In a play on the beatitudes, some have quipped the geek shall inherit the earth. It’s certainly true that our post-industrial Western culture greatly values information—and those who possess it. To get ahead in life, you have to know your trade; not only your trade, however, but also an array of other subjects. The nigh-ubiquitous liberal arts education requires one to know a major and minor content area, yes, but it further mandates “general education requirements”: history, mathematics, literature, music, etc.
It takes time to master such a wide range of topics, and that’s why I believe it’s time to reverse a growing trend. Men, it’s time to trade in the Man Cave for the Study. Man caves—rooms dedicated to things considered manly (primarily, it seems, sports of all types, hunting, fishing, beer, cars, and of course, large TVs and entertainment sections)—have become the “in” thing. Men can come home from work, enter their cave, and emerge rested and restored, complete with a fresh coat of masculinity. They’re mainly a way to decompress and spend time in a world devoid of anyone else who might lay claim to its denizen.
While there’s certainly a need for those private moments, here are the reasons why I believe the study to be the better option.
1. Man Caves Inhibit Self-Growth
Man caves are designed to preserve the personal status quo, to be sanctuaries of the self as it currently is. Little to nothing about them is designed to better yourself in any way. Studies, on the other hand, are for doing precisely that. In a study, a man can learn, grapple with fresh ideas, try on new thoughts, and develop new skills. The information we gain in study helps us become better citizens, better Christians, better family members, and better workers. In short, studies help men become better men.
2. Man Caves Are Selfish
Everything about a man cave is catered to the tastes of a single individual. No other person in the house (and few guests) are comfortable in them. They represent large investments in the life of a single individual to the exclusion of others—not a solid basis for a healthy family dynamic. Studies can be used by anyone who wants to enter them, thus enriching and connecting the entire family.
3. Masculinity Mutates
If man caves are bastions of masculinity and nothing else, the décor is going to have to change frequently. What society deems necessary to or representative of maleness (the hegemonic masculinity) varies greatly over time. Knowledge, however, is timeless. Studies help ground us in reality, giving us fixed points upon which to form stable identities and which further serve as solid foundations for our interactions with the world.
4. Man Caves Are Isolationist
In keeping with my first three reasons, I believe man caves are overly exclusive and isolationist. When a man is in a man cave, the rest of the world ceases to exist; the entirely of creation is contained in man and his cave. The man can remain in his oasis indefinitely, ignoring duty or remaining ignorant of other events. Studies do the opposite, connecting us with a larger, not smaller, world. As our knowledge expands, so does our world, and we experience life in deeper, more meaningful, more effective ways. Our heart grows and loves more the more we know there is to love.
5. Man Caves Have Little Room for God
Like my previous reason states, man caves are solo endeavors, existing to cut off the rest of the world, and that includes God. Man caves are shrines, to be sure: chapels to taxidermied animals, holy sites of fast cars, Churches of the One True Sports Team. With so many idols permanently fixed in the home, how can a man pray? Where is the spot for your faith? By contrast, a study provides a place for private worship (although families should worship together in the home, too). Here one can read his Bible and other books on theology, church history, Scripture, you name it. As we learn more about God, our love for Him deepens. The quiet of the study provides an ideal place for prayer and reflection, too, things which are impossible in a man cave.
Ultimately, the fifth reason is enough for me. If anything inhibits my relationship with God, it has to go, whether that’s man cave, study, or something else entirely. Man caves may not affect you in this specific way, but I still hope you’ll reconsider it in favor of a study.
After all, we can’t effectively witness to the world if we stay in a cave.