Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Letters to a young man 20

Hello my friend. I've been thinking over the questions you sent to me following my last letter, and before the new year is upon us I want to address your concerns. To start with, you understand in theory that sex isn't everything, but your every waking moment is filled with a burning desire you wish to quench. And you wonder what point there is to deny yourself things.

I realize that for a younger man, nature is sometimes your enemy. Every part of your body is primed and on the lookout for opportunities to father offspring. Even if you have no awareness of your body's goal, you no doubt feel the pressure that it brings to you. Your loins may literally lead you, and also cause you to make mistakes.

How often do you see a teenage couple with a stroller at the mall?

As you get older, these passions wane a bit, but they don't disappear. Believe me, age is no panacea for the troubles of life. I know men older than I who are still ruled by their bodies and desires. You can temper yourself as a younger man, I'm just saying it's more difficult, as you well know.  And don't think that I don't have my own struggles now. It gets easier to remain focused, and to step back out of your own fire, but work must be done. The focus must be acquired through action, like honing the edge on a blade.

And so, I realize that my advice to you may have come as a bitter pill. To swallow it may seem to abandon every urge you have. And you'd be right to question me. I never ask you to put what I say into practice without having thought it through. The problem, of course, is that thoughts are slippery like fish, and can easily deceive us.

In many ways, there is nothing to be done. You must plod through your course. However, I know that if you push yourself, even just a little, you will reap the benefits, benefits that I wish I'd earned earlier in life. I never advocated that you deny yourself for some philosophical reason. It's more to do with appetites and how the effect you.

As you start the new year, contemplate one thought:

The thing is not to be successful with women; the thing is to be successful with life.

Yes, I gained your attention long ago with talk of women, and I am forever guilty. Yet I know what you think of and what you desire. I tell you that men everywhere are as concerned with sex the way that a fat man is concerned with food. Or the way that a woman is obsessed with her appearance. In each case, there is some health and benefit to attending to the desire. Yet, crossing that threshold, there is little difference in derangement from the obsession.

Push the plate away when you are no longer hungry. If you cannot tell when you are hungry or not, how do you expect to see anything clearly?

Take care.

My book on stoicism.