What’s lost in Theodore Roosevelt’s story is the fact that he was a big time nerd. From a young age he collected bugs. He learned taxidermy very young and began collecting birds and studying them and categorizing them. He was fascinated with science and learning consumed him. If born in today, he’d have stayed a nerd. Today we’ve grown so over-sensitive and accepting of everything, that we no longer push one another to evolve – or at least it’s not “acceptable” to ask more of someone. (Read This: The Pussification of the West)
It’s the notion that we’re special and perfect just the way we are. That who we identify as is the reality, no matter if it’s completely not based on any semblance of reality. If you’re weak, we praise your weakness rather than asking that you get stronger. We’re so afraid to offend that we stop progression. Back in TR’s time this wasn’t so, or at least in the case of his old man this definitely wasn’t something that he was about to accept.
Theodore Sr. saw weakness as it truly is, an inability to push one’s self and experience all that life has to offer. He foresaw a son being bullied. He saw into his son’s future and didn’t see the adventures that would feed his imagination if he continued to remain weak. So he forced him to become stronger.
He let his love for his son push his son to become something greater, rather than confining him to the mediocrity he was currently trapped in.
True love for another human should be shown in what you expect of them. Pitying someone isn’t love, it isn’t compassion, it’s feeling sorry for them and thinking that they’re not capable of taking care of themselves or rising to whatever challenges life – or you – will throw their way. We’ve grown into a culture that pities rather than one that challenges. And we’re going to see the effects in the kind of men we raise – or the lack-there-of. (Check This Out: 10 Lessons Every Father Should Teach His Son)
Teddy isn’t the norm in history. Even in his time he was something far beyond what was expected of him. But even then, that call to action that his father blessed him with is a product of his time, of a time when self-reliance was praised and prized and dependence despised.
The Value of Models
While Theodore may have been a nerd, his father was the opposite. A strong, rugged man, he was who Teddy looked up to and emulated. It wasn’t growing up that transformed Teddy into one of the great masculine archetypes, but a hero, a model, another man to look up to.
John Wayne saw this need for manly models and purposely crafted a career, choosing appropriate roles to fill this void in pop culture. Watch any John Wayne movie and you’ll see common themes. His characters are always tough. They always do what must be done and hold no delusions about how the world is. They do not hope for things to get better, but they make things better. They fight their own battles and go running to no one to fight them in their stead. They have a moral compass, a firm understanding of right and wrong and they act accordingly. There isn’t a gap between their values and their actions, and if there is for a moment, they return to the proper path.
Every young man needs a model. Every man needs a model. We all need to have a visual and a firm example of what it looks like to be who we want to be. Watch a John Wayne movie with a pen and a pad and learn.
Were TR in school today, he would have been treated like a nerd, but more importantly, he would have been expected to remain as one and acquire nothing else to who he was, to fill out his persona. There’s nothing necessarily wrong with that. But just because you’re a nerd doesn’t also mean you cannot be a badass nerd at the same time; think Indiana Jones or Hemingway.
No man can be 100% brute or brawn, he needs a softness to accompany the ruggedness if he’s to reach his potential and be the best man he can become. The problem lately, however, doesn’t appear to be a lack of softness, but a lack of grit.
Turn the Other Cheek
When Christ took that shot to the face and opened up his other cheek for more of the same, we read that as meekness and a complete lack of desire to fight. What that act really was, is defiance.
Your homeland is controlled by a foreign and brutal power, and one of its soldiers punches you in the face. Both fighting back or running away and cowering would be natural and immediate responses that take little thought or discipline. To turn the other cheek comes from a place of strength, but also disrespect. He’s essentially saying…
You hit like a little bitch. Here’s my other cheek; have at it.
As kids we’re told to turn the other cheek as a way of keeping us docile and calm and to avoid fighting. What young boys really need are more battles. We need to know that we can fight, that we can hit back and beat someone up or take a beating ourselves, to then be able to avoid fighting all together.
You cannot turn the other cheek from the place of victimhood. By refusing to fight for the sake of refusing to fight you’re practicing being a victim, a coward, and you’re using scripture as your excuse for being a pussy.
The same goes for manliness.
Yes, it’s good to like masculine things. It’s good to want to be overtly masculine, to be rough and tough and gritty. In fact, you have to get to this place of brutish masculinity before you can become refined. Practicing non-violence as someone who doesn’t have the strength to be violent isn’t courageous. It requires no discipline. It’s done out of fear, not strength. Practicing non-violence as someone who has the capacity to dish out harm, however, is practicing discipline. It does take self-control.
To try and soften the already soft is useless. First you must become hard, rough, and gritty.
At times Teddy was the bull in the china shop. He was like a Tasmanian Devil when he had something on his mind, something that he wanted to accomplish. He developed into a fighter, a warrior, a rancher, and a real, masculine male. And he did it on purpose. His model was his father, but he also felt as though he were a part of something greater, a tribe of sorts, a race of warriors and it’s the virtues of said warriors, the “barbaric virtues” that won the West and conquered most of the world. He saw that in being of Anglo Saxon decent, he was a part of a tribe that created the first free and democratic society on the planet. He saw America as dependent on the brutality of conquering as well as the kindness and goodness we’ve grown to praise one hundred times more.
Unless we keep the barbarian virtues, gaining the civilized ones will be of little avail.
Through the books and papers I’ve read on Mr. Roosevelt, he does not appear to be a man born rugged and rough, but a rich, soft and curious boy who grew to understand the value of raw masculinity, the necessity of it not just for his own life, but for the betterment of his great nation. Without the fighting and getting into trouble and roughhousing, boys cannot become useful men, or at least not as useful as they could be otherwise.
TR said it far better:
The boy can best become a good man by being a good boy–not a goody-goody boy, but just a plain good boy.
I do not mean that he must love only the negative virtues; I mean that he must love the positive virtues also. ‘Good,’ in the largest sense, should include whatever is fine, straightforward, clean, brave and manly.
The best boys I know–the best men I know–are good at their studies or their business, fearless and stalwart, hated and feared by all that is wicked and depraved, incapable of submitting to wrongdoing, and equally incapable of being aught but tender to the weak and helpless.
Of course the effect that a thoroughly manly, thoroughly straight and upright boy can have upon the companions of his own age, and upon those who are younger, is incalculable.
If he is not thoroughly manly, then they will not respect him, and his good qualities will count for but little; while, of course, if he is mean, cruel, or wicked, then his physical strength and force of mind merely make him so much the more objectionable a member of society.
He can not do good work if he is not strong and does not try with his whole heart and soul to count in any contest; and his strength will be a curse to himself and to every one else if he does not have a thorough command over himself and over his own evil passions, and if he does not use his strength on the side of decency, justice and fair dealing.
In short, in life, as in a football game, the principle to follow is: Hit the line hard: don’t foul and don’t shirk, but hit the line hard.
Being brutish is something that you should practice. Of course the refinement must come as well. You cannot thrive in a society as a Neanderthal. You must have that recipe, the nerd, the man who’s thirst for knowledge is unmatched, the curiosity that allows you to ask questions, and combine it with the toughness and the ruggedness and the grit that will allow your innate kindness and curiosity to be put to use. We’ve lost the aggression and instead have taught pacifism, neglecting or ignorant to the fact that it was aggression and intelligence that won the West, that gave the poor hope and gave everyone a voice. It’s also aggression that cannot and will not be removed from the world, only from the society or the culture that actively pursues its destruction.
Just as we are.
As we temper and tame our boys, ourselves, we remove the barbarian qualities that must be present for the civilized ones to thrive.
We’ve gone so far as to label rambunctiousness as a disorder, medicating those who’ve been caught under its spell so they can sit quietly and learn like good children should be able to do. We’re scientifically attacking all that is masculine by imposing the good and calm and caring qualities that are feminine. We need both. You need both.
As the rest of the world tells you to calm down and to temper yourself, I say do the opposite. Embark on adventures. Fight. Be physical and live a physical life. Do things that others would deem archaic and even brutish. You’re not going to lose the intelligence, the civilized part of persona in this quest to be a man, because what’s civilized is all around you. By pursuing toughness and grit and brashness and boldness, you’re only going to make the civilized self more powerful and more useful.
About The Author
Chad Howse: Chad’s mission is to get you in the arena, ‘marred by the dust and sweat and blood’, to help you set and achieve audacious goals in the face of fear, and not only build your ideal body, but the life you were meant to live. He’s a former 9-5er turned entrepreneur, a former scrawny amateur boxer turned muscular published fitness author. He’ll give you the kick in the ass needed to help you live a big, ambitious life.
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