We in the United States have been seduced by media illusions that echo the Norse god Thor. Thor is the son of Odin, and a hammer is his tool and weapon of choice. In one story, he visits the hall of a race of giants, where a drinking contest is engaged; Thor is given a horn filled with ale, or probably mead, and challenged to drain it. He almost does, to the amazement of his hosts, because the drink is that of all the seas. He is a god of few words, but quick to anger. His hammer sets off the thunder of the skies.
Our sports heroes may not be alcoholics, and many are compassionate and astute. But we downplay these characteristics to celebrate their strength and aggression. So too with films like Die Hard, early Eastwood westerns, the Bourne sagas. We want invincibility to protect us from inevitable frailty.
Is this virility? Or is it a primitive projection of our imaginations? Maybe we need to re-imagine it in favor of a different paradigm. As a woman, I admire and respect men who work quietly on the most basic tasks we all depend on: plumbing, electricity, car repair, for instance. A man who can keep his temper in check in the face of any incitements is virile to me, because he has self-control. A man who can see beyond the illusions of racism and religious fervor has grown beyond a childish ego, and is truly strong and unafraid.
This is so for women too, although we generally associate the word virility with men. With women, I think we use a different word, calculated to diminish: hysteria.
We have a lot of things to fear, seemingly, in the world today. Some of them are overwhelming, like the planet’s changing qualities. Instinctively, we deny, assign blame, take sides, arm ourselves for survival. Maybe just the opposite is what is needed, so we can have energy not for destruction, but for creating solutions.