For the third or fourth time in just a few weeks, there is a brick in the pit of my stomach when I watch the news or hear about it. Tonight, as a man who feels strongly about what it means to be a man, I knew i had to listen to the harrowing testimonies and police audio recording of the very sick and troubled Harvey Weinstein trying to sexually assault and harass a young woman pleading with him to stop.
And I knew I had to say something about it. Tonight, I can't just put up cute photos of Gus and Fate and Red.
I used to have long talks with my friend Paul Moshimer about what it means to be a man, he was, to me, a good man and a real man. I could not have imagined that it was the last conversation Paul and I ever had.
We talked well into the night once about what we thought it meant. Paul tried hard to be a loving and caring man, perhaps he felt too much, and despaired, he took his own life just weeks after our midnight talk. I have always thought of him as a fallen warrior, a hero of sorts, he died trying.
I have nothing to add to the media frenzy, the outrage, the mob howling, the self-serving moralizing, the wrenching and brave admissions swirling around. I hate mobs.
I wasn't there, I know nothing more than you can read and see, perhaps less. What I read and heard was sickening and heart-breaking. Those women…
I do remember my last conversations with Paul about men, it has stayed with me, and shaped my marriage, my life and my consciousness. When I came home that night, I wrote some notes down, and put them away. I did not imagine I would use them in this way.
Our conversation was simple, it was about the men we wished to be. What does a real man do and not do?
Our very partial and incomplete list:
A real man is nurturing, not hurtful.
A real man encourages, he does not diminish,
A real man listens, and accepts what he hears.
A real man reaches for the softness in his soul,
and pulls it to the surface.
A real man does not control,
A real man steps out of the way,
he is never a warrior for his failed and bloody past.
A real man accepts change and the new order,
he does not fight only for himself.
A real man protects the people and women in his life,
he is strong without being fearsome,
caring without smothering.
A real man cries,
and reveals his heart.
A real man remembers the small things,
and drinks from the cup of humility.
A real men understands that no is no,
not ever yes.
He speaks softly, he does not shout,
he is never proud of his power.
A real man cares for the poor and
the vulnerable, he cares for
A real man prays that on his tombstone,
the people he loved carve,
"he always supported us, he always lifted us up,
and gave us strength."
A real man does not traffic in fear,
but in dignity and respect.
A real man is a warrior for peace and life,
not conquest or domination.
That was what Paul and I decided real men ought to try to be, shortly before he died.
Now, it seems somewhat arrogant and almost foolish to me, more hubris.
But it does make me want to cry when I read it, and I did a bit. And it is the kind of man I want to be, and have tried to be, and am trying to be, and will try to be tomorrow.
I do not know why Paul killed himself, but he told me he thought he had often failed to be the man he wanted to be. He seemed very sad about this, his past was troubled.
And I know how heartbroken he was at the dread destruction men were and are wreaking on the world, and on so many women and children.
Perhaps he despaired at what he saw other men do and believe.
We can not live harmlessly, or perfectly, or selfishly and entirely at our own expense, wrote Wendell Berry in a wonderful essay on the responsibility of men to the world.
"To live, we must daily break the body and shed the blood of Creation. When we do this knowingly, lovingly, skillfully, reverently, it is a sacrament. When we do it ignorantly, greedily, clumsily, destructively, it is a desecration. In such desecration we condemn ourselves to spiritual and moral loneliness, and others to want."
I know I can't say it better than Berry did, but that is the tragedy of Harvey Weinstein, and of so many men he evokes, the ghosts and spirits of broken men hang over the earth like a dark cloud, spiritual and moral loneliness will follow them all of their lives.