Thursday, May 31, 2012

Letters to a young man 16

Hello my friend. Recently you've told me about a woman that you've broken things off with. You seem to have sound reasons for this, and I cannot fault you for your decision. However, as your friend it would be a failing if I didn't share my thoughts with you on the matter. One of the hardest things is to watch a man walk a similar path as you have and see the traps laid before him, often at his own hand, and be unable to do anything about it. Harder still to recognize that there are times when a man must step into those traps to learn. It is, after all, his path. But I am also aware that a man has options, and that he is always able to raise his sails, or lower them; to change his course, as it were. The sea may lower tomorrow and land us, or it may raise and destroy us. We can mostly hope for a passage somewhere between those two extremes. This is the life I seek, and from what you told me, without always meaning to, I can tell that you crave this as well. There are times when we don't know when to sail, if not for asking a well-sailed traveler.

I know the matter with this woman seems to be settled in your mind, and I don't wish to inspire regret in your heart, but rather, to make sure you have turned over every stone that lies there. How sure can any of us be, really? I've written to you recently about seeing around corners, and I know that this is hard to do. Perhaps impossible. Yet, the best way to steel ourselves to this task is to take counsel from those who have been to that precipice before us, and to learn from what happened when they made the leap. We can at least then have an idea what may befall us.

So you have made your choice, and are leaving one path for another. The question you must ask truly ask yourself is: Do I still have one foot on the path I have abandoned?

This question is likely hard to answer, yet it must be asked, notwithstanding. Speaking from my own experience, a man may have some place in his heart, underneath a sea of courage, which holds some constant hope for another way. This is often a flame for a woman, though it can be for a career, city, and so on. What happens to a man when that sea of courage is dried up, or worse, grows too heavy to support itself? It is then that a man may realize what he truly feels deep inside of himself. This is much like a man who has left home only to get close to his destination and realize that he has left something vitally important behind.

What happens when a man returns to an old port? In life there are times when we're not ready, for whatever reasons, to take on a task or opportunity that is good for us in the long-term. When we finally awaken to understand the value of what we missed, it is too late. This has happened to me, and for a long time, the regret was quite acute. Perhaps there was no way to avoid the mishap, and yet, one fact I know is that I had no such wise counsel urging me to take a step back and truly see what was before me. I am here now to urge you to look over what you have and what you are doing.

Look within, take care, and tread lightly.


My book on stoicism.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

The art of resting



Recently I've been reflecting on our society's attitude towards rest.  We work too hard, and assume that we must toil, and toil, and toil some more to 'get ahead'. And when we're done with our work, we insist that we 'play hard', whatever that means. We label ourselves (and others) as lazy or weak when they aren't giving 110% at all times (whether at work or play). Our health, work, and relationships all suffer from this lack of rest.

For each step forward you take, for each new lesson learned, pause a moment. Food digests over time, why should it be different for knowledge?

Every task you begin should hold your sole attention and focus. How many hours have I wasted by dividing my attention between two or more tasks?

When you are tired, you should rest. Despite what we may think, our body knows what it needs and is trying to tell us. Hunger is no different.

A man walking around without proper rest is a shadow of his well-rested self. Shadows can't get things done, nor make good impressions.
The next time you feel truly fatigued, don't reach for the coffee; stop a moment and really feel your body. This may not be practical during work, but if at all possible do this; your body is sending you signals for a reason. Taking things a step further, devote one week to being well rested. Go to bed earlier and get a good night's sleep every night. If, like me, you were used to getting less than optimum rest week after week, this will literally be a game changer. Your energy levels, motivation, and focus will all increase.

Many of us don't know how tired we truly are, and haven't a clue how much rest our bodies actually need. Imagine what would happen, eventually, if you never knew you were hungry.

A man without rest is like a tree that never has a break from the sun, withered.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Hell

Rushing headlong past every perfect, peaceful moment in search of something we feel we need, and upon finding it feeling the utmost disappointment.

I offer this definition of hell because I think many can relate to this experience. It is, in general, out of step with our ordinary striving in culture to simply exist and appreciate what we have. This sad state of existence is one of the few that is nearly always self-imposed.

No sooner have you been handed the keys to the kingdom that you outstretch your hand, and grasping, drop them.

Dog with two bones.