Monday, July 29, 2013

Letters to a young man 27

Hello my friend. I haven’t had much time to write to you recently. Life in the orient is fast-paced, full, and never stops. I’m not certain I’ll have much time to write going forward, but I will when I can. I’ve made a page where you can find all of these letters and you may find the link below [1] and in the top menu.

One thing I have had time for is reflection upon life now and my prior life. I have some things to share with you which I hope may be of use. These thoughts and advice may fly in the face of things you read elsewhere, and may contradict things I wrote to you earlier. All I know for certain is that what I’m saying to you now comes from honest reflection and assessment.

Recently I’ve been thinking over my past, and in particular, my twenties and early thirties. With horror I recoil at the mistakes, and above all, the wasted and mis-used time. While in some sense I was learning, if only through my mistakes, I do indeed wish I’d had better guidance through those years. And now, all I can do is look back and wonder what might have been if I’d made different choices. I humbly offer up these thoughts for you to consider.

More money won’t save you. It will make certain things in life easier, and open up certain doors. It’s better to have it than to not, I have no desire to glorify poverty. Past 50K USD per year, your happiness level won’t go up dramatically, though you will be able to buy more stuff. (Read Thinking, Fast and Slow [2] for more on this and more.) I used to make more money than I do now, but the place I was living was shit, even if I did enjoy my work. Now, I still enjoy my work, but I do so in cities I love, I travel, and the small hit in earnings is negligible. I can always earn more if I want to put in extra effort, but by and large, it’s unnecessary. Why do I tell you this? Because you’re reading everywhere about the high-roller lifestyle, and that money is the key to everything. I’m here to contradict that pretty lie to tell you the truth: money is just a tool and it won’t save you.

Don’t waste your youth in the pursuit of sex. The pursuits of the flesh are tempting, and you may think me crazy for suggesting that you temper your pursuits. Especially when you’re young, you may find it impossible to reign in your passions for women, and will go to great lengths to satisfy your desires. There are two urges: the physical urge, and the psychological urge to fill a void. Pursuing sex to satisfy the first is much less consuming than the latter, which can be a never ending cycle.

If you are having sex to fill a psychological void, I urge you to take stock of where you are, how you’re feeling and why you're pursuing sex. (Incidentally, it could be drugs or any number of other things that you fill the void with, and my advice applies to all of them.) The void that you are trying to fill is a deep hunger, and you won’t fill it with sexual passions, drugs, thrill-seeking, travel, or anything else. You’ll only fill it when you face that abyss. When you face the fear that engulfs you when you sit still and stop reaching out to fill it. I have no map for you, each man has his own path to follow, his own burden to bear. I do offer you hope, which may be more of a curse than anything, but I offer it anyway, because I have crossed through that abyss and come out the other side. Many men before us have done this, and have lived better lives for it.

Regarding sex for its own sake: every man, especially when younger, feels the need to sow his wild oats. How many oats you sow before this urge is filled will vary depending on many factors. As I mentioned in End Game [3], I’ve slept with more women than I’ve lived years. While I look back on many of those encounters as fond memories, there are more than a few that are so-so, and I could honestly have done without. A high number of sexual partners isn’t necessarily a good thing, and a low number is nothing to be ashamed of. In a woman, it’s an admirable quality. What matters is that you’re satisfied, that you’ve experienced what you truly want to, and that you’ve truly enjoyed yourself instead of having been running from some inner demon.

As a happily married man, I can honestly say that I wish I’d spent more of my 20s and 30s in the pursuit of things besides sex, which I used to fill a void. I turned to drugs and alcohol for this too, though nothing too heavy drug-wise. I speak to you as I would to a son, or a nephew, and implore you to cultivate your mind and your body, and not to waste too much time and energy trying to lay numerous women. By all means, sow your wild oats. That is your right as a red blooded male. If you find a woman who is relationship worthy, you may well consider your next move. I have more to say on this topic in End Game [3], if you haven’t read it already, and if you enjoy this series, you will find it useful.

Don’t avoid marriage just because the herd does. It’s popular to dismiss marriage as a viable option, and not without reason. In the United States marriage is a sham, to a great degree. My understanding is that this is becoming more the case in Western European countries as well. However, that’s not the complete picture. If you have your eyes open you may find a woman who hasn’t embraced the soul-killing, and vagina-stretching sickness of feminist slutdom. You may even find foreign women in the U.S. and abroad who are more attuned to your desires. Remember, if you’re seeking out sluts to have no-strings sex with, and that’s all your eyes are open to, you’re not going to find a woman you’d want to have a relationship with. And I pity the fool who confuses those two things. It would seem that many a man chooses poorly, and is surprised when the ticking time bomb of a slut wife explodes in his face, and utilizes the absurdly un-just legal system to pick him clean.

Therefore, if you do marry, marry wisely. For more of my thoughts on marriage [4].

Take your health seriously. Don’t smoke, do drugs, or drink to excess. In moderation drink is okay, and while I enjoy a pipe or cigar on occasion I haven’t smoked cigarettes for years. These things are all poisons, essentially, though they are enjoyable and can add something to the experience of life. However, because they’re poisons you should be wary of their effects on your health long-term.

Take your diet and exercise seriously, though not too seriously. Orthorexia is a real thing, as Dr. Kurt Harris has pointed out [5].

The bottom line is that your health is everything. If you need a lesson in this, go visit a hospital (you can volunteer) and you’ll see the look of regret on people’s faces as they contemplate years of treating their body poorly. If you’ve ever had an older loved one in hospital with something serious, you will have experienced something similar.

Take school more seriously. You may not want to hear this, and while I am not convinced that college is the best course of action for many people (i.e., worthless degrees), I can certainly say that I wish I’d taken school more seriously earlier in life. I did okay in school, but I could have done better. You may not see it now, you may not know what you really want to do. But, if at some point you decide that you want to be an engineer, or do something else that requires an advanced degree, and you never took school seriously, you may have shot yourself in the foot. If you want to contribute much to society, you may be able to do that completely on your own. For most of us, it means joining on with an organization that has resources, and they don’t just hand out those jobs to people who look cool or who are ‘alpha’.

You can still have an interesting and awesome life, sleep with girls, and do some partying while getting good grades and getting the most out of your education. I know plenty of young men who do just that. While many of their classmates are lost after school, they’re going on to grad school and have bright futures ahead of them. I’m proud to say I’ve mentored more than one of these men and have pointed out to them that after the party’s over, there will be much life to be lived, and they should position themselves with the best footing possible.

To thine own self be true. I'll close by saying that there is no specific template which one can follow in life, to fulfill one's destiny or to achieve the greatest contentment and happiness. The greatest of these things comes from the doing of your life, which includes the learning of lessons by making mistakes. There are some core principles that one can follow, and the most important one I can think of is to embrace reason as your guide, and let your passions push you forward. Together, they may allow you to grow, to achieve, and to be the best that only you are. If you have only one of them, you'll risk being an empty and dry husk, or a drifting, lost, and leaky hull. You've been given both naturally, through whatever grace lives throughout the universe. Do not squander either.

Farewell for now.

My book on stoicism.