In Daniel Akst’s ‘We Have Met the Enemy’, he attempts to answer puzzling questions on self-control. Is it possible to control our behaviour using sheer discipline or impossible due to genetic or environmental influence? And, if it’s possible, how can we do it despite the ubiquitous temptations around us?
Barely a few pages in, I am already intrigued. Not only because of the shocking numbers of self-control disorders (addictions – sex, technology, food; attention disorders), but also because of one word: Mensch.
I don’t see any point reinventing the wheel, so I will just quote Wiki on its definition:
Mensch (Yiddish: מענטש mentsh; from German: Mensch, for “human being”) means “a person of integrity and honor”. The opposite of a mensch is an Unmensch (meaning: an utterly cruel or evil person). According to Leo Rosten, the Yiddish mavenand author of The Joys of Yiddish, mensch is “someone to admire and emulate, someone of noble character. The key to being ‘a real mensch’ is nothing less than character, rectitude, dignity, a sense of what is right, responsible, decorous.”
In short, to be a mensch is to be a good, honourable and admirable human being.
Guy Kawasaki wrote a blog post on how we can change the world by becoming a mensch. In this altruistic post, he recommended a few steps to achieve ‘menschdom’. Those interested in living a happy life by helping people along the way, read more here: http://blog.guykawasaki.com/2006/02/how_to_be_a_men.html#axzz1MCAvoZ6Q
And for more in-depth reading, here’s a book on being a mensch: Joshua Halberstam – Everyday Ethics: Inspired Solutions to Real-Life Dilemmas
Be a mensch. What a simple philosophy for a good life.