Man’s 3 Energies

Long ago, when we slept in holes and peered egg-eyed into the night at every howl and crack, man had two primal energies: build, and burn.

For when it came to carving spears, hoisting logs, and fortifying the cave against wind, beasts, and marauders, man’s size and strength and piss and vinegar made him well suited to these tasks.

And when it came to killing the mammoth for meat, pulping the skull of the enemy, and casting the thieving member of the tribe into exile, man was well-suited to these purging acts as well.

Build and burn, burn and build.

And so it was for generations.

Then, with the advent of agriculture, then industry, and the rise of institutions, man’s mode of working drifted into another energy: tending.

Man put down his spear and took to caring for crops, tending cattle, managing the factory, keeping the trains on time, balancing the budget.

To this day, we as men spend the vast majority of our time and energy on tending, the tamest of man’s three energies.

And while there is nothing un-masculine with tending, we fail to to experience the full range of power and experience available to us as men if we stay strictly within the confines of this single energy.

We were made to live out all three energies. We were made not only for tending, but also for building, and for burning.

It will look far different than it did in the caves.

The building will be any act of creation:

Conceiving a child.

Founding a business.

Moving to a new town to create a new life for our family.

Planning and executing that long-dreamed of father-son adventure in Baja.

Breaking ground on that corner lot up on the hill you and your wife had until now only dreamed of building a house on some day.

The burning will be any act of purging, cleansing, or catharsis:

Ending the toxic relationship.

Quitting those Tuesday night volunteer meetings you’ve grown to dread.

Cutting the cable subscription in June so your family’s summer break skews wilder.

Taking your daughter out of that third extracurricular activity so she has time to catch her breath and be a tree-climbing, free-wielding kid again.

It’s having the courage and conviction to see the world not as some given, inherited order to be a mere custodian of, but as something to be reimagined, reworked, and recreated at every turn.

You were made for far more than tending.

The part of you that is capable of building wild bridges, and of burning down cages… this is the essential gift you bring to your family, your friendships, your community, and to yourself.

Do not be content with mere tending.

Build and burn, burn and build, again and again and again.

Only then will your life bear your mark.

Only then will your life be your own.

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