Elements of Man
Updated: Apr 20, 2021
Unlike the stoics Epictetus and Seneca, whose works were heavily influenced by him, Plato’s works seemed to better grasp the true nature of man. He is noted to have believed that a man’s soul was the sum of three distinctive parts represented by a chariot. The chariot in his example was made up of a white horse, a dark horse, and lastly, the rider that piloted them both.
The dark horse represented man’s most base desires and appetites, his impulses and unpredictability. The white horse represented man’s thumos.
While there is no one word in the English language that can effectively describe it, thumos was referred to by the Greeks as the seat of life itself. It was the source of man’s righteous anger and emotion, his spirit that balked at the notion of someone unwilling to live up to a determined code of honor. It is the fire that resides within man that makes him a complete man.
Thumos IS masculinity.
The rider represented the bridge between the white and the dark horse, which had the sole purpose of maintaining the balance between the opposing natures of two beasts.
The empire has not only sought to disrupt the balance between the two mighty steeds but has sentenced the white horse to be put out to pasture, making the chariot that is a man’s soul weaker and slower.
Likened to a keystone being removed from a stone castle, the removal of the white horse, man’s thumos, reduces him to nothing more than a slave to his appetites. Left to run on its own, the dark horse will pull the chariot straight into oblivion. It isn’t difficult to draw a parallel between the chariot drawn only by the dark horse and the empire's preference for the modern man who is beaten into submission in today’s hyper-consumerist culture.
Televised sports and endless streams of pornography at his fingertips, action movies, political outrage, and so on are all tools meant to pacify his thumos, his fire. By living vicariously through indirect conflict, he is tricked into believing that he is a man doing manly things. But his soul is not so easily deceived.
Even with these distractions of the mind, the man within the empire is plunged into a deep malaise. He can feel that something is missing, but he cannot quite articulate what it is. As the dark horse pulls him further into oblivion, the uneasiness of the rider becomes evident as he shifts listlessly, longing for the primordial vigor of life that eludes him. He is like a junkie that developed a tolerance for his drug of choice and must consume more and more to keep the fire under control.
Unable to contain the blaze, the man will lash out violently and irrationally at anyone, everyone, even himself. A volcanic eruption of un-fostered thumos and fire destroys everything in its path as it cascades down the side of its mountainous being until all that was locked inside is finally spent.
Out of every 10 suicides, 7 of them were men, and 99.9% of all mass shootings are perpetrated by men who had reached their breaking point. With no white horse to correct the course and keep his desires and appetite at bay, he was forced to go war with himself and the world around him. The realization that the odds were stacked against him in this war of attrition, he decided that he would at least end it on his own terms if he could not win the battle.
Years of stifling my own thumos and trying to be a good citizen of the empire nearly led me straight off the cliff some years ago. That feeling of being trapped within yourself is one that numerous men can relate to, and it has become the greatest epidemic this world has ever seen.
It does not discriminate. It attacks the young, the old, the sick, and the healthy alike. Without both horses pulling at the chariot, man is faced with a terrifying doom that could be avoided if he only had permission from the empire to be what he truly is and is always meant to be.
The structural integrity of a man is dependent on the presence of all of the elements of his soul. Each stone has a purpose and holds all of the others in their proper place. As the old saying goes, if it’s moving, it’s broken. The absence of just one of the stones will result in even the tallest and broadest towers crumbling into dust.
This is why a man cannot remain within the empire if he isn’t resigned to his fate at the hands of a dark and wild beast that seeks only to run straight to its own demise. If he chooses to live life as he was meant to live it, he must breach the walls and escape.