“ I mean to make myself a man, and if I succeed in that, I shall succeed in everything else.”
~James A. Garfield
I Believe in being a man.
No, this is not a derogatory term to throw at boys caught in emotion, nor a mantra that needs to be banned for the sake of a society that is fighting for gender equality. The very fact that when I make this claim I am met with rolling eyes and offended guffaws has taught me that somehow my view manhood is no longer the commonly held one. Let me provide some history.
The word virtue comes from the Latin root of vir, the very same that is the base component of “virility.” Why? Thousands of years ago, Aristotelian philosophy encouraged men to live the virtuous life, claiming that happiness was the ultimate goal of humanity and by ways of practicing their virtue, men would become distinctly better. Not better humans, but specifically better men. Why?
The root vir means, according to the 1879 Harper’s Latin Dictionary, “a male person, a man.” Therefore, when Aristotle told men to live the virtuous life he was very literally telling them to “man up.” This is because throughout human history, virtue and manhood are one, inseparable idea. In order to be a good man, you must be a virtuous one. You must be the best man possible in all facets of life. And so, I believe in being a man. But it was not always so.
When I was younger I loved to play with toy soldiers, (a collection of which I still do not let my mother throw out), loved fighting, claimed the lion as my favourite animal and was passionately in love with blue. I was a man damn it! But as I started to get older, I started to dislike the word “man.” To me it started to become associated with arrogance, quick temper and an overall sense of negativity. Worst of all was that unbearable testosterone fuelled machoism that caused some men to have the horrible misconception that unbuttoning the first two or–God Forbid–three buttons of their shirt was manly. People who told me to be a man were definitely not role models and they always demanded I “man up” when I was exploring my emotions. It came to a point where I actively rebelled against the term manhood, associating it more with the possession of a certain appendage than anything else.
Until one day I was browsing the aisles of Chapters and came upon a little green paperback that would go on to change my life. It was titled The Art of Manliness: Classic Skills and Manners for the Modern Man. And from that day on, I started my journey to manhood.
Today I believe and endorse an ancient, traditional definition of manhood; a definition that centres a man’s worth around how selflessly he can serve society, how well he can provide for his family and most importantly, how well he can treat the women of the world. To be a man is to make a conscious choice to traverse the demanding landscape of self-improvement daily, waking each morn with the indomitable spirit that comes with the power of election and having the willful discipline necessary to teach yourself the ways of the world.
It means burying yourself in the literature of the world, yet never becoming blind to the beauty of physical experience.
It means being resolute in your decisions, yet never deaf to the words of the young or old
It means devoting yourself to your craft as though you construct a shrine to the Gods, yet always making time for family and those in need.
It means telling your woman that you love her every chance you get, yet allowing her to live her life as she must.
It means protecting every woman as though she is your sister, not because their sex is inherently weaker, but because you have the privilege to be surrounded with their beauty and intelligence.
It means overcoming the fear of society to stand for what is right and just, yet knowing when to heed to fears warning’s of danger.
It means to treat all of mankind with the dignity that they deserve and actively preserve it.
It means to represent all that is masculine and anciently sacred on earth, yet also channel and balance the feminine energies of sensitivity and empathy within yourself.
It means to be of service to humanity.
So today I aspire to be a man. I aspire to one day be worthy of the title of manhood, for I realize I am yet a boy. I have no claim to that magnificent throne yet. But everyday I wake with the will to become worthy, the resolution to work for it and the discipline to one day embody the virtuous man. I only pray that when the universe calls upon my manhood, I can be of great enough service to mankind. So though I may be a boy, I am a boy on a journey.
A journey to Manhood.
This I Believe.