Response

Dear Mr. N,

Two letters at once? That’s a new one for me. You are usually sparing in your words and thoughts. Not of late, so I see. What else can I say other than: good work. You’re certainly coming into your own. This is progress. And I mean to be as patronizing as possible. It is my job, so suck it up, young man.

The way I see it is we are all in a struggle of the highest degree. It is a battle, no doubt. Not combat. There is a difference. I have seen combat. Battle is a more general concept that can be applied to social and culture strife. This is what you are experiencing, and you seem to be well aware of it–all too aware of it, I am afraid.

As for your daydreams I would advise you to stop them at once. They are not doing any good. There’s no need for it. Start working out. Push-ups. Do something to put strain on your body as it will lessen the strain on your mind. Go for a lengthy walk and turn it into a march. Sing to yourself as you make your way along the path. For what else were you given your body for but to subject it to periodic healthy strain? This is coming from an older man who went through similar struggles as yourself, though, admittedly the times I grew up in were much different.

Do you speak to your wife about these things? Do you present these questions to her? I expect not based on what I know of you and her. You are very different people in the same struggle. From what I remember she is very good at ignoring things. This can be an excellent skill at times, but at other times it can mean death. Not only physical death, but spiritual death as well, which is one of the greatest tragedies of our time come to think of it.

From what I can pull from your letters you are on the right side of the battle. I mean you are doing most of the necessary things you need to do to survive this collapse, as you call it, and you are absolutely correct. Your comparison to the Romans I am not sure about but there are certainly barbarians in our midst. They do not wield axes. Indeed they wield something worse, and you have said it: nihilism. They do not answer to trumpets from the front line, but to a carefully administered poison, as you have wisely pointed out. And making their way to the rear-guard they dole out the capsules. They are sabateurs of the highest rank, and yet, the lowest of moral beasts.

Yes, culture is an organism. I agree. I think you got this idea from me many years ago. I do lay claim to being the origin of that idea you hold. From where I got it I won’t write about in this letter as it will take too long to fully flesh out. I will say however that the majority of people agree with this concept. When they find out where it comes from they recoil in horror and deny that it holds water. This is cowardly. It is an efficient way however to determine who is on our side and who is not.

What you describe is very similar to what my son went through, though at an earlier age than yourself. I advised him to join the army as I did and the result was in his favour. The constant strain on his body from training effectively shut the parts of his mind off that caused angst and worry. You, however, are old enough that joining the army may not be the answer, though they would take you no doubt (you are not that old). But you have a loving family that depends on your current income, and so, you must take physical training on yourself. This will require self-discipline. More than you think.  Though I expect you will say that you have no time for this. That may be true. But instead of writing me a letter, why not take fifteen minutes to do some push-ups and break a sweat? You will find a little at a time adds up over time. The results will propel you to do more.

Here is something for you. This is from Epictetus:

“As with impressions generally, if you get an impression of something pleasurable, watch yourself so that you are not carried away by it. Take a minute and let the matter wait on you. Then reflect on both intervals of time: the time you will have to experience the pleasure, and the time after its enjoyment that you will beat yourself up over it. Contrast that with how happy and pleased you’ll be if you abstain. If the chance to do the deed presents itself, take extra care that you are not overcome by its seductiveness, pleasure and allure. Counter temptation by remembering how much better will be the knowledge that you resisted.”

Now, I quote this passage because I think you are taking too much pleasure in the collapse of our culture. Although it is happening, and happening quickly, it is no excuse to take pleasure in it. By pleasure I mean dwelling on it to the point of daydreams of ruination. Of course it takes a Stoic to remind us of boundaries.

How does power feel? It doesn’t feel like anything. If you are thinking of the power you possess all the time you are in danger of losing it. It shouldn’t be something you dwell on as it should be something so vital to your being that it is as natural as having two arms and two legs. If you feel it, it must have been newly acquired, either after losing it or acquiring it for the first time.

Be cautious, and get some rest.

-GS

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