Kalos Kagathos

When I was younger, I became very attracted to the idea of “completeness” when it came to the concept of the human being, or in my case, the human male.

I studied many different cultures, and was fascinated to read about samurai perfecting their abilities not just with the sword, but calligraphy, poetry, painting, and meditation.

20th century poet, writer, actor, Shintoist and imperialist Yukio Mishima said of the Japanese feudal era warrior:

“a samurai is a total human being, whereas a man who is completely absorbed in his technical skill has degenerated into a ‘function’, one cog in a machine.”

This quote resonated strongly with me- I never wanted to be one-dimensional or caught up in a myopic viewpoint that didn’t allow for expansion, or expression of the soul.

How many “gym bros” have we all seen building their physique to Olympian proportions while the mind atrophies?

How many intellectuals have we seen unable to perform in the arena of physical combat, powerless if the need arose to defend themselves or their loved ones, because of their disdain for “meatheaded pursuits”?

There is a principle in the classical Greek philosophies called Kalos Kagathos, or kalokagathia.

The term translates something like “beautiful virtue,” or “noble excellence,” and refers to the state of the elevated and complete man.

Classicist Werner Jaeger says of the concept that it is:

“the chivalrous ideal of the complete human personality, harmonious in mind and body, foursquare in battle and speech, song and action”.

I’ve done my best to live a lifestyle that is directed toward this concept- one that I have obviously not yet attained- but a goal is ephemeral.

A lifestyle, a collection of habits, is the reality of what you will become.

What does that lifestyle look like?

For myself, I practice my writing daily, as well as my handwriting.

I draw and paint- nevermind the time consuming nature, a man with control and focus can always make time for what is important to him.

I study and practice business and wealth acquisition to better provide for myself and the people I love who rely on me for support.

I train the physical form with arduous exercise, both with weights and conditioning work, as well as martial arts- grappling, striking, and when time and teaching permits, firearms.

I write poetry often, and play music- both the guitar and singing, in traditional and modern styles.

I read aloud often and practice public speaking.

I read every day, on a variety of topics, from fiction to non-fiction, things I agree with and things I don’t, in order to keep the mind sharp and limber.

I mentor younger guys in my club, and across the world, as time and perceived value permits me to do so, in order to pass along what I’ve learned in 36 years to those still younger- because I wish someone had done the same for me.

I enjoy world travel, and tasting excellent food.

I enjoy time outdoors with my woman and my dog.

Making time for all these things is not impossible- it is only improbable for the man with poor time management.

What is something you’ve always wanted to learn, to become a more complete human, but haven’t yet?

I recommend rising early and taking 30 minutes each weekday to practice this skill, and doing so with iron dedication.

In one year, you will amaze yourself.

Why not start today, and be a master in a decade- rather than look back ten years older, only to say, “I wish…”?