Hipsters, Ron Swanson, and True Manliness

Hipsters. You know the type. Flannel shirt. Skinny Jean. Boots. Glasses. Pabst. Beard. Bicycle. Kids that have never even split wood trying to look vaguely like lumberjacks. Don’t ever become one of these kids. Now, I’m fine with all the items I listed, with the exception of the skinny jeans. There is nothing unmanly about any of the other things. It is not those things that make the hipster unmanly. Rather, the hipster is unmanly despite the accouterments that would seem to link him to groups of manly men.

Manliness doesn’t come from the outside, from the beard you grow or the flannel shirt you put on. It comes out of the inside. That where both the hipsters and the Ron Swanson fans have gone wrong. Ron Swanson is a fictional character from the TV show “Parks and Recreation.” I first started watching the show a couple years ago because people kept telling me I was “like Ron Swanson.” I enjoyed the show for a while, but after taking a several month break from watching anything, I saw a few episodes and realized that Ron Swanson is nothing but a false flag in the culture wars.

Ron is perceived as uber-manly because he believes in small government, wears a mustache, drinks a lot of alcohol, and eats a lot of meat. However, despite his belief in small government he consistently allows his subordinate, Leslie, to create new initiatives of colossal proportions, and even tell him what to do and how to do it. When his ex-wife comes around, he abandons his work and runs for the woods. After a tryst with his ex-wife, he begs his subordinate to break up with her for him. And he throws a hissy fit any time he gets a little hungry. Seriously, this is what the culture thinks masculinity looks like?

The Ron Swanson crowd makes manliness about being a slave to your stomach. This is no more true than the pick-up artist or game-blogger’s lie that manliness is about being a slave to your penis. Just like flannel shirts and beards won’t make you more manly, neither will Lagavulin and steak or “banging hot chicks.”

Not that there is anything inherently wrong with flannel shirts, or scotch, or sex. But they won’t make you manly.

Do you want to be truly manly? Embrace your place in the hierarchy–under some, above others. Recognize and render the fealty you owe to those above, and the care you owe to those below. Live by the sweat of your brow. Be indebted to no man. Walk with justice and mercy. This is what manliness is. This is what Him who made man has instructed.

Having heard everything, I have reached this conclusion: Fear God and keep his commandments, because this is the whole duty of man. —Ecclesiastes 12:13 (NET)

Selections from My Favorite Short Story

But that night after dinner and a whisky and soda by the fire before going to bed, as Francis Macomber lay on his cot with the mosquito bar over him and listened to the night noises it was not all over. It was neither all over nor was it beginning. It was there exactly as it happened with some parts of it indelibly emphasized and he was miserably ashamed at it. But more than shame he felt cold, hollow fear in him. The fear was still there like a cold slimy hollow in all the emptiness where once his confidence had been and it made him feel sick. It was still there with him now.

His wife had been through with him before but it never lasted. He was very wealthy, and would be much wealthier, and he knew she would not leave him ever now. That was one of the few things that he really knew. He knew about that, about motor cycles–that was earliest–about motor cars, about duck-shooting, about fishing, trout, salmon and big-sea, about sex in books, many books, too many books, about all court games, about dogs, not much about horses, about hanging on to his money, about most of the other things his world dealt in, and about his wife not leaving him. His wife had been a great beauty and she was still a great beauty in Africa, but she was not a great enough beauty any more at home to be able to leave him and better herself and she knew it and he knew it. She had missed the chance to leave him and he knew it. If he had been better with women she would probably have started to worry about him getting another new, beautiful wife; but she knew too much about him to worry about him either. Also, he had always had a great tolerance which seemed the nicest thing about him if it were not the most sinister.

They had a sound basis of union. Margot was too beautiful for Macomber to divorce her and Macomber had too much money for Margot ever to leave him.

Their figures stay boyish when they’re fifty. The great American boy-men. Damned strange people. But he liked this Macomber now. Damned strange fellow. Probably meant the end of cuckoldry too. Well, that would be a damned good thing. Damned good thing. Beggar had probably been afraid all his life. Don’t know what started it. But over now. Hadn’t had time to be afraid with the buff. That and being angry too. Motor car too. Motor cars made it familiar. Be a damn fire eater now. He’d seen it in the war work the same way. More of a change than any loss of virginity. Fear gone like an operation. Something else grew in its place. Main thing a man had. Made him into a man. Women knew it too. No bloody fear.

From the far corner of the seat Margaret Macomber looked at the two of them. There was no change in Wilson. She saw Wilson as she had seen him the day before when she had first realized what his great talent was. But she saw the change in Francis Macomber now.

“You’ve gotten awfully brave, awfully suddenly,” his wife said contemptuously, but her contempt was not secure. She was very afraid of something.

Macomber laughed, a very natural hearty laugh. “You know I have,” he said. “I really have.”

“Isn’t it sort of late?” Margot said bitterly. Because she had done the best she could for many years back and the way they were together now was no one person’s fault.

“Not for me,” said Macomber.

Entire story here.


I fancy myself a fairly self-sufficient guy. I know how to live off the land. I have both training and experience in survival in various climes and locales. I have treated my own wounds, built houses, rebuilt engines, farmed, and enjoyed all of it.

But I don’t know everything. Sometimes, like this weekend when the battery in my truck caught fire, I need to ask for advice. When that happens, I call my Dad. Doesn’t matter that I have a friend in my phone that is an SAE-certified mechanic, Dad is the person I call. And when I ask him a question that he doesn’t know the answer to, he does the same thing. “Is it possible for the short to be inside the battery itself?” “I don’t know, let me call my dad, I’ll call you back.”

“I just talked to my dad, and he said that it is possible for the short to be inside the battery itself, and in fact that is likely since you haven’t found any heat or arcing anywhere other than the battery terminal.” As I set out on the mile-and-a-half walk to the nearest auto parts store carrying my old battery, I felt more confident just for having gotten advice from Dad and by extension Grandpa. As it turned out, the short was not in the battery itself, but the information I had received from my dad helped me find the problem far more quickly than I likely would have found it otherwise.

Dads are important.

Dads teach us how to be men.

Sure, sometimes some other male figure may step up and do a dad’s job, like Walt Kowalski did in Gran Torino, teaching a surrogate son to be a man. Yet that reinforces, rather than denigrates, the importance of fatherhood. The directionless bankruptcy of masculinity today is due to two factors: men who shirked their role as a father, and women who stole their children’s right to a father through the artificial bastardization of divorce.

Both are despicable.

Moreover, we have all had human fathers who disciplined us and we respected them for it. How much more should we submit to the Father of spirits and live! —Hebrews 12:9 (NIV)

Bad Things don’t Happen to Christians

One of my favorite things to say is “Bad things don’t happen to Christians.” I tell myself this often.


What the heck do I mean?

Peter was crucified upside down. Stephen was stoned. Paul went through the ringer on the regular. All this I freely admit, yet I maintain that bad things do not happen to Christians.

Maybe I ought to define my terms.

Here’s what I mean by Christian: a person who had subjugated all agenda of his own to the agenda of spreading the message of Christ. A Christian is a person who says “Woe to me if I do not preach the Gospel!

With me so far?

Good. Now we will define “bad things.” Simply put, “bad things” is nothing but shorthand for “things which inconvenience me.” However, we must note that the same situation (“thing”) may be inconvenient or convenient (“bad” or “good”) depending on one’s agenda. If my agenda is to become a concert pianist, traumatic amputation of my left arm is a bad thing. However, if my agenda is to become permanently ineligible for the draft, traumatic amputation of my left arm is a good thing.

Convenience is determined by agenda.

Archie Campbell makes the relationship between convenience and agenda more plain.

This is why bad things don’t happen to Christians: because absolutely nothing is inconvenient to you when your purpose is to preach the Gospel.


So, when I find myself starting to think my circumstances inconvenient, when I start to feel like bad things are happening to me, I remind myself that bad things don’t happen to Christians. I unfuck my priorities, and re-subjugate my agenda to Christ’s. And then I start noticing how the situation I was complaining about presents opportunities to pursue Christ’s agenda.

So, are bad things happening to you? If so, remember that bad things don’t happen to Christians. Change your agenda. Subjugate it to Christ’s. Suddenly, despite being in the very same circumstances, you will find that nothing bad is happening to you.

Might you suffer and be persecuted? Sure, but that’s a cause for rejoicing. Take pleasure in it. It is a gift, a cause for glory and pure joy.

Your focus must be on better and more lasting things than this life.

Bad things don’t happen to Christians.

So if you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth, for you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. —Colossians 3:1-3

David and Michal

And David danced before the Lord with all his might; and David was girded with a linen ephod. So David and all the house of Israel brought up the ark of the Lord with shouting, and with the sound of the trumpet. And as the ark of the Lord came into the city of David, Michal Saul’s daughter looked through a window, and saw king David leaping and dancing before the Lord; and she despised him in her heart. And they brought in the ark of the Lord, and set it in his place, in the midst of the tabernacle that David had pitched for it: and David offered burnt offerings and peace offerings before the Lord. And as soon as David had made an end of offering burnt offerings and peace offerings, he blessed the people in the name of the Lord of hosts. And he dealt among all the people, even among the whole multitude of Israel, as well to the women as men, to every one a cake of bread, and a good piece of flesh, and a flagon of wine. So all the people departed every one to his house. Then David returned to bless his household. And Michal the daughter of Saul came out to meet David, and said, How glorious was the king of Israel to day, who uncovered himself to day in the eyes of the handmaids of his servants, as one of the vain fellows shamelessly uncovereth himself! And David said unto Michal, It was before the Lord, which chose me before thy father, and before all his house, to appoint me ruler over the people of the Lord, over Israel: therefore will I play before the Lord. And I will yet be more vile than thus, and will be base in mine own sight: and of the maidservants which thou hast spoken of, of them shall I be had in honour. Therefore Michal the daughter of Saul had no child unto the day of her death. —2 Samuel 6:14-23

Sheep, Wolves, and Sheepdogs

Cane has a post up in which he attacks the concept that:

There are three kinds of people in the world: Sheep (who cannot defend themselves), Wolves (who use violence to prey on the sheep) and Sheepdogs (who use violence against the wolves to protect the sheep).

Of course, the astute reader will recognize this characterization as a bastardization of Col. Grossman’s original sheep/sheepdog/wolf illustration. (Note, I am not saying that Cane is responsible for this bastardization. Indeed, from the conversation in the comments, I gathered the impression that the bastardized version was the only one he had come across) It is worth noting the differences between the original illustration and the one quoted above.

First off, in the version above, the statement is made that the sheep cannot defend themselves. This directly contradicts Grossman’s claim that the rising psychological casualties of war are directly caused by training that makes the “sheep” effective at not only defensive, but also offensive violence. In other words, sheep are perfectly capable of preying on others, or defending themselves. Contrary to popular belief, strapping on a gun, a badge, or both does not a sheepdog make. Rather (in Grossman’s illustration) it makes an armed sheep. Many armed sheep fancy themselves sheepdogs, and (if I understand him correctly) it is these that Cane speaks of when he writes:

 To those people, the sheepdog is special because–like wolves–it has claws, fangs, strength, speed, and that it delights in the hunt, and in the kill; yet the sheepdog is on the side of the sheep, and that this is called righteousness.


Because the more closely a person believes that what makes sheepdogs special is the sheepdog’s likeness to wolves(possession and desire to use claws, fangs, etc.)the more likely that person is to prefer the sheepdog metaphor.

Yet neither of these describe accurately the sheepdog in Grossman’s illustration. What sets the sheepdog apart in Grossman’s analogy is not the instruments of violence (claws, fangs, concealed handguns, etc.) but rather a mental aberration that causes him, at a fundamental level, to consider other’s lives more valuable than his own. This is far more rare than strapping on a handgun. It is not the sheepdog’s resemblance to the wolf, but rather his discongruity with the wolf that makes him special.

See, fundamentally, the wolf is much more similar to the sheep than to the sheepdog. Both the wolf and the sheep are motivated by basic self-preservation, an instinct that is foreign to the sheepdog. The main difference is that the sheep seeks to preserve itself through conformity, while the wolf preserves itself and profits off of the conformity of others. When sheep strap on a Glock, they move towards the wolf, and not the sheepdog. Why? Because fundamentally they are still worried about their own interest, their own safety, their own family, their own life. Such a mentality is antithetical to the sheepdog.

Cane referred to these people as “sheepwolves.” I would agree with that assessment (although we may have divergent reasons for using the term). However, despite using the term “sheepwolf,” Cane does not seem to grasp the thin line between sheep and wolf, instead harping on a supposedly thin line between the sheepdog and the wolf. While the difference between the sheep and the wolf is simply a matter of power, the difference between the sheepdog and the wolf is a matter of priorities–is self-preservation the top priority or the last thing on the mind? I would argue that such a fundamental difference in priorities is far harder to bridge than the simple power gap between the sheep and wolves.

However, Cane’s perspective may be explained by something he wrote in the comments in reply to me.

Col Grossman is making the same mistake that the right-minded people do: He looked at the occurrence of keeping sheep, and thought there was something remarkable about some canines doing this, and some canines doing that instead of what the canines were pointing to.

Cane seems to think that Col. Grossman came up with a theory of how humans respond psychologically to violence by observing sheep, sheepdogs, and wolves. This is not the case. Rather, Grossman observed a pattern in humans, and used an imperfect animal metaphor to make it easier to understand.  In the same way, Jesus did not come up with a theory of heaven based on observing prodigal sons, but rather used a human metaphor to explain something he was already familiar with but his audience was not.

Now, despite all that I have written above, and how far out of context I think the original illustration was taken, I agree with what I see as the main points of Cane’s post: that the role of Christ’s followers is to be both leaders and followers, and that violence is not the root of righteousness (although it can be righteous). But I think there is something valuable in Grossman’s original illustration that Cane missed: the idea of priorities. I felt that bringing up such points in the discussion on Cane’s post after having determined (at least in my mind) his main points, might distract from the conversation he wants to have there. Therefore, I have placed my thoughts here, for Cane (and the rest of you) to engage or ignore at his (and your) leisure.

The Red Ginseng Store has Exceptional Customer Service

This is an unqualified endorsement of the Red Ginseng Store. I believe in giving credit for excellence, and so I am sharing my experience here. If you are interested in purchasing ginseng root, I strongly recommend that you check them out.

I was looking to experiment with ginseng tea as an alternative/supplement to caffeine for the times when I am called out for work in the middle of the night for unknown amounts of time with no warning and lives depending on my alertness, awareness, and judgement. The Red Ginseng Store seemed to have great prices, so I put in an order for 100 grams to test it out.

Within hours of submitting my order I had an email from the proprietor of the store, informing me that he was leaving the country early in the morning, and would not be able to ship my order until he returned in three days. He said he was including several grams extra of product to compensate for the delay in shipping. I wasn’t too worried about it, so it was about a week before I checked the tracking to see where my order was. I was surprised to see that my order had already been delivered, but to my billing address in the northland rather than my shipping address here at my home-in-exile in the southland. I sent the proprietor an email informing him of this and asking that he re-send my order as it will be months before I get a chance to go back to my billing address. A couple days later, my order arrived at my correct shipping address.

I have tried to work with other companies that mis-shipped packages before, and it can be extremely hard to get them to re-send product. I was pleasantly surprised at how easy it was in this case. I was also impressed by the inclusion of extra product to compensate for a shipping delay that I probably wouldn’t have even noticed. I don’t know how many of my readers are interested in ginseng, but if you are one of them, I highly recommend you consider using the Red Ginseng Store as your source, as my experience was outstanding.

Esther 1:13-22

Then the king said to the wise men who knew the times (for this was the king’s procedure toward all who were versed in law and judgment, the men next to him being Carshena, Shethar, Admatha, Tarshish, Meres, Marsena, and Memucan, the seven princes of Persia and Media, who saw the king’s face, and sat first in the kingdom): “According to the law, what is to be done to Queen Vashti, because she has not performed the command of King Ahasuerus delivered by the eunuchs?”  Then Memucan said in the presence of the king and the officials, “Not only against the king has Queen Vashti done wrong, but also against all the officials and all the peoples who are in all the provinces of King Ahasuerus. For the queen’s behavior will be made known to all women, causing them to look at their husbands with contempt, since they will say, ‘King Ahasuerus commanded Queen Vashti to be brought before him, and she did not come.’ This very day the noble women of Persia and Media who have heard of the queen’s behavior will say the same to all the king’s officials, and there will be contempt and wrath in plenty. If it please the king, let a royal order go out from him, and let it be written among the laws of the Persians and the Medes so that it may not be repealed, that Vashti is never again to come before King Ahasuerus. And let the king give her royal position to another who is better than she. So when the decree made by the king is proclaimed throughout all his kingdom, for it is vast, all women will give honor to their husbands, high and low alike.”  This advice pleased the king and the princes, and the king did as Memucan proposed.  He sent letters to all the royal provinces, to every province in its own script and to every people in its own language, that every man be master in his own household and speak according to the language of his people.

Book Review: Mad, Bad, and Dangerous to Know by Ranulph Fiennes

My third read this year was a departure from the economic/personal finance theme of the last two. Mad, Bad, and Dangerous to Know was a solid autobiography written in a matter-of-fact style. Whether writing about his SAS experiences, or his polar expeditions, or his insane marathon challenge, or his climb of the North Face, or cutting his frostbit fingers off with a vise and hacksaw, you never get the sense that Fiennes is bragging. He relates the stories as casually as if these are things that everyone does. In fact, it becomes easy to forget how extraordinary some of his stories are–you set the book down, and an hour later go “holy shit, that dude’s insane!”

Oddly, I found the stories of the polar expeditions less intriguing than I would have expected, though I found other aspects of his life captivating. It was a good reminder that life is what you make it, and that if your life lacks adventure it is because you avoid it due to it often presenting itself as trouble. For the average adventurer, I recommend it, but the person with specific interest in polar travel will find it far more intriguing.