On Raising A Boy

There is a little monster inside men. It rages and hungers for violence, in a constant pitched battle with those other elements inside who speak clarion calls for righteousness and protection and peace. 

That rage is evident from the first screams out of mother’s womb. Will it molest my boy, my son? Will he be consumed by the monster inherent within each of our kind, given over to vice and frustration and the death sentence that silence truly is? Stoicism, they used to call it. In reality it is loneliness, cruel and isolating. Today, in the avarice of our culture, we are busy enough to make glib excuses for boys who become men who act like boys. He’s a playboy. Man-child (a comedy!). Finding his way. But inner demons is more to the mark. 

My job, so far as I can fathom, as a father, is to temper the beast within my son. Not to crush or eliminate it … no, he will need to call upon that devil deep down from time to time, open the vault a crack and let some of that ill, sulfuric vapor to waft out, when infernal things must be done. In defense. In justice. In war. But it cannot leech into his heart or embed its barbed claws in the otherwise tranquil and fertile grounds of his soul, that eternal mirror of conscience. The boy, and hopefully I, must reserve that basin to be filled with love, humility, and empathy. His soul is his reserve from which to draw on as a human being who builds and carries, one with less striking but more listening. It is the well he must dwell into in times of crises and doubt, and I want that reflection staring back at him to be one of integrity he can be proud to see.

When I look at the boy, as he yells insults at me because I am for now the force that prevents his id from absolute reign, I see the towering teenager he will become, lean and handsome, burning with the embers of all of life’s many desires and urges and emotional, urgent, eternal possibilities, and I know a fist now will come back then. Maybe not to me, but to another, lesser creature. Another boy. A woman. Any weaker, less defensible person. Or even someone more than his equal, who answers with the unthinkable outcome. My lessons must be moderation, kindness, grace.

How does one dispense grace to a sniveling brat with snot running from one nostril and emphatic horrors flying from his mouth at full pitch after slamming down the object you bought as a gift, the waves of anger passing over across your dignity, your principles, buffeting against your unfettered capacity to one handedly knock his body into the ground until he begs for mercy?

A pinch, a slap, a gentle wrestle down are as far as I have dared to push into this dark room, the sign hanging crookedly over the door reading, “He that spareth the rod hatheth his son.” Indeed. I recall my childhood beatings, administered by my single mother from the family breadboard with the thin leather hand strap. Did I act in accord out of fear of punishment? Or was it, rather, out of love for my mother and a deep desire to make her happy? Because what is love between a son and his parent, if only fear? God how I wanted my mother to be happy. 

My son rages against me, swinging wildly. I step to the side and slightly encourage with his forward momentum and he collapses down in a tumble and then the rage monster flees him and the tears take hold, the sobbing, heaving body of a bony six year old who needs hugs.

Behind the Closed Door

We’ve all seen it, we’ve all been there. That spot on the path leading up to an arched doorway. We tried the handle, turned the knob, pushed on the panel and found it locked to us.

I don’t mean the door to the bathroom at 7:30AM when you just woke up and your little sister is on the other side combing hair for her collection of dolls to get them ready for the day. I mean that big, mean, monster door that lies smack dab in the middle of the metaphorical path in life you have been traveling, and it put all your progress along that road to a halt. You’re not getting through.

You can bang on the door all you want. You can get clever and try to pick the lock, burn it down, knock it in. Beg, plead, and sit in a hump of tears. But you are not getting through. Maybe it is a timed lock like in the Maze Runner and it’ll open later if you wait around long enough. Maybe it is a sign of something else. Maybe a sign that you’ve reached the end of this road, even if you don’t think so or aren’t ready to take another path.

I only wish there were real doors we could come across as we undertake our life’s journey. Without one, it is sometimes so difficult to understand when we are banging our heads against a wall, or a closed door, and need to figure out a new way. There are so many messages available for us to tune into, if we choose, that tell us what we might want to hear instead of describing reality. The door will open soon if you just persevere. The door is a test. It’s the door’s fault for being closed in the first place. Or … there is no door, it’s just your imagination.

But sometimes, regardless of fault or perspiration or talent, there is a door and it is closed and it is not going to open for us and we won’t probably ever even know why. It is just the reality we need to deal with.

So how will you deal with your door being closed? Will you fall into a heap and sob? Will you bang tirelessly in a fury on the wooden plates? Will you shout at the sky in blame and accusation? Or will you inquire what it means to you that the path you thought was the only way is closed, consider the alternate routes, examine a new way to approach your goals?

In the end, we will all have a door closed to us in life, and yes, even in the morning when we expect to use the bathroom. the challenge to each of us is what do we do with our predicament so that we keep moving forward instead of losing our momentum. What will you do when you come across that closed door?

Wanting an Impossible Burger

A year ago, my wife brought home a packet of Beyond Meat burgers. These are the plant-based protein patties that have been engineered to replicated ground beef, but contain no beef in them. They even go so far as to include runny red beet juice to simulate bleeding rare beef. I know, you’re saying “eww gross” but, I mean, isn’t that what the meat we’ve all grown up eating is?

I threw them on the grill and was instantly overwhelmed by a horrible odor that clung to me for the duration of the cooking process. I could not shake the smell and it really ruined the experience – I couldn’t taste the product for what it was, I was just stung by that nasty smell that stuck to me the entire time. Even now, a year later, my skin shakes a bit just recalling it.

I read this morning about the Impossible Burger, which uses not beet juice but soy heme – the stuff that makes our blood red – to duplicate that substantive maw of eating animal flesh. And hey, the tasters say it works! The protein patties are rolling out to White Castles and Burger King’s nation wide. Suddenly, it looks like we have a legitimate product hitting the market that folks can opt for that isn’t beef.

Why char grilled sandwich lovers want to do that? Because (we’ve all heard this a dozen times by now) making consumable protein from cows is terribly inefficient. It takes a relatively outsized portion of water, grain, land, and oil to churn out those industrialized red meat patties. And nothing says yum like knowing a corporate owned, robot-filled factory is slicing up fifteen hundred pound animals and mechanically reducing them into vats of an ammonium-treated slurry, twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week. When the marketing materials tells me to support my local cattle rancher, it is tugging on sentimental vestiges of a reality that no longer exists.

Industrialized meat processing is a victim of its own brutal efficiency. The endless production and processing of beef, poultry, and pork is a natural wonder in its own right. Unfortunately, there are negative repercussions related to the required massive consumption of clean water, grain and soy, oil, and grazing land. Not to mention the brutal economics pressuring those in animal husbandry to produce bigger, faster products more frequently, chaining them to a corporate process that has only one goal in sight: more, sooner.

People have been reacting against the consumption of animal protein for ecological reasons – because the planet simply can’t continue producing most of its grain to be used to feed the cows who are grown to make weekend barbque meat. In the US, more than 67% of crops are grown for animal feed. Worldwide, it is 36%. Some people react for safety reasons – people do not want to eat meat that was so full of bacteria that ammonia gas had to be injected into it to be safe to eat. And some react for humanitarian reasons – the more capable we are of creating fast, clean sources alternate protein consumables, the better chance we stand of addressing looming crises of trying to feed everyone as the world edges closer to topping 10 billion souls.

https://www.nationalgeographic.com/foodfeatures/feeding-9-billion/

The least I can do while all of this invisibly unfolds in the world around me is to give that impossible burger a shot. Fork over my $14 bucks the next time I am at a burger joint for the plant-based option and see what it tastes like. My guess is it will taste like the jalepenos, sriracha mayo, pickles, greens, and fried egg I lay on top. And if a few bucks of that goes back to the companies trying to tackle some of the world’s global issues, it’ll be that much more savory to me.