Monday, July 23, 2012

Letters to a young man 18

Greetings, my young friend. Our correspondence has been sparse, yet it has been fulfilling. Though there seems little more I can advise you on, the urge to write remains and if on occasion I give you unsolicited advice, I hope you will pardon its arrival, and pause a moment to consider it.

You don't need these letters, certainly. You don't need books, or advice from blogs. I realize that, and I think deep down you do as well. If anything, these letters, books you may buy, and websites you may visit all help to funnel your attention inward, until you find the thing you're most looking for. Unfortunately, they can also serve as a distraction. Like most men, no sooner have you attained what you seek that it slips away, to be replaced by some other thing you search for. This other thing is but another likeness of the underlying thing you seek.

Deep down, within you, all you've ever searched and hope for resides. It doesn't matter how many times I tell you this, until you find it and realize it, these will just be words. Helpful words, perhaps. Yet you must steel your mind against the temptation to put down what you find within in order to pick something else up. This takes time, and practice, and discipline. It won't be easy. It will be damned frustrating. Yet, what else is there to do? Could there be an endeavor more worthy of your time and attention? I think not.

The greatest achievement you may attain is leaving your needs for external things on the side of the road, behind you. How much more one enjoys things when not bound to them in the slavery of need! How much more one suffices on the simple and plain pleasures of life! Those things that most men rush past on the way towards folly, may you appreciate, treasure and cultivate!

Always remember: Down one road lies excuses, failure, and regret. Down the other lies hard work, success, and a bright future.

Farewell for now.

My book on stoicism.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Letters to a young man 17

Hello my friend. I've been silent for some time, sorting through a number of things, the benefits for my mind being worth the lack of output. I'm writing today to tell you about something that happened to me of late, that I hope will be of some benefit to you.

Recently I was talking with an old friend of mine. He's a good guy, has had a lot of hard knocks in life and is doing the best he can, as are we all. We started talking about what it means to be a man and dealing with women. I brought up several things that I've written to you about before, and it was gratifying to see his eyes widen as things clicked for him. Sharing with friends, having good conversation, and getting their perspective is one of the best parts of life. It had been some time since I'd seen him and it was great to reconnect.

Spending time with your buddies is invaluable. It's important to bond, to let loose, have fun, and just do man stuff. After hours of this, our time was over, and we left. I decided to walk around downtown as it was nice out and I was still buzzing a bit from the stimulating conversation. It occurred to me how great it was that, for me, the time with my friend wasn't the side show of life, but the main event, the main dish. I recalled how I used to leave friends and then feel some kind of lack, and I'd go out looking for something. Something meaning sex with some random girl. I'm not disparaging this, I'm simply recognizing the difference in my perspective and how I felt. I had no such thing on my mind, and walked with a contented smile. A decent looking woman sitting outside smoking across the street was checking me out as I walked. I could feel her eyes on me, and I looked over to confirm. I kept walking, eyes forward. Looked over again and she was smiling at me, likely drunk and looking for sex.

I realized how she was viewing me, and how I viewed her, and what her body language said to me about her. Then I recalled the conversation with my friend, and how I was trying to impress upon him the difference between scarcity and abundance in your frame and view of life. And then I remembered something that I read recently, somewhere on the internet, the location of which I don't remember,

When something's on sale, there's usually a reason.

It occurred to me how many times in my past that I'd really put myself on sale for cheap, and all the times I'd interacted with women who were doing the same thing. If you look at things from this perspective, it can truly open a window on how others perceive you, and shed light on how you perceive them. I dare say it can fundamentally change how you operate if you truly go down the rabbit hole of this experience.

The first and most important thing to sort out is how badly you need things. Whether it's sex, women, praise from peers, whatever it is, address the need. Address the feeling of lack. Remember that the difference between wanting/enjoying a thing and needing it is more than a semantic one.

To walk around content in your experience and to truly appreciate what you have is a blessing. Why do we so often jump out of what we have and into the pool of what we lack? We soil ourselves and burn our feet on the bottom of the pot, when all we need do is climb out of it and sit in the cool breeze. Why do we lower ourselves, throw our wares to the lowest bidder and then feel used because we didn't get what we think we are owed?

We must steel our minds against the disease that's been passed to us, the problem we've been marinated in since our youth, the malaise of thinking that we are not worthy. To walk as a man who loves and respects himself is to nail the coffin shut on this cancer. We have only ourselves to hold accountable for it, though it is tempting to blame others. They may be responsible, society may be responsible, for the laying of that foundation upon which we find ourselves. Yet, it is our responsibility only to smash it to bits, and to lay solid roots of manly virtue and self-respect, into the dirt. And let us remember that virtue often meant to simply use good sense to the ancients. The next time you are on the cusp of offering yourself up at a bargain, think on this.

Farewell for now.

My book on stoicism.