Hosting guests, letter writing, and going out on real dates are often seen as old-fashioned practices that are no longer needed in an age when folks can book an Airbnb room instead of crashing at your pad, you can communicate instantaneously via email or text, and your next girlfriend is just a Tinder swipe away.
But my guest today argues that the refinement of civilization requires that we still continue these supposedly old-fashioned practices. His name is Mitchell Kalpakgian and he’s the author of The Lost Arts of Modern Civilization: How to Taste and See the Abundance of Life. Today on the show, we discuss what Homer can teach us about being a good host, why writing letters by hand will always beat email, and why you might consider resurrecting the forgotten art of courtship.
- Why we should hold on to “old-fashioned” practices [03:00]
- What Homer can teach us about hospitality [10:00]
- Why face-to-face conversation brings us so much joy [19:00]
- Why you should send more handwritten letters [24:00]
- How the lost arts of civilization “bring us out of our own head” [36:30]
- The lost art of “pleasing others” or why you should be considerate [38:00]
- How courtship ensures we marry right the person [42:00]
Resources/Studies/People Mentioned in Podcast
- The Iliad
- The Odyssey
- How to Be a Gracious Host
- The Power of Conversation
- My podcast interviews with Dr. Sherry Turkle and Susan Pinker about the benefits of conversation
- The Art of Letter Writing
- 7 Letters Every Man Should Write Before He’s 70
- My podcast interview with Michael Crawford about The World Beyond Your Head
- Dietrich von Hildebrand
- Why Every Man Should Read Jane Austen
The Lost Arts of Modern Civilization brims with great insights from history, philosophy, and literature on why seemingly “old fashioned” practices bring us joy and pleasure. Pick up a copy on Amazon. While you’re at it, check out Mitchell’s other book, The Virtues We Need Again.
Listen to the Podcast! (And don’t forget to leave us a review!)
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Read the Transcript
Brett McKay: Welcome to another edition of “The Art of Manliness” podcast. Hosting, letterwriting and going out on real dates are often seen as old-fashioned practices that are no longer needed in an age when guests can book an AirBnB instead of crashing at your pad. You can communicate instantaneous via email or text or your next girlfriend is just a tender swipe away.
My guest today argues that the refinement of civilization requires that we still continue these supposedly old-fashioned practices. His name is Mitchel Kalpakgian and he’s the author of “The Lost Arts of Civilization.” Today, on the show we discuss what Homer, the guy who write “The Iliad” and “The Odyssey” can teach us about being a good host, why writing letters by hand will always beat email and why you might consider resurrecting the forgotten art of courtship. Great podcast.
After the show, check out the show notes at aom.is/civilization where you can find links to resources we mention throughout the show so you can delve deeper into this topic.
Mitchell Kalpakgian, welcome to the show.
Kalpakgian: Well, thank you very much. I appreciate the invitation to talk about subjects that are on my mind, subjects that appear in my teaching and subjects that I write about because I find them very important, very timely and very very rich in wisdom.
Brett McKay: I agree. You’ve written several books but the one book that I came across of yours that I’d like to focus on today is the book “The Lost Arts of Modern Civilization.”
Brett McKay: In this book, you make the case for reviving what a lot of people today would think of as old-fashioned practices like writing letters by hand or courtship.
Brett McKay: I’m curious. What do you think people stand to benefit and by people, since this is “The Art of Manliness podcast,” particularly men, what they stand to benefit from taking part in these antiquated practices in our modern technological age?
Kalpakgian: Yes, that’s a very probing question and a very practical question. First of all, I think word “antiquated” perhaps is a little extreme and a little exaggerated. These are practices that are familiar to the many of us in my generation. I’m in my 70s, people in their 60s, perhaps 55 can identify with all of these things, but you’re quite right. These have become somewhat obsolescent, less customary and they have been more or less really dated to the past as old-fashioned or as you said “antiquated”
=Some things that are old and worth preserving and cherishing because they are timeless and they are very human. They are very personal. They are very enriching. Things like all those topics in the book “The Lost Arts of Modern Civilization,” are things that will beautify and enrich human beings lives. In other words, I can sense myself because I’ve lived in both worlds. I’ve lived pre-technological revolution, the digital revolution and I now live in the post-digital technological age. I see there’s a profound difference.
The profound difference is that the world that I try to recover in “The Lost Arts of Modern Civilization” is far more personal, far more joy-filled. It somehow makes life so much more enjoyable and delightful that it’s worth remembering and recalling. It shouldn’t just be put on the shelf or put in the museum where it would just be considered quaint. That’s a defense of those old-fashioned customs or antiquated ideas.
They’re not antiquated. Some things like the habit of reading, for example, how can that ever become antiquated? It can’t become antiquated. I know people are absorbed by video culture but it can’t possibly translate into the elimination of the importance and value of reading. I think all men can benefit from these lost arts, all human beings can benefit, all men can benefit.
For example, you take for example, you could take any one of those lost arts, like the lost art of hospitality for example. I have found in the whole history of my life from the time I was a child to my married life and now in my 70s, I’ve found that people appreciate an invitation for dinner, for social occasion or party. Women more than men, men somehow have to be coaxed, coerced or made to feel guilty but many men do relish these occasions as much as women and children.
Why? Because it enlarges people’s worlds. We all have circles of family members. We have circles of friendships, but part of the pleasure life is to expand our relationships, to enjoy more people, to expand our friendships and you never know what will happen. That is, you could have one conversation and you could learn one thing, you could receive one introduction on these social events, this could somehow make a difference in your life.
Why should we limit our worlds only to a limited circle or clique or just a few people that are in our circle when there is a larger world for us to enjoy and there is so much for us to give and receive, it’s mutual? We might contribute something, say something. Someone might learn we have a favorite hobby or particular interest that someone else also enjoys and something happens. This is a way of somehow gaining perspective. In other words, life is more than work or life is more than money. Life is more than paying bills and purchasing things. There’s a human dimension to life that we cannot lose sight of.
Human beings are meant by nature to somehow work to live, not live to work, but we live … we word to live and we work to play. We work to enjoy things. These lost arts are sources of true enjoyment. You don’t have to depend on an entertainment industry. You don’t have to depend on a mobile device. These are all natural human traditional sources of enjoyment that are filled with mirth. People testify to this and people recognize that these are inherently good things to pursue and to do.=
Brett McKay: Going back to hospitality, throughout your book you look to great thinkers, great literature to suss out or make your case, build your case.
Brett McKay: I thought it was interesting with the lost art of hospitality. You look to the Homeric poems as a treatise on hospitality. I think that’s interesting. For a lot of men they think “Oh, the Alito disease. It’s all about Achilles rage, black blood spewing out of bodies in these great epic battles.”
Kalpakgian: Sure. Sure.
Brett McKay: What can the Homeric epics teach us about hospitality?
Kalpakgian: Yes, even though this is a story about the Trojan War which is always background, there are in both “The Iliad” and “The Odyssey” there are scenes of hospitality. In “The Iliad” there’s a very famous scene called “Funeral games for Patroclus” which is an episode that is in contrast to war, that is the Greeks are in a state of leisure, They’re competing for fun. They’re not fighting for glory.
It’s a kind of interlude and Homer wants us to see in both “The Iliad” and “The Odyssey” that men have two sides. They have a masculine side, of course, that somehow is demanded of them in fighting evil and going to war and defending their families and fighting whatever difficulties confront them, but all of Homer’s heroes have a mother and a father. They have a wife and they have children and homer reminds us that is really the center of their life. It’s really the center of their life.
In “The Odyssey” if you ever read “The Odyssey” carefully, you will notice there are several scenes of hospitality. I can’t think of any book that spends as much time on the rituals of hospitality. That is right at the beginning of the book. One of the God’s comes in disguise and is received with hospitality by Odysseus’ son. Later on, the son Telemachus goes on a journey to find news about his father. Is he living or is he dead? He is welcomed by the hospitality of Menelaus and welcomed by the hospitality of another one of the companions of Odysseus in the Trojan War.
All through the book, it went … When Odysseus finally comes home, the very first scene that portrays Odysseus when he’s arrived home is that he’s received with hospitality by, not a king or a queen’s but a sine herd. In other words, hospitality is an ingrained habit of life. It isn’t just kings, nobles, the wealthy. All human beings practice hospitality. It is considered to be sacred to the God’s. To violate the rituals and obligations of hospitality is an offense against Zeus.
In other words, this is the most human of all virtues. All human beings are travelers. All human beings are strangers. All human beings find times in their life where they depend upon the kindness of other human beings. Therefore, they are obligated to practice this virtue that so essential for human life.
The custom of hospitality in Homer also is just a beautiful ritual. In other words, it’s a very special occasion and it involves different stage, that is the travel that is first all welcomed, bathed, cleansed, given clean garments, given a good night’s sleep with comfortable blankets, a warm place and then … So first, he’s cleansed, then he’s feasted and all of the dainty’s, the mellow wine, the roasted meats in great abundance is offered to the guest.
First of all, the needs the body are met, but that’s not enough. You see, the next day the traveler and the guest is welcomed for his conversation. In other words, where does he come from? This is an occasion for learning. This is an opportunity to broaden the mind. Every traveler comes with his own background, comes with his own experience and so they spend time in conversation, delightful conversation, real exchange.
Odysseus, when he’s the guest tells all these episodes of stories from his experience in the Trojan War and that’s still not the end of the ritual of hospitality. Then all the guests hear the beautiful music of the liar and then they are entertained by dancers who are so so practiced and skillful in this particular art. Then finally, before the ritual of hospitality is completed, Odysseus is asked to participate in the Olympic games, athletic competitions.
So, you see the whole idea here is hospitality nourishes the body, the mind, the spirit, our hearts. It acknowledges the humanity of the traveler in all of his different dimensions. You honor the guest. You welcome the guest. You have conversation with the guest. You learn from the guest and when he leaves, you give him a gift.
Could anything be more civilizing and humanizing and heartwarming than the knowledge that a particular culture or society practices this on all the different social levels? There is a great, great wisdom here about the art of living.
Brett McKay: For us, in the modern age, we’re not ancient Greeks but we might not do the whole ritual that they did in ancient Greece, but for us it could just be as simple as actually setting aside and being intentional about inviting others into her home and breaking bread with them.
Kalpakgian: Absolutely. It’s always a thoughtful, kind, gracious, and social thing to do. People appreciate it. People appreciate it. You’re right. It doesn’t have to be elaborate. You’re absolutely right, but it’s the intention and the goodwill that counts. “What are you doing tonight? Why don’t you come over for coffee and dessert?” “What are you doing tonight? We’re having a barbecue. Why don’t you come and join us?” “The winter’s been long and weary, just come over for some wine and cheese and conversation. We haven’t seen each other in a long time.”
That’s nourishing. It’s emotionally nourishing. It helps people to, it helps human beings to appreciate other human beings and recognize that they are not just workers, they’re not just mothers, they’re not just fathers, they’re not just specialists. There’s a human dimension to them that is so inviting, but you need these occasions in order to know these people and get to know them better.
Just simple things, even if you’ve never met before, it’s just simple questions like, “Oh, where are you from?” Or “Where did you learn your trade?” Or “Where did you go to school?” or “I noticed you have a French name. Are you French-Canadian?” Little things like that somehow open the door and I have found in my lifetime that occasions of hospitality are naturally opportunities for conversation.
Everyone has a story. Everyone has a story, but you have to ask. Nobody is going to tell you this story. Nobody is going to delve into their background or relive their childhood or tell you of the great adventures, the romantic adventures. Whatever they’ve done in life that’s memorable, it’s all stored away. They need an opportunity to express it and those things come up naturally in social occasions of hospitality where people are conversing and learning about each other.
It’s kind of that spontaneous, honest exchange and them all those people there, so I guess often some people sometimes will come say, “Well, let me introduce you to so-and-so,” or “My wife would really like to talk to you,” or “My husband would really like to talk to you.” Those things happen in such a fortuitous way, such a spontaneous way that it’s a very very spirited. You’re quite right when you say that hospitality does not have to be elaborate but it’s just, it could be very simple, you see?
Earlier, I said that one of the hosts of the traveler is swine herd. He doesn’t have a palace. He doesn’t have talented musicians and dancers, but the welcome he gives the stranger … He doesn’t know it’s Odysseus. He just thinks it’s a joke, but he treats him with regal hospitality. He offers him his best, makes him comfortable, he roasts the best meat for him. He spends time conversing with him. They exchange stories.
That’s a very important, storytelling is a very important part of this ritual. There is so much human wisdom to be learned by way of conversation. You don’t have to read books about it. You don’t have to read experts about many things that somehow can be easily learned by our conversations with people who have life experience and who have things to say and have real convictions.
Brett McKay: Another area or another practice are you for is the art of letter writing and I’m curious in a world where we can communicate with anyone around the world instantly via email or text message, why should we make time for handwritten letters? What are we able to convey via handwritten letter that we can’t through an email?
Kalpakgian: Yes. Well, again, a very very thoughtful and very practical question. That is … The difference between electronic correspondence and letter writing is that some occasions require letter writing. There’s certain occasions where you can complement someone, congratulate someone, sympathize with someone, offer your good wishes to someone in the form of a written letter because when you write a letter, first of all you have to be in a state of leisure.
Most electronic communication is in the form of business. Yes, we want dispatch. We want instant communication when we’re purchasing things, ordering things, doing online business. Yes, that has its purpose. But we shouldn’t limit correspondence only to emails. When you’re writing a letter, just notice … This has been said to me over and over again by several people, people do not throw away your personal letters. They don’t throw them away.
I remember myself, when I was a college student I would call my parents once a week or twice a week and I would also write letters, but I remember my mother saying to me, “Please write letter.” She said, “I can re-read the letters. I like seeing your handwriting. Your handwriting reminds me of who you are. When I receive a letter I can then put it away and re-read it when I miss you. When I have a letter from you and other relatives ask, I can read them your letter or show them your letter.”
In other words, we can express the deepest emotions of our hearts and souls in the form of letters. Yes, letter writing takes time. You have to somehow imagine the person in front of you. In other words you have to see that person, you have to remember that person, you have to keep in mind that person’s character, personality, sense of humor, likes, interests and it makes a demand upon you. What can you say in a letter that would be meaningful? What could you say in a letter that would be enjoyable? What can you say in a letter that would make someone say, “That letter made my day”?
That’s what people tell me. That’s what people. They say, “Getting your letter made by day.” What did it communicate? It communicated to me that you found the time, you found the time to write to me and you somehow organized your day to collect your thoughts and say something to me in a letter that was friendly, that was delightful, that gave me advice, that recommended something for me to read or to see or to do.
That’s the power of letter writing. Do you see? In other words, the business of letter writing is not instant communication, but it’s a form of pleasing someone. It’s a form of pleasing someone. How do you keep friendships, how do you keep them active?
Yeah, you can do emails and keep them active, but I have found in my lifetime that friendships that thrive are the ones that somehow exchange letters. It doesn’t have to be every week, but regularly even if it’s three, four times a year. They’re beautiful things to receive and you read them and you re-read them and what happens when you read the letter is a motivation to write a letter.
Yes, I know people say, “Well, I’m not a good letter writer. That’s not the point. You know how to talk. You know how to express yourself. That’s all people want, just express yourself in the best way you can. My mother was an immigrant. She didn’t know English very well and she just knew … She knew a few languages. She knew Armenian. She grew up in France. She would write me letters in French.
I still love that beginning. “My dearest son,” and that was very touching. That’s how people know us. They know us by what we say. They know us by what we right. They know us by our thoughtfulness. We cannot always plead the excuse of busyness. That is the lamest of excuses. People always find time to do the things that are important. They always do. They may have to prioritize, but they don’t ignore doing things that are important.
When you have the moment, when you have the weekend, when you have vacation, you do the things that are really important. You write that letter or you make a phone call or you make that invitation and that’s the secret to living a balanced life. We cannot let busyness or work somehow consume us to the point where the most important things in our lives, our family relationships, our bonds, our friendships, the people that we’re most indebted to that we have lifelong association with, we have to make sure these things are not neglected or forgotten because then we become less human. We become less human.
Brett McKay: One of the other things I love about letters is that it’s tangible. When you get a letter, you see the person’s handwriting and through the hand writing you can see their personality.
Brett McKay: When you hold you think, “The person who sent me this, like he held it too.” It’s bizarre that that can actually convey more connection through an object but I don’t get that same sort of sense whenever I read an email. Even though it might be heartfelt, whenever it’s conveyed via letter there’s just something … because I can heft it, physically there’s an emotional heftness to it as well.
Kalpakgian: Yes, that’s a very good way of putting it. Can you imagine love letters by email? Can you imagine writing a letter of condolence by email? Do you see how inappropriate that is? That’s as impersonal and as insensitive and as unfeeling as one could possibly get. You write … If we want to somehow …
We have to remember that human beings have many, many emotions. They have sensitivities, they have sensibilities, they have these certain refinements and we never can quite capture that with email. Writing a letter, it gives you a chance to somehow present yourself or write in a way or say some things that you know correspond to that person’s sensibilities and feelings and thoughts and interests. That’s important to them. It’s important to them.
Every human being wants others to take an interest in them. That’s what we neglect in the modern world is we don’t take a human interest in other human beings. We take an interest in them if we work together, we’re colleagues, we’re on a team, we work on a project, we work on roofs together, we work on houses together. Yes, that’s true but there is another dimension.
We have to always remember that there’s a mystery to human beings. There’s a very very deep history to human being. Yes, we see the person with our eyes and we recognize that this person is tall, this one is short. This one is young, this one is old. This one is attractive, this one is plain. Those are first impressions we have, but we have to realize that there are so many other layers, upon layers, upon layers that form a human being. Don’t we want to know those other layers? Don’t we want to get to know the heart of a person, the soul of a person, the essence of a person?
These lost arts of modern civilization are what always keeping that alive. Just think, when a person leaves this world, what are they remembered for? They’re not going to receive a eulogy for being punctual at work every day although that’s certainly an admirable quality. People will say, “He was a good father.” “She was a good mother.” “He was a true friend.” “She had a pure heart.” “She never said anything unkind about anyone.” “She was most humble person and never complained.”
It’s these beautiful qualities of human beings that are cherished that somehow we will know and appreciate if we have this personal dimension to our life.
Brett McKay: It seems like these lost arts, what they all have in common is that they draw ourselves out of our own head in a way.
Kalpakgian: Yes, very good. Very well-put. Yes. I couldn’t agree with you more.
Brett McKay: If you’re thinking about others and not just … Modern culture is very insular. Everything is made to fit. We can get Internet content that just based on an algorithm that aligns with our taste. These lost arts require you to like not just think about yourself.
Kalpakgian: Mm-hmm (affirmative) Yes, exactly. One of the chapters in that book that I really enjoyed writing because I found it sorely lacking all around me was, the chapter is called “The Art of Pleasing.” Think about what you just said that so many human beings in modern culture are most insensitive about pleasing others but most committed to pleasing themselves. Everything I do must somehow enhance my image. Everything I do must serve my pleasures. Everything I do must somehow advance my career.
The art of pleasing is the willingness to do the little things that may not be grave matters but just to do the little things just because it’s pleasing to someone. How many of us are that sensitive to know what pleases our mother or our father or our spouse or our oldest son or our youngest daughter? The does require just what you said, the ability to put ourselves last, to put other people first, to be aware of other people’s sensitivities, to be aware of the things that make other people happy. We need to remember these are proofs of love, proofs of love.
The little things that you do, the little thoughtful kind of things that you do where you say, “Whatever you want to do. Where do you want to go,” rather than having an argument about that. All of us need to learn how to put our own will, our own preferences second. That requires humility. That requires great great thoughtfulness. I remember, I think I used this example in the book, but I remember reading this as just such an exquisite example of the art of pleasing.
I was reading something by Alice Von Hildebrand, married to the eminent theologian Dietrich Von Hildebrand, and she remembers asking where her husband was. She said, “Could you please, please, please not put a bar of soap in the soap dish with water in it?” She says, “I know it’s not something that bothers you but it’s quite irritating to a woman and could you please not do this?” The fact that he stopped doing that proved how much he loved her. That’s how she interprets this.
In other words, take for example a mother who cooks what her children like to eat. Rather than what she likes to eat, she cooks what her husband like to eat or what the children like to eat. That’s the art of pleasing. That’s the art of pleasing. We all thrive on this. We can all be a source of joy to other people. All could be sources of joy to them if we do these little things, these simple amenities, these thoughtful acts of courtesy.
Brett McKay: So, Mitchell in another chapter you talk about the lost art of courtship. I’m sure our younger listeners have heard the word, but because they’ve grown up in a culture that has pretty much abandoned courtship, what exactly is it and how does courting or courtship strengthen a relationship in the long run?
Kalpakgian: Yes. Well, again that is a lost art and it needs to be recovered for all kinds of reasons. Courtship, it doesn’t … Yes, I know people will say, “Well that’s something they did in Jane Austen’s 18th-century world or in the Victorian period,” but no. There’s a certain logic to it.
In other words, courtship begins in a social occasion that is a man and a woman will meet, that they can meet at school or they can meet at work or they can meet at church, or they can meet at a party. It’s a social situation. Someone will introduce them or they will introduce themselves and he will make an impression on her and she will make an impression on him.
In other words, this person is not just some stranger. This is someone that you had a chance to meet. This is someone upon whom you have an impression, either favorable or unfavorable, or interesting or uninteresting, or attracted or not attractive. It begins in a social situation, and if there is compatibility and congeniality then a man should then initiate a courtship by calling, asking the person to do something whether it’s to go out to dinner or to go out to some cultural event or to go to some athletic event.
In other words, there’s a second opportunity, a second opportunity to somehow know each other better, to have more conversation, to appreciate and understand each other’s personality a little bit more and so you’re building a foundation. First of all, here is someone you actually met, someone that’s been introduced to you by someone you respect and so now you spend more time with each other on a date and so the second time one of you or both of you say, “Well, I hope we can do this again.”
The third layer builds upon the second layer which builds upon the first layer. As this goes on, within a period of time then the whole idea here is that you will be falling in love or you will not be falling in love. In other words, as this relationship somehow develops and deepens, at some point someone will say, “You know, I really miss you. I really miss you. I feel this kind of emptiness in my life. I really love being with you. I love your sense of humor. You are fun to be with. We have so much to talk about.”
In other words, a courtship is allowing a relationship to grow naturally. It’s like a seed. Let the seed grow. Cultivate the seed, nurture the seed, let it blossom and then one of two things will happen, that is a man will realize or woman will realize, “This is not meant to be,” or they will recognize that this is meant to be. “This person is perfect for me.”
Notice that as I’m describing courtship, it’s chased. Notice it’s chased. Notice that the whole idea, the whole sexual aspect of love and marriage are guarded and protected. There is none of this “hook-up” culture, none of this promiscuity, none of this cohabitation that is a mockery of romance and a mockery of marriage. The whole point of courtship is that a mystery is being unveiled. It’s being unveiled. It has to be unveiled slowly. It doesn’t happen instantly.
The secret of a person has to come out. The beauty of a person needs time to reveal itself and that’s what courtship is. In other words, you fall in love with someone for all kinds of good reasons. You don’t just fall in love because of physical attraction. You fall in love with someone because there’s compatibility, because there’s mutual attraction, because you share similar ideals, because you have common values, because you realize you can live together, because you realize your mother or father would approve of him or her in marriage. In other words, there’s a mystery that’s being unveiled and being revealed, stages.
Brett McKay: I think that’s one of the lessons … You refer to Jane Austen. I know a lot of guys think Jane Austen, that’s for ladies.
Kalpakgian: Oh, no.
Brett McKay: There’s a great lesson there. I just finished reading “Pride and Prejudice”-=
Kalpakgian: Oh good. Good.
Brett McKay: -and Mr. Bennett, he’s in a terrible relationship. He does not like his wife. He calls her a silly woman. Elizabeth, his older daughter, she notes why her dad doesn’t like his marriage with her mother is that he married her just for looks. It was just the sexual attraction and it must’ve been a quick courtship because it wasn’t until after he was married to his wife that he realized, “I have nothing in common with this woman and I don’t enjoy being around her.”
Kalpakgian: That’s right. Exactly. What Jane Austen shows you in that book and that’s why men should read this book is men need to read this book because what Jane Austen reveals to you is that if a woman is uncertain about whether or not she wants to return you alone, this one test that you have to pass, this one test you have to pass. Every woman wants to know in her heart, “Does he really love me, really love me or just saying he loves me? He can say he loves me, but I’m not convinced he really loves me.”
What Jane Austen shows you in that book is that yes, Darcy, Darcy really loves Elizabeth Bennett. How many men after being refused when they made a marriage offer would make a second marriage offer to a woman who refused him? How many men are large enough, noble enough to do that for giving enough, overlooking enough to do that? He did that.
Notice there’s another episode in that book where the number … He proposes to her the first time and she says, “No. You’re the last person I would ever marry on earth.” She says that to him with great anger because she’s offended by his manners, by his snobbery, by the fact that he told his best friend not to court Elizabeth Bennett’s sister, Jane. They part on this note of anger and insult.
Then they meet again many months later and notice how Darcy, he treats her like a gentleman. He could’ve avoided her. He could’ve given her the cold shoulder. He could’ve been snobbish. He could’ve pretended she didn’t exist, but he was a gentleman. He showed her that he could change his behavior and manners to please her.
That’s how much she meant to him. He admits his faults. He corrects his faults. He tries again. He wants to prove to her that he loves her that much that there’s nothing he won’t do to please her, within his power. What Jane Austen shows in that book as you recognize, you recognize in your own reading of it is that people marry for different kinds of reasons. There are all those different romances and matches in that book.
You mentioned the one between the mother and father where he marries her for social reasons. She’s attractive and she’s young and she’s flirtatious and he married her, but the other dimensions are missing. Compatibility is missing. In other words, he doesn’t respect her mind. The person you marry ultimately is someone you have to respect. You have to respect the person’s character, the person’s mind, the person’s moral principles.
That’s a very practical consideration. Many people in that book, the marriage is for money. The old maid Charlotte Lucas, she wants to marry so she removes the stigma of “old maid.” She doesn’t want to be a financial burden on her family so she marries. That’s not a very happy marriage either. They’re mediocre marriages. Jane Austen shows you many mediocre marriages, but she also shows you the beautiful ideal that is embodied in Elizabeth and Darcy.
They do everything right. They take into account the economic aspect of marriage, the social aspect. They both realize they’re marrying into each other’s families. They’re not just marrying each other. They’re marrying each other in his family and her family. They have to … They’re not going to end all family relationships because of their marriage and they’re both committed to making the mingling of two families work. They’re going to extend themselves with their manners, with their behavior, with their conduct to always be civil and polite even though they may not like someone.
Marriage demands that, so the economic consideration, the social consideration and they are also attracted to each other. Darcy and Elizabeth … He’s fascinated by her. He keeps saying all through the book he cannot stop looking at those beautiful eyes. Likewise, Elizabeth has to agree as all the women at the dance that Darcy is indeed very handsome man. That is there. The attractive element is there, but even more important than all those considerations is the moral dimension of marriage.
Courtship gives you the opportunity to recognize the whether the moral dimension marriage is there as a foundation. You can have all the other things, you can have the economic and social and attractive aspects of marriage somehow in place that in that other dimension is missing, for example, then there are going to be some serious divisions and conflicts. If the moral dimension is present and you both have the same ideals, same principles, whatever the arguments are, you will reconcile them because you agree on what is good and right and moral.
Brett McKay: Well, Mitchell. This has been a great conversation. Where are your books available? Where can people find more about your work?
Kalpakgian: Well, Tan Books has two of my books, “The Lost Art of Modern Civilization” and “The Mysteries of Life in Children’s Literature” and Crossroad Publishing has “The Virtues We Need Again” and I have another book. It’s called “The Virtues That Build Us Up.” It’s coming out in July, July 1, Crossroad Publishing, so Tan Books and Crossroad Publishing.
Brett McKay: Very good. Well, Mitchell, thank you so much for your time. It’s been a pleasure.
Kalpakgian: Well, thank you for asking such good questions.
Brett McKay: My guest today was Mitchell Kalpakgian. He is the author of the book, “The Lost Arts of Civilization.” It’s available on Amazon.com. He’s got some other great books: “The Virtues We Need Again” is another good one, retakes life lessons from the great books. Check that out as well.
Also make sure to check out the show notes at aom.is/civilization for links to resources mentioned in the show so you can delve deeper into the topic.
That wraps up another edition of “The Art of Manliness” podcast. For more manly tips and advice, make sure to check out “The Art of Manliness” website at artofmanliness.com and if you enjoyed this show and have gotten something out of it, I’d appreciate it if you’d give us a review on iTunes or [stitcher 00:56:19]. Help spread the word about the show. As always, I appreciate your continued support and until next time, this is Brett McKay telling you to stay manly.
Last updated: August 9, 2016