I have been wondering recently what the ideal man looks like today. In a broader sense what does the ideal person look like? But in terms of applying Jungian theory it may be easier to look at the question from the perspective of a single gender, in this case a man. And possibly we can infer something about the ideal woman from there.
Firstly let’s contextualise the question. When I talk of an ideal man (today) what I am referring to is what do we as a society living in the early 21st century, in the post modern world consider as the ideal man. Naturally as a westerner and a European any attempt at creating such a model will be influenced by these personal prejudices.
It may be a good starting point in attempting to consider such a question to ask what the ideal (European) man was conceived of previously. And here we have some reliable historical material to support such a question.
Let us briefly consider four historical periods and how they conceived of the ideal man the renaissance, baroque, enlightenment and romantic cultural movements.
The Renaissance Man
‘The renaissance strove toward the ideal of perfect proportion in its static form…It’s ideal type of man was described by Baldassare Castiglione as being of noble birth, versed in bodily exercise, of a refined education including art, music and literature, combining dignity with spontaneity and grace in manners, and being little concerned with religion. The renaissance also exalted the shrewd politician, the mighty genius and the great scholar….it was considered a matter of course that an educated person should posses an excellent knowledge of Latin and Greek and their literatures as well as of the modern classics in their national languages.’
(Ellenberger, H. The Discovery of the Unconscious: The History and Evolution of Dynamic Psychiatry, London, Penguin Press, 1970, p. 194)
The archetypal example, naturally, being Leonardo de Vinci .
The Baroque Man
‘The models of life were no longer sought in Greek and Roman antiquity, but around the idealised figures of the great monarchs…in great empires, involving elaborate ceremonials, costumes and furnishings…the Baroque sought movement, change and growth. It often had a predilection for the boundless, the colossal, the disproportionate and exaggerated ornamentation.
Its ideal man was depicted by Baltasar Gracian as a man of noble birth and fine education, to whom religion and honour were sacred; he was striving above all to inner greatness though with ostentation, ‘the man of majestic qualities and achievements’…heroes who faced indescribable obstacles and were the pawns of fate’ (ibid, p.194-195).
A good example of the ideal Baroque man would be Claudio Monteverdi .
The Enlightened Man
‘Enlightenment has been described by Troeltsch as ‘the spiritual movement which led to the secularisation of thought and State’…everywhere the conviction reigned that mankind had finally come of an age after an extremely long period of ignorance and servitude, and could now under the control of reason, steer towards a future of unlimited progress…the cult of reason, considered to be a universal entity, which was the same for all men of all ages and all countries.
The ideal type of man belonged to the aristocracy or to the bourgeoisie, and his life was directed in accordance with the requirements of reason and of society. In France he was represented by the honnete homme , a sociable figure. In England he was more public minded and concerned with economic problems…optimistic and practical and proclaimed that science had to be applied for the welfare of mankind’ (ibid, p. 195-196).
A good example of a typical gentleman of the enlightenment would be Bertrand Russel .
The Romantic Man
‘Romanticism had the cult of the irrational and of the individual. Mystical tendencies, which had been pushed into the background by Enlightenment, were now released.’
The Romantic exhibited six significant tendencies:
- A deep feeling for nature.
- Behind visible nature the Romantic sought to penetrate the secrets of nature.
- A feeling for ‘becoming’ (what Jung would later call individuation).
- Concern with National Identity.
- A new feeling for history, striving to conjure up the spirit of past centuries, as it were.
- A strong emphasis on the notion of the individual. (ibid, p. 200-201)
A good example of a Romantic is William Blake .
So to our question of the Ideal Contemporary Man…
With that context in mind let’s consider what the archetype of the Ideal Man looks like now, at the end of the first decade of the 21st century.
To do this lets consider a few categories within which we might better locate him:
Well he’s not doing anything traditional that’s for sure; he’s not a banker (god forbid), a financier or a traditional corporate executive. He’s probably not a politician either.
More promising professions are: an information or technology specialist or anything related to the web (he could actually be a blogger come to think of it ) but more likely he started Facebook or is working on the next big thing on the web. Other promising professions are something related to the environment, ecology champion, Green Peace that kind of thing, an entertainer or artist or involved in some humanitarian initiative.
Are you kidding!
Love conquers all. This man has turned his back on politics in the traditional sense, the 20th century cured him of any political idealism, and he is focused on personal and community development.
Post modern, post new age, relativist. Waiting for the next wave, not sure what it is but will be the first to know and will you know when he finds out. Watch this space…
Unpretentious, hedonist, enjoys good music, modern art, outdoor festivals, intimate socials, believes in transparency and integrity, but (still) strives to look good and in control, he probably cooks if not well at least enthusiastically, loves children and animals, doesn’t try too hard to impress.
Hey man get a life , that’s so 20th century! He is an ascetic and lives below his means, which probably are quite comfortable (he’s modelled himself on Steve Jobs). His few status symbols include a seriously good laptop, mobile phone and a kindle, a few items of designer clothing and a vintage motorcycle.
Sexuality and sexual politics:
Woman on top so to speak, he’s in awe of the feminine and in touch with his own femininity. He adores woman but can relate warmly to other men. His sexuality is slightly ambivalent, probably just this side of hetro and he is something of a metro-sexual although that’s a little tired. So he’s probably quite subtle about it.
His list of favourites:
Movie: enjoys anything from Tim Burton, but his top three movies are Eternal Sunshine of a Spotless Mind, Fight Club and The Matrix.
Music: Usher occassionaly, otherwise acid jazz or just some good laid back trip hop.
TV show: Lost the complete series, 2nd choice Sopranos.
Book: The Lord of the Rings and Catcher in the Rye.
Actor: Johnny Depp
Actress: Uma Thurman
Holiday Destination: Thailand
Meal: Anything really as long as it’s organically grown not too heavy and he’s got you for company.
Way to spend an evening: Alone with you on a deserted beach with a bottle of local red wine, waking home to your small beach cottage, where he will cook for you and regale you with stories about the wonders of the cosmos, as you sip wine and watch the night ocean until dawn when he will make passionate love to you as the sun rises. (Sometimes the best things don’t change )
What do you think, am I in the ballpark? Hard to say because these things are culturally conditioned but if you reading my blog then I guess we’re probably not that different you and I. Whilst this is really meant more to stimulate your own thinking about your unconscious (or our unconscious in this case) ideals, I’m guessing that my Ideal Man is not too far from the collective ideal.
Until next time,