Of Studs and Studies

How can men imbue their lives with thoughtfulness, piety, and healthy ambition?

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Lots of different words are used to describe the qualities a man should have. I enjoy seeing what other languages are getting at with their vocabulary for manliness.

The highly poetic language of Old English abounds in poetic descriptions of masculine prowess, strength, and wisdom. The heroes of Beowulf’s day are described as full of thrym—a word combining concepts of power, force, greatness, and glory. In Latin, that archetypal language, the words for strength and man are all related; not only that, virtus is also where we get our word for virtue. Food for thought, right?

Strong, virtuous, manly. I know many young ladies are wondering where in the world they can find a man who would live up to such a simple description. It often seems like the old joke is true: men are like parking spots—all the good ones are taken and the rest are handicapped. Pale computer programmers. Jocks with no thoughts. Sleek businessmen with no passion besides money. Aimless wanderers stumbling from one fast food joint to another, from this to that porn site. Some women I know wonder, “Can I ever find a guy who meets…like…three basic criteria: has thoughts inside, is devout, and is interested in doing something with his life?”

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I’m not going to try and give anyone a secret recipe for finding their Prince Charming. Instead, I want to say a few words to men on how they might meet those three basic criteria: how to imbue your life with thoughtfulness, piety, and healthy ambition.

At bottom, I believe one has to be a studious stud (in the best sense). You’ve got to be a man who is not ashamed of your physical and mental capabilities and who cultivates both. You’ve got to be adventurous and interested in learning, able to climb mountains and wade through books (as well as brooks)—and to discover how to enjoy both, so that neither is a slog. Oh, and prayer: don’t forget that either. It needn’t be complex; it can be as simple as some psalms, a spiritual reading book, and going to Mass a little more often than once a week. You’ve got to be a man who is not ashamed of your physical and mental capabilities and who cultivates both.Tweet This

Likely as not, you already lean naturally in one direction or the other: for lack of better words, either in the jock or nerd direction. During high school, I definitely leaned in the nerd direction. Just like a small sailboat sailing at an angle in the wind, you have to lean in the other direction to make it sail straight. If you’re not inclined to study or prayer, perhaps lean a little on that side. Or vice versa. 

Whichever direction you find yourself leaning, there is a book I’d like to recommend: Bear Woznick’s 12 Rules for Manliness. I’ve perused quite a few Catholic “be a man” books, and I usually find them disappointing. Not this one.

First off, the author has real street cred. He does not strike you as your usual sports coach turned inspirational speaker or CEO turned theology of the body spokesman. He is more authentic than they usually seem to come, and that is at least partly because he loves adventure and danger more than these guys usually do. True, he did start out as an accountant and business man…but then he became a scuba diver, skydiver, private pilot, motorcyclist, and champion surfer.

Bear has ridden both his bicycle and his motorcycle all the way across the U.S., in two separate national rides. And besides rappelling off mountains, he’s also rappelled from the twenty-fifth floor of his condo in Hawaii.

Whether you are inclined to be bookish or bro-ish, I think Bear’s book is a good anecdote. In the first scenario, he challenges you to achieve and adventure in concrete, physical ways…to dream as you have never dreamed before, and then…do it! Maybe you really should skydive or figure out how to get your pilot’s license. On the other hand, he deftly quotes Aquinas and Aristotle, and he encourages meditation.

Honoring his wife’s cowboy roots, as well as his Texas childhood, in his 12 Rules for Manliness, Bear draws upon the icon of the Wild West to remind and inspire men to “know their creed” and “live by their code” just as cowboys had a creed and code of conduct and meaning in their lives.

Bear does not mince words when he encourages his readers to ride for the brand and be men of their word. Cowboys might sign up to serve a ranch owner. They might not agree with everything he did, but as long as they were “riding for his brand” they served his interests. If they thought their honor was compromised because of their boss’s shady dealings, well then, they went and got their pay and left. They were all in or all out.

I love the way he encourages men to be dangerous, to be “lean and mean,” to make a stand and ride the proving trail. “Cowards are unreliable and that makes them dangerous. But real men have the courage and integrity to do the right thing every time. Which one are you?” 

Bear accounts for both the spiritual and physical battle. A martial artist of the highest level, Bear tells his readers that the full flourishing of their manhood, as well as the protection of those dear to them, relies on their being strong, cool, and deadly. Usually, the police arrive in time to say, “What just happened?” he says. 

You need to ponder what it would be like to hit someone in the throat with an extended knuckle fist or to push your fingers two inches deep into an assailant’s eye sockets. You need to think about it, feel it, make a decision once and for all, and then tuck it away in the back of your mind for the day when you may need it.

One might scoff at a figure like Bear and his “Deep Adventure” ministry program, or at his books about surfing. Isn’t he reducing manliness and adventure to a stereotype? 

Any number of things could be said in response to this, but the least I’d say is this: even if this is a stereotype, sign me up. When I die, I’d rather have lived like Bear than like most other guys I know.

I bet most men, even if they wouldn’t admit it, would love both stud and scholar to be among the words used to describe them. Well, the only way to get there is to start now—in the surf, on the mountain, in the library, in the chapel. What are you waiting for?

[Image Credit: Shutterstock]

Author

  • Julian Kwasniewski

    Julian Kwasniewski is a musician specializing in renaissance Lute and vocal music, an artist and graphic designer, as well as marketing consultant for several Catholic companies. His writings have appeared in National Catholic Register, Latin Mass Magazine, OnePeterFive, and New Liturgical Movement. You can find some of his artwork on Etsy.

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