Monday, January 7, 2013

Manliness and Manly Honor - Part II: Esto Vir!

This post is dedicated to the intercessory prayers of St Maximilian Kolbe. May he pray for us to God.

In the previous part, I lamented that manly honor is missing from society at large. But all is not lost!

The best advice in how to be a man is this wonderfully short Latin sentence: "Esto vir!" It translates into English as "Be a man!" But there's more to this delightful sentence than what meets the eye. "Esto" in this context is the second-person singular imperative tense of the verb "sum." Related, "esse" is the present infinitive form of "sum," and in modern Italian we get "essere" and in modern French we have "ĂȘtre," which in Old French was "estre." This, in English, is where we get the noun "essence" and the adjective "essential" and the adverb "essentially." Through the present active "sum," we obviously find in English as "the sum" or "summary." "Vir" simply translates as "man." Therefore, the sentence "Esto vir!" truly means this: the total sum of a male's existence, the very essence of of his being, is "man." Everything he does, thinks, acts, experiences is to be manly.


"Do or do not. There is no try."

I am not going to harp on the externals of manliness, such as holding a door open for a lady, or helping her remove her jacket or to pull out her chair for her to sit down before you do likewise. For that, I direct you once more to the Art of Manliness blog.

Being a true man is more than just the externals. The true man is honest, and the only way to be honest is if the internal integrity backs up the external beauty. Therefore, if one is going to act on manly chivalry and true gentleman appearances, then he also has to internalize the virtues of manly honor. Otherwise, he is a play actor, a hypocrite.

While there are many virtues, and a man of honor works to master all of them, the five a man should work on most are the following five:

  1. Fraternity
  2. Temperance
  3. Self-sacrifice
  4. Fortitude
  5. Chastity

Fraternity - "No man is an island." In Aristotle's Nichomachean Ethics, the Philosopher describes two types of friendships: perfect and imperfect. The imperfect friendship is friendship based solely on personal pleasure, and offers nothing to improve the man.It is perfect friendship, friendship with the virtue of fraternity, that pushes the man to be his best. It is brotherly love for the sake of the other person, to push the other man into better virtue and strengths, which also works to improve the brotherhood. The improvement among brothers is reciprocal: as the man pushes his brothers to improve in virtue, the fellow brothers push the man to also improve.

Temperance - St Thomas Aquinas says this: "It is essential to virtue to incline man to good. Now the good of man is to be in accordance with reason, as Dionysius states. Hence human virtue is that which inclines man to something in accordance with reason. Now temperance evidently inclines man to this, since its very name implies moderation or temperateness, which reason causes. [...] The temperance which fulfills the conditions of perfect virtue is not without prudence, while this is lacking to all who are in sin." Temperance does not hinder personal pleasures, but only redirects them, so that we can focus on acts of charity towards our fellow man, and not being controlled by our stomachs or our sex drives but instead controlling them.

Self-sacrifice - On one hand, this means little things of personal sacrifice, like holding back on that one cookie after dinner or passing up buying that video game, for the means of a more virtuous end (whatever that end may be). However, on another hand, it also correlates with the virtue of fraternity. To truly give aid to one's brothers, and then by extension all mankind, one must be willing to give up some personal time and resources.

Fortitude - This virtue is the reason I love Captain America, and want to be him. A man of honor stands up for what is right, and refuses to back down.  He does this, not out of revenge, hatred, or anger, but instead because he has the honor to do what is right: to suppress the suppressors, to defend the defenselessness, and to make the world around a better place afterwards. The man with honor always gets back up when knocked down, not to make himself look bigger and better, but for the great Cause of Truth, out of necessity to defend that Truth.

Chastity - This is by far the toughest virtue for most men, as it is also one of the most important. This is one I defiantly struggle with, as my beautiful girl friend can attest to. Chastity has, unfortunately, received the bad reputation as only meaning "repressive sexual abstinence" when in reality chastity is the proper ordering and usage of sexual relations. A man of honor will not sexual oppress his loved one. A gentleman will instead guard his loved one's heart and soul against the sexual prowess of other men, especially of himself.

All five of these virtues, and indeed all of gentlemanly honor, comes down to love. Be it within philia, eros, or agape loves (brotherly/fraternal, romantic, or communal loves respectfully), to fall in love with another (yes, including fraternal love) is to fall in love also with a transcendent third, and ideal bigger than the two in love, so for growth in manliness, it's best in choosing a transcendent third that pushes the growth in these virtues.