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URL:  http://boards.fool.com/wendy-i-dont-know-the-answer-to-your-question-18165003.aspx

Subject:  Re: OT: Jim Died at Work Yesterday Date:  11/17/2002  4:04 PM
Author:  imcharliehm Number:  5250 of 35400

Wendy,

I don't know the answer to your question, as I don't know the answer to mine: Why the same analytic skills and pride of workmanship, the same attention to proper usage and preventive maintenance, that makes them excellent mechanics and engineers isn't applied to the machine that matters most, namely their own bodies. But let's grant your premise that such irrational behavior over health issues is especially a male failing and look for possible sources.

A trivial place to begin would be Red Green's “The Men's Prayer”:

We are men.
But we can change.
If we have to.
I guess.
with its suggestion that change really isn't going to happen, because making those changes would mean becoming, if not a non-man, then at least less of one in the eyes of oneself and peers. That might be the essence of any argument that could be made, that the cultural notion of “maleness” sets goals to aspire to and behaviors to avoid, and that minimizing risk --in lifestyle choices or in investment choices, to attempt to make this relevant to the focus of this board-- isn't a manly thing to do. (E.g., why is day trading so exclusively a male choice? How much of my attraction to junk bonds can be rationally defended, and how much is driven by the same bravado bordering on hubris that sends expeditions to Everest or solo voyages around the world?)

Where does this culture of “maleness” come from?

Everyone will have their favorite resources, but mine are the classic texts. A couple a weeks ago, when I was trying to understand this nation's rush into yet another war, I went back to The Iliad, thinking it might provide answers, but I couldn't finish it, so stupid was the premise of the conflict, so horrific the consequences. Ten years of death and destruction over an insult to someone's honor? And this is a story which defines Western civilization's values, that is the first text of The Great Books series?

I can still remember my freshmen seminars and admiration then we were supposed to feel for their warrior deeds. Now I am simply horrified, as well as think the craft of the story weak. (If you want a swiftly-told epic of blood and guts, of heroic but futile choices, try instead The Battle of Maldon, an Anglo-Saxon “battle of the Alamo” for those unfamiliar with the fragment. Beowulf could be added to the string of texts that would form one strand of an investigation or argument, just as Aristotle's Poetics would launch another, ending perhaps with Jung's and Joseph Campbell's work. Plato's Republic and his Dialogs would launch a third. A fourth would be comparative enthnology, ending with the Spock's and Data's of modern science fiction), etc., all of which would be dealing with “the meaning of life” –- even if from the admittedly restricted viewpoint of secular humanism, much less the more demanding journey through the world's major wisdom traditions. But that's way more ambitious a project than a week-end's effort, and way more exposition than could be sensibly accomplished even in an on-going series of posts.

The short of it? I don't know the answer to your question or mine, but I suspect that some level deeper than mere utility or commonsense is the fact that our human flaws are an inescapable part of being human, contributing both to our greatness and to our failings, hence Spock's constant surprise at Kirk's choices and begrudging admiration of them, hence our myths, legends, and heroes, and, yes, our denials, too, which opentolearn correctly pointed as well. It is futile to rail against human imperfections, but very human to do so. So I can honor and love Jim for who he was, as he was and also wish his choices had been different.

Charlie

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