In previous articles in this series, I wrote about behavior towards women and about a few somewhat random subjects that I felt were relevant. This time I want to make another list of virtues, rules, etc. and sort of summarize them into a few ‘core virtues to strive for’ that I feel would capture at least most of the essence of this series.
Consume less, create more. Setting personal records in the gym, making someone happy and writing a song are generally more fulfilling than watching Temptation Island or Maury. This doesn’t mean consuming is a bad thing. After all, sometimes we learn from it, sometimes we relax with it and sometimes it inspires us. On the other hand, consuming can become a form of distraction from other, important things. An extreme example would be using drugs as a coping mechanism for stress instead of actually handling the stress. In a more subtle fashion, you could be consuming things as a mindless distraction, at the same time numbing yourself down to prevent yourself from investing energy in creating. Whereas consuming is generally a temporary fix for something, producing things can help you grow and give you a strong sense of self-esteem and self-respect. And no, lack of time is hardly (if ever) a problem. Priorities however, can at times prevent you from putting time/energy/money in creating, and sometimes that is okay.
Related to that, be passionate about something and grow in it. Some people think too much and give themselves little chance to really immerse themselves in their passion, which is a major pitfall and I have a strong feeling that this is related to so many situations of depression and ‘ennui’ among young people these days. Too much time to think, no focus, no reason, too little personal growth and too much mindless consumption of media. Doing this should be rewarding enough that you don’t have to concern yourself with constant affirmation of others. Your self-esteem will grow and you will radiate this through your behavior. Things like sex and alcohol lose their function as coping mechanisms for insecurity or stress and can turn into things you can genuinely explore and enjoy on different levels if you so wish.
Don’t glorify mistakes. They’re pretty much inevitable and they will most likely suck. Using them to learn is the best way to deal with them, but that’s no reason to accept them as desirable. Find a good mentor and learn from other people’s mistakes when you can. On the other hand, if you get off your ass and do something with your life you WILL make mistakes. Don’t beat yourself up over them.
Be magnanimous. I originally put ‘protect your honour’ here (inspired by the videogame ‘Final Fantasy VII: Crisis Core’, yes), but had a hard time finding the words for what I wanted to convey. The Wikipedia page on honour stated the following:
“Dr Samuel Johnson, in his ‘A Dictionary of the English Language’ (1755), defined honour as having several senses, the first of which was “nobility of soul, magnanimity, and a scorn of meanness.” This sort of honour derives from the perceived virtuous conduct and personal integrity of the person endowed with it.”
When I found out what magnanimous meant, that perfectly described what I wanted to convey:
“It encompasses, usually, a refusal to be petty, a willingness to face danger, and actions for noble purposes.”
To me, it encompasses courage, boldness, honour, self-respect and benevolence. It encompasses being a reliable friend, an honest man, a compassionate and helpful person yet not a doormat. (Fuck. I could have summarized this whole post by saying ‘be magnanimous’.)
My mom recently told me about a guy she used to know. A while after his good friend and his good friend’s wife divorced, this guy met that woman at a bar and they got along very well after that and he took interest in her. Without so much as touching her, he went to his friend to tell him about it. He wanted to be open and honest about it, not doing anything behind his back, staying true to his own feelings yet putting things like honesty before anything else. Long story short: they quit talking for a while, but apparently the two guys and their new partners are now close friends who do a lot of stuff together and trust each other deeply. Hard? Awkward? Maybe even weird that he’d go after his friend’s ex? Sure. But his action did display some sense of honour and courage that I really see too little around me.
Hand in hand with magnanimity goes equanimity, a mental and emotional stability. Equanimity is about being resilient and having a stable mind that does not falter in the face of dramatic events. I guess you could say in videogame terms that if magnanimity is your attack power, equanimity is your defense. For those that Google this word: Don’t confuse it with the Buddhist concept of Upekkha. Upekkha suggests that you should not be moved by many things. I do not subscribe to that type of thinking, neither through positive nor negative events. I am referring to being resilient enough to get through life’s events stronger, not to trying to let everything that happens -even the good- just go by you. That’s throwing the baby out with the bath water. You ignore naysayers, gossipers and whiners. Not steaks, blowjobs and videogames. Stability, not apathy.
Practice selfishness. Sounds strange when put next to things like magnanimity and making people happy? Keep this in mind. You cannot share what you do not have. You cannot treat someone to a meal when you don’t have money. You cannot carry someone out of a burning building if you’re hardly strong enough to climb two flights of stairs without getting winded. You cannot properly protect your girlfriend from drunk idiots in the streets if you weigh a buck-twenty and have never learned how to deliver a proper punch.
Think of the well quoted example of you and your little kid being on a plane that threatens to make an emergency landing. When the oxygen masks come down, you put on your own mask first since your kid will survive the few seconds without oxygen. Yet if you pass out while trying to give him the mask, both of you could die.
Take care of yourself.
Never let misery be a comfort zone. Venting is fine if it brings relief and helps us cope with shit we go through, but we all know the person who finds comfort in complaining without doing anything to improve the situation. The worst thing is that this is a very serious issue that many people are well aware of. Don’t let yourself be caught here, because it can be easy and ‘safe’ to stay there, but it can destroy you, your relationships or people around you and it’s a hell to get out of.
Mudita. Simply put, this Buddhist value means valuing other people’s happiness and helping them up instead of being envious and trying to bring them down.
“It crushes and destroys the pain of others; thus, it is called compassion.” – The Buddha
Everything I have written so far in this series could be elaborated upon in 10 more posts, and books have been written about it since early Buddhism and Aristotle (and most likely since well before that), but I believe that most of the things I want to convey with Endure and Survive can be summarized with these four:
“When men evaluate each other as men, they still look for the same virtues that they’d need to keep the perimeter. Men respond to and admire the qualities that would make men useful and dependable in an emergency. Men have always had a role apart, and they still judge one another according to the demands of that role as a guardian in a gang struggling for survival against encroaching doom. Everything that is specifically about being a man—not merely a person—has to do with that role.” – Jack Donovan