Some names and identifying details have been changed to protect the privacy of individuals in the story.
What is the obligation of man who, having seen the lies of the world and thereby withdrew from them, sees the men around him falling into a complacent despair of which they are wholly unaware? Is it a duty to attempt to shake them awake? And what if they cannot be shaken? Should he then go on to the next one, and the next one, in a futile effort to convince the spiritually undead to arise?
How could one sell a life of sacrifice to a hedonist? The hedonist is not proud of his cravings for pornography, but he knows that all of his friends are probably stuck in the same boat of filth, and besides, what harm is it really doing anyway? He can quit anytime he likes. Just not today.
And when someone is fundamentally comfortable with their lot in life, what then? He makes enough to share an apartment with his buddies and bar-hop on the weekends. By the time he’s thirty, he should be able to take out a mortgage and finally finish off paying his student loans. Everything is going just as planned.
Selling sacrifice to someone with nearly unlimited entertainment options doesn’t come easy. He simply has to pay a small monthly fee and all of his time will be evaporated in pixelated dysphoria. Get off work and hit a blunt. Fire up the Xbox. Got to catch up on the latest Netflix show; everybody at work is talking about it.
Try selling weightlifting to someone who has long been physically inactive. Sure, you’ll have to check out of your gaming for awhile, and you’ll probably want to give up drinking so much. Have you heard of phytoestrogens, dude? You and I can be partners. The idea of looking like one of the ‘roid boys is enticing, right? After a few short months of pain, you won’t have to deal with the insecurity of weighing less than your Tinder date. Physical sacrifice is tough.
Try selling Church to someone who’s been agnostic for a decade. Yes, you’ll have to give up pornography. It’s against God’s law, after all. You can’t abuse substances anymore, either – God is the only substance you can be dependent on in this deal. Oh, another hard truth that you’ll have to come to terms with later on – all those friends you’ve made and live with are going to fall away as your lifestyle becomes diametrically opposed to theirs. Spiritual sacrifice is great.
Try selling family life to someone married to materialism. Hey man, I know you get a real high from opening a new Amazon package every week, but I promise giving that up to deal with noisy babies and shitty diapers would be much more fulfilling. I get traveling to Florida three times a year on an extended weekend to get plastered means a lot to you, but what if you spent extended holiday time yelling at your kids like your old man used to do with you, instead? I get it, I get it. You want to “enjoy your youth.” Familial sacrifice is a life-long commitment.
In short, take that juicy and delicious steak out of your mouth and eat a bowl of nutrient-rich snot; it’s everything the body needs.
Kyle came from a small town that he despised. His father was a machinist and by all measures Kyle had inherited his blue collar bones and good nature that is often associated with such a disposition. Growing up, his friends missed him often, as he was stuck working minimum wage jobs to pay his insurance, phone bill and so on. As a formidable fighter, he taxes himself greatly in order to maintain his impressive physicality. Kyle knows sacrifice.
Today, his blue collar bones are being grinded to dust and sealed in the jar of a cubicle. His warrior spirit has been mollified by a stagnate job in accounting in which he spends more time browsing Amazon than working. With luck, this is a pit stop before he gets his CPA, but his current dissatisfaction with the prospect of being an accountant for the rest of his life has him in an existential conundrum. He mourns the idea of ending up like one of his older colleagues, deriding the profession daily and regretting his life.
I knew he was in a particularly bad place when he told me he had been buying worthless trinkets he didn’t need like CBD oil and browsing for flights to Spain even though he had no intention of going. When he wasn’t desperately trying to attach any kind of tangible meaning to his existence, he was dreaming of escaping it.
He did escape it, too. Cheap dalliances with bar scum, pornography, marijuana – all the usual pacifiers of our warrior-deprived world. He kept up his physical vigor with Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, but he admitted to me that even that seemed vain, as he could not determine what goals of strength he had not already strove for and achieved.
In our modern age, many men find themselves trapped in a self-destructive cycle that can only be reasonably evaluated for what it truly is once it is escaped. Hindsight paints that period as a series of lost years – with no discernable purpose to daily life, one begins striving only to accelerate it as quickly as possible in the hopes that Meaning will finally reveal itself. Instead of Meaning spontaneously appearing like a happy epiphany, sorrow and regret introduce themselves instead.
While the onset of teenage nihilism — and the subsequent maturity beyond it — is a common trope, today it is a state that extends well beyond the natural years of rebelliousness. College is a deathbed for the spirit, and once it has trained you in the art of satisfying vice, it releases you into the workforce, but for what? The proliferation of women in the economy has warped the meaning of employment. Whereas it was traditionally a means to raise a family (therefore making securing resources properly subordinate to the more important work of raising children), it is now purposed toward buying toys and instruments of sedation. Not only does this make a man extend his years of pleasure-seeking beyond the grounds of a university, but it also robs him of his industrious spirit. In a traditional arrangement, a man will feel obligated to provide the best life possible to his wife and children, but living as a single man is so cheap that 40K will do just fine, so his career goal becomes fixed at “don’t get fired.”
I tried to talk Kyle out of it. I tried to tell him there was something to be said for an austere religious life and raising a family. Nothing could move him. Nagging and cajoling only evoked resentment. He assured me he only needed to get through this initial phase of employment and move to a city with better job prospects, and then everything would be better.
I withdrew from these kinds of conversations for fear of losing a friend, and I faced the reality that, for every man I might convince to try to take on a serious life with me, there were a dozen more around me hypnotized by decadence. That was the hardest black pill I’ve ever had to swallow.
Hanging in Kyle’s apartment is a memorial to his prestigious wrestling career. A state champion, his triumphs are immortalized in a glass frame on his wall recalling a time when his passion was resolute, his labor purposeful, and his sense of self apotheosized in glorious victory. He is capable of surpassing his greatest achievements still, yet he has become another casualty in the spiritual war against our generation, caught in quicksand grasping at phantoms, unaware that the forces that pull him down are not inescapable, but rather a construct of the Zeitgeist.