Study the science of art. Study the art of science. Develop your senses. Especially, learn how to see. Realize that everything connects to everything else.
Plato established that human behavior flows from three main sources: emotion, knowledge, and desire. Even the Knights of old understood that he had three basic but overlapping duties that defined his behavior; the Warrior, the Monk, and the Courtesan. This ideology is mirrored in several other martial traditions across the world as the development of the body, the mind, and the spirit.
We, as Gentlemen, understand the need to be a well-rounded individual, so we must train and mature all three aspects of ourselves. We must develop the warrior within ourselves, educate the hermit within ourselves, and entertain the fool within ourselves. As with the article on the Virtues of a Gentleman, I realize that each aspect has enough information to be developed in a book of its own, but I will try and cover all three in a single article. Please understand that some information will unfortunately be left out.
The Gentleman-Warrior would train in the arts of war, honing his combat skill constantly as well learning the stratagems of military tactics. His superior martial skill was tempered by his virtues of mercy, courage, valor, fairness, and his intent to protect the weak and the poor. His role was to serve as the defender of his countrymen against any and all assaults. His skill is not measured on how hard he can hit, but how many times he could get back up after being hit.
A true warrior is not determined by his skill in combat, but by his discipline and self-control. People will be either inspired or terrified by the unflinching and fearless warrior. Just remember that your most challenging enemy will always be yourself. This will be a battle you fight every day. You must understand that only sometimes you will win that battle. You must also be able to accept the consequences of when you lose.
Most martial arts teachers will remind their students constantly that the more you sweat in the training hall, the less you bleed in the battle field. The more you trained and the more discipline you forced on yourself, the more confident you will be of your skill. Also note that the more discipline and control you exuded in a fight, the more your opponent would fear you. Realize that this applies to EVERYTHING in life. Every action you do, no matter how simple, should be done with this same level of dedication and discipline as if it was your last. Take the lessons you learn at the training hall and apply them to your every day.
1. Train your body to keep up with the life you want to have. Nothing will stop you faster than a ill equipped body.
2. There are no shortcuts in life. Hard work and self-sacrifice are the only ways to achieve success.
3. Respect is something you earn. You can only lead by example. Nobody owes you anything, so don’t expect something you have not earned.
4. Mind your presence and how you project yourself. Are you projecting strength or weakness, confidence or insecurity?
5. Control of self is the ultimate technique. You are not a wild animal who acts out of reacting to your environment.
As the warrior trained his body for war, the hermit trained his mind for thought. A Gentleman-Hermit must look at the world as his classroom, searching out the secrets of the universe in even the simplest things. He also must develop enough wisdom to understand that knowledge is not just facts but how these facts interact with people.
As skilled as a fighter might be with his sword, his most dangerous weapon is still his mind. He understands that a confrontation is won or lost long before the first blow is thrown. He must have enough thirst for information and for understanding as to never grow full of himself, realizing that the more he learns, the less he actually knows of the world. No knowledge is useless, no matter how useless it might seem. It is how you apply such knowledge that determines its use or uselessness. The classroom will begin grooming the Cavalier, but it’s up to him to read, find good company for discussions, and personal reflection to finish his training. Always remember that learning never exhausts the mind.
As a Gentleman-Hermit, you must cultivate your mind. You must try to understand your world, your history, your heritage. Only then can you begin to understand yourself. You must do the same about other cultures to start understanding those around you. You must expand your horizons with travel, by trying new things, by tasting new foods, by looking at the world past your own eyes. You must keep your mind curious and thirsty.
6. Keep learning because learning does not exhaust the mind. The world is your classroom and everyone as a teacher.
7. Travel as much as you can, as often as you can, to as many places as you can. There is no better teacher of the human condition as travel.
8. Learn to look at the problem and not the symptom. We constantly confuse a result with a problem. Search for the core problem and deal with it.
9. Speak only when you have something worthwhile saying. Avoid meaningless banter, for when you speak it should be worth listening to. Mind what you let people know
10. Learn another language, be it French, Russian, or whichever. It’s a useful skill for when you travel, and teaches you that your culture is not the center or the world.
This is probably the most familiar aspect of the Gentleman yet the one least thought about when thinking of Chivalry, since these days manners are so easily confused with flirting. This would contain what is often called courtly love, the idea that the caballero is to serve a lady, and after her all other ladies. The truth is that the fool is not about chasing women, but about chasing beauty.
What truly separates a Cavalier or a Gallant from what is socially understood as a gentleman is his sensibility and awareness of his emotions. Although we have to develop self-control, without the empathy and sensibility in life, we would never appreciate it. Understanding the fleeting nature of life gives teaches us to be truly alive.
As a Gentleman-Fool, you must cultivate your heart and spirit. You must learn to look at the word, find beauty in even the most mundane of things. Your appearance, attitude and manner of being should be a reflection of all your sensibility. Courtesy is, after all, just as important as courage.
11. The only thing you need to take seriously in life is living. Take risks, avoid regrets, and do what makes you happy.
12. Be generous, for there are more important things than money. We focus so much on the material and the superficial, that we forget to invest in the soul.
13. Be confident in yourself. Always smile honestly and be charming. Nothing will unlock life’s greatest adventures as an honest smile.
14. Have a gentle touch. Learn how to give a complement, how to give a caress.
15. Learn to enjoy the finer things in life. Learn about art and music. When you learn to treat yourself well, you also learn to stop treating yourself badly.