08 Jul Are you a Renaissance Man?
In a recent post, I discussed the six elements of Alpha Exercise as described in Carlos Xuma’s Get a Girlfriend Fast program. These are the things Carlos argues are necessary in order to develop a good physical presence, which in turn helps build “inner game,” or unshakeable confidence in the state of being an alpha man.
Just to recap, they are:
One of the red flag words in that article was the word “sophistication.” This word is what separates the “Alpha Man” from the “Alpha Male.” Today, I want to plant the seed of an idea, as it relates to the Alpha MAN: Renaissance Man.
Just let that simmer for a moment. What images does that conjure up?
In today’s economic environment of highly-specific job skills, the idea of being a Renaissance Man seems too open-ended to be useful. You can’t excel if your focus wavers from your singular objective, right?
But what is it really? To answer this, I have to put on my hat as a history professor (relax…I actually do have a degree in history), and look at what the Renaissance really was. Of course, there are entire courses — even degrees — devoted to this subject, but I’ll try to give you what you need in a nutshell.
“Renaissance” was a term coined some time after the actual historical period (as most often happens in history). It literally means “rebirth,” and was considered something of an intellectual enlightenment following the brutal and superstitious Middle Ages. After the fall of Rome, Europe became a political mess, and the ensuing thousand years or so were spent trying to sort all of that out. It was standard practice for the nobility to be as illiterate as the peasants, because they had one job to do: wage war, and defend their own turf. The church, however, had a monopoly on literacy.
All of this changed gradually, as it became evident that kings needed to be able to read Papal edicts and other legal materials themselves. It’s in the Middle Ages that the “University” came into being: places of higher learning, where men (always men) could learn about music, philosophy (meaning church doctrine), astrology, and mathematics. But then, a sudden change occurred that shook the foundations of everything.
The Crusaders brought back books from the Holy Land. Books by guys named Plato and Aristotle, Ovid and Plutarch. In short, they had rediscovered the lost wisdom of the Classical era (the Greek and Roman era). In trying to reclaim the power of the empire around the Mediterranean, they had stumbled upon what they believed to be the source of much of that power: intellectual pursuit.
Now Europeans had a new passion for learning, and they tried to recreate everything classical they could, from art to philosophy to warfare to science. This was the Renaissance; the “rebirth” of the classical world. But they still had to do it within the framework of the times, which meant still being under the control of the all-powerful Church of Rome and the Holy Roman Empire. Still, the celebration was for human achievement, and this is what brings us to the term “Renaissance Man.”
Think of a great piece of art. Chances are either the Mona Lisa or the statue of David popped into your head. Yup: Da Vinci and Michelangelo were both Renaissance artists. Think of great plays you were forced to study in high school. Yup: Shakespeare was a Renaissance writer. Heard any good Christmas Carols? Most of those are at least descended from the Renaissance. In fact, the tune for “Greensleeves” (or the Christmas version, “What Child is This”) was composed by King Henry VIII of England, the Renaissance King who founded the Church of England, played the recorder, burned witches, beheaded wives, and sired Queen Elizabeth I.
I said it was nutshell. Don’t harp on how oversimplified this description is…I already know.
The point of all this is to understand that in the Renaissance, a gentleman of breeding and stature (a “courtier,” or “man of the court”) had to be first and foremost a warrior. This was still Europe after all, and there were still plenty of fights to be had. This meant physical conditioning and training in combat.
He also had to be well-read. He had to know the classics inside and out, and he also had to be well-versed in contemporary literature. He could read the classics in Greek and Latin, and knew enough French, German, Italian, and English to deliver witty conversation with any visiting nobleman, or at any noble court he visited. He had, therefore, to be well-travelled, and up on all the latest celebrity gossip and political news.
He was politically involved. He knew what was going on in the halls of power, and, if his position permitted it, had something to say about it (but also knew when to keep his mouth shut). He likely sat on some level of political council, if only to tend to his own family’s holdings.
He understood economics. He wrote and recited poetry. He actually engaged in rap battles — although they did it by improvising sonnets during dinner, and the point was to be humorously engaging rather than flat-out insulting; like an iambic “you’re so ugly” joke. He always played at least one instrument. He could slice a candle in half with the tip of a rapier; one that had likely been custom made for him. He was savvy about fashion. He knew how to dance. And he was a ninja at flirting with the ladies.
Oh yes…don’t think the Renaissance court was a bastion of prudence and chastity. On the surface it absolutely was, but they knew how to get down too. They were just more subtle about it than your average Spring Break rave. Mostly because their lives were on the line if they got caught messing with the wrong nobleman’s daughter (or wife).
My question to you is: Are you man enough to be Renaissance? Later this week, I’ll give you some tips on what exactly that means in this day and age, and how to move yourself in the direction of becoming a well-rounded man of the world.
A new Renaissance Man 🙂