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How to be a super man

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When I was a teenager in the 80s, a family friend gave me a book titled Man's Body: An Owner's Manual.

It was an incredible publication; densely researched and exhaustively illustrated, it covered every function and use you could conceive for the male rig.

It's been 20 years since I've seen the book - someone stole it when I took it to high school - but I've often thought it was the sort of guide every young man should be given so he has a no-nonsense reference source to answer all his sticky questions - instead relying on the ignorance of peers, mythologies of older boys and embarrassed half-truths of parents.

If there was a hole in the work, it was it veered away from being prescriptive about what were accepted, acknowledged and desirable modes of male behaviour.

Granted, there was and is an incredible spectrum of masculinity to choose from, depending on your sexual orientation, religion, nationality, IQ and, which football team you barrack for - if you even barrack for sports at all.

So culturally, we kind of leave it at that: we give young men plenty of information on the hardware (their bodies) but little on the software (their brains).

Of course, if you're lucky enough to go to the right school or you've got an older role model like a sports coach, they might educate you in some the more obvious dos and don'ts, perhaps even show you what it means to be a "gentleman".

After that?

You're on your own ... unless, of course, you subscribe to GQ.

It seems to have become a staple of lad's and men's magazines to compile lists of "things guys should know" (or be able to do), which inevitably includes such horseshit suggestions as "know how to tie a tie", "light a BBQ" or "wear the right amount of cologne".

No doubt lists like these are meant to be breezy and entertaining, however, I'm usually left staggered that, with thousands of years of culture to lift ideas from, all the writer could come up with is a list of attributes bearing the hallmarks of a caricature dad in a crappy car commercial.

Knows how to change a tyre? (Check). Knows how to make a woman orgasm? (Check). Iron a shirt? (Check).

As regular readers of this blog would know, I don't mind a bit of history and philosophy and usually find the thoughts of dead people who lived on the other side of the world far more inspiring than anything you can find disgorged from the head of today's so-called experts.

Take, for example, Aristotle's "Portrait of the magnanimous man" from Book IV of The Nicomachean Ethics.

He does not expose himself needlessly to danger, since there are few things for which he cares sufficiently; but he is willing, in great crises, to give even his life, knowing that under certain conditions it is not worth while to live.

He is of a disposition to do men service, though he is ashamed to have a service done to. him. To confer a kindness is a mark of superiority; to receive one is a mark of subordination.

He does not take part in public displays. He is open in his dislikes and preferences; he talks and acts frankly because of his contempt for men and things. He is never fired with admiration, since there is nothing great in his eyes.

He cannot live in complaisance with others, except be it as a friend. Complaisance is the characteristic of a slave. He never feels malice, and always forgets and passes over injuries. He is not fond of talking.

It is no concern of his that he should be praised, or that others should be blamed. He does not speak evil of others, even of his enemies, unless it be to themselves.

His carriage is sedate, his voice deep, his speech measured; he is not given to hurry, for he is concerned only about a few things; he is never prone to vehemence, for he thinks nothing very important. A shrill voice and hasty steps come to a man through care.

He bears the accidents of life with dignity and grace, making the best of his circumstances, like a skilful general who marshals his limited forces with all the strategy of war.

He is his own best friend, and takes delight in privacy whereas the man of no virtue or ability is his own worst enemy, and is afraid of solitude.

Thus is the super man of Aristotle.

Thoughts?

You can follow Sam on Twitter here. His email address is here.

Please don't take it personally if I do not reply to your email as they come in thick and fast depending on the topic. Please know, I appreciate you taking the time to write and comment and would offer mummy hugs to all.

46 comments

  • Great work as always Sam, Aristotle was the foundation for modern western thought; something that in the melee of 20th century progress has been nearly forgotten. Although the above reminds me of a latin proverb: Acta non verba. Action being more important than words, and as males of yesteryear have been generally men of few words, maybe it could be coupled with your words.

    Commenter
    LatinDude
    Location
    sydney
    Date and time
    August 01, 2013, 9:00AM
    • Real men differ from those who are on low levels in human herd hierarchy by the ability to use their own brain to form own opinion and lead the herd, not to keep their tails between the legs by paying attention of the inflamed imagination and fantasies of some dodgy book and magazine authors.
      If you like to follow someone's weird ideas - this means that you do not have a strength to take responsibility for your actions.

      Commenter
      evilrealm.org
      Date and time
      August 01, 2013, 1:15PM
    • ...latin proverb? I thought Aristotle was describing a Jedi.....

      Commenter
      the Force is strong is this one....
      Date and time
      August 01, 2013, 1:29PM
  • GQ magazine is the male equivalent of a vapid magazine aimed at young women, like Cleo magazine. I can't imagine any guy actually reading that crap.

    But on the other hand, when Aristotle spoke, people listened.

    Commenter
    Scoby
    Date and time
    August 01, 2013, 9:12AM
    • Sam, read your third paragraph and have a think about rephrasing it a bit. I think you need to pardon your pun.

      Commenter
      AT
      Location
      Melbourne
      Date and time
      August 01, 2013, 9:14AM
      • I assumed it was deliberate. :))

        Commenter
        bornagirl
        Location
        Melbourne
        Date and time
        August 01, 2013, 9:35AM
    • Love the Portrait of the Magnanimous Man! I vaguely remember reading this as a child (maybe about 8 or 9?) and even at that age, relating to it greatly. Very much one for solitude and privacy here. Not fond of talking, not the trivial small talk anyway. Often very cautious and measured in my words and sometimes almost mute. I'm sure some people find me strange. Well, I know some do as they've told me so! Still working on being my own best friend, as this is a requirement for someone like me who has much solitude in his life. I need to be better company for myself. I am getting there! :-)

      Commenter
      Choo Choo
      Location
      On my own, in my wonderful, amazing Man Cavern
      Date and time
      August 01, 2013, 9:22AM
      • I think it’s groovy. Kinda reminds me of Rudyard Kipling’s ‘IF’. As a chick, you know, I apologise for lurking on this male-oriented blog for so long, and ive often wondered why I don’t lurk on the chick blogs. This post probably sums it up nicely. On blokes blogs you get articles on bettering yourself. On the chick blogs you get articles on how, as a woman, im just fine the way I am and that it’s all someone else’s fault. Or maybe not. I don’t know. What I do know is that I would be facing homicide charges today if I were a blind woman who had travelled CityRail around the Ashfield area yesterday. That is all I really know for certain.

        Commenter
        tba
        Date and time
        August 01, 2013, 9:39AM
        • Human beings are complex creatures and although there is always going to be a majority of people who follow the vacuous and superficial trends of the day there are also always going to be people on the fringes who do things differently. Not everyone can be and intellectual who researches and seeks to discuss of philosophy, history either. There are lost of people in between th two as well who have an appreciation for pop culture and fart jokes and don't need everything they do to be intellectualised.
          Humans are such complex beings that getting to know an unfamiliar one can take a long time. It makes it much easier if they know themselves and can be honest about it in the first place.

          Commenter
          M
          Date and time
          August 01, 2013, 9:44AM
          • For everything there is a season. Sometimes I enjoy philosophy and intellectualizing and other times I can laugh at a fart joke. No need to be so damn serious all the time. My father was like that (took everything as well as himself so seriously) and I believe he missed out on a lot of fun in life as a result.

            Commenter
            MO4
            Date and time
            August 01, 2013, 12:01PM

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