Archive for the ‘ Ξενόγλωσσα κείμενα ’ Category

Soundtrack for Your Thumos


The ancient Greeks believed that a man’s soul or psyche was made up of three parts: Reason, Appetites, and Thumos. While an understanding of the first two parts of this tripartite model of the soul remains with us, the concept of thumos has been mostly lost in our modern day. We tellingly have no word that directly corresponds to it.

The Greeks believed thumos was essential to andreia (manliness) and conceived of it as an incredibly rich and complex energy. Thumos is a man’s life force – the passion that gives spiritedness to the young, and lends freshness and vigor to the old. It is the seat of emotions, and the emotion itself. The Greeks most associated it with anger, especially a righteous rage that springs to life when a man’s honor, loved ones, or community are threatened. Thumos fuels the drive of action, ambition, and the desire to fight, as well as a man’s gameness, courage, and ability to stay “in the arena” once the battle is underway. It is the “fire in the belly” that pushes a man to leave behind safety and security, to despise mediocrity, and to want to excel his fellow men and become the best of the best.

Not only does thumos represent a man’s fighting spirit, but also the energy of discernment and deliberation. It acts as an aid in decision-making and problem-solving. A man ponders possibilities in his thumos, and in turn, it offers inspiration on what course of action to take.

Because the ancient Greeks thought of thumos as a distinct part of a person, they believed you could talk to it — tell it to endure, to be strong, or to be young. In The Iliad, Achilles delights his thumos by playing the lyre.

Thumos is hard to describe, but easy to feel coursing through you. Luckily, not only can you please your thumos with music, you can also use music to fire it up.

Thumos music is akin to “pump up music” — but not identical. It’s not about whipping yourself into a super agro state, and it doesn’t just prime your body for brute force action. You feel it in your bones and your brain. It activates both the primal and higher parts of your spirit. It sweeps you along through the troughs and pinnacles of the human experience — not just anger and joy, but grief and sorrow. It momentarily pulls back the veil on an ideal that is usually so ineffable and inaccessible — greatness. Basically, thumos music makes you feel alive.

Below are several albums and songs that are guaranteed to invigorate your thumos. It’s what I listened to while writing the Semper Virilis series a few months ago, and it continues to be my soundtrack for thinking and writing about heavy, deep, and complex topics. I’ll also listen to my thumos soundtrack when I’m working out; it makes those deadlifts and HIITs seem even more legendary.

Most of the music in my thumos soundtrack comes from orchestral soundtracks from epic films. There’s something about orchestral music, especially when woven with intense chanting choruses, that deeply stirs the “fire in the belly.” Maybe epic movie soundtracks tap into that primordial, Dionysian part of our brain the same way that the music and chanting choruses that accompanied the tragedies of the ancient Greeks invigorated the Hellenistic spirit. Maybe it’s the timelessness and majesty of orchestral music. I don’t know. I just know that when I listen to it, my heart beats a bit faster, the hairs on my arm stand up, and I feel primed for inspiration and ready for a fight — be it physical, mental, or spiritual. Watching the movies that accompany these soundtracks is another great way to boost your thumos, but that’s another post.

When you need to not only get pumped up for something, but to show up fully alive for it, listen to songs that awaken your thumos. Whether it’s reaching a new PR on your deadlift, playing in the state championship game, writing a research report, shaking off the bad mojo lingering from a break-up, summoning the courage to quit your job, or whatever challenge you’re facing, this is the soundtrack for you. While all the songs on these albums are great for thumos, I’ve handpicked a few of my favorites from each one. Hopefully it will serve as a starting point for creating your own thumos soundtrack.

Πηγή: The Art of Manliness




«We need heroism not just for war, which is a mere stupidity, but heroism to sustain us through man’s sublime attempt to wrestle with nature and to strive with destiny. To this high purpose we summon from the void of present circumstance the vast spirit of man’s heroism. For this shall be the epic generation whose struggle and whose sacrifice shall decide whether man again shall know the dust or whether man at last shall grasp the stars.»

~ Sir Oswald Mosley, Tomorrow We Live

The Dead End Roads to Manhood


What a journey we’ve been on.

For the last few months we have been delving deeply into the nature of manhood – its origins, historical imperatives, and standing in the modern world.

First we explored the fundamental tenets of the ancient code of manhood, and demonstrated that in 99% of cultures around the world, in every age up until the present, a male who wished to be considered a man had to strive to protectprocreate, and provide. In so doing we uncovered the perhaps surprising fact that a concern about being manly is far from uniquely Western or modern; not only is the code of manhood timeless and universal, but so is men’s desire to keep it and to earn the title of man. Manhood has been a goal for almost every man since the dawn of humanity.

We then established that far from being merely a cultural construct, manhood has its roots in the unique, biological characteristics of males. The imperatives assigned to men are designed to fulfill collective needs, but men are chosen and drawn to these particular missions because of their innate traits, predispositions, and drives. Cultures seek to channel men’s biological potentialities towards service to the greater good.

Next, we discussed the idea that an emphasis on manhood shrinks as a society’s resources increase. The easier it is to obtain resources, and the less they must be protected from others, the less men need to be “good at being men.” In safe, plush periods and places, men can afford to slack off because there won’t be any immediate repercussions – either to their reputation or their own survival and the survival of their loved ones and neighbors.

Finally, we used the foregoing context to explain why, though a culture of manhood is currently quite weak in our resource-abundant age, we remain deeply conflicted about this waning masculinity: while manly men aren’t needed at the present moment, we worry that someday they might be, but won’t be ready to fight and rise up to the challenge.

The next natural question then is: where do we go from here?

How should men live their lives in a time when traditional manhood is not needed, and in many cases not even wanted or respected? Is there any reason to strive to live the manly code if it does not come with societal honor and reward, and if failure to do so carries no threat of shame? Is it possible to conceive a manhood that stays true to the past but also offers men a way to move forward?

Next week I will attempt to answer these questions and provide men with a possible roadmap for living as a man in the 21st century.

The path of manhood I will lay out is of course not the only one. There are a lot of different voices out there, advocating for men to go this way or that. So I first think it important to outline the other options that exist in order to explain why I think they are ultimately dead ends, and why I have sought a different way.

The Dead End Roads Back to Manhood

These are of course not the only options presented to a man who wishes to pursue manhood in our modern times, but they are the three most popular:

Option #1: Accept that masculinity is a cultural construct and choose to live a “re-defined” masculinity (or eschew masculinity as a goal altogether).


This is currently the default position of society. Much of popular culture and the media tout the idea that masculinity is outdated and wasn’t “real” to begin with, and that the vestiges of this cultural construct which persist are the cause of many of society’s ills.

Men who choose this path seek to re-define masculinity in a way that smoothes out its rough and supposedly destructive edges, and encourage other men to adapt to the modern age by adopting more traditionally feminine traits and pursuits. They see the pursuit of any kind of traditional manhood as silly and sexist.

Disparaging masculinity is particularly appealing to those men who depart sharply from the traditional code of manhood. If there is a part of them that feels insecure and ashamed of their shortcomings (and in nearly every man there is, whether they can admit it or not), this cognitive dissonance is quickly and readily squashed by telling themselves, “The whole idea of manliness is stupid anyway.” In adopting this maxim, such men not only save themselves from the effort of trying to strive to be manly (and the potential of failing in that endeavor), but also buttress an identity for themselves as enlightened and superior to their “brutish” brethren who have failed to get with the program.

Masculinity-as-cultural-construct is one of those beliefs that sounds good in the abstract, perhaps. But I think most folks, men and women alike, feel deep in their gut that it isn’t so, isn’t desirable, and isn’t working. As someone who has examined the research and history of masculinity, I find the idea of it being wholly a cultural construct utterly untenable. It is a conclusion one can reach only by willfully ignoring large swaths of the data and the human experience.

Chucking the old code of manhood was supposed to be liberating for men and women alike. Yet men’s suicide rates are sharply rising while their college graduation rates are falling. Men increasingly wish to opt-out of contributing to society at all. They feel restless and adrift. And women have been left to wonder, “Where have all the good men gone?”

For the last 50 years we have tried an experiment in enforced androgyny. How has it gone? Certainly there have been some positives that have come out of feminism. But can anyone look at society today and say, “Things are really going great!” Masculinity has undeniably been at the root of some great ills, but it has also been the driving force behind so much that is good (see: civilization). Why throw out the baby with the bathwater?

Option #2:  Keep modern civilization, but reverse the tide of feminism.




Just as there are those who point to masculinity as the source of society’s woes, there are those who lay the blame for our faltering culture squarely at the feet of feminists.

These men would like to turn back the clock to a time when patriarchy ruled, and men were honored and respected.

There are several problems with this approach.

First, many men who take this stance, though they say that manhood isn’t about women, are consumed with thinking about them! The focus of their lives is all about women – why they’re angry at them, why they’re not as good as they used to be, and how to pick them up and have sex with them (because while women are awful, they’re still good for one thing). Though manhood should be all about men – how men test and sharpen each other, what men need from each other in dire times, what men respect in each other – for these men their pursuit of manhood revolves around women.

Second, there aren’t any post-civilization “good old days” to return to. To men who want to go back to a better time, I would ask, what time would have been preferable? Is it the early 20thcentury, when most men were so “respected” they got to work 12 hours a day, six days a week? When they got used as cannon fodder in WWI? When thousands died on the job because corporate bosses considered them more expendable than mules, since the animals cost more?

The 19th and 18th centuries might have held some appeal, if you were a landowner. Not so great if you were an indentured servant, or a slave, or a tenant of a greedy landlord. Men were so “respected” back then that you could own them like a piece of property!


How about the Middle Ages then? Then you could enjoy all the dignity of a serf, a man who relied on his lord’s beneficence for his sustenance, who could not move without his lord’s permission, who had to work on the property of another before tending to his own, and who likely wouldn’t live beyond 40.

Well, what then about the 1950s, that period we most often look back on as the golden age? The fifties were certainly a special time, an anomaly made possible by the end of WWII. And there is much we can learn from that time – hence the vintage motif of this website. Men were manly; women were womanly. Yet, plenty of men were unhappy back then, too. I’m a big fan ofThe Twilight Zone, the classic television series produced during this era. And what has struck me is the nostalgic tenor of so many of the episodes – men are driven to suicide by cold, shrewish wives and corporate bosses that try to work them to death; they worry about the conformist, unthinking culture; and they wish they were living in a small rural town at the turn of the century, back when everything was wonderful. They’re living in what we consider the apex of the good old days, and they’re nostalgic for the good old days — farther back!

In truth, while the last 50 years represents an unprecedented period (the first time in history in which manhood itself as a concept has been denigrated and denied), ever since the dawn of civilization men have been oppressed, in one way or another (just as many other groups of people). When we gaze back through time, we usually imagine ourselves as the rich business owner, or prosperous farmer, or the royal baron. But chances are, we would have been the lowly peasant. Dependent and emasculated. In nearly every time up until the present, the only men who got to be men were the elite. The manhood of everyone else was ground down.

Third, and most importantly, anti-feminism offers little in the way of constructive suggestions on what men should do and how they should live their lives. In the last post, commenters took issue with my downplaying of feminism, saying it really is a serious threat to civilization. What I did not see, however, was a single constructive idea on what to do to fight this supposed menace. Ifyou think feminism is a serious threat, what then do you plan to do about it? Is it a policy or governmental change that’s needed? If so, how do you plan on getting millions of people who currently vote for feminist-friendly legislation to back it? Or maybe everyone just needs to convert to Christianity? If so, how do you plan to make fervent believers out of the population?

If pressed for a call to action, men’s rights advocates can generally only come up with “raising awareness.” There’s certainly nothing wrong with raising awareness of men’s issues and of masculinity’s ailing state, but what then? There’s a vague idea that with enough awareness raising, people will rise up and demand sweeping cultural change.

I doubt it. Opinions are well entrenched. Pro-feminist policies bring benefits to enough people that they aren’t going to be changed.

As discussed last time, I think anti-feminists are mistaken in the belief that feminism caused the downfall of manhood. Feminism was a natural byproduct of the increase in peace and plenty during the 20th century. Nor is it the sole cause of societal decline – rather it is part of a complex constellation of factors that include economics, class, religion, and technology. “Fixing” feminism would not magically fix the world’s problems. Once the cat is out of the bag, you can’t stuff it back in.

Patriarchy arose because of the harsh nature of primitive life – women and children needed men to protect and provide for them. It was the physical reality of the world they lived in. You can’t simply try to overlay a patriarchal structure onto a cushy, abundant world where everyone relies on the government for protection and men and women can do the vast majority of jobs equally well. It’s never going to work.

Option #3: Chuck civilization and return to tribalism.


Men who are intellectually honest and have really thought about these issues realize the truth of the above. If you want to return to patriarchy, and a time where men could fully exercise the “tactical virtues,” you have to re-create the environment in which they were spawned.

Recognizing patriarchy’s incompatibility with the modern, techno-industrial world, these men offer another more radical solution: blow up civilization (like in Fight Club) or try to hasten its demise by opt-ing out of contributing to it, and return to a stateless, dangerous world in which primal manliness is once again needed.

I’ll admit there’s a certain romantic, Dionysian appeal to this idea, especially for a single man. It’s probably why zombie apocalypse movies have been so popular in the zeitgeist. But sudden societal collapse is likely more fantasy than reality. Awareness-raising can only make partial inroads and ultimately cannot cause a dramatic shift in the culture. More radical, even terroristic actions would be needed to return to a time of battling clans. You’d literally have to blow stuff up.

But people aren’t primed for this kind of radicalism. They love their creature comforts, and are easily pacified with an iPad, a Hot Pocket, and a smartphone.

Even those who do not put too much stock in material goods still see much in modern civilization to protect and hold onto. Despite our notions of the “noble savage” and the rosy view of being the uncivilized tribesman of thousands of years ago, life was way less romantic than we imagine. Reading anthropologist Napoleon Chagnon’s account of life among the primitive Yanomamopeople demolished my ideas of frolicking in the jungle as an awesome hunter-gatherer man. Theirs is a dirty, brutal life in which one must constantly look over one’s shoulder.

As a husband and as a father of two young children, I’ll admit that a Cormac McCarthy-esque post-apocalyptic world holds no appeal for me. Say what you want about the spiritually hollow culture of first world industrial societies, but I’m glad I don’t have to worry about my wife and kids getting kidnapped and raped.

So, I don’t think people are going to be revolting in the streets and tearing down our civilization anytime soon (though one can never tell when a “Black Swan” may arrive). Our current political and social arrangement — as decrepit and rundown as it is — will likely continue lumbering on for the foreseeable future until we achieve Idiocracy. “Welcome to Costco. I love you.”

The kind of crisis that could turn the world upside down and necessitate a cultural return to the way of men – like another world war – is out of the hands of the average man. So one can ponder it, and perhaps hope of it, and as I’ll argue next time, definitely prepare for it, but what do you do until then? There are those who advocate that you simply enjoy the decline – go your own way and do as little work and have as much sex as possible. What of the men who, drawing on thousands of years of philosophical and spiritual wisdom, believe that such a path is ultimately empty and unfulfilling? Are they doomed to be members of the “cult of non-virility”?

Is There Another Way?

The options and outlooks above are popular because they offer a compelling, emotionally satisfying narrative that explains what has gone wrong in our current culture. What they don’t offer is much in the way of constructive guidance on how a man can live a good life while simultaneously scratching that primal itch for a virile manhood.

That’s the kicker for me. Journalists, social critics, and bloggers are great at writing about the dismal state of modern masculinity. You can’t go a week without running across an article about why men are falling behind or a post about how modern society is unfriendly to men.

Yes. We know. Something is wrong. What can we do about it?

Sitting down at a computer and complaining and venting to a forum of like-minded men might be immediately satisfying, but it’s not ultimately fulfilling. Getting all worked up without taking action is nothing more than mental masturbation.

What’s a practical approach for a man who likes some aspects of modern civilization but also wants to live the code of manhood?

Even if you want to return to a time without feminism or a tribal life, how should you live before that shift comes about? How should you live right now, as a man in 2014, in your day-to-day life?

Next week, I will offer my humble suggestions for another option, a different path, a framework that seeks to wed tradition to the realities of modernity. A way that reaches back and yet moves men forward.

Πηγή: Art of Manliness

Why Are We So Conflicted About Manhood in the Modern Age?


Από το ιστολόγιο Art of Manliness

In the last post, we explored the origins of manhood – how it consists of an energy born of the innate biological and psychological characteristics of males that is then channeled by cultures towards service that benefits the collective good.

We also discussed the way an emphasis on the code of manhood fluctuates according to the abundance of resources in a given society. The scarcer the resources, the more the code of manhood is emphasized – the more men need to be good at being men. Men’s greater expendability, physical strength, and predisposition towards risk-taking, competition, and status-seeking are needed to procure hard-to-attain resources, and to protect them once they’ve been secured. Differentiation between gender roles increases, as a particular division of labor offers a survival advantage.


When resources are easier and less dangerous to obtain, and aren’t at risk of being raided by others, an emphasis on the code of manhood weakens. Differentiation between gender roles shrinks, as who does what job is not a matter of survival and seems to make little difference in the overall health of the society.

Over time, though at different paces and subject to fluctuations and cycles in various parts of the world, resources on the whole have become increasingly abundant, easier to obtain, and almost completely safe from pillaging.

Here in the West we live in the most resource-rich period in all human history. Even the poverty of today is far less harsh than the poverty of a century ago. The strength of the government’s safety net is debated, but its very existence is a distinctly modern phenomena. Food is so plentiful we have an obesity problem. There hasn’t been a world war in three-quarters of a century. There is very little danger; a man can go his entire life without ever getting into a fistfight. The job of defending the perimeter has been outsourced to a tiny fraction of the population. Not only does most labor not require any physical strength, we have to remind ourselves to even stand up sometimes — to take a break from sitting in front a screen around the clock.

Given this positively luxurious environment, it should come as no surprise that an emphasis on manhood is currently very weak. Society doesn’t need most men to perform dirty, strenuous, dangerous jobs for which their propensity for risk-taking and their physical strength make them uniquely suited. Men are so seemingly unnecessary that we even have the luxury of denigrating them – of speculating whether we might have reached “the end of men.”

But a desire for and celebration of manhood has hardly been completely extinguished. We have not reached a collective accord on the superfluity of masculinity, and its slackening continues to be a cause for periodic bouts of cultural hand-wringing. Americans (and many other Western countries) are in fact quite conflicted on the subject. How we got here, and the root of this conflict will be the subject of this post.

The Inversion of the Pyramid of Manhood

To begin to understand our society’s very conflicted feelings about manhood, I think it helps to imagine the code of manhood as a pyramid — like Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, but with manhood substituted for self-actualization.


In pre-modern times, the 3 P’s of Manhood represented what societies needed most from men. They were the tenets of being good at being a man. Protection, procreation, and provision were the vital imperatives that helped societies all around the world survive and grow. Protection served as the foundation for the code of manhood – nothing else was possible if men failed in this charge. Once the perimeter was secure, the population was growing steadily, and there was enough food and resources to feed the burgeoning tribe, men could then start to concentrate on cultivating higher virtues of character and spirituality.

As civilization spread and became increasingly complex, what societies most needed from men were not fierce warriors or skilled hunters, but hard-working husbands, loving fathers, honest politicians, wise philosophers, and clever innovators. The tactical virtues of strength, courage, mastery, and honor were lifted off the battlefield and applied more abstractly to the tasks of heading families, running governments, and building businesses.


Thus, the pyramid of manhood was inverted. Society had the luxury of turning the focus of manhood from being good at being a man, to being a good manThe starting point for manhood and male honor became moral virtue and upstanding character – attributes that men could apply to whichever area of life they labored. The new code of manhood still contained a requirement to cultivate courage, to marry and have children, and to provide for one’s family. But unlike the pre-modern version, this new definition of manliness wasn’t as directly related to anything unique about men’s biological make-up. Men were expected to be as virtuous and chaste as women, and providing often did not involve any danger or the need for physical strength. Being a good man wasn’t dramatically different from being a good woman.

While the standards of the code of manhood had shifted, it was still very much enforced as it always had been – through the bestowal of honor and shame. Having a reputation as weak, lazy, immoral, or incompetent brought social stigma to men – losing them chances to procreate and to rise economically. So men were still very motivated to live the code and earn the title of man.

When that culture of honor disappeared in the 20th century, and with it the motivating force of shame and honor, the goal of being a man was replaced with that of every man for himself. Being manly went from keeping the code to doing your own thing and not caring what anyone else thought.

One of the factors that loosened the Western honor culture in the 20th century was feminism, and since this movement always looms so largely in debates about the sexes, let’s wade right into it.

We’re in Tahiti Now Guys!

There are some feminists that believe that patriarchy was an intentional, evil plot by men all over the world to oppress women and keep them down.

There are some misogynists that believe that feminism was an intentional, evil plot by women to dethrone and emasculate men.

I think they’re both wrong.

It seems like it’s popularly thought that for thousands of years patriarchy existed as part of nearly every culture on earth because people were too backwards and bigoted to realize what an unfair and oppressive system it was, and then finally, finally, in the middle of the 20thcentury, people became enlightened enough to rebel against the system and bring it down.

I don’t think this is quite correct.

The reason feminism emerged when it did was because it could emerge when it did – in the most peaceful, comfortable, resource-rich environment in human history; it was a time when danger had completely receded from the perimeter, and when technology had developed to the point that most jobs could be performed just as well by women as by men.

The way I see it is that mankind is like a figurative group of people who were born in Siberia and spent their formative years just trying to survive in the harshest of environments, and then began a journey in search of a warmer, more hospitable clime. Feminism is basically the moment where the people looked around and realized they had reached Tahiti. “Hey guys! Hold up! We’re in Tahiti now! We can stop looking over our shoulder all the time! It doesn’t matter who does what! We can relax!”

In the harshest of environments, before the rise of civilization, men’s physical strength was needed to perform the dirty and dangerous work of hunting and fighting that kept everyone alive. Men accepted their expendability and did what needed to be done. Primitive societies were fairly egalitarian, but in return for this sacrifice men expected at least a little more power and privilege. Women accepted this arrangement (either gratefully or grudgingly, depending on one’s perspective), because they needed men’s protection for themselves and for their children.

The story of civilization then, is that of men seeking to eradicate this danger, and the need for arduous labor, and above all, male expendability, through the invention of technologies, philosophies, and governments…while at same time, trying to hold on to their power and privilege.

Women understandably increasingly chafed at this arrangement – if they were doing just as much of the providing, and men weren’t regularly required to put their lives on the line anymore, shouldn’t things be completely equal?

So, I’ve never been one to feel angry about feminism. Why should anyone? It’s the natural result of our current environment, our current “season” in civilization. Still, there are today men who want to keep the fruits of civilization and do away with male expendability and return to full-on patriarchy and male privilege. Sorry dudes, never going to happen. If you want to truly return to a time where “men were men,” you’ll need to strip out all the safety and luxury and comfort of the modern world and return to a much more primitive state.

Jack Donovan is actually one of the few writers in the “Manosphere” who sees this clearly. He advocates for a dismantling of states and of modern civilization as a whole in order to restart the world and return to a time of battling clans. If your goal is to get back to a time where the core of masculinity is once again needed and exercised, that’s precisely what would have to happen.

I know what you’re thinking: “That’s not true Brett! Look at like the 1950s. Women were feminine and submissive and men were manly and that was just 60 years ago!” I think because of the vintage aesthetics of AoM, people figure we’re blindly nostalgic about the past. But because we spend so much of our time immersed in research and primary sources from history, few people know as well as we do what is and is not true about “the good old days.”

In truth, even in the 1940s and 1950s, men were complaining about women being too assertive, too demanding, and too career-minded. They pined for the “good old days” of their grandparents’ time in the 19th century when men were men and women were women! But when you read the literature from the 19th century, men complained about henpecking wives and women who were doing manly things like wearing pantaloons and smoking cigarettes. Heck, even Socrates complained about his nagging wife way back in antiquity!

Now just because men have been complaining about women for centuries doesn’t mean things haven’t possibly gotten worse, but it does mean that ever since the dawn of civilization, the sexes have been griping about each other. There was no pure, post-civilization golden age where men were men and women “knew their place.” You truly have to go back to a primitive landscape if that’s the set-up you’re looking for.

And it’s a long way back to Siberia from Tahiti.

You Bood, I Bood, Everybody Bood: Into the Modern Day

Our figurative “immigrants” to “Tahiti” were like any newcomers to a culture; some held on to the old “Siberian” ways for longer, while others quickly assimilated and adopted the norms of their new home.

After the counter-culture movement of the 60s and 70s, many men found the promise of relaxation irresistible, and enjoyed throwing off the demands of the old code of manhood. Sure, there was less power and privilege and less opportunities to exercise their masculine drives, but sex could be had with a lot less effort, and the pressure to excel — on threat of losing one’s manhood — was off.

In a pre-modern tribe, what every individual did mattered; each man’s performance in the 3 P’s of Manhood either strengthened the tribe or weakened it. Every man had to pull his own weight. Today, as Donovan says in The Way of Men, “For what may be the first time in history, the average guy can afford to be careless.” Waves of men can opt-out of contributing to society at all, and there is no immediate effect to their reputation or their community. Men can live at home into their 30s and play video games all day long, and the world keeps right on turning.

The counter-culture movement not only loosened the code of manhood, but also devalued the goal of growing-up altogether – for both sexes. We moderns deny death and seek eternal youth. We flee responsibility. We laugh at the idea of delayed gratification – we want what we want, and we want it now. We watch instead of do, consume instead of create. Adulthood is for suckers. We are eternal children like the Semai, ever shouting: “I’m not listening! You’re not the boss of me!” To the possibility of responsibility or civic duty, we respond in unison: “bood.

While some men threw themselves whole hog into the new sexual and gender freedoms of “Tahiti,” other men, up through today, have held onto to some of the traditions of their “homeland.” They’re sometimes not completely sure of why they do them, except that they know their ancestors did them for ages and remembering their heritage feels satisfying.

Which is to say, many men never stopped following the pattern of the inverted pyramid, and continue to do so in the present day. Many modern men still want to be virtuous, well-mannered, kind, smart, faithful…and strong and skillful too – good men most of all but not so bad at being good at being a man, either. They strive to build character even in their youth. As they grow up, they seek a job that adds something to the world, and then look to settle down and have a couple kids. Once they’ve got a house in the suburbs and a steady job, maybe they’ll think about protecting their home and family. Maybe get a gun. Maybe take some classes on how to use it. Or not. It’s optional, no big deal – something to think about if they have time. We’ve got armies and police departments to protect us, after all.

Most of the time men feel okay about the way their lives follow the structure of the inverted pyramid. But sometimes they’re uneasy about it. As you may have noticed, an inverted pyramid is inherently unstable. It balances precariously on the current peace and prosperity of our society. Should that foundation crumble, men wonder how they would personally fare.

Thus men sometimes enjoy life in Tahiti, and sometimes, having had no personal experience with living there themselves, wistfully long to return to Siberia – land of their manlier ancestors. They like their creature comforts, but also fantasize about navigating a world where they have the opportunity to test their mettle, to exercise their masculinity – a world where what they do actually matters.

There’s a reason why the zombie apocalypse meme is so popular these days. And why – be honest now – when you hear rumblings of war with Russia or that an airplane might have been hijacked for terrorist use, you’re kind of excited. You tell yourself, “It’s not like I want something bad to happen,” but there’s a part of you that really does. “Please, please let something actually happen. Anything. Anything to give us something to think about other than who just said something offensive on Twitter.”

The Cyclical Nature of Gender Differentiation

While an emphasis on the code of manhood has generally decreased and androgyny has generally increased as civilization has become more complex and widespread, these changes have not happened linearly. Rather, they move in cycles within this larger trend; during times of crisis, when men are again called on to serve as protectors, an emphasis on manhood gets stronger and gender roles reassert themselves.

For example, after WWII, where men’s strength and courage had once again been needed, and male expendability had once more been undeniably demonstrated, traditional gender roles were re-strengthened. Women wanted to create a nurturing home to comfort the men who had spent years sweating and bleeding in the trenches to protect them. And no one doubted that men were men.

The cyclical nature of gender role differentiation is predicted by the Strauss-Howe generational theory. According to this theory, in times of peace and prosperity, the gap between the sexes closes, only to widen again after a crisis. Strauss and Howe posit that a new crisis period began around 2008, and won’t end until around 2025. According to their cyclical model of history, during the coming decade, the crisis will deepen, men will once again be called upon to perform manly deeds, and in the aftermath, the difference between the sexes will widen. Until peace and prosperity are again taken for granted, and the cycle starts over once more.


This may sound like the future for men is awfully doomy and gloomy. Should men tear down the very civilization they built up in order to start over again and get back to a time when men truly were men?

I confess that I reject that idea and am instead an incurable optimist – a man who wants to learn from the past but find an even better way forward.

I’ve taken heat from more militant men’s blogs for not being angry and angsty enough. They speculate that perhaps my wholesome, conciliatory tone is due to a need to please advertisers – that I must hold my tongue to protect my commercial interests.

Well here’s the truth: I’m not hiding my angst. I am, in fact, not angsty about men, about women, about gender, or about feminism. Not even a little.

I know, it’s terrible. I’m a square. I’d probably be cooler if I was a little more edgy and misanthropic.

But a smoldering angst about gender would not at all be true to my personal experience.

First, while modern civilization has reduced the amount of distinctly manly pleasures in the world, it has greatly increased the amount of human pleasures to be had. There obviously isn’t room in this piece to describe all the wonderful boons of civilization, but here are just a few that I especially prize.

Walking in the woods and soaking up the beauty around me without constantly looking over my shoulder to see if I’m about to be clubbed over the head by an enemy tribesman.

Not worrying when my baby daughter starts coughing that she may have come down with something that is going to kill her.

Having almost the entirety of the world’s knowledge at my fingertips.

There is so much of civilization that is so very good – so very worth preserving.

Second, my experience with women has been almost universally positive. I haven’t had the misfortune of crossing paths with the mythological feminist trolls who want to castrate men that I hear so much about on other men’s blogs. I have tangentially encountered a couple of real doozies who acted in grotesque ways and did indeed wreak havoc in a couple of my guy friends’ lives. But the behavior from these women was less about feminism and more about simply being super low-class – and I’ve seen the same kind of ill-bred women (and men) in stories from decades and centuries ago — long before feminism was a societal force. Plus, it’s not like the men themselves were unwitting victims; the women might as well have been waving a dozen red flags right from the get go.

I have also heard men complain that women these days have let themselves go and are turning into men. Or something. But where I live the women out about town seem classy and put-together. If anything, there has never been so much pressure on women to stay young and beautiful. Women at the gym I go to exercise for two hours, sweating to stay thin, and then hit the spa for beauty treatments. Old Spice recently put out a funny/creepy commercial where moms belt out a catchy tune about their sons. What struck me about the commercial was that I don’t know any moms that look like that anymore. You know, like moms. Mom jeans. Mom glasses. My mom looked like a mom. Moms today try to look like their daughters. Even grandmas don’t look like grandmas anymore. If anything, it’s all a little too much (come on ladies, workout skirts?). All in all, I haven’t seen any evidence that women have become lazy, masculine hobos – quite the opposite.

Third, I think more egalitarian marriages have been a boon to men and women alike. For starters, I think my own is awesome! I never wanted to marry a ditzy wallflower. I love that Kate and I can have deep conversations and debates about every conceivable topic. I love having a companion to go camping and Warrior Dash-ing with. I love running a business side-by-side and working on something creative together. Kate is, as Jack London called his laid-back, up-for-anything wife, my Mate Woman. And I appreciate the fact that while we think of ourselves as equal partners, she still likes to think of me as the head of our family, and appreciates me being a leader in the home. I appreciate the fact that while we both realize such a dynamic isn’t “logical,” paradoxes can be beautiful. I also appreciate the fact that despite our being best friends, she doesn’t begrudge my spending time in an all male “honor group” — and in fact encourages it.

I’ve heard a lot of pessimism these days about marriage and families. That women will lock you down, get you to put a ring on it, and then take all your money in a divorce settlement. But not only is my own marriage happy, folks all around me seem really happy in their marriages too. They feel like they’re married to their best friend and really enjoy each other’s company. They love raising kids together. Many of the moms I know choose to stay home with the children because they want to. The lives of these families may be boring to outsiders, but they’re happy.Statistics bear this out; while divorce has been going up amongst older folks, for those born after 1980, it’s been declining.

Fourth, I think men live in a golden age for providing. There have never been so many career options and it’s never been so easy to start your own business and become an entrepreneur. There are less opportunities for manly excellence but so many more opportunities for human excellence. We live in a world where we can find work that best suits our individual talents and personalities.

I’m grateful I didn’t feel like my only option was a 9-5 at a big corporation where I’d work for decades and decades until I got my gold watch. I think it’s amazing that I could start a new men’s magazine from my couch at home. Even though it runs contrary to the traditional code of manliness, I’m grateful for the chance to be a hands-on dad and to get to spend a lot of time with my kiddos.

Fifth, it seems to me that the excesses of feminism, rather than getting stronger, have actually peaked. I get the feeling that people are keeping the best changes from the movement but are growing more comfortable with letting a little natural masculine and feminine energy flow into their lives – that they don’t have to push it away. They’re finding they can be playful and enjoy gender roles without being slavish to them. Not only do many women seem both kind and classy around here, the men in my neck of the woods are generally good, solid dudes. Men of good character who are also interested in being strong and being good protectors.

If in times past we focused only on the generalities of gender, while denying the reality of exceptions, and today we focus only on the exceptions while denying any generalities, I am optimistic we can come to a place where we accept the exceptions, while also acknowledging that generalities can us help learn about ourselves and how we tick. Even if to simply realize we really are an exception after all!

Sixth, I really believe that Millenials could be the next “Hero Generation.” I don’t think there’s anything inherently wrong with men today. They just haven’t been asked to do anything yet. But that doesn’t mean they’re not capable and couldn’t rise up to meet a challenge if they were called upon to act like men.

All of which is to say, that in many ways, life is good. Really good. It’s not that there aren’t aspects of our culture that make me wish that an asteroid would demolish the earth on a daily basis – especially whilst looking at the headlines of our click-bait media. And it’s not that I don’t think some of the men-bashing horror stories guys have blogged about don’t happen. But I have long wondered if the slim, more extreme sides of our culture aren’t having an extended argument with each other, one that bypasses and has little to do with how most Americans think and are actually living their lives. I know I don’t see anything that represents my life and perspective in the media.

I have to admit that my rosy outlook may have a lot to do with my faith and where I live. Oklahoma is right smack in the middle of the country and I live in a pretty well-to-do part of Tulsa. The population of Tulsa is more religious, more traditional. Folks are nice, caring – good people. So I’m immersed in Midwestern life, while almost all media emanates from the coasts. (Funny fact: People in NYC and SF are always like, “Hey let’s meet up!…What? You’re locatedwhere?”) And I’m just not sure that small groups of people on the East and the West aren’t having a conversation in an echo chamber, continually feasting on dishes of outrage porn and feeding their phony anger into an endless loop of perpetual indignation, all while the majority of people are just going about their lives, enjoying their family and friends and the simple pleasures in life.

But, you may be thinking, no offense, Brett, but I don’t want to move to Oklahoma. Well, you should rethink that – such a low cost of living! But seriously, that’s my whole point: if it can happen in one place, it can happen in others.

Sure, it would be nice if the whole culture were to recognize and celebrate manhood. It would be nice if schools would recognize that boys may have special needs and create outlets for their energy instead of drugging them. It would be nice if the media wasn’t so idiotic and didn’t pounce on anyone with a dissenting thought. It would be nice if boys belonged to organizations that provided positive male role models and rites of passage.

But, I’m not holding my breath. And frankly, I just don’t care if the whole country never again honors the contributions of men.

If you wait on our culture or government or schools to provide you with direction on being a man and an outlet for your energy, you will likely wait forever. But you need not sit around and spend your time carping about what’s wrong with the world today and how everybody needs to change.

The worst thing for manhood is also the best – tons of diversity and options. If you don’t like the educational system, home school. If your son doesn’t have a positive male role model, be one for him as his dad. Give him a rite of passage. If you never got one as a boy, create your own, and seek out challenges. If people bash men where you live, move. If you don’t want to move, join a club or community within your city, where you can enjoy the company of like-minded people. No such club exists? Start one. One of the greatest weaknesses of my generation is the consumer-bred mentality that you can only choose between pre-existing models and options. We have such a cynical beaten-down view of what’s possible. Yet our forbearers started new fraternities, new religions, new churches, new governments, new philosophies, new ways of living. Why not you? What is possible for one man is possible for any man.

In the absence of a code of manhood, some men will have a difficult time forging a path for themselves and will flounder.

But, for individual men of inner discipline, it can be a fantastic era for manhood. Adherence to the code is no longer enforced, but we can still willingly choose to follow aspects of it. Not because someone else is making us, but because we find it helps us live a fulfilling, flourishing life. The manly tasks are even more satisfying when we intentionally seek them out and freely choose them ourselves.

Is it possible to find both masculine fulfillment and human excellence in the modern world? Is it possible to envision a new manhood that’s relevant to our times, but doesn’t stray so far from its origins and become so watered down as to be unrecognizable as anything manly? Is it possible to still choose “the hard way” in a world of quietude and opulent luxury? To live in civilization but not of it?

I strongly believe it is. Why you should consider taking that journey, as well as a roadmap to living as a man in the 21st century, will be the subject of our final post.



Manvotional: The Power of Truth


“The Power of Truth”
From The Power of Truth: Individual Problems and Possibilities, 1902
By William George Jordan

TRUTH is the rock foundation of every great character. It is loyalty to the right as we see it; it is courageous living of our lives in harmony with our ideals; it is always—power.

Truth ever defies full definition. Like electricity it can only be explained by noting its manifestation. It is the compass of the soul, the guardian of conscience, the final touchstone of right. Truth is the revelation of the ideal; but it is also an inspiration to realize that ideal, a constant impulse to live it.

Lying is one of the oldest vices in the world—it made its debut in the first recorded conversation in history, in a famous interview in the garden of Eden. Lying is the sacrifice of honor to create a wrong impression. It is masquerading in misfit virtues. Truth can stand alone, for it needs no chaperone or escort. Lies are cowardly, fearsome things that must travel in battalions. They are like a lot of drunken men, one vainly seeking to support another. Lying is the partner and accomplice of all the other vices.

Truth is the oldest of all the virtues; it antedated man, it lived before there was man to perceive it or to accept it. It is the unchangeable, the constant. Law is the eternal truth of Nature—the unity that always produces identical results under identical conditions. When a man discovers a great truth in Nature he has the key to the understanding of a million phenomena; when he grasps a great truth in morals he has in it the key to his spiritual re-creation.

For the individual, there is no such thing as theoretic truth; a great truth that is not absorbed by our whole mind and life, and has not become an inseparable part of our living, is not a real truth to us. If we know the truth and do not live it, our life is—a lie.

In speech, the man who makes Truth his watchword is careful in his words, he seeks to be accurate, neither understating nor over-coloring. He never states as a fact that of which he is not sure. What he says has the ring of sincerity, the hallmark of pure gold. If he praises you, you accept his statement as “net,” you do not have to work out a problem in mental arithmetic on the side to see what discount you ought to make before you accept his judgment. His promise counts for something, you accept it as being as good as his bond, you know that no matter how much it may cost him to verify and fulfill his word by his deed, he will do it. His honesty is not policy. The man who is honest merely because it is “the best policy,” is not really honest, he is only politic. Usually such a man would forsake his seeming loyalty to truth and would work overtime for the devil—if he could get better terms.

Truth means “that which one troweth or believes.” It is living simply and squarely by our belief; it is the externalizing of a faith in a series of actions. Truth is ever strong, courageous, virile, though kindly, gentle, calm, and restful. There is a vital difference between error and untruthfulness. A man may be in error and yet live bravely by it; he who is untruthful in his life knows the truth but denies it. The one is loyal to what he believes, the other is traitor to what he knows. “What is Truth?” Pilate’s great question, asked of Christ nearly two thousand years ago, has echoed unanswered through the ages. We get constant revelations of parts of it, glimpses of constantly new phases, but never complete, final definition. If we but live up to the truth that we know, and seek ever to know more, we have put ourselves into the spiritual attitude of receptiveness to know Truth in the fullness of its power. Truth is the sun of morality, and like that lesser sun in the heavens, we can walk by its light, live in its warmth and life, even if we see but a small part of it and receive but a microscopic fraction of its rays.

Which of the great religions of the world is the real, the final, the absolute truth? We must make our individual choice and live by it as best we can. Every new sect, every new cult, has in it a grain of truth, at least; it is this that attracts attention and wins adherents. This mustard seed of truth is often overestimated, darkening the eyes of man to the untrue parts or phases of the varying religious faiths. But, in exact proportion to the basic truth they contain do religions last, become permanent and growing, and satisfy and inspire the hearts of men. Mushrooms of error have a quick growth, but they exhaust their vitality and die, while Truth still lives.

The man who makes the acquisition of wealth the goal and ultimatum of his life, seeing it as an end rather than a means to an end, is not true. Why does the world usually make wealth the criterion of success, and riches the synonym of attainment? Real success in life means the individual’s conquest of himself; it means ”how he has bettered himself” not “how he has bettered his fortune.” The great question of life is not “What have I?” but “What am I?”

Man is usually loyal to what he most desires. The man who lies to save a nickel, merely proclaims that he esteems a nickel more than he does his honor. He who sacrifices his ideals, truth and character, for mere money or position, is weighing his conscience in one pan of a scale against a bag of gold in the other. He is loyal to what he finds the heavier, that which he desires the more—the money. But this is not truth. Truth is the heart’s loyalty to abstract right, made manifest in concrete instances.

The tradesman who lies, cheats, misleads and overcharges and then seeks to square himself with his anemic conscience by saying, “lying is absolutely necessary to business,” is as untrue in his statement as he is in his acts. He justifies himself with the petty defense as the thief who says it is necessary to steal in order to live. The permanent business prosperity of an individual, a city or a nation rests finally on commercial integrity alone, despite all that the cynics may say, or all the exceptions whose temporary success may mislead them. It is truth alone that lasts.

The politician who is vacillating, temporizing, shifting, constantly trimming his sails to catch every puff of wind of popularity, is a trickster who succeeds only until he is found out. A lie may live for a time, truth for all time. A lie never lives by its own vitality, it merely continues to exist because it simulates truth. When it is unmasked, it dies. When each of four newspapers in one city puts forth the claim that its circulation is larger than all the others combined, there must be an error somewhere. Where there is untruth there is always conflict, discrepancy, impossibility. If all the truths of life and experience from the first second of time, or for any section of eternity, were brought together, there would be perfect harmony, perfect accord, union and unity, but if two lies come together, they quarrel and seek to destroy each other.

It is in the trifles of daily life that truth should be our constant guide and inspiration. Truth is not a dress-suit, consecrated to special occasions, it is the strong, well-woven, durable homespun for daily living.

The man who forgets his promises is untrue. We rarely lose sight of those promises made to us for our individual benefit; these we regard as checks we always seek to cash at the earliest moment. “The miser never forgets where he hides his treasure,” says one of the old philosophers. Let us cultivate that sterling honor that holds our word so supreme, so sacred, that to forget it would seem a crime, to deny it would be impossible. The man who says pleasant things and makes promises which to him are light as air, but to someone else seem the rock upon which a life’s hope is built is cruelly untrue. He who does not regard his appointments, carelessly breaking them or ignoring them, is the thoughtless thief of another’s time. It reveals selfishness, carelessness, and lax business morals. It is untrue to the simplest justice of life.

Men who split hairs with their conscience, who mislead others by deft, shrewd phrasing which may be true in letter yet lying in spirit and designedly uttered to produce a false impression, are untruthful in the most cowardly way. Such men would cheat even in solitaire. Like murderers they forgive themselves their crime in congratulating themselves on the cleverness of their alibi. The parent who preaches honor to his child and gives false statistics about the child’s age to the conductor, to save a nickel, is not true.

The man who keeps his religion in camphor all week and who takes it out only on Sunday, is not true. He who seeks to get the highest wages for the least possible amount of service, is not true. The man who has to sing lullabies to his conscience before he himself can sleep, is not true.

The power of Truth, in its highest, purest, and most exalted phases, stands squarely on four basic lines of relation,— the love of truth, the search for truth, faith in truth, and work for truth.

The love of Truth is the cultivated hunger for it in itself and for itself, without any thought of what it may cost, what sacrifices it may entail, what theories or beliefs of a lifetime may be laid desolate. In its supreme phase, this attitude of life is rare, but unless one can begin to put himself into harmony with this view, the individual will only creep in truth, when he might walk bravely.

The man who has a certain religious belief and fears to discuss it, lest it may be proved wrong, is not loyal to his belief, he has but a coward’s faithfulness to his prejudices. If he were a lover of truth, he would be willing at any moment to surrender his belief for a higher, better, and truer faith.

The man who votes the same ticket in politics, year after year, without caring for issues, men, or problems, merely voting in a certain way because he always has voted so, is sacrificing loyalty to truth to a weak, mistaken, stubborn attachment to a wornout precedent. Such a man should stay in his cradle all his life—because he spent his early years there.

The search for Truth means that the individual must not merely follow truth as he sees it, but he must, so far as he can, search to see that he is right. When the Kearsarge was wrecked on the Roncador Reef, the captain was sailing correctly by his chart. But his map was an old one; the sunken reef was not marked down. Loyalty to back-number standards means stagnation. In China they plow today, but they plow with the instrument of four thousand years ago. The search for truth is the angel of progress—in civilization and in morals. While it makes us bold and aggressive in our own life, it teaches us to be tender and sympathetic with others. Their life may represent a station we have passed in our progress, or one we must seek to reach. We can then congratulate ourselves without condemning them. All the truths of the world are not concentrated in our creed. All the sunshine of the world is not focused on our doorstep. We should ever speak the truth,—but only in love and kindness. Truth should ever extend the hand of love; never the hand clenching a bludgeon.

Faith in Truth is an essential to perfect companionship with truth. The individual must have perfect confidence and assurance of the final triumph of right, and order, and justice, and believe that all things are evolving toward that divine consummation, no matter how dark and dreary life may seem from day to day. No real success, no lasting happiness can exist except it be founded on the rock of truth. The prosperity that is based on lying, deception, and intrigue, is only temporary—it cannot last any more than a mushroom can outlive an oak. Like the blind Samson, struggling in the temple, the individual whose life is based on trickery always pulls down the supporting columns of his own edifice, and perishes in the ruins. No matter what price a man may pay for truth, he is getting it at a bargain. The lying of others can never hurt us long, it always carries with it our exoneration in the end.

Work for the interests and advancement of Truth is a necessary part of real companionship. If a man has a love of truth, if he searches to find it, and has faith in it, even when he cannot find it, will he not work to spread it? The strongest way for man to strengthen the power of truth in the world is to live it himself in every detail of thought, word, and deed—to make himself a sun of personal radiation of truth, and to let his silent influence speak for it and his direct acts glorify it so far as he can in his sphere of life and action. Let him first seek to be, before he seeks to teach or to do, in any line of moral growth.

Let man realize that Truth is essentially an intrinsic virtue, in his relation to himself even if there were no other human being living; it becomes extrinsic as he radiates it in his daily life. Truth is first, intellectual honesty—the craving to know the right; second, it is moral honesty, the hunger to live the right.

Πηγή: The Art of Manliness

Creating a Positive Family Culture: The Importance of Establishing Family Traditions


The Art of Manliness

Here’s a bit of trivia about me: My great-great-grandmother on my dad’s side was a full-blooded Mexicana. For whatever reason, this trace of Mexican blood manifested itself quite strongly in me – more so than in my other family members – and I credit my swarthy skin, thick black mane, and Pancho Villa-like mustache to this lineage.

To celebrate our family’s Mexican heritage, on Christmas Eve we would eat tamales, enchiladas, sopapillas, and pozole. Both my brother Larry and I eagerly devoured everything on the menu except for the pozole, which we despised. (For those of you who don’t know, pozole is a traditional Mexican maize stew that usually includes chilies and some sort of meat, like pork or cow tripe. I don’t know why we didn’t like it. I actually find the dish quite delicious nowadays).

Our bellyaching about pozole would begin in the morning, as soon as my mom started putting the ingredients in the crockpot. As the day progressed Larry would start to pretend/actually have dry heaves thinking about eating pozole that night. Larry and I even came up with a song to celebrate our hatred of the dish. (“Paaa-so-ley, paa-so-ley, leave meeee alooooney!”Inspired by Boney from Nickelodeon’s Weinerville)

When we sat down for Christmas Eve dinner, we were served our mandatory bowl of the dreaded gruel. The deal was we had to eat at least half of it or there would be some sort of consequence. I can’t remember what exactly – maybe that Santa would leave us a lump of coal in our stockings. My dad would gobble up the pozole and carry on about how it was so good and how eating it would put hair on your chest. Larry and I would pinch our noses and swallow the pozole as fast as we could while following it up with big bites of sopapillas to mask the taste.

And with that, the annual McKay Family Christmas Eve Pozole Ordeal was finished for another year.

Our griping about Christmas Eve dinner is now a funny memory that my family still jokes about today. What’s interesting is that even though Larry and I hated pozole, we both remember being really proud of our family’s unique Christmas tradition as kids. At the time, there weren’t many families in Edmond, Oklahoma chowing down on traditional Mexican food on Christmas Eve. Sure, it was gross, but by golly, it made our family unique.

I’m sure all of you have stories of family traditions like mine.

As we discussed in our first post about the importance of creating a positive family culture, traditions and rituals form one of the three pillars of a family culture. Below, we take an in-depth look at why traditions are so essential, what research says about their benefits, and what you can do to intentionally maintain and create traditions in your own family.


What Is a Tradition?

Traditions are behaviors and actions that you engage in again and again – regular rituals that you perform at the same time and/or in the same way. Traditions can be big or small, but they differ from routines and habits in that they are done with a specific purpose in mind and require thought and intentionality. Meg Cox, the author of The Book of New Family Traditions, defines family ritual as “any activity you purposefully repeat together as a family that includes heightened attentiveness and something extra that lifts it above the ordinary ruts.” Traditions, when done right, lend a certain magic, spirit, and texture to our everyday lives.

Why Traditions Are So Important for Families

Traditions offer numerous benefits to our families, including but not limited to the fact that they:

Provide a source of identity. Traditions and rituals often tell a story about a family. On the macro level, traditions can teach children where their family came from or give them insights into their cultural or religious history (e.g. eating tamales on Christmas Eve to celebrate your Mexican heritage). On a more micro level, traditions can serve as reminders of events that have shaped your family and your children (e.g. every year your family rents the same lake house, and each time you go it reminds you of all the experiences you’ve had on previous trips).

Traditions, and the stories they tell about one’s family, play an important role in shaping a child’s personal identity. Psychologist Marshal Duke has found that children who have an intimate knowledge of their family’s history are typically more well-adjusted and self-confident than children who don’t. There’s something about understanding your past and knowing you belong to something bigger than yourself that instills confidence.

Strengthen the family bond. Researchers have consistently found that families that engage in frequent traditions report stronger connection and unity than families that haven’t established rituals together. Traditions provide an all-too-rare chance for face-to-face interaction, help family members get to know and trust each other more intimately, and create a bond that comes from feeling that one is part of something unique and special.

Offer comfort and security. Family traditions and rituals are the antidote to the harried feeling that comes from our fast-paced and ever-changing world. It’s comforting to have a few constants in your life.

Traditions can thus be particularly effective during times of change and grief. Maybe you’ve moved your family to a new state and everything is new and strange for your kids, but at least they know that every Tuesday is still pizza night and every Saturday morning they can still count on going on a bike ride with dad. If someone special passes away, by taking your children to a tree you planted in their honor each month, children can acknowledge their feelings of sadness and feel that the deceased has not been forgotten.

Researchers have found that family traditions and rituals can provide comfort and security to children, even if a main source of their stress originates from within the family itself. For example, one study found that “families of alcoholics are less likely to transmit alcoholism to the next generation if they maintain the family dinnertime ritual and do not allow a parent’s alcoholism to interfere with this time together.”

Teach values. One of the main purposes of rituals, whether religious or secular, is to impart and reinforce values. The same goes with family traditions. Through daily family prayer, the importance of faith is re-enforced; through nightly bedtime stories, the value of education, reading, and life-long learning is inculcated; and through regular family dinners or activities, the centrality of familial solidarity is instilled.

Add to the rhythm and seasonality of life. Our world and universe are composed of cycles big and small – sunrise and sunset, death and rebirth, winter, spring, summer, and fall. Even the generations move in cycles. A circular conception of time and a desire to follow the natural rhythm of the days and the seasons is embedded deep within us, but has been flattened out in a modern age that creates its own timetable and concentrates only on the present.

In the Middle Ages, peasants had 150 days of the year for rest, feasts, and holidays; their life was hard but the cycles of work and celebration followed a steady rhythm. These days we can’t take off half the year to participate in traditions, but we can establish small, regular rituals that give us and our children unchanging wayposts both to look forward to in anticipation, and look back on with satisfaction.

Pass on cultural and religious heritage. Many family traditions have been passed down through multiple generations. Continuing them in your own family is a great way to teach your children about your family’s cultural and religious history, thus adding to their personal identity. If you’re having a hard time coming up with traditions for your new family, your family history is a great place to mine for them.

Connect generations. In his book The Secrets of Happy Families, author Bruce Feiler argues that grandparents serve as humanity’s “ace in the hole.” Nana and PopPop are worthy of such a descriptor; sociologists and family researchers have found that children who have a high level of grandparental involvement have fewer emotional and behavioral problems. Moreover, high grandparental involvement is also correlated with lower maternal stress and higher involvement from dad.

Family traditions are a great way to cultivate that valuable grandparental involvement. Growing up, our family would trek out to New Mexico to spend Thanksgiving at my grandpa’s ranch. I’ve got lots of great memories of helping my grandpa with chores and riding horses with him.

Create lasting memories. In her book Ask the Children, Ellen Galinsky, cofounder of the Families and Work Institute, describes a survey in which she asked children what they would remember most about their childhood. Most of the kids responded by talking about simple, everyday traditions like family dinners, holiday get-togethers, and bedtime stories.

Those positive childhood memories can help make your child a happier and more generous adult. While psychologists used to consider nostalgia a sign of depression, recent research has shown that reflecting fondly on one’s past actually provides a myriad of positive benefits including counteracting loneliness, boosting generosity towards strangers, and staving off anxiety.

To get the full benefits of nostalgia, though, you need to have a well-stocked “nostalgia repository.” What better way to fill that repository than by creating and maintaining meaningful family traditions!


How to Create Family Traditions

Find a Purpose and then make it Personal. Meg Cox suggests using these two P’s when crafting your family’s traditions. When considering a new tradition, first ask yourself, “What’s the purpose of it? What do I hope my children and family get out of it?” Do you want to instill a certain family value with the tradition? Perhaps family solidarity or unity is what you’re aiming for. The answers to these questions will help ensure you develop meaningful family traditions.

Once you know your purpose, make your tradition personal. For example, let’s say you want to create a Thanksgiving tradition that really drives home the importance of gratitude (there’s your purpose), but you don’t want it to be generic. An example of how to wed the personal and the purposeful is a Thanksgiving tradition from Kate’s family called The Thankful Box. Before dinner, everyone anonymously writes down things they are grateful for on pieces of paper and puts them into a decorated shoebox. Later on when we’re eating pie, the box gets passed around and everyone takes turns reading the entries and guessing who wrote them. It’s a fun, simple tradition that teaches the importance of gratitude in a way that’s always uniquely theirs.

Incorporate traditions from your childhood, but focus on creating your own traditions with your new family. Trying to merge traditions from each spouse’s side of the family can be an unforeseen sticking point in a new marriage. Your family always opened one gift on Christmas Eve, while your wife feels that it’s more special to save everything for the next day. Which tradition wins out?

As opportunities present themselves, talk to your wife about which traditions from your respective families you’ll continue in your new family and which ones you’ll jettison. Get creative, try to compromise, and find ways to combine traditions.

Better yet, instead of stubbornly fighting about whose childhood traditions to carry on, focus your energies on creating your own traditions that are unique to your new family. For example, after years of spending Christmas morning with Kate’s parents or mine, last year we did Christmas morning at our own home and started new McKay family holiday traditions with Gus. We’re looking forward to introducing Scout to ones we’ve already started and adding more as the years progress.

Create and eliminate traditions when needed. Families have seasons. Traditions that worked when your children were toddlers might not have much resonance when they’re teenagers. Also, there might be some traditions you’d like to start right now, but it’d be better if you waited until the kids were a little older.

While you should do your best to create and maintain long-lasting traditions for your family, don’t try to force the institution or continuance of a tradition if it’s creating more stress than joy. You should feel free to create or eliminate traditions as your family changes.

Don’t go overboard and take it slow. There’s a temptation when you start a new family or welcome a new child into your home to go crazy with traditions. There are lots of great ones out there and you want to do them all!

Don’t fall into that trap. Start slow and pick a few. Family traditions are one of those areas where quality beats quantity every time.

The 3 Types of Traditions Every Family Should Have

Besides the typical family traditions that come with the holidays or birthdays, Cox suggests families intentionally create traditions that aren’t tied to holidays. Specifically, she recommends that families have three types of traditions:

  • Daily Connection Traditions. Daily Connection Traditions are the small things you do every day to re-enforce family identity and values. Many Daily Connection Traditions arise spontaneously from day to day life (e.g. family dinner, bedtime routines), but in my experience it requires real intentionality to develop positive daily traditions and rituals for your family. Without intentionality your daily family “tradition” can become watching TV together in the same room while everyone is staring at their own smartphone or tablet.
  • Weekly Connection Traditions. Similar to the Daily Connection Tradition, but done weekly. Could be a special Saturday morning breakfast or a weekly family game night.
  • Life Changes Traditions. These are traditions to celebrate big life changes or milestones in your family. These traditions can be something as simple as taking a yearly First Day of School picture or something a bit more profound like dedicating a new home.

Beyond those big three, you can also create family traditions that happen on a monthly basis or seasonally. For example, I know in many families where hunting is still a big deal, there’s always a big breakfast on the opening day of the hunting season.

Coming Up Next Week: Ideas to Inspire Your Own Family Traditions

We’re putting together a pretty sizable list of family tradition ideas to help you create your own family traditions. We’ll be sure to include ideas for the different types of “connection” rituals that Cox recommends, as well as holiday family traditions you might not have thought of.

Stay tuned!