Monday, December 9, 2013

Letters to a young man 30

Hello my friend. Of late I have been very busy. As I've told you I am working on a new piece, my longest and perhaps my most important utterance. If I accomplish nothing else, that I finish it is of great importance to me. Yet, it is difficult to finish as I'm always learning more—being ignorant has its merits—for each day I become aware of how little I know. Understanding blossoms in this way. And of course I've been busy with husbandry, with work, and with common tasks. Just today I darned a sock which I'd worn a hole in. Some may say this is women's work, and while it may often be work for the wife, as I've told you before a man must be self-sufficient and prepared. There is no shame in being able to take care of one's self.

But enough of my excuses to you for not writing sooner. Recently I have recalled a friend I have not seen for some time. We met often to talk and discuss philosophy, our lives, our successes, and our troubles. On more than one occasion I acted as teacher. Though he is a little older than I he has steeped in his own misery and ignorance and has often sought my guidance. I do not look down on him in the slightest, let me be crystal clear about that. It is just the way it is between us. Many of my friends and closest counsels are much older, but there are times when a man is your junior yet has some wisdom to share with you. To increase your understanding you must take it from whichever well it comes from.

One such occasion has recurred to me and some of your recent events have made its import to you clear to me. On this night we were discussing some problem which he had, one of many at the time. I remember recommending some course of action. No sooner had the words left my lips than I saw him squint his eyes at me and recoil a bit. He then began to stammer and speak quickly to the point of refusing my advice. He became defensive at it. I did not labor my point further, but listened patiently to him as I quickly realized something that had escaped my grasp prior.

That which I grasped was this: a man may not be ready for certain ideas, solutions, or counsel, no matter if it be the solution which he ultimately requires. You cannot feed a man a cure if he cannot see the need for it. Rather than trying some new way to feed it to him, such as with honeyed words, it is best to remain silent, to hear him out and be a good and patient, listening friend than to force something to him. If you force it, he will not take it and will resent you. In time you may see that he has come around, or is ready for your counsel. Until then, you must remember he is your friend more than he is your pupil. Your key aim is to help him when he requires it rather than constantly admonishing him like some headmaster.

And so it is that you may often see men on some path you know well. They are rejoicing though you can see a coming fall. Very well then, let them. Do not spoil their fun. Let them go about their business. For who are we to say a thing when the thing is not ripe to be said? In all things keep an eye on yourself as much as you keep an eye on others. In this way you may learn and grow and be of most service to them. When they need you, they will call and they may even say to you, "My friend, remember when you said thus and so? How I wish I had listened then, but I was not ready to hear them." And you may reply in true and affectionate kindness to him, "Not at all, brother, I didn't have the words you needed then as much as your ears were not ready."

And finally, lest you think I have forgotten your question to me regarding how a man should behave towards his wife, or a woman he may wish to make a wife: I will be brief and ask you to wait for my coming work which will answer you more fully. Be a shepherd to your wife as to your children. Guide them and enjoy the fruits that they give you. Shield them from the troubles of life. Be patient and kind with them above all others, for they are the jewel of a man's life.

Keep well and take care. Farewell for now.

My book on stoicism.