The old wise king Solomon once wrote that a man who governs his own spirit is mightier than a man who conquers a city.
For me, this is a difficult doctrine to internalize as a man – especially if you are the kind of man who would read this blog and who wants to live as counter cultured man.Last time, we looked at how manhood is a mean between the extremes of barbarism and wimpiness.
When we think of manhood, we often think of the characteristics typical of a barbarian: someone who conquers, taking new ground, exerting influence over others. And to conquer a city, there are indeed certain moral virtues necessary (courage and some degree of persistence come to mind).
That's why barbarians often look more like men than wimps. The mean is not squarely in the middle – it leans a little toward the strong.
But bravery and persistence are incomplete without other necessary qualities of moral and intellectual character – knowledge, wisdom, generosity, friendship, and most especially, temperance.
True might, real strength – these start in the heart. Those who cannot govern their own spirits and passions will be a slave to them, even if they can exert power over others. It seems like our cities are filled with barbarians who are strong on the outside and weak on the inside. Whether they are construction workers wielding the technological force to wreck condemned skyscrapers or executives with authority to trade stocks worth the value of whole midwestern towns, if they lack the ability to govern themselves, they cannot truly be called men.
Being a true man means eschewing both of these extremes and looking inward. It means conquering the passions and fears that lead to barbarism or wimpiness. And it means contemplating seriously how to govern yourself.
I just thank heaven that we live in a society where we are still free to learn how to govern ourselves, even if the concept of self-government runs counter culture. That is, after all, why we're here.