Mind Matters — End of the World As We Know It?

Well, December 21, 2012, has passed and we’re still here. However, I wonder if 12, 12, 2012, or 12, 21, 2012, won’t be an end of the world as “we know it.” In other words perhaps we are ready for a transformation of consciousness. Why not?

Christmas this year came just days after the massacre of innocent children in Newtown, Connecticut. Not that there aren’t acts of violence against children every day, but this tragedy evoked a compassionate reaction across the nation. Gun violence and gun control is even spoken about from the pulpit. In my experience, unless I attend a Church service in the inner city, it is a rare occasion for a Catholic priest to be direct about these topics. Not once, but twice, during the Christmas season, I heard priests speak directly to how can we be Christian and not speak out against gun violence? And be supportive of gun control?

I heard these homilies in the midst of family celebrations where I witnessed the kindness of men. Recent studies indicate that males who are married and participate in child-raising are less prone to violence than single men. True, this is a broad brush, and domestic violence where men hurt both their wives and their children definitely exists. Nevertheless, there are indications that family life can engender a tempering of aggression.

With violence and aggression, there is a gender difference due to amounts of testosterone. Everyone has this hormone, but men, of course, have a preponderance of it in comparison to women. Testosterone, in and of itself, does not cause human violence, but it can elevate aggressive tendencies in certain environments. Scientists terms this a “facilitative effect.”

According to Mara Hvistendahl, in Unnatural Selection: Choosing Boys Over Girls, and the Consequences of a World Full of Men, scientists are finding that an antidote to the facilitative effect of testosterone is marriage and children. She cites the longitudinal study of Allan Mazur and Joel Michalek—data collected showed that testosterone levels of Air Force veterans dropped when these men married and the levels increased with divorce.

Anecdotally, I can report that my nephews, in the love and respect they show to their spouses and the patient care they show to their children, give credence to the research.

I have, on occasion, reported here how I have watched fathers yell at their boys at my “summer swimming hole,” impatiently admonishing them not to “act like a girl” or “don’t cry.” Fearing feeling, these fathers could not handle their boys’ emotions, wanting them to “be tough.”

Observing my nephews, I saw men who appear to be raising their boys (and newborn baby girl) with sensitivity and warmth. Kudos to the men of the future who are not afraid of kindness and compassion. Maybe we are ready for a transformation!