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.