Feb 02, 2012 Jason Emerson Uncategorized
What is manliness, and how does one live a life of manly virtue? Authors Brett and Kate McKay, the married team behind the popular website artofmanliness.com, believe that true manliness and manly virtues are being lost in modern society. In their latest book, “Manvotionals: Timeless Wisdom and Advice on Living the 7 Manly Virtues,” The McKays seek to help men find the manly path once again.
The book may sound silly, or even anachronistic, to some people, and yet to read through it is to realize that something truly is missing in modern men. Being a man is not defined by or limited to drinking beer, fixing cars and watching football. It is living a virtuous life.
This book will change your perceptions.
“Manvotionals” is a primer to give men direction and purpose in living the manly, virtuous life. It is divided into seven chapters based on the seven manly virtues: Manliness, Courage, Industry, Resolution, Self-Reliance, Discipline and Honor.
Each chapter contains classic advice passed down through generations of humanity in poetry, speeches, quotations and essays. These range from the philosophy of Aristotle to the poetry of Rudyard Kipling and Robert W. Service to the speeches of Theodore Roosevelt and Winston Churchill. The pages are filled with timeless advice from which to learn and seek inspiration.
“Manvotionals” is the second book in the Art of Manliness series, the first book being titled, “The Art of Manliness: Classic Skills and Manners for the Modern Man.” That book was more of a how-to manual in terms of practicing manly arts, skills and actions: how to tie different necktie knots, how to make a fire, how to do a fireman’s carry, how to groom yourself well, be a leader, be a good father and husband, and so on.
This second book in the series is on the mindset of manliness, on the cultivation of the inner man. The McKays define manliness in the introduction as, “striving for virtue, honor and excellence in all area of your life, fulfilling your potential as a man, being the absolute best brother, friend, husband, father and citizen you can be. Living a life of virtuous excellence is harder than learning how to tie a tie or start a fire, but no other pursuit will be as supremely rewarding.”
Arguably some of the most inspirational works in “Manvotionals” are excerpts from “self-help manuals” from the 19th and early 20th centuries. One that really struck me was titled, “Every man should be able to save his own life.” It advised daily exercise in swimming, pushups and pull-ups, asking, if you found yourself in a burning building, would you be strong enough to lower yourself down a rope hand-over-hand to save your own life? If you were in a boat accident could you swim the half-mile to shore without drowning?
One 1906 newspaper editorial on manliness advised, “Remember that you are an individual, not a grain of dust or a blade of grass. Don’t be a sheep; be a man. It has taken nature a hundred million years to produce you. Don’t make her sorry she took the time. Get out in the park and walk and think. Get up in your hall bedroom, read, study, write what you think. Talk more to yourself and less to others. … There is not a man of average ability but could make a striking career if he could but will to do the best that is in him.”
My favorite discovery in this book was the poem “Horatious,” by Thomas Babington Macauley, from his Lays of Ancient Rome. This poem is famous in part because it was one of Winston Churchill’s favorites, and he memorized all 77 stanzas as a young student. The most recognizable and quoted stanza reads,
“Then out spake brave Horatious,
the captain of the gate,
to all men on this earth,
death cometh soon or late,
and how can man die better
than facing fearful odds,
for the ashes of his fathers,
and the temples of his gods?”
Another wonderful discovery was the ending of one poem that I have never read, but one that I had heard in the movie “Dead Poets Society” but had no idea what it was from. It turns out it was the end of “Ulysses,” by Tennyson:
“come my friends,
‘tis not too late to seek a newer world…
And tho’ we are not now that strength which old days
Moved earth and heaven; that which we are, we are;
One equal temper of heroic hearts,
Made weak by time and fate, but strong in will
To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield.”
“Manvotionals” truly is and can be used as a daily devotional for men. One can sit and read one entry or three, on one topic or more, and fill the mind with advice, opinions, statements and inspiration that will percolate the rest of the day.
It is fascinating to see the breadth and depth of selections in this book, and simultaneously disappointing to realize that men no longer think or speak that way today, that men no longer are encouraged to improve their characters in that way.
This book now stands on my home office bookshelf at eye-level. I flip through it and read selections every day, sometimes at night before going to sleep, and try to not just read the words but comprehend what they say and understand why they are important, and, hopefully, strive to live a virtuous life.
I try to keep in mind what Sam Walter Foss wrote in his poem, “The Man Who Comes up From the Crowd”:
“And where is the man who comes up from the throng
Who does the new deed and sings the new song,
And makes the old world as a world that is new?
And who is the man? It is you! It is you!
And our praise is exultant and proud.
We are waiting for you there — for you are the man!
Come up from the jostle as soon as you can;
Come up from the crowd there, for you are the man—
The man who comes up from the crowd.”
Jason Emerson is editor of the Cazenovia Republican and Eagle Bulletin newspapers.