A dialogue among personal epochs

I was inspired to write this after reading Thomas Jefferson’s letter where he had a dialogue between his head and his heart. He was a brilliant man. 

 

Cast:

16 year old me

25 year old me

30 year old me

16: I am unhappy. I’m horny all the time and want a woman to satisfy these urges instead of my hand. 

25: Follow me, friend, for I know the way to a woman’s touch, and it is indeed better than your own. 

16: I am willing to try absolutely anything. 

25: What are you trying these days? 

16: I started wearing dress shirts that don’t fit, I listen to David Deangelo shows on how to pick up women, and I try to provide the fun for people – usually drinking and smoking weed in a park after dark. Sometimes women are there. 

25: Hah, that’s cute, man, but you’re not being honest with yourself or with girls. Girls want someone that’s honest. But being honest is hard. It means confronting those insecurities you have. Would you say you’re insecure?

16: God yes. I never know what to say to girls. If I only knew what to say, I’d be cool. 

25: Not quite. There’s no such thing as saying the “right thing” all the time. We aren’t Archer (you’ll see him on TV in a few years), and even your man Deangelo isn’t charming in every word he says. That will never happen. To be charming requires overcoming your insecurities and being confident despite not knowing the right thing to say. I have met girls that barely speak English. We have no common culture or language keeping us together, but we’re able to communicate through our body language and eye contact to the point where the actual words we’re saying barely matter. 

16: I want to go to bed for 9 years and be you. 

25: I wish it was that easy, but I had to put in work. I have been going out meeting women almost every night for about 3 years now. I learned from role models like Patrice O’Neal and Heartiste. I learned about psychology and game and how to shape my life to fit that. 

16: I don’t know about all that. I just want to have sex.

25: No you don’t. You could hire a hooker if that’s all you wanted. You want to be loved, and that manifests itself in recurring sex. To be the man that gets that, you have to understand what that is you’re after, and become that type of man. It takes a lot of work, both internal and external. Women want the man who is honest with his intentions and courageous in his actions. Become that man! You will be happy if you are able to do this, and you will not be happy if you know this is out there for you to do, and you refuse to act accordingly.

30: Sorry I am late, but I must disagree with the advice you’re giving, 25. 

25: Oh? Point out where I have been wrong. 

30: You aren’t wrong at a base level. Your psychology and reasoning is solid. But on happiness, your argument falls short. 

25: I’m literally happy. I have no fears or insecurities, have sex with many women, I don’t have any wants that I can’t get, and I spend my time doing what I love. Which is mostly women. I give advice to men who are in a similar position to 16 year old here, and they are grateful for it. Who are you to tell me what happiness is? 

30: You are as naive as 16 year old is to you, 25. Where 16 doesn’t understand the psychology of what makes people attractive, but he is trying to make sex happen, you do not understand happiness, but you are trying to make it happen. Your happiness is the same as 16 year old’s want for sex. Both are fleeting, and dependent on validation from yourself that you are doing a good job, which is usually held in regard to others, or at least your past self. To be wise means to be happy in any situation. If you were alone on a desert island, with no women around to please or to please you, would you then be happy? 

25: This is dumb. I’m not without women. 

16: I’m bored. 

30: You see, 25, right now your goal is to be maximally attractive. So, you seek out mentors in Patrice and Roissy and Julien. But, if your goal is happiness, which I equate to wisdom, why not seek out those who preach directly on wisdom? 

25: My insecurities were always about women. By overcoming those fears, I am without fear, which means I am capable of happiness. People must overcome their own fears – whatever those are, in order to be happy. I have. 

30: I understand, and overcoming fear is a part of happiness, but not all of it. In a few years, your favorite quote will be from John Milton, the Christian epic poet. He wrote: “He who reigns within himself and rules passions, desires, and fears is more than a king.” You see, fears (insecurities) are only part of the happiness equation. You are presently ruled by your passions and desires. If you can learn to control those, then you will, as he states, more than a king, for even kings are ruled by their desires for fleeting worldly things, like status, money, and power. 

16: lol epic poems? No thank you. 

25: Actually, yeah 16. You should read more. 

30: And you, 25, should read more of the things that will lead to happiness. You are smart and courageous. It’s time to develop other virtues. Beethoven said, “Recommend virtue to your children; it alone, not money, can make them happy.” It is practicing virtue that leads to not wanting things, which helps to control your desires and passions. I also recommend Christianity, in Faith, Word, and practice, to help you manage your desires. 

16: Wow. He’s Christian now. What are you, like, anti-sex, old man? 

30: Actually yes. I hurt many people because of sex over the years. 

25: That must be later in life. I have always been honest in both my expectations, words, and actions. 

30: You have been honest, and that is another virtue which you possess. However, honesty is not the highest of virtues. Without achieving the highest of virtues, you cannot be maximally happy. This is because, deep down, you will know you could have done, or could be doing, something even more right. Therefore, it’s not enough to pick and choose virtues, or to stop at courage and honesty. Look at your favorite movie, Gladiator, and the list of virtues Marcus Aurelius gives to Commodus. He includes temperance, patience, and honor, but Commodus responds that he possesses not these, but courage and ambition. Which man is more capable of happiness? Of containing wisdom? 

25: Marcus. 

16: Have you seen Half Baked with Dave Chappelle? 

30: But why Marcus? Commodus has far more sex than Marcus. He has no fears, except maybe darkness. Any wants he has he eliminates or achieves. Is that not what you want? 

16: Yes. 

25: Yeah, I guess you’re right. Marcus is the more thoughtful man and leader, for sure. How do you know there’s more though? We are both fans of the concept of delayed gratification it seems. I worked hard from age 16 to 23 to see fruit. Why should I keep working for more? Why must you take it to such an extreme? Will it pay off? 

30: It does pay off. For us religious, we are paid off in both this life and we are rewarded for our efforts in the next. I know you’re not religious, but even if you’re not, your continued effort and further delayed gratification pays off in this life. It pays off immediately if you understand people. When you are honest with women, you aren’t leading them onto relationships, but you’re still encouraging them to want more things, while encouraging that in yourself. Remember John Milton – it’s not just fears that are to be avoided. That is why chastity is such a high virtue. You claim to have conquered your fears by going out and having sex. But that only led to further wanting and dependence on that want. Plus, an image was built up where you have to be a sexy dude all the time, do you not? 

25: I do. It’s a lot of work. But I’m strong and competent. Aren’t those good things? 

30: Strength and competence are good things. Use those good things – those strengths, for good, and not to harm women or other men. Be a good influence: an influence that doesn’t encourage others to want more, but instead a competent and strong moral leader. 

16: So.. should I work on becoming strong and competent or a nerdy Christian. 

30: Yes. You should stop smoking weed and drinking and do that. You have plenty of time to do all of those things. Pay attention in your English and religion classes. Actually exert yourself in sports. Eat more. 

25: Yeah dude, seriously, eat more, and do something that’s productive. 

30: The thing about virtues is that they build on each other. Where 16 year old wants to be stronger, and he does exhibit some courage from time to time, he hasn’t cultivated other virtues. You, 25 year old, know what I’m talking about. You are courageous, honest, seek truth, industrious, and temperate with vices outside of women. 

16: I seek the truth! 

30: There are higher virtues than just courage, honesty, sobriety, and truth. I mentioned chastity. While you aren’t chaste in behavior or intent, 16 is chaste in behavior but not in intention. It’s only the lack of means that keeps him chaste, not for want. I wouldn’t consider either of you chaste, although you are closer than 16. Chastity requires courage, honesty, and temperance of mind in regards to sex. 

16: Dude. Sex is natural. It feels good because nature rewards us for doing what we should do. 

30: Sex is natural, you’re not wrong. Although I’d argue the sex you aspire to have, and the sex 25 year old is having, is unnatural in many respects: birth control, sex toys, and condoms. Just kidding about the condoms 25. Just a heads up – you should put one on before doing anything with [redacted]. Even without the debasement you two bring to sex, many natural things go against virtue, which therefore go against your potential to be happy. Eating candy or nothing but fruit rewards you with immediate satisfaction, but brings little nutrition to have energy and health. Being lazy is biologically incentivized so that we have energy for a hunt. That isn’t helpful. So too, sex outside of procreation is just not helpful. Sure, it’s fun, but when it adds wants to you and to the girl you’re with, you’re hurting yourselves in the short and long run. This brings me to the highest virtue in my opinion: honor. Honor means, basically, doing the right thing. To do the right thing means not to do what makes you feel good, like having an orgasm, but to do what makes you feel most peaceful deep down. If you make a woman want more, and know she is less at peace, then that sucks. If you crave a milkshake or lust after a woman, you aren’t at peace. You can do something more productive with your time. More honorable. 

25: How do I know what the right thing is? When I’m with these women these days, everything feels so right. How am I supposed to know if it isn’t? 

30: There are basically three routes to this. The first is to be religious. Believe and trust in God, and follow Jesus’ example. Since you both don’t want to do that, the second way is to gain a better understanding of people and how happiness works. John Milton isn’t the only one who defines happiness in terms of not just conquering fears, but understanding and being better than desire and pleasure. I recommend reading these classic authors: Milton, Shakespeare, Huxley, Socrates, Jesus. You can combine their readings with modern psychology and philosophy. Everything in these books, including and especially the Bible, stands the test of time. I consider it the best psychology book ever written, and everything you need to know about how to be happy is inside. If you dedicate yourself to this academic route, which is what I did, you will come to the conclusion that Christianity is right and, probably, become religious in the process. This happened to me and, while inefficient and meant more suffering along the way than if I hadn’t, I am now so strong in my faith, and can speak to it because of the academic background. The last way to find the right thing is to go by personal experience. Try things, see what works, and what doesn’t. This is less efficient than actively reading about it, but at least you’re giving thought to it, which is better than most people. Trying new things runs the risk of trying things that do hurt you and others. I did things in my 20s that did not feel wrong at the time, but still cause me pain today when I reflect on what I did to others. I do not recommend doing this on your own. I recommend taking this journey with Jesus. He is there with you and will not leave. You know what He says – it’s written down in the Book. If not Jesus, then at least the academic and classical authors. They know more than you, and many of them were inspired by the Divine, which may inspire you directly or indirectly. Either way, you’re on the right track, and I’m proud of you. 

25: Thanks bro. I have a lot to think about. 

16: I want to get drunk and try to have sex. 

Is there objective morality? Yes.

A girl from youth group asked me during class the other day, “Is there a such thing as objective morality? Why do Christians insist there is?” Or, something like that. 

In short, YES. There is a such thing as objective morality, and we Christians do insist that our way is right. We believe our way will create the most happiness for the most people. Now, I’ll share the long version. It’s not just Christianity. While science will always be at odds with God, I think it would move a lot faster if they started assuming Christian ideas were correct, instead of starting over from nothing. 

I study happiness. Meaning, I want to be happy, and I think about what that means, a lot. That led me to study psychology and try many things, for the sake of, like, science and happiness. Lots of my actions, especially early on, were hedonistic. Happiness isn’t’ hedonism. Not exactly. 

What is hedonism? 

Hedonism is maximizing good feelings and minimizing bad feelings. While this sounds pretty great, I think – it ignores morals, and therefore is an inefficient way to think about happiness. Ignoring “morals” is circular in reasoning. With hedonistic action we are led back to morality, what makes us not feel bad inside. 

What is morality? An online dictionary says: principles concerning the distinction between right and wrong or good and bad behavior. Who cares about morality, if all we really care about is happiness? I do. There’s also societal – political implications. Institutions, like governments and churches, retain order, so we can’t harm others. 

Within us, there are also considerations of order. Our values allow us to make decisions with confidence and to not feel bad when we act. Without having these values in place, we are lost. We are in chaos. It’s these values that give us solid ground to stand on. 

Here’s where we get to the objectivity of values. It’s still going to be objective, but it’s tough because objectivity requires finding out what makes, and this is important, a mature person feel good or bad. 

The issue with sin is that an immature person can sin and not feel the consequences until later in life. That happened to me. I didn’t know I was sinning, back then. Now I have to pay for that. Other people are similar. Prisons aren’t full of old people that are full of hate. It’s mostly young people are full of hate. People come to a maturity and settle down from their violent ways. 

What is morality without God? 

Without God, morality is just important. We feel bad when we lack the courage to act. As we mature, we feel bad when we are dishonest. As we mature further, we feel bad when we lead others to want more – through advertising or sex. This is where chastity becomes a virtue. As we mature even further, we feel bad when we aren’t doing the right thing. This is what honor is. We bring honor to ourselves and, as Christians, to God. 

Pericles, general and speaker in ancient Athens, said, “It is only the love of honor that never grows old; and honor it is, not gain, as some would have it, that rejoices the heart of age and helplessness.” No need to wait for old age to start practicing and enjoying this glory.

Why God? And why Christianity? 

Several reasons – there’s the theological virtues. Faith, hope, charity. These are things that make us feel good. Faith that we’re doing the right thing by God. Hope in better things to come. Charity – looking to do good for others and not just our selfish efforts. It’s wanting others to be happy, not just stopping at ourselves. 

Christianity is more beautiful than coming up with virtues on our own. We can write an academic paper linking our actions to our hormones like dopamine and serotonin and link that to our feelings. That paper would be a lot less fun to read than the poetry in Psalms or Ecclesiastes or Matthew. The Bible is more beautiful than the academic writing, even though it contains the wisdom only the most courageous academics are willing to address, and it was written by people 2000 years ago who were relative nobodies. It wasn’t Ovid or Virgil or other famous authors of the era – it was authored by fishermen and accountants. Now, I think all great artists have God-inspired creativity, but it’s really impressive that these nobodies wrote what became the Bible. That’s part of what made me Christian – the most wise writing, more than 2000 years before academia can catch up. 

Then there’s the communal aspect of Christianity. We have a community of people with similar values, or at least exploring and considering similar values. We all believe in Jesus and look to him as a source of goodness. 

All this is really about happiness, and whether it varies from person to person. Does it? 

I think happiness is a complex equation. It’s self esteem plus good feelings plus purpose plus not wanting things. Self esteem is the achievement of our own goals – not those of others. Good feelings come from pleasure, but also, like the hedonist discussion, from doing the right things and not doing the wrong things. Having direction, or purpose, in our lives can go with self-esteem. It’s important that we’re working towards something. Last, not wanting things. Living virtuously is living to not want things. This is what the Beatitudes are all about. 

All of these are satisfied by morality. Morality gives us something to work toward. It gives us good feelings. It gives us a goal to set – not one from a corporation, but something to work toward and accomplish over time. This also gives us direction – to do the right thing, and to follow our gut to determine where that will lead us. We practice virtue, not wanting things, and in doing so we transcend above worldly interests to those that are more spiritual and Godly. 

A secular student would view God as an ideal – an image of perfection made up of the previous great things. Eternal happiness, not reliant on other people or things. Jesus is our example of that, and the Bible, God’s word, is our “how to.” 

The Christian student believes in the truth of these as well as heavenly reward. It’s more fun that way. I think. 

People say YOLO, usually in the context of go out and have fun. I agree that we only have one life on Earth, but my advice is to, because we only live once, find wisdom fast. There’s no time to waste if we’re going to avoid the suffering and problems so many people face. Trying to have more fun is the way most people try to escape problems, but yet most people have these problems. Should we listen to them, who are trapped in a cycle of repeating their mistakes? 

I’m Back – Fail at Something

I’m starting the blog again. I missed you. It’s been a while, but I’ve maintained a few blogs since I left. I shut the blog down because of pressure from human resources at my corporate job. Now, I don’t work for a company, so no more HR pressure. 

When I first started Fail At Something, I was in my mid-20s, and was out trying to get laid. I spent my daytime reading about women and psychology, and my evenings going out, meeting women, going on dates, trying to have sex, having sex, and writing about it. I overcame my insecurities and felt I had some understanding about the sexes, and I shared that on this blog. 

My first blog post was called, “Girls are emotional balls of energy.” Here’s a quote: 

Where men think about relationships as a series of steps and analyze situations, women do not do this. They are more like loving balls bouncing around through life. They rely on the sexual energy of their partners rather than the decision making and resources a man provides. That is why women are quick to gain and lose trust in a relationship – they live in the moment and their emotions dictate what is right and wrong. And a woman’s trust is everything in the relationship. If she cannot trust your masculine energy and trust you at your core, you have lost her.

Whether objectively right or not, this energy is strong enough to dictate a woman’s feelings towards her man. This is where men get lost. Man will not win his woman’s trust by explaining to the chick why she is being irrational or why the man was factually correct. When it counted, the man failed to emote correctly and be strong at his core, and he lost the confidence of his woman. To regain trust is an uphill if not impossible battle that requires rock-strong masculine energy.

I wasn’t wrong. Women are kind of like that. But I could have been more right. Charlie Munger says many people have man with a hammer syndrome. They only have one tool, and then every problem starts to look like a nail. I had one tool. I had a good understanding of attraction. I knew that a lot of what drives behavior was animalistic and predictable, and this can be manipulated for sales in an advertisement or an orgasm with a hottie.

Now, in my early 30s, I have more mental tools to draw from, and I am more right. I understand morality, history, biology, and economics – properties of the more advanced, human parts of the brain. These perspectives give new context to understandings of relationships, women, and other important subjects that I didn’t. Importantly, we’re better than animals, and it’s from these less primal parts of us that we can be our best selves. 

I like reading my old writing. I want to cringe when I read it, often. The writing is often adolescent and the arguments aren’t as academic as I prefer, but there’s a lot of energy in it. I wanted to know the truth, and it’s honest. 

I don’t know what I’m going to write about. But I’ll write something. It won’t be for the pickup artists and struggling romantics. Maybe it will. I always liked working with them. Those pickup guys have the courage to do something, and courage to act is a rare quality. Not the greatest quality, but it’s a start to all other virtuous qualities. They would make good teachers and ministers of happiness. 

Maybe that’s what I am: a teacher of happiness, a minister of the word of God.