A Good Man Is Hard Find
That might seem like an odd title for a blog post. It’s also an odd title for a short story. And yet, it is the title for one of my favorite short stories by Flannery O’Connor. More importantly, finding good men is a very real problem today, not only in our culture, but in our media. Media is more often than not filled with bad men. Many young people lack the role models they need to get ahead in life, opting out of a successful academic or vocational career in their twenties for playing video games in the basements of their parents. That might seem like a joke or maybe even a cliche. I wish it was. But it is in fact our new reality.
And why not? Life is tough. Video games, movies, internet chatrooms, aren’t. There’s no danger within the safe confines of these virtual worlds. But they are only virtual worlds. Men lose something when they opt out of real life, real danger, for these substitutes.
An Adventure Waiting to Happen
Not all adventures look the same. If you look at the heading for my blog page, you’ll see that the heading I chose is “adventure starts here”. Really? In a blog? Sure. Creativity can very much be the start of a great adventure. Once you make something, and people begin to enjoy it, you never know where that adventure might take you. It can get you into a lot of trouble, even. Which is a good thing. A life without trouble isn’t worth living.
Wherever your launch-point, there is never a wrong time for adventure. We were made for more than comfort. In fact, we were made for adventure.
I had time to ruminate on this two years ago. I was in Texas, wandering around Dallas and even over in Arkansas, thinking about adventure. We went out at night — Dallas has a great bar scene — and we had a great time. And while I was there, my overly long hair tied back in a pony-tail, I thought about this concept of masculinity. I was also reading a book that my friend gave me called Wild at Heart.
The main idea in that book is about viewing masculinity in a new way. That there are things inherent to being a man, that we desire, that are often leveraged in the wrong way — ways that harm us. At the core of each man are three things — an adventure to be lived, a desire for battle, and a beauty to be saved. When we pursue these things in our lives, we become happier, better versions of ourselves.
Masculinity — A Hot Button Issue Today
Masculinity is a confusing topic today, to say the least. It is such a controversial topic, in fact, that people who talk about it are harpooned. And it’s spoken about to young people so infrequently that books on the topic become bestsellers. Young people are hungry for guidance.
This isn’t helped by the fact that we have very bad role models in the news everyday proving the shortcomings of men. Many young people grow up without fathers, or with very removed fathers. Our society often does not entice people to follow the edicts of these three aims at the core of human hearts. What’s more, many people are wounded throughout the course of their lives in irreparable ways.
However, what if there was a way to still overcome these things, and live a life that stayed true to who you are, regardless of the many challenges in your way?
Masculinity and Conversion in A Good Man is Hard to Find
I want to tie these two topics together for a moment — Flannery O’Connor and her A Good Man is Hard to Find and the three things at the heart of everyman. I want to talk about them together because combining these two themes is at the heart of my new book, He Runs with Lions. Ultimately, these two themes have a lot to do with one another.
If you haven’t read A Good Man is Hard to Find, you should right now (spoilers below). In fact, you should read any of O’Connor’s works because they are brilliant. They’re also a bit odd, which makes them even more brilliant. O’Connor had a way of looking at the world that was incredibly strange. And only a very strange way of looking at the world makes any sense, these days.
To oversimplify the story, A Good Man is about a gunman who executes an entire family. It’s an odd story because it’s told from the point of view of the grandma. And the grandma is horrible. She’s a control freak, and manipulative, and just the worst kind of person. That is, up until she’s about to be killed by the gunman. In that moment, she has a conversion. She changes right before her death.
The gunman, meanwhile, seems to change a little from the experience as well. Even back then when Flannery O’Connor was kicking around Georgia (she was born in 1925), people had problems. The gunman, called “The Misfit” never fit in. He’s a lot like these guys you see on the news who do terrible things because they were let down by society. But he’s also like the guys today who feel lost, who spend hours in their parent’s basements playing video games instead of pursuing an adventure.
Changing Your Way of Thinking Could Change Your Life
I think a lot of us are like the old woman, or the misfit. We’ve either got it good and are comfortable, and it takes some real danger to make us wake up to what we’re missing out on, or we’re so screwed up we don’t think we can change.
In my new book, I wanted to express in story how seeking to find your true, masculine, dangerous self — to put in the words of Wild at Heart — can help lead you to your greater purpose. It’s a message that seems to be in dire need. A beauty to be saved, a battle to be fought, an adventure to be lived — these themes are all present in my new novel. So is this theme that Flannery O’Connor is the master of — that conversions and changes of heart can happen in the most strange, unlikely places: at a carnival freak show, or by the side of the road with a misfit gunman.
Originally published at https://www.josephwriteranderson.com on April 23, 2020.