Ernest Hemingway once famously said that in order for one to be a man, a guy had to do four things: 1.) Plant a tree 2.) Fight a bull 3.) Have a son 4.) Write a book. Now that sounds like a damn good list, and it does sound manly as hell, but it also sounds outdated as hell.
Whether Hemingway meant for the list to be taken literally or metaphorically doesn't really matter because we, as a society, are fascinated with both making lists and attempting to live by them. Me especially. Currently my five favorite films are 1. Network 2. Point Break 3. Adaptation 4. The Blues Brothers 5. Jaws. Don't expect that list to be the same next week though -- I am constantly watching and re-watching films that find their way in and out of my heart. My five favorite books? Well that's a whole other article. But I've been fascinated with Hemingway and his odd little checklist for quite some time.
The first rule, Plant a tree, if taken non-literally seems to contradict with the third rule: Have a son. And for that matter, in terms of metaphor, rule three and rule four are at odds. They all deal with the idea of spreading one's seed and creating something that endures. The only stand-alone measure of Hemingway's manhood was to fight a bull -- to persevere in the face of danger. If one wanted to create the argument that Hemingway was speaking on a higher plane, then one would logically have to reason out instead the values that Hemingway was inferring. So naturally his list then becomes: 1.) Maintain the balance of the Earth 2.) Test your mettle 3.) Carry on your family name 4.) Do what you love. But you know what? That sounds like the least manly list ever. Step five should involve sipping a latte and getting your asshole bleached. And to that, I say, "No way, Hemingway!"
Taken literally, as it should be, the list, unfortunately, is almost as bad. All four things read like a quick checklist that Hemingway scribbled out right before he unloaded the round of buckshot through his parietal lobe. "Ugh ... ugh... shit, lets see ... I fought that bull one time-- that was pretty badass. I'm an author, so I'll put something about the manliness of book writing ... I've got three boys, so that's a lock ... hmm... fuck it, plant a tree ... yeah, why not." Do you believe that Hemingway made his list before he fought a bull? Neither do I (Incidentally if you said "yes" there, go to hell). One of his steps to manhood could just as easily have been 2. Jump a motorcycle over a shark tank. In this day and age, it's probably a more achievable task and it seems equally as manly.
So if Hemingway's list doesn't really hold up in this day and age, how then is a boy like me able to become a man? Well, by God, I'll do what any man-in-waiting worth his salt should do. I'll make my own damn list.
First up, forget the son. Hell, I don't want any kids, they'll get in the way of my lying around naked ... and if they don't, well they ought to ... that's just weird. So rule three for me becomes instead: Eat a hamburger that wins you money. It doesn't have to be the biggest; it's just got to get you paid.
Now rule two is a good one, but too hard to accomplish without getting PETA on your ass, so out of necessity our litmus test for bravery becomes: Punch out a terrorist. I'm sure this would have been on Hemingway's list if terrorists seemed as common a threat back in his day. Now, ideally, the terrorist would be trying to kill innocent people at the time you punch him out, but if it so happens your "terrorist" is a 46-year-old white guy wearing a Hawaiian shirt in a bar when you happen to be there, drunk ... well, this one is open to some interpretation.
Planting trees is so 1993 -- this is the age of technology and big hamburgers. These days you want your rule number one to have some gusto! And so now we have: Rule 1. Destroy a car with a sledgehammer. Not bad, right?
And now for the last rule: Write a book. Well it just so happens that writing a book was manly then, and it's manly now. In fact, it's probably the manliest thing you could ever do (short of being a fighter pilot, but that's a whole different ballgame). So rule 4 stays. If you don't like it, well, lets just say that being a man isn't for everybody.
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