I want you to do me one favor.
I want you to hit me as hard as you can.
What do you want me to do? You want me to hit you?
C’mon, do me this one favor.
Why? I don’t know why. I don’t know. Never been in a fight, you?
No, but that’s a good thing.
No, it is not! How much can you know about yourself if you’ve never been
in a fight? I don’t want to die without any scars.
Infamous lines from an infamous
movie. It examines the current state of manhood in light of the blurred definitions
gender roles in modern society and, therefore,
personal relationships. Fight Club is all confused angst and bitter
soliloquies, but it expresses some authentic emotions. Contrast that with another
movie starring Brad Pitt. Troy is
all about larger-than-life men doing hypermasculine things, knowing exactly their
role and reveling in it. These men shaped history, steered kingdoms, fought battles,
and died gloriously. Troy is not a great movie by any standard, but I must confess that
it forced me to contemplate my own life in relation to Hector and Achilles.
It’s not really a fair comparison, I know. These men were mythic in their
proportions, probably because they
now exist only in myth. But they fought wars, knew no fear, and faced extreme
circumstances head-on without even blinking. I, on the other hand, have never
been in a fight and have never been called upon to defend myself or my family
from anything scarier than a couple of stray dogs. If the heroes of the Trojan
war were real men, then what am I?
When I examine these guys a little more closely, though, I see something different.
Why did they fight? Hector fought because
he was the crown prince of Troy. He fought for his people, though I think he
fought mostly for his own sense of honor. <<Note: Spoilers
follow.>> Achilles kills Hector in
one-on-one combat because Hector killed his cousin
Hector’s fight did nothing to protect
the citizens of Troy. In fact, it robbed them of their strongest leader. It
robbed his wife of a husband and his son of a father. He could have refused
the fight. He could have yelled
over the wall, "I’ll see you on the battlefield." Or even, "Here’s
an arrow in the ankle for your troubles." But he accepted Achilles’ challenge,
for no reason other than his own code of honor, which I think boils down to
is a terrible
reason to fight and a worse reason to die.
Achilles, on the other hand, fought for nothing but his own glory. At first,
he didn’t want to fight in the Trojan war. He despised his king and hated the
idea of fighting under his command. His mother, an immortal nymph, told him
that if he did not go to war,
you will find peace. You will find a wonderful
woman, and you will have sons and daughters, who will have children. And
they’ll all love you and remember your name. But when your children are dead,
children after them, your name will be forgotten… If you go to Troy,
glory will be yours. They will write stories about your victories for thousands
of years. And the world will remember your name. But if you go to Troy, you
never come back… for your glory walks hand-in-hand with your doom. And
I shall never see you again.
And that’s why he goes to war: to die so his
will live on. But what good is your name to you when you’re dead? It
might do good to others if you die for a cause, but to fight and to die for
but your own glory can’t be the definition of manhood.
What is the definition of manhood, then? When King David was about to die,
he gave his son Solomon some excellent
I am going the way of all the earth. Be strong, therefore, and show yourself
a man. Keep the charge of the LORD your God, to walk in His ways, to keep His
statutes, His commandments, His ordinances, and His testimonies, according
to what is written in the Law of Moses, that you may succeed in all that
you do and wherever you turn.
Of course, following God and keeping his commandments is not restricted to
men, but only by following
and obeying him can I be the man and, by extension, the husband and father
he intended me to be. Which in turn brings to mind the greatest story ever
or resentment. He is the ultimate role model, the ultimate man because—unlike
Achilles—he really was both God and man. He was the physical manifestation
of everything a man should be because he followed God perfectly. His glory
walked hand-in-hand with his obedience…and his victory. That’s why, when
confronted with a momentous decision, I never ask myself, "What would Hector