For the large majority of men, urban and sub-urban life has plucked us out of our natural habitats, and dropped us into a cushy lifestyle that’s stifled our masculinity. If you’re one of the many guys who’s looking to turn this around, then it may be time to take some lessons from a man who typified traditional masculinity in a way that no other writers have: Ernest Hemingway. Hemingway was the archetypal man’s man: he sailed the oceans, hunted big game in Africa, wooed women across the globe and understood his gender in all its facets. Most of us could do with being a little more like Hemingway, so here are some of his favourite hobbies to consider trying.
In the traditional model of western society, men have been responsible for bringing home the meat ever since we lived in caves. Until fairly recently, this meant that men would explore plains and forests, looking for animals with which to feed their families. The modern farming industry means we don’t need to go to these lengths anymore, but that doesn’t mean the hunter in all of us has to die out! Hemingway was a lifelong advocate of hunting, not just as a pastime, but as a means to provide food, and to form deeper connections between fathers and sons, brothers, and friends. Hunting requires good motor skills, as well as courage and passion. If you’re interested in the idea of hunting, search your local area for organised beginner’s shoots, or talk to friends who have some experience with it.
Closely related to hunting, fishing is another good pastime for anyone looking to cultivate a masculine and worthwhile hobby. While fishing isn’t exactly expensive or all that challenging to get started with, it does require a lot of patience and practice to become good at it. During your first few trips, your success is going to hinge mostly on luck, and novices can often go the whole day without even the suggestion of a nibble. However, the time you spend close to nature and reconnecting with your masculinity is never going to be wasted. Hemmingway loved sailing, but the vessel he loved more than any other was named Pilar, and was primarily a Marlin fishing boat. While buying your own craft, and heading into open sea probably isn’t all that practical, there are many charter fishing trips which are accessible to newbies. To get an idea of how much this hobby meant to the late, great writer, I recommend reading his Nobel-Prize winning novella The Old Man and the Sea. It’s short, thought-provoking, sad, and inexpressibly beautiful.
On the subject of the sea, Hemingway was also an avid sailor. For enthusiasts like him, boats are much more than a means of transport. They’re companions and confidants during good and bad
weather, both figurative and literal. Ernest Hemingway, despite the prestige his name carries, had a life that was marred by personal and professional tragedy. Through all the ups and downs, his 38-foot fishing boat Pilar was one of few reliable constants he knew he could always lean on. The boat even became his sanctuary in the last years of his life, and his work is full of tributes and references to the majesty of seafaring vessels. Modern boats are a lot more glamorous and reliable than the ones that Hemingway had experience with, but you can still experience the same thrills and adventures by taking some boating classes, and maybe even renting one once you’re confident enough. There’s nothing quite like being surrounded by open sea, relaxing on the back of your faithful, seaworthy companion, and catching your dinner off the side.
Ernest Hemingway was known for his quiet and sometimes aloof demeanour, but this didn’t necessarily reflect his personal views of education and communication. Hemingway was a strong believer in the importance of tradition, which is probably a big part of what turned him into such a quintessential man’s man. He was heavily focussed on passing down various traditions to later generations, notably his sons. You don’t have to be withholding in order to be dispassionate, calm and collected. Men who are looking to get more in-touch with their masculine side should take every opportunity to share the knowledge they have to offer, particularly with their children.
Hemingway writing in Kenya (Wikimedia)
One of Hemingway’s many famous passages said that a boy only becomes a man when he has achieved four milestones. These are: planting a tree, fighting a bull, having a son and writing a book. The second and third aren’t the simplest things in the world to achieve, and the first one, while accessible, is just confusing. However, there’s nothing holding you back from writing, the hobby that made Hemingway’s name so famous. To Hemingway, writing was no less than a life purpose, and while it’s not strictly masculine on the surface, it can be a fascinating hobby to take up. Writing, along with pretty much any other form of art, is a method of analysing your own thoughts, and preserving them for future generations to explore and enjoy. It can be a long and gruelling process, and there’s very rarely any kind of material reward. However, it’s extremely satisfying to compose something of real, objective value, read it through, and know that you can put your name on the by-line. It’s a common misconception that you have to be born a certain type of person to be a good wordsmith. I believe that everyone has the potential to write something worth reading, and all it takes is a little inspiration and a lot of hard work. Just pay attention to the way people talk and act, read pieces from a range of genres and styles, and, like any skill, get lots of practice!
There you have some of the main joys that filled the life of one of America’s greatest and most masculine writers. Whether you love the idea of all of these activities or none of them at all, I hope it was an interesting read!