We live in an age where it can be difficult to know how we’re supposed to be. While it’s been wonderful having so many people all over the world interact, and share their art, culture, religion, ideals, and philosophy, it’s given rise to conflict and confusion. For young men, this has been an especially trying time. As preconceptions about masculinity have been challenged left and right, especially in the United States, young men are left to ask themselves, “How do I become a good man?”
It’s a complicated question. Some would argue that you need to embrace ultra masculinity to be a real man – adopting the “dudebro” culture, getting tailored suits from Dolce and Gabbana, and entering into a profession like sales where you can enjoy your pick of fine cars, fine clothing, fine brandy, and fine women. Others would say that’s completely ridiculous, that it’s the kind of toxic masculinity that has ruined the world, and you should adopt a gentle, caring persona, that eschews violences, shows respect – even submission – towards women, and embraces socially progressive stances like green living, organic foods, and anti-capitalism. But living this kind of lifestyle will have you fending off accusations of being a “cuck,” “soyboy,” or “SJW.”
With so much conflict, and so much confusion, is it any wonder young men don’t know how to behave or grow anymore? But it doesn’t have to be like this. Some of the most accomplished men in history understood that the answer isn’t always one or the other, but is instead often a little bit of both. In particular, the Renaissance icon Benvenuto Cellini is quoted as saying, “The ideal man is a philosopher, artist, and warrior.” I think that perfectly encapsulates what it means to be a real man, and is the answer to resolve this identify crisis that the male population is currently experiencing. It certainly worked well for Jason Everman, and it can work for all of us. Here’s why:
Before a man can hope to become a great achiever – indeed, before he can hope to become a great anything – he must first be a great thinker. Often, young men end up in terrible situations because they do not take the time to think things through, and analyze the variables that they are dealing with. This includes everything from their own talents and vices, to the realities of the profession they’ve chosen, to the way they treat, and are treated by, other people. Only by thinking about life, and understanding what is important, can young men hope to grow into the kind of person who lives by those ideals.
Now understand: I’m not advocating for a particular set of values over the other; that’s for each man to decide on his own. What I am saying is, give careful and considerate thought to your life and life in general. Ask yourself: what is important? What is true? Why are things the way they are? Is there anything I can do? Meditate on these questions in peace and quiet, and discuss your conclusions with others. You may be wrong some, even most, of the time, but you will learn, you will grow, and you will come to distinguish between what is good, what is evil, and recognize the beauty in the world.
Many people have preconceived notions of art, and assume that it automatically entails painting, sculpture, and the traditional schools of art. These are all wonderful exploits, but art isn’t limited to just paint and brush. Art can be defined as any creative endeavor that expresses an idea, and generates emotion. I firmly believe this is what Cellini meant when he defined art, and I believe that any male who wants to grow into a fine man should immerse himself in art.
Again, this could be painting or sculpting, certainly, but building your own high performance race car, with custom fenders and decals, can express who you are and what you believe just as well. Wood carving does the same thing. The most important thing is that, by indulging and studying the arts, a man will be able to express both himself and the beauty around him, and share those insights with others. Men tend to be stubborn creatures, and we keep our emotions contained at all times. While this can sometimes be necessary, it can also boil over, and threaten to destroy us. Art will allow you to take those emotions, whether positive or negative, and channel them in a productive, cathartic outlet.
We’ve determined that a man needs to be a philosopher to understand what is important and beautiful in life, and an artist to express that beauty, and share their emotions with others. The warrior, then, is the aspect a man needs to develop to protect what is important and beautiful. We live in world of conflict; any fool who thinks otherwise has been living with their head in the sand. While not all conflict leads to violence, the world is awash in murders, rapes, robberies, and other crimes perpetrated against the defenseless and innocent.
Therefore, the ideal man not only appreciates and expresses all that is important and beautiful, but he stands ready to defend it. Whether it’s his family and friends, his home, or his ideals, true men stand ready to defend these aspects at any time, both for themselves and others. Real don’t men don’t seek violence, and don’t use their strength to dominate others. Rather, they train those warrior skills, and develop their strength, in order to protect that which is most precious. To summarize it best, I will default to Publius: “If you want peace, prepare for war.”
Ever Evolving, Ever Changing
Though decidedly different, I believe that the three aspects of mankind that Cellini prized most were absolutely right. By developing these three aspects, we can all become better, well rounded men, strong in both body and spirit, but not afraid to appreciate and express the beauty in our own lives.
As I said of the philosopher, reflection and keeping your thoughts only to yourself is not enough, and you shouldn’t take my word for it. Seek out other points of view – join online forums, or other blogs, and discuss these ideas. Even if it’s through a site of your own, share your ideas and thoughts with others, and don’t let your preconceptions stop you from considering a different point of view.
That is perhaps the final, critical aspect of being a truly well rounded man, that Cellini failed to point out – real men aren’t afraid to grow.