Music has a clear and special function in the pursuit of manliness. Music, especially in my generation, has an active role in enhancing manly awareness. It is in touch with men’s lives in a broad manner of diverse ways. One of its major functions is as a freeing catalyst with the ability to turn loose the emotional power of reaching out and expressing themselves, a skill that most men find needs lots of attention to develop. Music is powerful in aiding that development because music is the sound of emotion. Every song is a poem with the added dimension of fitted sound, just as poems are songs without music. But since men are rarely encouraged to express their inner feelings until they are in a relationship, and it appears as a sudden, undiscussed expectation, we usually find ourselves all too aware of a strong stirring inside, but with no bridge to connect that feeling to the outside. It is not unlike asking a man to give you his favorite recipe. It is a foreign concept in both instances, and will give you a chance to see what his face looks like if you ever began speaking to him in Sanskrit.
Music intensifies the emotion of a moment on as many levels as we are willingly open to express, and for men, who have few clues about how to express emotions, outside of pain and anger, it is a frustrating mystery that music helps to solve. It is little wonder that it has been described as that which “can soothe the savage beast” because savage beasts are not known for their ease of communicating. If men want to be a conscious participant in experiencing connections with people, or contributing to the amount of joy in the world, we have to take responsibility for learning and honing the skill of expression. Music, by its poetic lyrics, and by the complexity of its melodic sounds, gives us a way to do that. Music provides us with a blueprint for expressing our emotions. It uniquely creates the missing bridge; opening a special door that connects us with others or with an event. Music is so closely aligned with feeling, and men are so removed from easily expressing feelings, that it is both a tool of blessing and a tempting danger.
If we want to take credit for having feelings, we have to take responsibility for demonstrating that those feelings are ours, and that means learning to say out loud what we silently know is inside us. While music can be the voice of our emotion in a burst of pride for a remarkable accomplishment; or describe the desolate isolation of a crushing rejection; or frame our vulnerability in a moment of shared tender excitement, such as the feelings that are at the heart of loving and being loved, it must contribute to our learning how to speak with our own voice, describe with our own thoughts, and be vulnerable, if we sincerely wish to pursue manliness.
It can be an agent of personal alchemy that takes us from our cold wanderings to the warm awe of happiness, but only if we choose to use its power to help ourselves to our own manhood. In the pursuit of manliness, then, we are required to learn how to own the act of being aware of our feelings, and practicing building the bridge from those feelings out into the world through which we move. Music is a special tool in the construction and maintenance of that bridge, if we are choosing to act in a manly fashion.
Music has always had a central role in my life. I think it has always had an elevated status in the lives of my whole generation. Growing up in the 1960’s we gained the link to each others souls by being able to ride the way music expressed our common hopes, our commitments to each other, and to making a better way of living, by bolstering our resolve to change how the world worked. It was a living puzzle piece of our naivete, and a snug fit into our youthful exuberance. It was key to our pursuit of a “higher ground” as one 1973 song put it, which made it an essential element in the process of identifying who we were and who we were willing to become as men.
It still has a special mystical and spiritual contribution to make in the pursuit of manliness all these years later. If examples help us see that, then consider this. It serves us through the classical contributions of Rachmaninoff’s 18th Variation on a Theme of Paginini, when we feel the melancholy of loss; in Addinsell’s Warsaw Concerto, when we are moved to struggle with courage; in Ravell’s Bolero, when we acknowledge our humble position in the relentlessness of creation; and a host of other emotions ranging from giddy joy, through humility, to gratitude in Mozart’s many works of genius. Through music we can dip our manly soul into hope, and examine our spirits through ballads like Tony Bennett’s The Best is Yet to Come, Michael Buble’s Feeling Good, Harry Chapin’s Cats in The Cradle, and hundreds of driving R&B songs from Keb Mo, Michael Jackson, Aretha Franklin, Stevie Wonder, Bill Withers, The Pointer Sisters, Gladys Knight, Ray Charles, and on, and on.
I realize there are also songs we sing just to have fun being simultaneously silly and musical; songs like Wooly Bully; The One-eyed, One-horned, Flying Purple People Eater; and An Itsy-Bitsy, Teeny-Weeny, Yellow Polka Dot Bikini, or all of Ray Stevens laughter-generating songs. But as too many of us forget as we age, having fun and being silly is a legitimate and beneficial way to express ourselves as men.
All I’m really saying today is this. The music in men is a critical tool, with a never-ending value in the pursuit of manliness.
This month’s recipe is for something that goes well with any form of music,
Grandma Turvey’s Hershey Pie.
You’ll need: 1 pie shell, 20 large marshmallows, 2/3 cup whole milk, 4 Hershey bars or 5 oz. Hershey chocolate, 1 cup whipped cream, 1 cup of pecans.
1. Melt the marshmallows and chocolate in milk, and let it cool.
2. Gently fold in the whipped cream and pecans.
3. Pour it all in the pie shell and refrigerate until cold and firm.
4. When it’s chilled sufficiently, put on your favorite music, turn the lights down, and share it while you snuggle. No one to snuggle with? You might consider re-reading this month’s blog and working on the skill of expressing yourself, ……..I’m just sayin’.