Against Skill

Heartiste will occasionally run a post featuring a “Game Challenge” for readers.  They basically go:  “You are in <x situation>.  <Y> happens.  What do you do?”  Readers are invited to comment, etc.

And, you know, this is useful, within its sphere.  But it minimizes something important: often the time for effort and skill is not “now,” but it was yesterday, or it will be tomorrow.  It’s tempting to think of “game” or “skill” as its own, independent, fundamental entity, that can be tested in an isolated, head-to-head trial:

An example from a few days ago:

 

Theodore asks,

“Game question: What is the best way to respond when a girl asks if she annoys you?”

 

Heartiste has an answer, and it’s alright.  But the answers most useful for dudes in their actual lives would be:

“Beats me.  If it’s possible that a small failure here tanks the whole relationship, then I’ve already screwed up.”

and

“Beats me.  If this goes south though it’s not the end of the world.  I’ll keep pursuing my goals and approach someone else.”

 

The race is not to the swift.

Assorted Thoughts, In Context

On Sexual Polarity

– The “ideal” member of the opposite sex, from a purely sexual point of view, will be at maximum sexual polarity.  Think Christian Grey and a mix between Audrey Hepburn and Jessica Rabbit.

– Sexual polarity is somewhat controllable.  Most advice in the manosphere is oriented towards increasing it—men are advised to do things that increase their confidence, to lift, to put energy into their careers, and women are advised to take care of themselves, dress in a feminine manner, and be supportive.

– Sexual polarity is, to some extent, a luxury good.  That is: just because something is sexy does not mean that it is always a good idea.  If you are bent under the sink, you don’t want to be wearing a miniskirt.  If you have work to do, maybe those extra hours at the gym could be cut down a bit.

– Not only do cis characteristics sometimes have to be sacrificed in the name of practicality, but sometimes it even becomes expedient to adopt some behaviors typed to the opposite sex—women pushing harder for raises; men being quiet and supportive of a boss, etc.

– The above explains the “paradox” that in poorer countries there are more women in “typically masculine” professions like engineering.  To an extent, the country “can’t afford” sex.

– Those of similar polarity attract.  Extremely masculine men and extremely feminine women gravitate toward one another.  This does not make them superior, more self-actualized beings—a hard-drinking gym rat construction worker and a flaky stripper are both strongly sexually polarized, and could definitely end up together, but you don’t want to be either one.

– That said, the prevailing ethos in the West generally moves people to a lower level of polarity than they “ought” to be—as in, could stand/afford, and would enjoy.

On Catch-22’s and Effort Sinks

– There exists a class of situations and goals where, after a certain threshold, exerting extra effort fails to provide returns, and may even be detrimental.  Examples include: you need a job to get experience/experience to get a job, confidence to build relationships/relationships to gain confidence, relaxation to achieve success/success to be able to relax, and faith to obey/the fruits of obedience to build faith.

– I’ve basically only come across two ways to break these impasses: either avoid them as unproductive in hopes that they will resolve themselves in time or as we labor in more productive arenas, or try to power through one of the steps despite the “necessity” of the other.

On Wanting Absurdly Attractive Women

– “It’s not so much that I’m shallow (although I am of course),” I thought.  “It’s that I view the attractiveness of the woman I can attract as society’s opinion on me.”

– “Oh,” I thought.  “Women must feel the same.”

 

 

If–, Commentary

Poem is here on my blog, here for a more general source.

 

Horror and Mastery In An Uncaring Universe

Of note is that the poem describes situations and actions, but little about feelings.

 

The modern demons of popular imagination are unconscious and uncaring:  AI risk, climate change, hypergamy, demography.  They cannot be reasoned with, because they cannot reason.  “NOTHING PERSONAL,” they don’t-say, as they send a hurricane over your house.

 

But the same insensibility that makes it impossible to bargain or reason with them makes them conquerable, forever.  If you hurricane-proof your house (is this even possible? I live in the West and know nothing about hurricanes), hurricanes will not adapt to be of greater strength and find different ways to blow your roof off.  If you are a high-value dude, hypergamy works for you, not against you.  Rollo is right, hypergamy doesn’t care if you gave everything to her…but it also doesn’t care if you gave her nothing.  It is a pitiless tormentor of the weak, but a toothless slave of the strong.

This split is noticeable in men’s attitudes about women:  Some dudes will report cheating, constant shit tests, divorce rape, etc; others will say things like, “It’s just not that hard, man, you just tell her some jokes.”  Both are “right;” both are “wrong.”

But this post isn’t about women.  Another example of the split that comes to mind is Dickens on money:

“Annual income twenty pounds, annual expenditure nineteen [pounds] nineteen [shillings] and six [pence], result happiness. Annual income twenty pounds, annual expenditure twenty pounds ought and six, result misery.”

There are twenty shillings per pound, and twelve pence per shilling—meaning that a decimal representation of the two expenditures is 19.975, and 20.025.

So in both these cases (women and money, anyway), we see extremely volatile outcomes, depending on small differences at the margin.  One is tempted to whine that this is “not fair,” that effort and reward should be more commensurate—but perhaps we should instead rejoice at the great rewards available for relatively little effort, at the margin, and the great amount of freedom we have once above it.

One thing we should remember is that impersonal Cthullhu-like entities and phenomena are very bad judges of character.  Thus we should not give them too much power in our own heads:

If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster / And treat those two impostors just the same;

 

Does It Have To Be Hard?

In one reading, yes.  I won’t lie, reader, a tear came to my eye, returning from work last night, reciting:

If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew

To serve your turn long after they are gone

And so hold on when there is nothing in you

Except the Will which says to them: ‘Hold on!’

It certainly sounds like it has to be hard.  But I don’t think this is the case.

Remember: Cthullhu doesn’t care.  Reality is pitiless, but not spiteful.  It won’t save you if you’re drowning—but neither will it pull you down if you’re swimming.

If you can bear to hear the truth you’ve spoken
    Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,
    And stoop and build ’em up with worn-out tools:

The way Kipling writes it, we are moved to imagine a situation hard to “bear.”  But that’s just our imagination.  Kipling did not write “If you can, with a lot of teeth-gritting and mental anguish, bear…”  The teeth-gritting and mental anguish are not necessary!  In fact, here’s my own poem:

If you can meet the hardest trial

That anyone can find

It’s fine to do so with a smile

Cthullhu doesn’t mind.

There is, in other words, no Frown Enforcer.  If the things in Kipling’s poem are painful and stressful for you, and you struggle all night, and do them: yours is the Earth and everything in it.  If you come at them mentally prepared, wake up at 10 AM, and do them with a smile: yours is the Earth and everything in it.

We have little control over what’s necessary.  But we have much control over how we accomplish it, and the rest of our life that sets the stage.

 

 

Upper Bounds and Pitfalls

My younger brother is mathematically gifted, but taciturn and not given to displays of emotion.  He used to have a small book of scratch paper he used to explain concepts, by drawing graphs thereon.  My mother jokingly referred to it as his “Book of Feelings.”

We will wax similarly mathematical here.

 

Men have greater volatility than women.  In, uh, everything.  Feminists like to say that “Every woman is different” — and they are correct.  But I will say: “Every man is more different.”  This does not mean women are all the same; it is more like:  women are different like snowflakes, and men are different like mountains.  The complexity is the same; the scale is not.

 

So for men—and If– is a poem about manhood—it is actually quite plausible that “Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,” if they can avoid the gauntlet of horrible things that can happen to them.  If you can avoid war, if you’re not a drug addict, if you don’t commit suicide, if you don’t die on the job.

 

I paint a gloomy picture, but I actually mean to do the opposite.  Because the male bargain is: if you can avoid the pitfalls, you have dominion over the earth.  It is a long road, fraught with danger and difficulty, but for men, it is the only one that actually leads somewhere—and in this case, “somewhere” means “WILD SUCCESS.”


 

This concludes my current thoughts on the poem that I could articulate.  A sidenote: I memorized it in an hour or two, and highly recommend it.  I recommend doing so at either four or eight lines at a time.

If–

I first came across this poem in my family’s copy of The Book of Virtues, a book I highly recommend, compiled by William J. Bennett, former Sec. of Education.
If you can keep your head when all about you
    Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
    But make allowance for their doubting too;
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
    Or being lied about, don’t deal in lies,
Or being hated, don’t give way to hating,
    And yet don’t look too good, nor talk too wise:
If you can dream—and not make dreams your master;
    If you can think—and not make thoughts your aim;
If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
    And treat those two impostors just the same;
If you can bear to hear the truth you’ve spoken
    Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,
    And stoop and build ’em up with worn-out tools:
If you can make one heap of all your winnings
    And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings
    And never breathe a word about your loss;
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
    To serve your turn long after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
    Except the Will which says to them: ‘Hold on!’
If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
    Or walk with Kings—nor lose the common touch,
If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you,
    If all men count with you, but none too much;
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
    With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run,
Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,
    And—which is more—you’ll be a Man, my son!
I memorized this today: half on the way to work, and half during.
I have some commentary on it, but I have just returned from work, and it is 2:30 AM, and I must go to bed.
 I have said, Ye are gods; and all of you are children of the most High.

A Disturbing Decline in Catcall Quality

We used to have this:

You lie, in faith; for you are call’d plain Kate,
And bonny Kate and sometimes Kate the curst;
But Kate, the prettiest Kate in Christendom
Kate of Kate Hall, my super-dainty Kate,
For dainties are all Kates, and therefore, Kate,
Take this of me, Kate of my consolation;
Hearing thy mildness praised in every town,
Thy virtues spoke of, and thy beauty sounded,
Yet not so deeply as to thee belongs,
Myself am moved to woo thee for my wife.

And now we seem to have a dichotomy between this:

fbthirst

and this:

We need more words like “bonny.”

*No animals were harmed as I trudged through the archives of Heartiste’s Beta of the Month series, but I definitely feel like I need to go take a shower now.

A Prospective Project

Missionaries don’t really get days off.  So when Christmas came, and we all (about 100 of us) got together at the mission headquarters, it was an event.

Someone had had the idea for a talent show.  For a bunch of (mostly) American kids (mostly)  19-21 whose main talent was (mostly) speaking a foreign language they’d learned *to* do missionary work, it devolved into what most college-age talent shows devolve into—jokes and skits, and musical performances.  Which didn’t really matter, of course—the main goal was enjoying the day.

But there was one act that made a very strong impression on me.  One young man (we were called “Elders,” but we were all young) was a bit older than the rest—maybe 26 or so.  He’d competed in collegiate gymnastics before he decided to serve a mission.

He stood in the middle of the impromptu stage we’d set up, told us a little bit about his gymnastics career, what he was going to do, and the importance of safety.

“But one more thing,” he said, growing serious.  “I want to very explicitly dedicate my performance today to the glory of Jesus Christ.”

I don’t want to make too much of the words he said.  It was more that I could tell he meant them.  He certainly had the bona fides—he was on the tail end of his mission by that point, and had spent the better part of two years knocking on doors, mostly getting turned away.  So it was not so much the words that he said, as much as the collected weight of the last few years behind them.

He then did some (to me, anyway) totally cool vaults, somersaults, flips, handstands, aerials, and other acrobatic maneuvers.

It was touching, honestly.  Because, as I said, he’d meant it.  He was not performing for us; he was performing for God, doing his very best with what he had.  We were simply around, allowed to look on.

 


 

I’m a little embarrassed to say that I only recently subscribed to Porter’s Kakistocracy blog, despite it having a regular place in This Week in Reaction for a while now.  But now it’s one of my favorites.  The guy is just too clever—and this is an area of the internet that prides itself on cleverness.

Reading through archived posts, one in particular struck me: No Man An Archipelago.  Porter writes:

But forging rhetorical weapons is actually a secondary role for these frontier garrisons[blogs in the reactosphere]. Much more important is how they impact one of any war’s most critical elements: morale. Morale is critical. It imbues men with the confidence and courage that so often determines an outcome. And morale comes not so much from having the superior riposte than having the superior side. Most men have a need to believe their cause is just, but every man has a need to believe his cause is shared. A large band of marauding pirates will typically have far more enthusiasm for a fight than the handful of honorable men facing them.

People draw fortitude from standing shoulder to shoulder, just as all but the most devout convictions shrink in isolation. The alternative right position enjoys the benefit of being moral, logical, and historical. There are practically no elements of its common platform that weren’t previously understood by all men. That is before they began frantically not-understanding them. Though being right is nothing when put against being popular. And only a rare man can keep the right idea when a multitude is accusing him of being words his grandfather had never heard.

That’s the true role of sites like this: for culture combatants to know they aren’t alone, they have a side, they have the tools, and their gibbering enemies have about as much intellect and autonomous will as a quadcopter.

I also recalled the story of Elisha and his servant:

And when the servant of the man of God was risen early, and gone forth, behold, an host compassed the city both with horses and chariots. And his servant said unto him, Alas, my master! how shall we do?

And he answered, Fear not: for they that be with us are more than they that be with them.

And Elisha prayed, and said, Lord, I pray thee, open his eyes, that he may see. And the Lord opened the eyes of the young man; and he saw: and, behold, the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire round about Elisha.

Western civilization is a heavy weight to bear, especially if most of your companions in such effort are pseudonymous.  The rewards, though real and tangible, can fade in consciousness due to the acidity of modern culture.

I would like to alleviate this as much as I can.  And the best way I can think of is to show an example of a reactionary #winning.  Knowing that there is a winner on your side does wonderful things to the psyche.

How do I propose to do this?  By the oh-so-bro method of lifting.

I know, I know.  But what did you want?  Photos of a big house?  Video recordings titled “Dropit DESTROYS Progressive in Debate!”?  None of those are true victories anyway.  The only thing I can put on the internet that moth and rust don’t corrupt, and thieves don’t break through and steal, are the physical results of actual victory, the discipline of civilization.

So expect in the future many posts about workouts, meal plans, the works.

But before I begin, I want to make it clear who this is for.  Unlike my friend on the mission, this is not so much for God, at least not directly.  Rather, it is for you.  If you read this blog regularly, or simply come across it at a later date,(and I’ll to link to this with every post in that category), I want you to know that I am doing this specifically to encourage you, to let you know that you’re on the winning side, and that you’re doing the right thing.  And wow, you have my admiration.

Graceful Humility

In America, we are not very good at being poor.

We are quite good at not staying poor; that is one of the core concepts of our national mythos.  Steinbeck is reported to have said:

Socialism never took root in America because the poor see themselves not as an exploited proletariat, but as temporarily embarrassed millionaires.

The attribution and exactness of the quote is disputed; but that it has been repeated often enough to be (possibly) misquoted is merely evidence in its support.

To be American—that is, to aim for the values that Americans hold dear, to not merely be “a good American” but good at being an American, to exemplify American-ness, is to seek to be wealthy.

Once we’re wealthy, to our credit, we do OK.  Americans are very generous, and even our most wealthy tend to overindulge in proletariat pleasures (houses and vacations) rather than make attempts at immortality through patronage.  “American art collector” is something of an oxymoron, or at least a New York thing.

We’re not perfect, and essays can and have been written on the havoc that can be wrought by our generosity and egalitarian aspirations, but this really is one of our strengths.  Progressive over-charity is bad; but it’s at least a virtue distorted rather than an uncomplicated evil like open, vicious pride of wealth.

So.  We’re good at getting rich, and we’re good at being rich.

Are we good at being poor?

I don’t think so, and I think this is both obvious when thought about, and highly troubling afterwards.

Consider the phrase: “I am but a simple man, sir, but honest and true.”  Is that an American utterance?  Doesn’t it sound like it belongs more to a medieval romance, or a German fairytale?

If you’re American and poor, virtue consists of honesty, hard work, thrift…in other words, of trying not to be poor.

Shouldn’t it be enough to simply be virtuous?

America is about a lot of things, but two big ones are money and God.  While we’re not so big on God anymore (though relative to most of Western Europe, we at least say the words), we’re definitely still about money!

What does our consolation for the poor look like?

First, we’re charitable.  Which is of course good.

Second, we do in fact try to help the poor escape poverty.  How to do this is a matter of much disagreement, but at least no one is making the argument that we shouldn’t try.

Third, we teach that there is honor in non-material things.  Oh, wait, we don’t.

Maybe we say the words.  But for American culture as a whole—including much of Christian culture, which by default will be American culture without correction—wealth and respect are tied.  I have trouble coming up with an exception.  Perhaps the Amish?

This is actually not that bad when everyone is rich.  A social pattern I’ve noticed in myself goes something like this:

Speaker 1:  I am awesome because of x, y, and z.

Speaker 2: Oh, hi, I’m not really that awesome.

Speaker 1: YES YOU ARE.  Do you do a?

Speaker 2: No.

Speaker 1: Do you do b?

Speaker 2: Well, yeah.

Speaker 1: B is awesome.  Therefore, you are awesome.  We are both awesome.

 

On the face of it, this is really quite an innocent interaction.  Speaker 1’s intentions are good.

The pattern fails, however, when there is nothing particularly noteworthy about Speaker 2.  Worse, should Speaker 1‘s fortunes take a dark turn, despair is not merely imminent, but logical.  Hold your head high by merit, drop it in shame by merit.

This is basically the American pattern.  It is, to our credit, responsible for a lot of material wealth.  But it is also why people are dying of opiate addiction in small towns and why the marriage age is rising even in chaste men and women.

Here’s how the conversation ought to go:

Speaker 1: Hi.

Speaker 2: Hi.  I’m not really that awesome.

Speaker 1: Who cares?  God will provide.  Come over for a barbecue.

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The barbecue makes it still American

Regarding small towns and opioids:  does society have a model for the honorable poor?  I don’t think we do.  The RighteousⒸ thing to do is leave.

Regarding the marriage age: attraction lives and dies based on the man’s self-confidence.  Among the chaste, he certainly won’t be getting that from his sexual conquests.  What other traits has he been taught to respect in men?  So often he gets it from his ability as a provider.  Which, for young men, is going to be predictably…subpar.  And par is what matters, because how do you measure material wealth if not relative to others?  Thus the rich marry and poor don’t.

A useful exercise:  What does “successful poor” look like?

Peace

My grandfather was dying.

He had been for years, really.  He got sick at about sixty and stayed that way for the next twenty.

My dad, one of eight children, went to his side.  My grandfather was in and out of consciousness, so there was not much conversation.

After some time, my dad went to leave.  But first my grandfather grabbed his wrist with his bony arm.

“[My dad’s first name],” he said.  “You’re a great man.”


The word “great” implies a certain context.  It’s larger, longer.  The reason that jokes like “Yes, this will go down as one of the great sandwiches of history” are funny is because “history” implies hundreds or thousands of years, which is not a sandwich-friendly timescale.


Religion is often referred to as a “faith,” but it is, additionally, a work.  People talk about “God’s plan for my life,” but: do God’s designs start at birth and end at death, like millions of unconnected, episodic TV shows?  Surely divinity is capable of a grander design.  Perhaps God isn’t really concerned with your life in particular at the moment: are you (and am I?) doing your part to fulfill His plan for someone else’s life?

To be religious is to be a foot-soldier; to be committed to a cause larger than oneself.


I am fortunate beyond measure.  In the late nineteenth century my great-great-grandfather left his homeland for his religion—four generations later, I can think of him, and everyone in between, cheering me on.  We are, and have always been, on the same side.


 

It is fun, and easy, to indulge one’s pride over lip-service to a cause; fun can be and is made of this in media with priggish types protesting that “My family has ______ for generations!”  But when you actually believe it, you start to wonder: do I measure up?  Were I to die, could I do it with the serenity of Theoden?

This is the context in which my grandpa grabbed my dad’s wrist and told him that he was a great man.

A kinder deed, I have trouble imagining.

From Sour to…Nourishing

I recently finished watching (er…binging) Jonathan Nolan’s Person of Interest.  I won’t spoil anything—it’s five seasons, highly recommended, available on Netflix, etc.

 

One notable feature is that the writers went into the final season with more than an inkling that it would be the final season.  As such, when the series ends, it ends.  The finale does not lack for, er, finality.

What surprised me was how much I was affected emotionally.  Whenever this happens, I try and discern why.

It will not reveal too much, I think, to say that while the show is about a lot of things, the part that gets you where you live is its treatment of relationships.  Everyone in the cast has been through hell, and they have mostly gotten out of it by virtue of their association with each other.

And it is hell.  Recurring themes of the show are guilt, loss, despair, and isolation.  No character escapes.

But, in the end, this only serves to throw the…well, not happy, exactly, but good portions of the show into stark relief.  Having seen them at some very low lows, the characters’ achieving merely “medium” becomes that much more meaningful.

And meaning is the thing, isn’t it?  As opposed to happiness.  If the ruling progressive order represents a refrain of “Hey man, just be happy!  Whatever you want—fake affirmation (social media), fake pleasure (porn), or fake achievement (video games), it’s yours!  Every circuit in your brain—there’s an app for that!” then Reaction (at its best) represents a refusal to disconnect from the real world, and instead seeks to take a risk and attempt to live in and improve it.

Even this is a victory.  Moving from pleasure to sorrow certainly doesn’t feel great, but sorrow (as opposed to simple pain) is at least conscious.

There’s a strange feeling  that occurs when leaving a world that, though now inconsequential, left its mark on us.  It’s evoked by the end of Inception; I felt it on the plane home from my two-year mission; I suspect it occurs immediately before and after death.  It’s not exactly happy or sad; more of an attempt to grapple with the enormity of what we’ve just experienced.

Cyberpunk was the prediction that, contrary to the shiny Jetsons flying-car-and-atom-power utopian future, technology and capitalism would dissolve our social structures, atomize us, and destroy meaning.  Post-cyberpunk might be described as the “Alright, so then what?” response, pointing out that despite this, humans will continue to be human and crave meaning.  It’s no accident, I think, that this genre is popular among a motley internet group of tech-awares dissatisfied with modern malaise.

Go love someone.