Gentleman's Philosophy

Lessons in Manliness from the Vikings: Temperance

Image result for food big plate vs healthy sized plateDoesn’t this just look great? It’s probably too much to eat healthily.
Evening Gents, it’s Jonah from The Young Gentleman’s Guide here!

First off, Max and I apologize (again) for the inconsistent posting schedule. Breaks for Christmas, school, and a massive fire that attacked our hometown have thrown things for a loop. But like manly men, let’s get right back to improving ourselves with vigour.

Today we continue our series on lessons from the Norse, especially Norse mythology. Our source material again is the Hávamál, or Sayings of the High One, and our topic is temperance.

“Temperance, Jonah? Never heard of it.”

The virtue of temperance relates to eating and drinking moderately.This affects both normal food and drink, and the consumption of alcoholic beverages, for those of us 21 and over.

“But Jonah, the Vikings were rowdy warriors who feasted and drank, partying ‘til daylight! Isn’t that manly?”

Dear Sir, the schools have not taught you the full truth about the Norse! They valued discipline in limiting one’s consumption of food and drink. Which is timely, I think, to remember around this holiday season. Let’s see what the Norse had to say:

Sayings of the High One

  1. A greedy man,/ if he be not moderate,/ eats to his mortal sorrow./ Oftentimes his belly/ draws laughter on a silly man,/ who among the prudent comes.

And to go back a few lines:

  1. A worse provision/ no man can take from table/ than too much beer-bibbing:/ for the more he drinks/ the less control he has/ of his own mind.
  2. Let a man hold the cup,/yet of the mead drink moderately,/ speak sensibly or be silent./As of a fault/ no man will admonish thee,/ if thou goest betimes to sleep.

So, now for some context and breakdown! Remember that in the time and place of the  Vikings, one’s reputation was important to your success. It was a more dangerous time, and food and other goods were somewhat scarce, so friends and connections were important to maintain in all areas of life. As aspiring gentlemen, we also ought to care what some people think of us (a detailed topic for a later post!) as well. This is why verse 20 talks about “laughter on a silly man”.

Remember also that  to admonish is to reprimand, especially publicly.

The Norse poets and scholars, arbiters of culture, understood that to eat moderately was good for one’s health and reputation, and is polite to others. To eat excessively, especially at a party or large dinner, shows thoughtlessness for everyone else at the table, but to eat moderately sized portions makes sure everyone gets some of each dish.

Thus, to eat and drink temperately also shows that you are not overly concerned with yourself, but more concerned with others, which is the core of gentlemanliness. To do so is to master your appetites and build discipline.

What’s more, it is better for your health! Most Americans eat until we are overfull. This practice, combined with awful food from the big industry and a sedentary lifestyle, has created the obesity epidemic, which top military leaders now judge a national security risk. You can easily find lots of information on the health risks of being overweight, and the benefits of being a healthy weight.

However, the good news is there is a simple start to the habit of temperance:

“Eat when hungry; stop when full.”

–Brett Mckay, The Art of Manliness blog

When you actually start feeling full, stop eating. Your body is telling you it has enough; listen to your body. When you are no longer thirsty, stop drinking. Getting fast food? Get a single burger instead of a double, and a medium drink instead of the jumbo whatever.  Then really enjoy it (especially if it’s In N Out!); taste the flavors.

This extends to all of your appetites, not just food and drink. The video game you’re playing stopped being fun a half hour ago? Put it down and go do something else. Nothing that is actually interesting or edifying in your Instagram feed? Put your phone away and go interact with someone face-to-face. You’ve started to wake up in the morning? Get up promptly, even if – especially if – you’ve slept later than usual (hello, weekends!). No one felt more energized from lazing around in bed.

This way we train ourselves to consume only what is truly satisfying – whether food and drink, a fun video game in a moderate amount, (another topic for a future post!), some interesting tidbits in our Facebook feed (another future post about your social media feeds!), restful sleep, or any other pleasure or luxury especially available in our modern age.

We also train ourselves to appreciate these good things more.

So drink of the cup moderately, in the most satisfying amount. Your health, physical, mental, and spiritual, will thank you for it; and you will be practising a great tenet of gentlemanliness.

I hope you’ve enjoyed reading tonight’s post! Be sure to share the post, follow us of Facebook and Instagram, and pass it along to your fellow aspiring gentlemen. This is Jonah from The Young Gentleman’s Guide, and I’ll see you in my next post!


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