Up close and personal, our garden's first crocus of spring (x 5) -- with a nod to Georgia O'Keefe -- opens to greet the vernal equinox -- "the point at which the sun appears to cross the celestial equator from south to north" -- which occured in the Northern Hemisphere yesterday at 6:26 p.m. We hadn't realized before googling that "the dates on which day and night are each 12 hours occur a few days before (spring) and after (fall) the equinoxes." Check out the U.S. Naval Observatory's website for details.
"Science is a particular enemy of manliness. Manliness asserts something you can't scientifically prove, namely the importance of human beings," conservative Harvard gadfly Harvey Mansfield -- promoting his new book "Manliness" -- told Naomi Schaefer Riley in a manfully focussed Opinion Journal interview a couple of weeks back. We disagree re science as the enemy, but here's the professor's argument, which gets it right for the most part:
"Before you're a gentleman, you have to be a man. Gentlemanliness is a refinement. It presupposes that you have a certain superiority over women, but teaches you how to exercise it. It also teaches you that women are superior in their ways." ['Wish he'd chosen another word. "Superior" is so tendentious, guaranteed to get the hackles rising. How about "difference," as in Vive la différence!]
Science is good for confirming what "common sense" already tells us, Mr. Mansfield allows, but beyond that, he has little use for it . . . "Science simply sees people as just another part of the natural world. But what manly men assert, according to Mr. Mansfield, is that "they are important and that their party, their country, their society, their group, whatever it may be, is important."
It depends upon what your definition of "just" is, as in "just another part of the natural world." From our own libertarian Darwinian viewpoint, both women and men harbor evolutionarily-honed imperatives to be noticed by their chosen peers. Science is your friend, professor. The important question is "whom do we select as our peers." He continues:
Manly men defend their turf, just as other male mammals do. The analogy to animals obviously suggests something animalistic about manliness. But manliness is specifically human as well. Manly men defend not just their turf but their country. Manliness is best shown in war, the defense of one’s country at its most difficult and dangerous. In Greek, the word for manliness, andreia, is also the word for courage.
He's obviously never seen Tiny in action. There is no fiercer defender of her turf than she. The interesting thing from our observations is that she will defend tooth and nail her own backyard but becomes submissive when we visit Goomp's. Her brother Baby, on the other hand, is confrontative with Goomp's cats. We think it's a girl-boy thing, supported by a British study we learned of in our Design School days, where it was discovered that male cats have a larger home range than female cats. Mommy vs. Daddy imperatives. Each will defend to the death, but their priorities differ. For both the importance of being noticed is where it's at. 'Sounds scientific and even Mansfieldian. More from the good professor:
For good and for ill, males impelled by their manliness have dominated all politics of which we know. Is there something inevitable about this domination or are we free to depart from it? With more and more countries moving toward democracy and peace, perhaps manliness will become less necessary.
Looking at the geopolitical landscape out there, we'd be inclined to say Professor Mansfield's definition of manliness is expansive enough to include all creatures great and small, female and male, from bower birds and peacocks to Ellen Johnson Sirleaf -- the new President of Liberia who sat proudly with the Leader of the Free World in the Oval Office this afternoon -- to the Muslim woman word warriors like Irshad Manji and Ayaan Hirsi Ali who are just saying no to those who would put them in their place.
Mansfield puts thymos at the center of his argument about what it is to be a man, highlighted in David Brooks's subscription-only op ed in the Sunday Times [via Travis Kavula at Red Ivy]. Answers has a good definition:
Thymos, one element of Plato's tripartite division of the soul -- the other two being reason and desire (eros) -- can be translated as spiritedness. It is the location of such feelings as pride, shame, indignation, and the need for recognition for oneself and for others.
Thymos can overrule both reason and basic animal instincts and propel one into a duel over an insult, or into a burning building to save a child, or into a war for a cause one finds just. According to Hegel, humanity is at its peak when it thymotically risks its life for the sake of a greater good. On the other hand, it is also what drives suicide bombers and other terrorists.
Exactly what we've been saying forever. The importance of shedding shame and capturing honor.