Friends, food, and flourishing


Cryptid Kitchen explores many aspects of flourishing. Content is grouped into topic areas. Knowledge nuggets about manhood are in Tiny Burning Town.

Manhood tiny town

Like every area, it starts with a sign, introducing the topic. As you walk through the area, you find knowledge nuggets. As you read each one, the fires go out, and the town comes to life.

At the end is a concluder, summarizing the topic.

Here are the knowledge nuggets at the time of writing. They’ve might have changed, though. Look in the game for the latest stuff.

Have thoughts? Please comment below.

What is a man? How should men act?

Some people will tell you to be a dominating, sexually aggressive alpha. How can you do that in real life, and not end up in jail or dead? It just doesn’t work.

This tiny town is about manhood today. We’ll look at old ideas, and new ones.

MothmanEr, we’re going to talk about what it means to be a man?
Mothman I don’t want to. People say, “Be a man,” it sounds like “You’re too weak.” It always feels bad.
Mothman What does it mean to be a man, anyway? Could be anything!
Mothman Oh, and why would they tell you to be a man? So you think you’re lower on the social ladder than they are? So you’ll do what they say?
Mothman What if other people are around when they tell you be a man? They’re not talking to you at all. They’re letting the other people know they’re one of the Good People.
Mothman It’s, like, you’re collateral damage!
Mothman (Sigh) Yeah, it could be. Hard to tell people-doing-people-things from those who want to use you for their own benefit.
What do you say when someone tells you to be a man?
Mothman … Nothing. I don’t know what to do.
Mothman I dunno. This feels bad.
Mothman … OK, but take it easy.

Some people say you ought to be a Bronze Age man today. Owning women, dominating other men. That sounds good to a primitive part of you. It’s OK to acknowledge that. Your body is the way it is.

Movies make that image cool, too. Like John McClane in Die Hard.
The trick is to be aware of that, and not act on those emotions. I learned that in tiny cave town.
Hey, what if you tried actually doing the own-women-dominate-men thing? Like for real.
You’d end up in jail, or dead. Nobody can live like John McClane. Not in the real world.
Maybe they’re just trying to sell you something, like tickets to a be-a-man gig. Or t-shirts. Get your vote, get views.

Grifters won’t care if you mess up your life following their advice.
As long as they get a coupla bucks.

Their how-to-live advice is useless, if you can’t actually live that way. Without being killed, going to jail, or just ending up wasting years being unhappy.

Mothman I saw something crazy the other day. An ad for a “tactical hoodie.” Wow. “Buy this hoodie and be a real man” was the message. Who would fall for that?
Imagine someone sneers at you, and says, “You’re not a man.” How would you feel?
Mothman Bad.
Mothman Er… Why? … I’m not sure…
Mothman Oh, yeah. People survived by cooperating. In cave man days, when we evolved, if you got a bad reputation, you could be tossed out of the tribe. That was a death sentence.
Mothman I guess they’d take what would help them. Your food. Not let you near women. You couldn’t pass on your genes. Life was different back then.
Mothman Let me think a moment… OK, a coupla things. “Be a man” is a way to manipulate people. It works because disrespect leads to strong emotions. “Be a man and buy a tactical hoodie”… Wow. That could work.
Mothman Here’s my other thought. In Labyrinth, Jareth, the Goblin King, has it all over Sarah. At the end, he says to her, “I ask for so little. Just fear me, love me, do as I say and I will be your slave.”

Sarah says, “You have no power over me.” Jareth’s magic falls apart.
Mothman Here’s the thing. Back in the day, the person disrespecting you was right there in the tribe. We lived in small groups. You’d see them the next day, and the next. Now’s not like that. You’ll never see the dude in the hoodie ad. He has no power, except what you give him.
Mothman That’s wrong! If you realize what’s going on fast enough, you can stop the effects, or at least reduce them. You could think, “How stupid does he think I am?” Call him on it. Tell him, even just in your head, he has no power over you. You won’t give it to him.
Mothman Yeah, I do. It’s… freeing. One thing, though. If manhood’s not beating up or having sex with everything, what is it? Saying what it’s not isn’t as good as having an answer.

When I was researching manhood, I found references to cowboy codes. They’re kinda cool, and not what you might think.

Some codes are about life back then, like “Don’t wave at a man on a horse. You might spook the horse. A nod is the proper greeting.” We’ll forget about those.

Some codes are real, some are fictional, trying to capture cowboyness. Here are bits from Wild Bill Hickock Deputy Marshal’s Code of Conduct, The Lone Ranger Creed, the Code of the West, the Texas Rangers Deputy Ranger Oath, and Gene Autry’s Cowboy Code.

You can read more cowboy codes. Another good source is the Western Horseman.

Don’t take advantage of those weaker than you. Defend others, especially women and children. Help people in trouble.
Mothman OK, what does “defend others” mean? Ride around with a mask and a six-shooter? “Defend others” is just empty words.
Mothman Like, speak up when someone is trying to bully a man into getting drunk?
Say you did speak up, and they said “You’re not a man.” What would you say?
Mothman I’d say real men respect other people’s choices, even when they don’t look cool.
Mothman Yeah, he did!

… and gentle, especially to women, parents, the elderly, and animals. Use good manners. Treat others fairly. Respect the land.

Some codes said cowboys reject racial and religious intolerance, but not all. Some codes, like the Texas Rangers, include being obedient.

Two other things I liked:
  • Meanness don’t jes’ happen overnight.
  • You cannot unsay a cruel word.
Mothman Being obedient, you shouldn’t always do that. Like, if there’s a law harming people, being obedient wouldn’t fit the help others thing.
Mothman They’re not rules, though. Maybe… advice. Doesn’t sound right…
Mothman Oh, come on!
Mothman … OK, for now.
Mothman Oh, something else. Disagreeing with someone is not disrespectful, just by itself. Like, someone says, “This is a Christian country.” You say, “No it’s not.” That’s not disrespecting their religion.

Another common one, but it fails the always-do-it test.

Yeah, it’s not realistic. If telling the truth would conflict with other maxims, then maybe not.
OK, like, some people in your family, like uncles and aunts, think being depressed is just weakness. Your brother is depressed, confided in you, and you’re helping him see a therapist.

Don’t tell your uncles and aunts about it. If they push you, lying is OK. You’re defending your brother.
Common across cowboy codes. You can’t always do it, though.
Mothman A friend of mine promised me she’d do something, but couldn’t. She told me, and explained what was going on. I was OK with that.
Mothman Isn’t there a tiny town about decisions?

Take pride in your work. Finish what you start. Study hard. Learn all you can.

Some other bits I liked:
  • Every path has a few puddles.
  • Life is simpler when you plow around the stump.
Mothman The finish what you start thing. If something isn’t working out the way you thought it would, stop. Or think about stopping.

American culture says, “work is good.” Again, though, it depends. There is only so much time in the day. A student working for minimum wage in a store is not studying. The work of studying, especially learning skills that are in demand, will be worth more in the long run.

A common one in the cowboy codes.

“Ride for your brand,” that is, be loyal to your team. Brand meant what was branded into cattle, not, like, Nike.

Mothman Loyalties conflict, though.
Mothman Say you find out the company you work for is doing illegal things, like dumping industrial waste into a river. You gotta choose what you’ll be loyal to.
Mothman Yeah. Another thing, too. Some people think criticizing your country is disloyal. That doesn’t make sense to me.
Mothman I’ve heard people say that.
My country, right or wrong. When right, to be kept right. When wrong, to be made right.
Mothman Ooo, I like it. You’re loyal to a better version of your country.

Some things aren’t for sale, know where to draw the line, fight when necessary, do what has to be done.

Mothman There are different kinds of courage.
Cowboys are modest. From one code: “Your good deeds always come to light.”
Mothman No, they won’t.

Worshiping God is common in the cowboy codes, though it’s not in all. Tiny cathedral town is about religion.

That’s the cowboy codes. What about something more recent?

Christine Emba wrote an interesting article about manhood in America (paywall). She also asked readers to say what they thought manhood is (paywall). Here are ideas from the responses.

Protect those weaker than you. Men can be more aggressive than women. Channel that to help the world.

Mothman Just like the cowboy codes.

Kindness first. Understands others’ struggles. Be tolerant and understanding. “Fidelity to law and custom.”

Mothman That last one’s about obedience?
Mothman This one’s like the cowboy codes, too.
Usually, but not always.
Mothman Cowboying again.
Not always. If you can’t, own up to it, and explain why.
Mothman Man, another cowboy thing.
But not the exclusion of all else.
Mothman Is that different from the cowboys?

Know the value of community. Be a mentor. Help mentees find purpose. Protect loved ones.

Know that fathers matter. Support your spouse and children in their efforts.

Find friends.

The cowboy codes had some of this, but not as much focus on community.

Mothman All these come up in other tiny towns.
The fit one wasn’t in the cowboy codes so much.
Mothman Yeah, but the science tells us how important exercise is. That comes up a lot in other tiny towns.
Stand up for your principles. Take responsibility for failures.
Mothman Yeah, but stand up for your principles within limits. If you or others are going to get hurt, think about it, or find ways that are less risky.
Mothman Ha! I like it.

Be reserved, but express emotions. Even King David wrote poetry.

Have fun. One guy wrote Christ “enjoyed a good party and on one occasion even provided the wine.”

Be optimistic, but realistic. Being competitive is OK, but not win-at-all-costs.

Mothman Were these in the cowboy codes?
Mothman There’s more to say here. I think you should accept how powerful emotions are. That’s just reality. Watch emotions in yourself and others. Learn to manage your emotions, with self-talk, distraction, and leaving situations. Think as well as feel before you act.
This was not in the cowboy codes.
Mothman Tiny cathedral town is about that.
Mothman OK, the cowboy codes and the modern one are almost the same.
Mothman I got an idea. We kept seeing bits of the codes in other places in this game.
Mothman This game is about flourishing, right?
Mothman Here’s my bumper sticker for manhood:
Men help everyone flourish
Mothman Aw, shucks, I’m jest a cowboy, riding the Big Trail of Life. Ptooie.
Mothman Darn tootin’, pardner!

You can write your own code in the notes area (each nugget has a notes area). As a reminder, here’s Mothman’s Manhood Maxims:

  • Help others
  • Be respectful
  • Be honest, unless it would hurt you or others
  • Keep your word, if you can
  • Work hard, but be balanced
  • Value family and community
  • Be clean and fit
  • Have courage, but don’t be reckless
  • Have emotional awareness
  • Have a sense of purpose

Keep the maxims you want. Throw away the rest. Add what’s missing. Give a short example of what each maxim means in your world.

Keep it private. Share it. Up to you.

Mothman You don’t have to call it Mothman’s Manhood Maxims. That wasn’t my idea.
What’s a man? Some people tell you men are domineering, sexually aggressive alphas. That won’t work in the real world. Remember:

Grifters won’t care if you mess up your life following their advice.

We condensed a buncha cowboy codes. They were almost the same as what a group of men said today. Like, very close. Mothman said:

Men help everyone flourish

Mothman’s Manhood Maxims are:
  • Help others
  • Be respectful
  • Be honest, unless it would hurt you or others
  • Keep your word, if you can
  • Work hard, but be balanced
  • Value family and community
  • Be clean and fit
  • Have courage, but don’t be reckless
  • Have emotional awareness
  • Have a sense of purpose
Mothman Hey, look, you don’t have to call them that.

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