Friday, October 24, 2008

The Magic of the Military

Testosterone! It's one of the things that separate us guys from you girls. Evolution gave us this hormone so that we'll be aggressive about getting what we want, especially the woman of our choice.

I'd be the last to deny that aggressiveness has its plusses and minuses. Many men are challenged to curb their enthusiasm for pushing and shoving, both physically and verbally. But our aggressiveness and macho-ism often push us to take on important challenges and assume risks that a low-testosterone person might logically decline. Like the buck in rut, we at times think only of the objective and minimize the hazards as we singlemindedly pursue our goal.

Young men, peaking in their hormone production, need good outlets for their propensity for aggressiveness and risk-taking. Like the young buck, they need the supervision of older, more experienced and powerful males to channel their energies into constructive activities. That's one reason why I think the military is a really good thing.

My youngest grandson, Michael, is halfway through Marine basic training at Camp Pendleton, California. He's a really smart 19 year old, a saxophonist, and a typically uncertain and often lazy young man. Colleges wanted him, but he was not ready for them. So he joined the Marines.

We've had two letters from Michael. The first, written after three weeks of training, began "I hate basic!" The second, written after six weeks, began "I love basic!" He's already taken on and overcome the challenges of several ordeals, like swimming a distance in his uniform and boots. The Marines are forcing him to look inside himself and understand that his abilities are far greater than he comprehends. They are channelling his testosterone.

Before too long Michael and his buddies will be conditioned to fight together effectively and even savagely. Hopefully, that will be a skill he'll never have to employ (go, Obama!). But for the rest of his life he'll likely be a stand-up guy, someone who will take on life with gusto and do what his gut tells him is important. The era of the introverted, lazy kid is over for him. His testosterone is being channelled.

Some may worry that Michael will become a trained killer. I was once one of those, but the training eventually taught me to respect life rather than discount it. Having your own life in jeopardy or having to face taking the life of another forces thoughtful people to seriously contemplate life's value. I trust that Michael will come to realize, at some point of revelation, that life is precious and that taking it without just cause is a great sin.

Young men need good outlets for the drive that testosterone engenders. Here at Pittsford Ambulance, where I'm writing this post, many young men ride the ambulance for adventure and the opportunity to do something challenging and important. Michael has chosen to experience the magic of the military, which often turns older male children into effective adults. OO-RAH, Michael!


Dave said...

Not the safest time for Michael to be a Marine. Be safe.

Lifehiker said...

"Google" how many 18-25 year olds were killed or injured in auto accidents in the U.S. last year, and then "Google" how many soldiers were killed or injured in Iraq. Maybe Iraq isn't so dangerous, after all.

Dave K said...

Not to be a jerk :) , but I don't think you can really use a comparison of teen driving casualties/fatalities and Iraq War casualties/fatalities to establish the safety of a tour of duty in Iraq.

For example, if teens make up 10% of the total USA population, that would mean the approximately 5,000 teen driving fatalities and 400,000 teen driving (serious) injuries represent only a small percentage of the actual experience of teens (around 1.3% of teen experience injuries each year and only a tiny percentage are fatalities). The statistical pool is just too big for a meaningful comparison to troop casualties in Iraq. Sure, there may be more annual driving fatalities than the total (US troop) fatalities in the Iraq War, but there are also a LOT more teens living and driving in America.

As for me, I would rather take my chances on just about any road in a nation at peace than one in a combat zone - even these crazy streets of Phnom Penh. ;)

All the same, I wish Michael (and all your family), the best.