor who is empowered by his tribe. His actions--successes or failures--really matter. And that makes all the difference.
At the end of the day, he has a meaningful answer to the one challenge that every life must face: who cares?
Not everyone will care, but that was never the point.
If you aren't shivering from the cold with other freezing mavericks, drinking Jameson, and yelling until your lungs are empty, you weren't the audience anyways.
And if he is good, spirited, and a little lucky, some ember from his life might smolder on after he dies, for some other young man to pick up as his torch and carry on into the future.