“Reading Irwin’s new book, immediately brought to mind my father who passed away twenty years ago. Despite the fact that he was restrained in emotional expression, his love and kindness have always been strongly felt, even up till now.
An ancient Chinese philosopher Zhuangzi (莊子, BC369-286) has a famous saying, “the friendship between gentlemen is as light as water” (君子之情淡如水 jūnzǐ zhī jiāo dàn rú shuǐ). Gentlemen refer to men who are educated and respectable. Generations after generations, these social expectations of the relationship between men have been firmly planted in the egos and superegos of many Chinese, men and women. However, deep inside our ids, our urge for closeness is no different from anyone, anywhere in the world.
Born in rural area during the civil war in China in the 1920’s, my father barely had any formal education. Through self-learning, he read and wrote competently, and later after moving to Hong Kong, when he was running a convenience store he did all the accounting himself. My father’s behavior was typical ‘gentleman’ – being always polite and considerate. Perhaps (partially) because of my dad, in that sense I have become a typical ‘gentleman’ too. My conversations with him often seemed overly ‘clinical’ or even ‘surgical’ with barely any personal or emotional content. Outwardly, we appeared to be communicating purely at a conscious, rational level. But on an unconscious level, a steady flow of love and affection was always there between us. The emotional bonding between us was there before I first realized it, and continued to be present even when we are/were physically apart. Do I regret anything about it? Yes, I do. I wish I had expressed my love for my dad more directly.
Irwin’s book is truly enlightening! As I was reading it, some my old friends popped up as well. To my disappointment, very few of them would qualify as ‘close friends’. It is not their fault. Our ‘gentleman styles’ probably account for much of the distance. Why can’t “gentlemen” also be more expressive of their feelings toward each other? Why can’t we be truer to our ids or unconscious selves?
I wholeheartedly thank Irwin for generously sharing his deep reflections and insightful understanding of his friendships with other men. I highly recommend this book to men of all ages and all cultures. And I highly recommend it to women who are interested in knowing another side of men.”