42 was a pivotal year. Not particularly exciting, but memorable nonetheless. This is the year I discovered MGTOW and Stoicism.
Not gonna fully delve into MGTOW now, but let’s just say it was eye-opening… learning about female nature and the rather disposable, utilitarian role of men in society… and figuring out how I fit into the whole picture. I was able to make sense of my romantic history in a way I could never do before, while also bracing myself for future pitfalls. I realized that if one is to succeed at the game, one must first understand the rules of the game. If you know the rules and how to craft a winning strategy, you at least have a chance. But on the other hand, if the game is rigged, your best bet is simply to not play. Yes I know I opened up a whole can of worms by mentioning MGTOW, but more on that some other time.
More pivotal than that was my discovery and adoption of Stoicism. It’s funny how being a Christian was always a struggle… something I had to continually try to conform to and understand, but despite all my decades of effort, it never provided me the strength, clarity, wisdom, discipline, purpose, and joy that I needed in order to thrive as a human being. Stoicism on the other hand, was like trying on a pair of shoes… and after taking a few steps, you knew right away it fit perfectly… as if you’ve been wearing them for years. It’s pretty rare that concepts, people, or anything really… mesh so well, and so quickly, but alas… that was Stoicism for me.
I had heard about Stoicism before, but turns out it wasn’t what I thought it was. I had mistakenly confused it for Asceticism, which is defined as a lifestyle characterized by abstinence from sensual pleasures, often for the purpose of pursuing spiritual goals. Ascetics may withdraw from the world for their practices or continue to be part of their society, but typically adopt a frugal lifestyle, characterized by the renunciation of material possessions and physical pleasures, and time spent fasting while concentrating on the practice of religion or reflection upon spiritual matters. The concept of Asceticism had always turned me off, and continues to not be my thing… especially since I consider myself to be a hedonist. This is just not apparent to people though because I’m not hedonistic about the things other hedonists are typically into (food, sex, drugs, alcohol, luxury, adventure, material possessions, etc.) For me being a hedonist is about thoroughly enjoying whatever it is you most love in life… and crafting a lifestyle where you’re spending the vast majority of your life doing what you love to do and minimizing the amount of time spent with daily drudgery… basically all that “responsible” shit… chores, taxes, social obligations, personal sacrifices, etc. Again, I may not look like the classic hedonist who always pursues temporary pleasure over long term responsibility… but that’s the thing, my brand of hedonism is as much about living in the moment as it is about responsibly constructing a future for myself that I can look forward to. I’m all about enjoying the process. It’s taking as much pleasure in making the cake, as there is in eating it.
So yeah… I had previously confused Stoicism for Asceticism, but for the first time in my life I learned what Stoicism actually is. There are a range of definitions out there, but, here’s my take on it… in a nutshell, Stoicism is about focusing on what you CAN control in your life, while simultaneously relinquishing focus on all that you CANNOT control. News flash: there’s a LOT MORE happening in the world that you CANNOT control. If you obsess over all the things you CANNOT control (as most people do), you’ll find yourself continually agitated, and anxious about the future, because the task of gaining more control in those areas is daunting, and dare I say, impossible. Which means the solution to contentment in life is to focus on the (relatively) few things you can control. For example, you can’t control whether it rains today, but you can control how you deal with it. Rather than complain about shit weather, you can take full advantage of the situation by staying in and reading a book that will enrich your life, or if you insist on going out, then dress accordingly and bring an umbrella. Despite the uncontrollability and unpredictability of the world around you, you can have full control over your mind and how you deal with situations.
Back when I was a Christian, I used to believe that GOD was in control. To a certain degree that gave me peace of mind… that even as plans went awry, I could rest assured knowing that whatever was happening was part of God’s perfect plan for my life. But after trusting in this for so long, I realized there was no difference between a God that I trust in who does not manifest in any real, tangible way… and a God that does not exist. In the end, the problem was that my focus was on the external events that were ruining my life (all that I cannot control, but “God” could?) instead of focusing on all that I could control. That “problem” was reinforced for decades… through Bible verses like Proverbs 3: 5-6 “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.” That’s just one of many scriptural examples where if you were to look inside yourself you’d find nothing but weakness and folly, but if you were to look to “the Lord”, you would find hope.
The Stoic philosophy I’ve adopted at age 42 is fundamentally the opposite of that. When I look inside myself, I find sufficient strength to deal with whatever comes my way. Does it mean I’m invincible and can achieve impossible feats? No. But this past year I’ve done a much better job assessing the various components of my life: how I spend my time, energy, & money, the role other people play in my life, and ultimately… sharpening priorities: what things are truly important and what things are not.
Again, this is all a process. I’m not *there* yet, but I’m already reaping the benefits of what I’ve cultivated at 42. I’m certainly happier with my life and trajectory now than I was a year ago… and exponentially so when compared with 10 years ago, so… I know I’m on the right track. Despite all the chaos in the world today, I’m actually optimistic for the future.
This has been a good exercise for me to reflect on the past year… and I hope by sharing all this, it may shed some light for you as well… to become empowered in the midst of all forms of adversity, and not just as a warrior facing challenges but as a human being taking great pleasure in living life day by day.
Aging another year is yet another reminder of our relatively short lifespans. Each of us is only around for 8 or 9 decades, so don’t delay in figuring out your life. Although it’s a process that may take a long time, I encourage you to get that process underway. The sooner you figure out what’s truly important to you and weed out all the unimportant shit, the quicker you’ll realize a lifetime is actually plenty of time to achieve all that you want to, and enjoy the process of getting there.