Sunday, May 18, 2014

Letters to a young man 34

Hello my friend.

Having just completed one of my most busy periods, my thoughts turn to you. I wonder how you are getting along and what you are focused on. Do you read over our last correspondence and wonder whether I have abandoned you? I have not, yet let me make up the difference for what it is with.

Do you still suffer from the yoke you have placed on yourself, the burdens of youth? Scrambling to and fro seeking your next refuge? The next soft place to rest your weary head. The next trend to follow in excitement. The next diet which keeps you busy in measuring and withholding. The next routine meant to hold you upright. The newest philosophy. The next aphorism.

The refuge you seek lies within you, inside your heart and mind. Nothing upright can be built without self-cultivation. You apply yourself diligently for a time, then fall away. You may need me there to encourage you to stand up again and carry on. Yet I am always there with you if you listen to that part of you that expects better. We are one and the same. In fact, that voice inside of you is better than me.

It exceeds me because it knows all of your hiding places. I can only guess at where they are but you know full well. Deep down you have an inventory of every place you go to escape that voice. But the voice which urges you forward toward improvement is always present, even when I am not.

Listen to this voice. He is not a voice without reason. He understands you and knows when you need rest and novelty. Yet he also understands when you need to resume your efforts. He allows no slack when no slack is truly needed.

Study history, including your own. Learn new languages including the one which he speaks to you. Cultivate his voice and your ability to understand it. Better yet, cultivate your ability to listen for him. He calls for you at every waking hour, pushing you to be a better man. And what is better? He understands from day to day what you need better than I do, though I know you well enough to guess. Still, a thousand of my guesses is outweighed by the slighted hint from him.

He is your salvation when you fall. The strong trunk of your tree which has deep roots. Come, let us together water those roots and admire the heights to which he has grown. You sit on his branches, rising high with the fruit-and I am there with you.

Farewell for now.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

A plague of extras, a stoic reflection

I look around me and see what's eating at everyone: Everyone wants extras.

Extra money. Extra clothes. An extra house. And extra free time.

Extra girlfriends and wives. Extra sex. Extra food. Extra people to do thy bidding.

Extra status. Extra everything.

What is it about us that makes us so dissatisfied with what we have? How could we calm the storm brewing inside of us?

Certainly we have the opportunity to find peace within. A beginning point is to properly see what we have before us. When we view our wife, is she enough? Our money, is it enough? Our food, is it enough?

A second step is to properly assess what it is that is driving us to want more. Usually, this is some self deficiency. We crave more because we are trying to fill some void, some lack we feel within. It is because we feel disconnected from what makes us whole that we are constantly seeking more.

So what makes us whole?

Part of what makes us whole is when we cease to constantly look outside ourselves for validation. The feeling that everything is right and that we don't need more is available to us at any moment. Yet, we must quiet the voice in us that tells us that we need to look here or there for more. That we need to get extra this or that.

An irony is how little we can enjoy what we have when constantly seeking more. Dog with two bones.

So, do you allow the need for more to plague you and distract you from what is at hand? Or do you take a deep breath and look at what you have and properly appreciate it?

In a similar way, when we confront something which has happened to us, a disappointment for example, the amount of time that the feeling of disappointment lasts can usually be prolonged by us. Certainly in life we face disappointments, they are unavoidable. Perhaps we don't get a job we want. It is perfectly natural to have some feeling of disappointment, of being let down. Yet, sometimes we seem to crave more out of the experience. We prolong the agony by going over and over again what led up to it, what occurred during it, what we might have done differently, and so forth. To some degree we can learn from such mental gymnastics, but past a certain threshold we are only increasing our misery- and likely the misery of those around us as well.

We have an ability to let things go before they tip us over. How often we cling to the extras and observe ourselves being capsized by our own hand.