Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Letters to a young man 9

Hello my friend. You mentioned how people say that the best things in life are free and in some respects, I suppose that is correct. The air you breathe does not cost you. You did not pay some price to be born and be alive (that we know of), and life is fair in that all will die; none have special favor from Fate on that score. Yet men walk the earth in search of so many things that they consider "free", spending their very selves in these pursuits. We fritter and waste so much time trying to acquire these "free" things, these pleasures and distractions, and as we spend ourselves, so we waste our precious time. And yet, we still look at these pursuits as "free", neglecting what we give up for them. We don't see them as things bought and paid for because we spend no money on them, and yet, how much is your time worth? How much time spent in these pursuits could you spend doing other things? How much energy, how much anxiety will these things require? We must ask ourselves these questions to know the true cost of things.

I don't deny that there are many pleasures a man may attain, and that many are worthwhile. Yet for many of those pursuits, all sustenance is drained from after a time. When compared to the sustenance of friendship, loyalty, trust, and honor, they begin to pale in the long run. The sustenance of these things are an important component of a strong man. Remember,

Weak men and women try to bend the world to match their insecurities; Strong men remain steadfast in their resolve when faced with adversity.

"What is it that makes a strong man?", you've asked me, and I will tell you something in reply. A man honors his commitments, and honors his word. If he cannot do a thing, he will not say that he can. Of course we all make mistakes and in confusion offer a stray commitment, but for a strong man these are a rare thing. Some will say, "Oh look, he can't make up his mind, whether to do the thing or not," but I tell you there are so many who will quickly commit themselves in word, with no intention of actually doing the thing. A man that doesn't answer, "yes I can do that" at every turn is a man of quality, a man that will only tell you that he can do a thing if he can in fact do it. This, of course, is easier said than done, and takes time and experience. Hence why I urge you to weigh out your decisions carefully, to speak only when you have something to say. When you look a man in the eye, he will know that what you say is your mind, and that when you make an oath, you mean it. This is part of what it means to be a strong man.

So I urge you again to look over what you spend your time on. Be careful of the easy things that appear free, for they may entangle you and rob you, dipping their fingers into the pockets for your time and effort. They'll leave you wasted, on the side of the road, with nothing to show for your trouble but more trouble, and without a steady thought to brace yourself against them. Such are the costs of so many things that distract us.

Farewell for now.

My book on stoicism.