The Meaning of Tempered

Life Oct 07, 2021

You may have seen this word thrown around here: Tempered. It's in my notes, it's in my podcast. It's everywhere, and holds a special place in my heart.

A quick google search results in the following:

1.1) Improve the hardness and elasticity of (steel or other metal) by reheating and then cooling it. eg. "The way a smith would temper a sword"
1.2) Improve the consistency or resiliency of (a substance) by means of a process involving heat or chemicals. eg. "The display is a single sheet of glass, tempered for strength"
2) Act as a neutralizing or counterbalancing force to (something). eg. "Their idealism is tempered with realism"

My definitions tend to focus more on 1.1) and 2), as there is an element of duality to my rationale: Applying the concept of reheating and cooling it to life, and as a neutralising force to something. In my context, that 'something' can be intangible: like worries, fears, or chaos. Tempering becomes an intentional process against these intangibles, and is unique to every person.

This post is a personal exploration of the word. I hope you enjoy it, my friend.

The Japanese Proverb that started it all

From the world of blacksmithing, comes this quote:

Steel is tempered a thousand times. (百錬成鋼)

I've deconstructed it to 3 main aspects.

Perseverance yields results

The reward lies at the end of the tempering. But it's a slow and tedious process: Can you imagine hitting the same ore for a thousand times in sweltering heat?

For blacksmiths, it's a necessary process. They face the heat and they hammer down through the pain. These struggles must be faced (I'm sure there are parallels to stoicism in there somewhere).

Strength is earned, not given

Strength must be sought after: it must be found, it must be captured. We must have intention to reach out to it in the first place. Desire and execution go hand in hand when tempering one's character.

You can't spoil someone with strength. We can't administer strength on a silver spoon to a child. Opportunities for strength may be given, but growth requires individual intention. That is what our bodies are designed to do: build ourselves through struggle.

Hence, strength comes from its results. It is earned, not given. No one comes pre-tempered. They must face the anvil.

We must face Life with bravery

I'm not one to believe in absolutes, but there is not one greater than the never-ending obstacles, barriers and opportunities life will give you.

These events are struggles; the constant everyday heat we face as we go about our day and forge new memories.

On some days, the heat is bearable. And others, we don't want to face the world. We might not have the means or the energy for it.

I have days when I wake up immediately exposed to external influences (read: social media, negative news, and the like) and that puts me off for the rest of the day. But on those special days, I wake up with such great clarity that even the act of breathing is bathed in gratitude.

Despite what we have to face, we wake up to confront it anyway. 'Despite' is the key here: it is the acceptance of what is in front of you, as well as the fears you possess. We embrace them with compassion, and therefore ourselves with the same, and proceed to march forward regardless.

Tempering is the act of wearing that armour of bravery everyday.


This was a quote that shook my core. I don't even know if it's a valid quote, and frankly, I do not care. What it did for me was articulate the perils of life and framed them as opportunities for growth. The process became something I desired for myself. It also sounded fun, coming from a mental blacksmithing standpoint (and you know me: I love analogies).

There are other parallels that can fit here (eg. I love glass art, so seeing the 'tempered glass' connection was heartwarming), but none of them fit as well as the phrase.

The act of staying tempered

Here is a growing list of attributes that determine someone as tempered:

  • Maintaining emotional responses: This is not to deny someone from having an emotional response, but rather controlling and regulating it. Should we express it outwards? Will it hurts us if we do so? How do we keep our emotions in check? etc.
  • Staying in increased natural focus: Based on the theory that forms of focus are not created or manifested. They just exist. We design our environments to ease us into the state that we automatically know as being focused. Focus is natural. This is mainly derived from [[Isometric Interception]] and [[Alexander Technique]].
  • Weaponising states of emotional charge: If we are in a state of being emotionally charged, use it to our advantage. For example, when I'm angry I get more emotional and focused, so I can weaponize this emotion into a healthy endeavour. Another is to be in a state of constant flirtatious tension with life, figuring out how to navigate through the lustful energy we gain from different events.
  • Facing the fire with retaliation: If in the face of struggle, meet it to acquire bravery. If in the face of peril, confront it to build strength. If in the face of fear, accept its existence by equating your own to its scale and impact.

Internally, my thoughts are violent in nature

We want to moderate the chaos within us.

If you have violent thoughts, and by violent I mean rushing, fleeting, never captured, ephemeral, full of imagination but never acted upon...you would do your best to keep up with the currents. To temper these violent thoughts is to tame them: to stick on a leash for me to take command.

In my internal world, the character that handles this is [[Cloever]]. He does the leashing, he is in charge of articulation. Through him, my emotions are crafted into experiences (or stories rather), and these are tempered a thousand times in my head before I let them out to the world. These stories are cultivated for a very long time.

Tempering is witnessing the conclusion of a story and marching towards it. It's the injection of order into an otherwise chaotic enterprise. Imagine barbaric thoughts becoming civilised.

There are hidden truths behind every (fictional) story that I create, and all of them carry a special place in my imaginations. For each published episode, I must have arrived at the end of these stories someway or another. I walked upon a certain narrative on Earth, crafted a parallel internally, and decided these fictional characters ended up becoming the easiest way to explain it to you, my Dear Listener.

For it is my listener I am performing to, isn't it? My dear audience. The ones who have been there with me, the ones who would hear me plead my existence. Through you, I pursue [[Cultural Immortality]].

I have found a medium to immortalise my memories, experiences, emotions. These stories play the role of soothing my violence. The balancing act of keeping this in check, is the very definition of keeping my thoughts and memories alive.

Tempered thoughts then become forged into weapons. Explanations and rationales are pointed intentionally. They are designed to pierce through your opinion, and provoke you. Mastery over the craft means I can create anything I want: wide enough to for flexibility, and focused enough for purpose and satisfaction.

As time passes, so does the tempering slow, and as my heart calms, so does the simmering of my thought process. It's not always consistent: there is tension, there is heat, there is passion. Once it forms a shape, that is when I reach its conclusion.

That conclusion goes two-ways, for there is a message ingrained within the story for myself every time I revisit it, and there is one for you as well. It is a gift for the both of us in the form of the same experience, and only we share that bond with each other.

Of course, such confusing violence is contextual. Sometimes there is warmth, and sometimes there is nonsense. On one end it could be poetic, and another it could be heavy. I could be charged by fears, or I could be led on by joy.

What you are witnessing now—my physical body, my expressions, my voice—are my attempts at articulating the intangible: running after them and telling you a glimpse of their silhouette, in the hopes that you can witness their beauty as much as I could at first glance.

But why bother doing all of this?

Art is a selfish and healthy endeavour

It's all for art. Aesthetics, beauty, provocation: they are all synonyms of art. Art is a natural phenomenon and we seek to realise it as artists. What sets us apart are our honed perceptions. They are different from person to person. For myself, these tempered stories come to mind.

I've assigned the word to my emotional/artistic side because the purpose of art is to articulate violent intangibles. Only I care about witnessing and bringing them out to the world. Only I am willing to hone it a thousand times before letting out there. I care more about that than I do many other things.

I guess that makes me selfish in a villainous fashion, and really, I do not care.

What we create, divides. This is for myself, and for the the people who care. When division happens, and half the world doesn't understand, I would have built a place for myself and not defined by me immediate environments.

They can only watch in awe at what amazing art we create yet not understand fully. For it is our art that protects us from the rest of society whilst we live on as our very own characters.

Seek your own

You may have a personal word that defines this entire process for yourself. Putting a mirror between us, my 'tempering' could mean your '___'. Whichever word it is, tell me. And if anything, I hope you hold it very dear to yourself.

No one in this world can take your [[Textbook of the World]] away from you, and no one can destroy your bundles of [[Neologism]].


Last updated: 211007

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Norm

Norman Chella is the Podcast Rainmaker, Polymath in Progress and a very strange writer. His creative pen name is N.T. Cloever. You can find his words right here.

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