In recent years men have been described by many adjectives in light of the recent advancement in our human civilisation and socialisation of the 21st century. As the walkman was replaced with the ipod, the yesterday man and his mantle have been replaced by today’s man with his mettle. The iconoclast verve epitomised by Beckham is the metro-sexual, diametrically in opposite to Claude van Dame, the brute of the 90’s.
While the debate ensues on the world’s idealistic creature to amplify manhood- an amble crisis of sort has landed on male shores. Maleness crisis is symptomatic of how masculinity has become emasculated, blurred and the prospects bleak. Similar, to the 14th century nonchalance that persuaded individuals to seek inalienable truths of the world, rather than accept the then collective mantra. The answer then, as is now, is the Renaissance man.
A renaissance is a renewal; then in 14th century Italy it was a renewal of Athenian classical antiquity virtues and ideals. The Renaissance man was simply one who had mastery of skills or knowledge from a wide variety of fields. It was a belief that man possessed all the essence and determination to excel in all exertions mental, physical and aesthetic.
Samuel Johnson says “A man may shoot the man who invades his character, as he may shoot him who attempts to break into his house.”And so it was a man’s strength of character, determination and ability that saw him rise above the parapet of societal standards and distinguish himself amongst his peers. Often the renaissance period is called the humanistic period, a notion in art, science, travel and idea that firmly puts the individual as the nexus of worldly experience.
The Athenian man was first a seeker and lover of wisdom. The word philo (love for) sophy (wisdom), thus he engaged himself wholly in the quest to seek the truth about the world and exercised logic in his daily life. He was a philosopher! The Renaissance man in 14th century Italy begun to study Athenian Philosophy and Homeric texts. From these he gained the substance and form of what life is and gained strength of character to discern foolishness.
And so I am confused when the current world lauds the metro-sexual, I ask myself if at all he is a lover of wisdom –a Philosopher beyond just reading, writing and counting? The blame is squarely on Hollywood and our educational system that disguises knowledge with robes of exams. The man who succeeds is one who has mastered the ideals of passing an exam and not necessarily the man willing to die for the truth that he believes.
Another ideal of the Renaissance man was the Warrior ideal. In classical times, a man was a warrior, who defended his family, country and what he believed in. The Roman Empire grew on the basis of these men that would farm their lands during the growing season and fight to increase the empire during the winter. The most revered men were conquerors, men who had exercised ability, skill and determination in the world and not in some film in Hollywood. Valour and a heroic spirit walked side by side with him. Today engrossed in repetitive 9 to 5, shuffling paper, nothing in a man’s spirit calls for his initiation and bravery. He risks nothing, and gains nothing!
Theodore Roosevelt has imparted wisdom and importance of being the man ready for battle; man in the Arena
“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”
Recently in a bus I overheard a group of girls talking, one claimed she only dated Bankers and the other claimed she had been cursed with only Accountants. On reflecting and unveiling this conversation I was sad for a moment and sadder for the men mentioned. But such is the world we live in where a man is qualified purely by his vocation, never mind that the world has over a million doctors- he is just defined as a doctor.
Asked who am i? My vocation immediately conjures my personality, success and mindset. My individualistic personality now hardly recommends me or like in most cases my vocation has become the straight jacket in which my individual personality has merely fizzled into. This contrast heavily with the Renaissance man ;perhaps the quintessential renaissance man of this period was Leonardo Da Vinci, who was an artist, an engineer, an anatomist and also pursued many other disciplines with great success and aplomb.
Finally the classical definition of manhood was exemplified by conduct. Decorum was a virtue taught in every man, and each man would in turn become a poet in his life and create the flair -avoir un don pour- to personalise his deeds. Today’s language this is known as swagger, for the Renaissance man it is panache. Valour and Wisdom led the man to battle, but his conduct in battle was equally important. It was not just enough to win a battle, it was important to win with honour.