Santana, from Dresden, Germany, has nine years of formal training in ballet and is here for the travel adventure and to improve her Spanish. And maybe to master the Tango. Why not?

Santana, from Dresden, Germany, has nine years of formal training in ballet and is here for the travel adventure, to improve her Spanish, and master the Tango.

In a recent conversation with one of the female residents of  Puerto Limon Hostel (not Santana pictured here)  in which she was discussing various men in her life, she used the expression “un hombre completo” enthusiastically describing one of them. When I picked up on the interesting expression and asked for more details, she provided the following, but since a great deal of her answer was peppered with lively and animated facial and body language, I will fill in some of the blanks with my own words, not hers. Hopefully I will accurately convey the essence of what she shared with me.,

Apparently the expression is unique to Mexico and not necessarily the entire Latin American population, and originally was applied to bulls and horses as the essence of maleness: powerful and inspiring of both awe and respect. When the bull comes out of the gate at a bullfight, with his lethal horns, rippling and powerful shoulders, back, and hind legs, he is the personification of fight, attitude and yes, danger. As a collective  the crowd sucks in their breath in anticipation of the impending confrontation between the bull and the mounted matador and horse with their own combined advantages of agility, speed, and cunning.

When “completo” is applied to a man, it is about the whole man, particularly as perceived by his female counterparts. It is about first impressions, a grand entrance that commands respect, the way he moves, his self-confidence, his touch, powerful but gentle; he is relaxed and elegant. He is beautiful to the eye, whether in a $5,000 designer suit or in jeans and

shirtless and engaging in strenuous physical activity. He is at once a successful male with a quiet but commanding presence,  who is also clean, smells good, is house-broken, potty-trained, doesn’t fart or burp or pick his nose in public, puts the toilet seat down, doesn’t snore or leave tracks in his underwear, but who nevertheless has an untamed spirit that implies power, even danger, a force to contend with. In his modern iteration a man who is looked to by other men for his leadership qualities and who is sought out by both sexes for his wisdom and scintillating conversation on a wide range of subjects. A man of great passion and with a strong hint of the animal within. A man who commands wariness from potential competitors and pride  by his woman. A man whose greatest achievement is mastery of himself. A complete man.

Unfortunately we never got to the question of what such  “un hombre completo ” would expect from  ” una mujer (woman) completa.”  So we look forward to a future installment to get the rest of this story. However, looking around at my young hostel compadres, I cannot help but reflect on how much of my life, time, and resources I have personally invested in the pursuit of such ideals, and the inevitable disappointments in both ourselves and others as expectations and reality inevitably collide. Mid-life is purportedly that period of our life when we confront life’s necessary losses and either settle for what we have or reevaluate new possibilities. I say “purportedly” because I don’t think this is a once-in-a-lifetime event, but rather an ongoing process that we repeat  with many of life’s passages. We are either committed to relentless personal growth or we settle for a life of unfulfilled or diminished promise.

For some it is a choice they are unaware they have even made. We seem to have infinite capacity for denial, procrastination, and self-deception, something a friend of mine once luridly described as masturbating your mind. For some, perpetual formal education is a means of escaping the necessity of action and implementation. Perpetual travel can serve the same purpose, and for still others, going inside and getting lost there is an excuse for inaction; those who never get beyond contemplating the mysteries of the universe or more likely, their own navel.

Recently a resident of the hostel asked me if I ever feel fear. He posited that he never does; that he has thought his way beyond fear, that he is now beyond it’s reach. Perhaps without using the words, he was saying that he was so self-actualized the he was beyond the human frailties of fear, anger, or guilt. My answer is no, I am not. Fear is my companion. It warns me of danger, and it also let’s me know when I am moving beyond my comfort zone. I welcome it and embrace it; it is my friend. A lack of fear for me would imply that I thought I was in possession of a certainty that in itself is a dangerous state of mind. I consider my greatest strength to be an inquiring and always challenging mind; a door I never want to close. I believe a successful life is an examined, thoughtful life, but also one that moves beyond the thinking to applying what we have learned to purposeful goal-directed activity. To get stuck in eternal contemplation can be a form of paralysis, an excuse not to do out of fear of failure. For me, failure is also my friend, because most of what I have learned in life has been from my failures.

We have learned to fear failure. We can unlearn it. As a small child we learned to walk by falling down. If we had been paralyzed by fear of failure then, we would be cripples today. In this context “completo” can be a superficial illusion. Failure is the breakfast of champions. Progress is often a ragged affair and life is not lived in a straight line. To my way of thinking, the real completo man or woman is the one out there trying to make things happen and the courage to learn from every setback. And yes, they are often scared. But they harness their fears and place them in the service of their goals rather than being paralyzed by them..

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