Where are the good examples of fatherhood? It is a common retort in our house while watching movies or TV, Dads are dicks. At best they are dunderheads providing comic relief, but usually representing some unevolved position on just about every topic that comes up.
Is love so limited to the feminine energy that in our over-amped-man’s-world men aren’t equipped to show love? Is it societal or is it possible that in the grand cosmic split of masculine and feminine, love isn’t a part of the masculine. Are we conditioned by society, or following an inescapable archetype? To be clear I am speaking of LOVE, not stick and carrot conditional training or responsibly fulfilling parental duties, but selfless joy and unbounded service.
My dad is a great guy, an excellent citizen. Surely did his best, which was pretty good for where he came from. Too little life experience when he had kids and a frantic race to become a provider that didn’t allow time for broad self-knowledge. Big stuff he gets right, such as civil rights, pacifism, help your neighbor but he stumbles on individual relations. Is it some inner voice the limits his ability? My patriarchs down the line seem to lack an ability to express love and were very limited in their emotive effusion, not offering my father any other framework to grow in. Again, he is a great guy, but as my path of self-actualization rolled out , it veered and fluttered and dove compared to what he desired or expected. To be honest he was probably scared for me, and with good reason as my insistence on maintaining a creative approach to my relationship to survival is fraught with peril.
I am no expert, but I have delved therapeutically in groups and on my own to sort out my daddy issues and those I have met along the way ask the same question:
If he is such a dick, why do I seek so longingly for his love or at least respect?
Sounds harsh, but when you drill down and seek to heal and move on you have to be concerned with yourself, what you can control, it can get a little base. Let’s face it, an evolving singular identity on an unknowable path has to break from the ‘we’ of family at some point and that will cause scars on both sides. No parent is perfect, nor can they be as their job description is to help cultivate something over which they have limited control. Yes there are probably excellent parents with perfect relations with their progeny over the course of decades, but I haven’t met any yet.
This brings me to grandfathers. Grandfathers are awesome. How is it that marginal dads become excellent grandfathers? Mostly warm and, at least until the teens, represent one of the few social silos where hugging between males is acceptable. Not relying on any social statistics it is safe to say there are many more awesome grandfathers at any time than there are awesome fathers. It boggles my mathematical mind. Meditating on this conundrum led me to ruminate on some of the more familiar cosmologies and how dads fit in.
The hunter gatherers of North America had a well-defined cosmology. The spirits of the 4 directions brought renewal, health, wisdom and nourishment. We walk on mother earth and pray to grandfather sky. Many tribes believed in a 7th spirit, unity. Those spirits along with the spirits of the ancestors explained, controlled and provided their cosmological understanding. Why the skip in generation? Why isn’t Wakan Tanka father sky? Perhaps there is an understanding of the deep fallibility of fathers.
Judeo-Christian-Muslim theology begins with a very serious monotheistic cosmology. God is understood to be a man fulfilling a patriarchal role who guides his children with expulsion, exodus, plagues and floods. “Honor thy father” we get that. What about the children?
The story softens with the Trinity, but it is the son who has compassion and empathy and the father remains distant, controlling, and mostly frowning. The new testament includes “Honor thy wife” bits, but where is “Honor your children”? Perhaps with high infant mortality and leporine progination children were just to be fed until they could be helpful, if they survived. I am not familiar enough with the theological offshoot brought forth by Muhammed to exposit, but from a high level I would say the culture that has arose from the smoke and fire of Gabriel’s appearance also has a daddy problem.
In the very busy hindu pantheon we see some of its star players being pretty awful dad’s. Shiva slew his son and only after the mother’s pleading brought him back to life, replacing his capitulum with that of an elephant. Arjun sacrificed his son in order to win a battle. Abima abandons his son, then calls him up for military duty, then when the son’s efficiency as a war machine becomes to great Abima kills him. Zeus ate all his progeny until one killed him. Shakespeare is full of stories of crazed, power abusive fathers. Of course these stories are longer sagas with many twists, but it is a challenge to find an example or wisdom of a healthy father. Where do we look in mythology or literature for a good example of a dad, “Little House on the Prairie”?
I admit, fathers are probably a lot better than in previous centuries or millennia, but we have a long way to go. This topic takes on special meaning to me as I am now a father and most of my ideas of fatherhood were developed before I had kids.