Men & Our Epidemic

by | May 3, 2023 | Essays, Essays to Myself

People see my problem solving philosophy as one dimensional – a hammer treating every problem as if it were a nail. They suggest that I fail to distinguish the nuance in the variety of challenges and problems men face in modern living. They like to point out that technology has changed the world and the problems in it. Nothing could be further from the truth; the hu(man) condition remains the hu(man) condition.
For a time, I shrugged it off, but what was once a string of anecdotal evidence I observed over many years now looks very much like an epidemic among men over the age of thirty – with very serious “infection” rates in men of forty years old. The epidemic can best be described as predominantly impacting: “men over forty, having invested a significant amount of time and effort into a career (or pursuit), and having attained a level of achievement, look back and find their lives have been bereft of meaning.” Their time spent seeking advancement was, in truth, a wasted opportunity to discover and exercise their unique purpose in this life, and the truth of this has crashed down upon them with the weight of regret.

Today, a surprising number of young men, who are wisely looking ahead, see the pitfalls with errant investments of time and effort in pursuits that ultimately obfuscate purpose. These young men see the folly in taking on too many financial responsibilities that often act as a forcing function in pigeonholing men into careers to service their ever mounting obligations.

Yet, these same young men struggle to find any appreciable meaning or purpose – often confusing a trending or global cause in which to invest themselves as a solution to a uniquely personal issue that cannot be solved by fixing any other problem (no matter how great or important). Some of these young men ultimately say – screw it – and live through a surrender to escapism, pretending that nothing matters because the size and scope of the challenges in finding purpose in life appears insurmountable – therefore nothing means anything. So why try?

These men all experience symptoms of the same disease – a lack of meaning from living out a unique purpose guided by their unique making..

What’s the big deal?

To put it plainly, seeking and living out purpose is the means by which we begin to fix our broken selves. Once purpose is injected into life, we are then subsequently able to expand and powerfully support others around us. In much the same way the airline industry insists that adults first put on their oxygen masks before trying to assist their children, men must address a fundamental issue with themselves that, once addressed, will make their ability to help others much more potent. Without some resolution, our attempts at helping others will likely end up in the proverbial ditch.

Some might disagree, saying the meaning of life is what you make it. But, I would argue, if you make life devoid of meaning and without purpose, what could that life be other than a cautionary tale to others?

Each of us in our unique making, has the capacity to live out a unique purpose. In Man’s Search for Meaning, Victor Frankl wrote, “​​“Ultimately, man should not ask what the meaning of his life is, but rather must recognize that it is he who is asked.” In this, Frankl also says, life is asking you, what is your meaning? And I join Frankl in asking, what is your unique purpose? To find it is of paramount importance and the key to everything you never knew you always wanted.

Finally, I want to invite you to consider, to really contemplate, what living with purpose might do for you and the world around you. How would your life be different? What would your legacy look like? How would purpose create meaning in your life?

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