A real man creates nothing! Not one blade of grass grows where he has walked! So the true warrior lives for one thing! Planetary Destruction!
–Zekka, Battle Angel Alita, Last Order
Today’s subject: Breaking things.
It’s generally accepted that men break things on purpose where as women break things accidentally, which is somehow more acceptable or appropriate than the alternative. What people don’t understand about the manly tendency to destruction is a set of principles we’ll call the Laws of Awesome Dynamics (not an actual set of laws). The First Law of Awesome Dynamics is the Law of Conservation of Awesome (distantly related to the Conservation of Ninitsu). The principle of Conservation of Awesome can be stated like this: Once created, awesomeness cannot cease to exist, only change hands.
The Second Law of Awesome Dynamics states that, when two object collide the more Awesome of the two survives carrying all of the awesomeness in the equation.
So, why do men break things? The answer is, they’re not breaking one thing. They’re taking two things and seeing which is more awesome.
That’s not always the case, of course. Sometimes a man will take an object and test it to its limits, until it breaks. Thomas Edison was a strong advocate of this as a method for testing new inventions. This process lets you know exactly how much punishment a thing can take before it gives. But for the most part, men are breaking things as a method of measurement.
Let us look at a situation that is almost as old as men are. There is a fellow with a shirt. At first it is just a normal shirt but then he goes and plays touch football and wins overwhelmingly. He doesn’t think of it until a few weeks later he plays another game wearing that shirt and wins overwhelmingly again. The next several games he wears that same shirt and can’t be stopped! Without his realizing it, a little of his achievements have been absorbed the shirt and are adding to his effectiveness in following games! It’s a lucky shirt! Soon the man can’t play or sometimes even watch football without it. Of course, sooner or later the shirt will give out – it can only take so much washing and wearing, diving for passes and “accidentally” slamming into people – and that will be a sad day. But in the mean time, the shirt’s ability to endure is an inspiration!
Okay, let’s be honest. All this is a kind of convoluted way of saying that men value endurance and fortitude, both in themselves and the things surrounding them. Do they sometimes engage in behavior that could destroy something of theirs? Well, yes, they do. But that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s for the purposes of seeing it break (in can be, and that’s not this principle, it’s something a little more sinister). Sometimes the whole point is to measure something. What will happen? How strong and enduring am I, are the things I own?
The quote at the top of this post is an example of this principle pushed to it’s greatest extreme. If a man is powerful and enduring enough he will outlast everything he encounters. While that, in and of itself, may not be an appealing prospect it is the core of the matter.
Men test themselves and things around them, typically through some kind of competition. Not always violent, but men are more likely than women to recognize the value of controlled violence in competition. They want to know how far they can go, how reliable they are, how their limits will support or deprive them of their goals. These things cannot just be theorized about, they must be tested in the field. And if a man hurts himself in the process, well, sometimes that’s the price you pay for knowing.
When writing men, they must test things. Test them to the breaking, if they must. The testing will inform all that comes after. Oh, a man may be upset if something he truly loved is broken in the process. He may be angry, he may be sad but in the end he will be better off for it. After all, the Second Law says the awesomeness goes to the one who survives.
And, oddly enough, that brings us to our next principle. We’ll take a look at it next week.