Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Our Masculine Power Part Three: The Power To Know, Discover, and Do

Our third masculine power is the Power to Know, Discover,  and Do.  The Sage Power.

This Masculine Power is the cornerstone of every civilization.  Men have a talent for learning things, knowing things, organizing, recording, and using that knowledge productively in a way that is uniquely masculine.  From the earliest beginnings of tool-using culture, the man who knew how to make fire, tie knots, and recognize a good game trail when he saw it was highly valued.  But it didn't stop there.  To our paleolithic forebears the Power to Know was the basis of all magic and technology.  Before writing, when our ancestors were reliant on oral history for every scrap of their knowledge base, the Power to Know was, quite literally, the basis for our entire culture.

Without a way of permanently recording the information, for 100,000 years the only way for one generation to communicate to the next generation was to preserve it within the minds and memories of the elders of the tribe (men and women).  If invaders came through, killed off the elderly after they disposed of the warriors, then the women and children who remained would be utterly bereft from their history and knowledge base.

Old men and women, in tribal cultures, are highly valued because of their experience and their skills, but most of all they are valued because they are living storehouses of culture -- myths, legends, folk wisdom, practical advice.  And it was a survival skill: the more a man could cram into his skull, the more likelihood his descendants would keep him around after his teeth fell out and his accumulated wounds and age kept him from being a productive hunter.  The Man Who Knows is one who has a special talent for acquiring, gathering, and organizing knowledge in a way that is both practical and elegant.

From that need to know and do came the basis of writing, the greatest piece of magic to arise since human speech and the use of fire.  Writing, originally designed to track supplies or trade, or to communicate with the gods, or to other learned men, was the first way that discrete information was able to be transmitted between the generations -- and stored independent of a human brain.

More, it allowed men to talk to each other over long distances, their exact words unfiltered by a messenger.  Indeed, a messenger could well be wholly ignorant of the message he carried.  Such magic was profoundly impressive to the mind of our tribal ancestors, so profound that its origin is usually ascribed to the gods.  The utility and usefulness of literacy was so important that in every culture in which writing arose, knowledge of the written word became the hallmark of the Sage.  And from literacy, all history and culture flow.

At the root of this Power is a man's innate curiosity about the Universe coupled with the knowledge that he can affect that same Universe in some useful ways.  To Know and to Do, in other words.  Whether the issue was hunting, building shelter, reading the stars, butchering an animal, managing a wife and family household, understanding the ways of wildlife and plants, or knowing the minds of the gods, Man has a talent for collecting and using information that is inherently admirable.  Further, the more a man knows and the more he knows how to apply what he knows, the more high value he is, in any society.

The masculine icon I've chosen for this particular Power is that of Sherlock Holmes.  The fictional detective invented by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle epitomizes all of the grand aspects of this Power.

Holmes was brilliant, of course, but he was also unarguably masculine.  From his height (complimented by the iconic Deerstalker hat) and his predilection for smoking a pipe alone Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's famous consulting detective was the master of Knowledge in a particularly powerful Victorian way.  Not only was he well-educated in the classical sense, he was also steeped in the emerging Scientific Revolution (and the nascent science of Criminology), as well as being the possessor of a huge amount of seemingly inconsequential minutia that, when coupled with deductive logic and keen observation, seem to give Holmes the appearance of super powers.

That is how it should be, and how it usually is.  The Sage is the Wizard, the Magician, the Scientist, the Philosopher, the Sophist.  He is the man who can put his passions aside and focus on the pure acquisition of knowledge and its application, often to the exclusion of all-else.  In the extremes this can lead to the "absent-minded professor" or the "befuddled scholar", a man so filled with facts and education that his ability to apply those things constructively is affected.  At the other end are the "Mad Scientist" and "Evil Sorcerer" stereotypes, where knowledge and power combine into a twisted version of the Man Who Knows.  Ideally, the Man Who Knows uses his great knowledge to help his fellow man and society at large, but for every Holmes there's a Moriarty -- something the Sage knows all too well.

There's a sense of cool aloofness in the Man Who Knows.  He has a pure confidence that even the reactionary Warrior or the order-obsessed Captain does not, and an assuredness that borders on cockiness.  The combination, even when the subject actively disdains female companionship, attracts women like tuna draws cats.  Placing his mind (and therefore his soul) out of reach of mere mortal woman and into the realm of pure Knowledge makes the Sage as utterly unobtainable as he is irresistible.  His dedication to a higher purpose and his attention to something other than the "base and lustful" nature of sexuality gives him an allure to females that even awkward appearance and mannerisms don't deter.  Indeed, sometimes the odd appearance or nature of the Sage actually adds to his allure to these women.

Sherlock Holmes has attracted feminine attention since the stories were first published, so attracted to Holmes' intelligence and calm, confident demeanor where the women who read them (despite the description of his scarecrow-like appearance).  His modern spiritual descendants, Mr. Spock and Mr. Data, have likewise attracted large female followings, and likewise have highly unusual appearances.  Sheldon Cooper on The Big Bang Theory, epitomizes the modern Man Who Knows, to the extent that his knowledge interferes with his ability to function socially in his world.  That is a hallmark of the Sage. Yet it does not detract from him attracting a certain kind of female, often one with similarly powerful intellect (although usually lacking in the dedication that male Sages display, much to the dismay of their penises.)

The masculine allure of the man who Knows -- and Knows How To -- is powerful.  Yet it is his willingness to place his vocation and study above the comforts of female company that adds to this allure the most.  To women, the Man Who Knows is attractive in part because of his unwillingness to grant his attention to women and sex over his work.  Their frustration of not being able to capture his attention is often a key to why the geeky, brainy types often have very dedicated female admirers from afar.

If the power to Order belongs to the Captain and the power to Destroy and Defend belongs to the Warrior (the "jock"), then the power to Know belongs to the Sage (that is . . . the Nerd).  In ways that most women cannot imagine, Men have a capacity to immerse themselves in the study of just about anything, or master the intricacies of just about any tool, that effectively shuts out the rest of the world.  Men obsess about knowing stuff -- car stuff, sports stats, natural history, politics, religion, history, literature, cultural affairs, music, and large blocks of specialized minutia that confound the power of femininity to appreciate.

Women don't need to know what to successfully compete in their Matrix, they need to know who.  But the power of knowledge to men is far more dramatic than the power of knowing who is doing what to whom among the FSM.  Nor is it all a matter of education and upbringing.  I've known dudes I swear weren't bright enough to tie their own shoes lecture me at length about the technical details of stock car racing or the statistics involved in baseball or the technical efficiency of a precision-made firearm.  When a man has an interest, a curiosity in a subject, he will frequently transcend his own boundaries in fulfilling his need to Know.

In fact, to a lot of women, a man's desire to "master" any obscure subject appears to be unproductive and unuseful . . . until it is productive and useful.  If you're a motorhead who knows more about the internal combustion engine than is truly healthy, to her you're a hobby-obsessed man who likes to pay far too much attention to oil viscosities and torque and other useless shit and not nearly enough attention to her.

Until her car breaks down on the side of the road and he manages to fix it without calling a tow truck.  Then she thinks he's a fucking genius.

The Sage's knowledge may be specific and obscure or general and useful.  But it is nearly always a product of his passion and his desire to understand.  That, too, is one of the things females find alluring about the Man Who Knows: he is deeply passionate . . . just not usually about pussy.

In a lot of ways, however, Game in general is the invention of the Men Who Know.  Game is applied psychology and social management with a strong emphasis on gender and hormones and subconscious responses.  Game is what happens when a bunch of really smart nerds started applying the Power to Know and Do to the problem of modern mating.  It is the accumulated wisdom and knowledge based on the experience and observations of hundreds of Men Who Know.  And its continual refinement within the greater Manosphere can be seen as a dramatic application of focused attention on this subject by thousands of interested sages.  When the power of knowledge is applied to anything, you can respect results . . . even if the thing is something as murky and mysterious as female sexuality.

The Sages invented Reason, and Science, and Literacy, Literature, Architecture, Mathematics, and all the intellectual underpinnings of our civilization.  The passion of these ancient men to understand their mysterious universe provided the foundation upon which each successive generation has built.  Their desire to improve the lives of their people through the judicious use of the secrets of Nature was noteworthy, even when they fell short of the mark.

The Sage power is the power to solve problems, sometimes far outside of one's sphere of expertise.  So many impressive advances in science and technology have been made by collaborations between disciplines, each eager to add their knowledge to reach greater understanding - or just to solve the problem at hand.  If you have the time and inclination, go watch the old James Burke PBS series Connections to see just how damn clever menfolk can be, when there's a problem that needs a solution.

But you don't have to be Einstein or Pascal to use the power of the Sage.  Indeed, we are called upon to use this power every day, whether we understand it as such or not.  From knowing how often to check your oil to the name of the star closest to the Sun to which route gets you home the fastest after work are all products of this incredible power.  Within its sphere are also the abilities to use tools, change the environment around you, and plan for the future. Simple things, from where we stand in our civilization now, but for a hundred thousand years the masculine power to acquire knowledge and wisdom -- combined with the Captain's power to record and order that knowledge in a useful form -- was the hallmark of the widely-respected Sage.

Because the Power to Know isn't just about how much data you can cram into your brainpan, it's about how you apply it to your best effect.  Indeed, despite the stereotype of the professor's brain stuffed with useless minutia, the point of the power is its utility and usefulness to your everyday life.  The Power to Know isn't just about knowledge, it's about wisdom.  Doing the right thing at the right time.

You know this dude: he probably doesn't look like much, but if there's a mechanical issue, he magically produces a screwdriver and can use it to devastating effect -- I know men who would forget their wallet before their screwdriver.  Or the dude who always has a pocketknife.  Or a flashlight.  Toolbox in the trunk.   Simple, useful things that those cursed with a low Sage ability don't think about until the situation is at hand.  The wisdom of the Sage power instructs in the art of planning and contingency.  And that includes preparedness, based on the knowledge that sometimes Shit Happens.  If the practical side of the Sage has a motto, it's the Boy Scouts': "Be Prepared"!

Implicit within this power is your ability to prepare and execute wonders to delight and gratify your friends and family -- particularly your wife and kids, if you got 'em.  All too often a husband or LT boyfriend forgets the need to launch pleasant surprises or how powerful they can be in his relationship.  But that's one of the functions of the Sage.  If the power of the Sage isn't being used to make anyone's life better, then it is a wasted power.  And one way you can help leverage this power into regular, productive DHVs is to promote the illusion that you have an almost-mystical power to have or know or do the right thing at the right place at the right time.  From solving problems to providing comfort to protecting your family, the Sage power is at its most effective when no one realizes you are using it until you're ready.

Here's an example: I get up and take the kids to school every morning, and since the three of them go to two different schools at two different times, with two different sets of breakfast, lunch, and snack requirements, it doesn't take much to throw off the routine -- even a few moments delay can cause a tardy, or inspire one of my kids to forget something vitally important.  So I've cobbled together a little Daddy Morning Survival Kit. The exact nature and composition of the kit has changed over the years, but its utility has not.

I keep a box of granola bars, a couple of boxes of raisins, at least a few juice pouches, a first-aid kit, a brush, hair rubber bands, cash for lunch money, a couple of blank checks for last-minute school expenses, a calculator, pencils,  pens for signing things, post-it notes for messages to teachers or reminders, crayons, a bottle of water, pair of sox, umbrella, etc.  Countless times in the last several years this kit has saved my ass when my youngest, for example, reveals that this is the last day to pay for a fieldtrip he swore he told me about three weeks ago.  Or my daughter "forgets" to brush her hair and put it in a ponytail.  Or my oldest son "forgets" that he has gym today and needs socks.  I reach my hand into the Kit, and problem is solved.

Those are every-day things, but instructive.  Suddenly producing a coveted prize unexpectedly -- like my Dad appearing with an air-conditioner out of nowhere one summer in the south in the 70s, or me producing a bag of dark chocolate for Mrs. Ironwood in a moment of need, because I had the foresight to do so -- are one good way to use the power to surprise and delight.  Suddenly demonstrating a facility long-practiced in secret, like playing the guitar or singing Karaoke or building a garden wall are all good examples of wonder-making.  The more elaborate the plan and the more smoothly it runs, the more you look like a fucking genius.

Every power has a dark side, and the Sage power is no different.  Basically, the flip side of the Sage is the know-it-all asshole, that dude no one can stand to be around when the conversation turns to a particular topic: sports, sex, politics, religion, the usual.  The temptation to show off what you know is great, when you have a good dose of Sage.  After all, how else can you validate your knowledge if everyone else doesn't know you know it?  But by resisting the urge you can often find yourself in a more dominant position.

When you flirt with the Dark Side of the Sage, you often don't hesitate to whip your intellectual dick out and smack it on the table -- and there are some venues where this is, indeed, quite appropriate.  But it also has the possibility to get you into trouble, or in a competition for dominance that you have little hope of winning -- unless your Sage is just that bad-ass.  Remember, the guy who is still alive at the end of the Kung-Fu movie is rarely the braggart -- it's usually the quiet, cocky guy who spent all of his free time training instead of bragging about what a bad-ass he is.  The temptation to show off your brainy goodness should be checked except in the rarest of circumstances.  In fact, the men I know who have the Sage power in the greatest abundance are also those who demonstrate it so sparingly and subtly that they seem to get shit done without actually doing anything.

Another example: my dad, Papa Ironwood, is a former Scoutmaster still involved with his troop.  On a recent camping trip in which he'd come out for the day, one of the younger Assistant Scoutmasters was fretting about the camp, giving orders, and generally disturbing more than leading.  A particular issue for him was a large puddle in the path to and from the camp, which he proposed to my dad to fix with a large work party later in the afternoon.

Papa Ironwood thought that was an inefficient use of resources, not to mention a beautiful spring day.  There was a steady flow of boys back and forth through the spot, so Papa counseled the younger leader to watch.  As a boy would come by, Papa would casually ask him to grab a bit of deadfall from the surrounding woods -- just a piece -- and drop it into the puddle.  In about ten minutes six boys had walked by, and each had added another piece of wood to the puddle, until (about the time he finished his cigarette) you could walk across the wood without getting your feet wet.

"See?" Papa Ironwood told him, afterwards, "I filled that hole up all by myself.  And I didn't even get my hands dirty.  And it beat trying to get everyone organized for a work project for something so small.  Let's go fishing instead."

My dad used the Power of the Sage to break down the job, invite a little, reasonable help from each boy, and therefore split up the work into such small pieces no one minded doing their part -- and the puddle got filled.  That kind of Sage power actually has an ancient name: wu wei, the Chinese word that translates roughly into "action through inaction".  It's a major principal of Taoist philosophy and practice, and I've seen it in action (or, more appropriately, inaction) repeatedly.  It reflects a particular aspect of the male paradigm of the Sage, the power to accomplish the most with the least effort.  Papa Ironwood calls this "productive laziness", but it's essentially Taoist wu wei.

Not sold on the concept?  Consider the machine you're reading this on -- it's the product of tens of thousands of Sages, whose collective knowledge brought to life one of the most remarkable inventions of the 20th century, the computer.  The computer was invented over 60 years ago, remember -- UNIVAC and ENIAC, the building-sized banks of vacuum tubes were crunching numbers by the dozens-per-second back in the 1950s.  When you consider how those massive dinosaurs begat the svelte little device you're probably using to read this, you can kind of see the Western version of wu wei in action, a process called ephemeralization.

That term was coined by the greatest Sage of the 20th century, R. Buckminster Fuller, to describe a phenomenon implicit in human civilization, the great need to do more work with less effort, to use less resources more efficiently.  Bucky Fuller was a naval architect genius in the mid 20th century who made it his life's mission to make every man's life better through the power of his big bulging brain.

Kind of the anti-Evil Scientist, Bucky pulled one brilliant invention after another out of his head.  Some remain obscure prototypes, like the Dymaxion Car and the Dymaxion House.  Some were so ridiculously useful that they were repressed, like the complete bathroom Bucky designed that could be stamped out of one large piece of stainless steel at a tiny fraction of the cost of a traditional bathroom.  Some of these are ubiquitous today, like the octet truss (which you have probably never heard about) and the geodesic dome (which you have -- and which is mathematically the best way to structurally enclose the maximum amount of area with the least amount of materials).  Both were ways to get the most bang for the buck.  In fact, the geodesic structure was so elegant that when a similarly-structured molecule of carbon (C60) was discovered, it was named Buckminsterfullerene in tribute.
Octet Truss Patent

Ephemeralization was a great boon for the industrial economy.  After WWII, when standardized parts and assembly lines allowed economies of scale to produce far more goods at a far cheaper per-unit cost, any way to tighten up the efficiency of the process meant dollars in someone's pocket.  The nascent aircraft industry, focused on creating bigger planes with the lightest materials possible, helped drive the movement towards ephemeralization, and the Space Program put the cherry on top.  By 1975, only 25 years or so after the first computational monstrosities awoke in the Northeast, the first integrated chips capable of producing an equivalent number of calculations-per-second were in use.  In a mere quarter decade, thanks to the requirements of the aviation and space industries, the resources and energy required to do the same amount of work had shrunk dramatically, to the size of a postage stamp.
Bucky's Bathroom - designed to be pressed
from a single sheet of stainless steel and
 costing a fraction of a ceramic bathroom.

Ephemeralization is how you do more with less, and then do even more with even less, and so on.  It is the impetus behind computerization, compact cars, and jumbo jets.  It is the hallmark of the Sage power.  Through its robust application modern civilization has managed to support -- in reasonable comfort and security -- a far larger population than our ancestors ever thought we would.  It is using wu wei on an industrial scale, providing more abundant resources with less effort and energy.

Geodesic Dome
It's easy to overlook the Sage as a masculine power archetype, particularly in the Game community, because it just doesn't get you laid the way the Warrior or the Captain or the Lover does.  Yet it is the ability to observe, to plan, to theorize, and to test (the Scientific Principal, in other words) that allows us to combine the cool order of the Captain with the passion of the Warrior and the empathy of the Lover to formulate Game strategies, Single or Married.  Without the Sage, we are simpletons, lusting brutes who don't think much beyond our next meal and our next screw, and who have very little idea how to achieve either.  With the Sage -- particularly today -- this potent aspect of masculinity can catapult the Sage-heavy dude into wealth and prosperity through education, technical knowledge, and willingness to pursue an intellectual theory to its conclusion.

Dymaxion House
Most Efficient Living Structure For
The Lowest Price Known To Man

Cultivating the Sage is difficult -- to some, more difficult than working out regularly.  But once you understand that the essence of the power isn't just 'knowing', but also 'doing', the figure of the Sage becomes far more approachable for some men.  The allure of the Sage to women cannot be denied, but neither can it stand on its own.  It must be supported, cultivated, and attended to with the care of a gardener for his garden.  The Sage can lead to wealth and power -- always attractive to women -- but it can also find a place where wealth and power are meaningless compared to true happiness.  And for the Sage, that happiness lies in the acquisition and ordering of knowledge.



  1. Absolutely fantastic breakdown.

    I especially like the last paragraph.

    YOu mus thave been really racking that hamster to lay your eyes on Bucckminister. YOu had such a handful of people to chooes from dude.. Planck, Feynman, Edison, Franklin.. and you chose the most recent guy. Well, whatever it takes to illustrate the anti-evil genius point.

    Tell me now that you've discussed the virtues of "ephemeralization". Can you touch briefly on the artist's spezzatura next? Or discuss the powers of intuition.

  2. Hey where the hell is part 2?