“There’s a huge investment in the Western world in self-destructive young men. We need to have these tragedies acted out for us… because we want to imagine what it must be like without actually having to do it ourselves.” — Joy Division – Under Review (1:04:26).
Consider professional boxing. It has a well-known track record of multi-million-dollar, champion boxers going broke — perhaps the best-known example of which is Mike Tyson. Likewise, according to one estimation, 80% of NFL players go broke three years after within three years of being out of the league. Leaving sport aside, singers and musicians have, as we know, ended up ripped off and/or dead — Kurt Cobain, Sid Vicious, and Joy Division’s Ian Curtis being among the latter group.
“Entertainers” entertain, but they also affect how society sees itself, and, more especially, how young men see themselves. We emulate their style, buy the brands they endorse, and explain our lives by the lyrics of songs.
Like Tyson or not, contrary to media claims, he was a skilled boxer. Enduring the pain of training and fighting, such boxers, and sportspeople more generally, are supermen and superwomen compared to the average citizen. The same might be said of anyone who achieves a high level of skill. But sport, music, and, perhaps to a lesser extent, art and writing, offer ways out poverty, depression, or the humdrum of existential boredom offered by suburbia and office life.
Young men tend to overemphasize one aspect of themselves; usually what they were known for at school — the athlete or boxer emphasizes the physical, and musicians, artists, and writers tend to emphasize the intellectual, mental, or spiritual. No matter how passive some in the latter groups might seem, men, when they cultivate only one aspect of their being and deny the others, become highly aggressive.
Deep down, the pacifist intellectual often seethes with anger. He is, and must be, angry at a world in which men of physical strength, live and outmatches him in the physical realm — which is the realm of sex, competition, and survival. The passive male cannot physically beat the physically strong, especially if the latter knows how to fight. Instead of fighting, the passive male’s anger comes out in intellectualizing or moralizing, the way it comes out in bouts of drunkenness with some otherwise quiet and nice individuals.
On the other hand, the purely physical man is likely to trash talk the intellectual, and, in the worst cases, lives like a throw-back to a previous decade or era, treating women as mere objects.
Focus is different to the self-restriction of the man or woman who dedicates all their energy to cultivating only the body or only the intellect, etc. If we focus, our object might be health, for example, which might mean training physically, reading about biology and studying nutrition, and practicing meditation to reduce stress. Or we might focus on spirituality, studying ancient texts, meeting other spiritual practitioners, and practicing a traditional martial art, such as Kung fu, Karate, Judo, or Kendo. Most likely, our focus will take us in new, unexpected directions.
Focus opens up our world and our own self-expression. It pushes us forward through the darkness. It gives us light and energy. Focus is about what is higher. It is about attraction.
In contrast, self-restriction is about what and whom we do not like. By restricting ourselves to only the mental or only the physical we build walls around us and self-implode. It is important to recognize when we becoming estranged from aspects from our own being, and, consequently, hostile to those that embody those rejected aspects of ourselves.
Self-destruction has a kind of “live fast and die young” glamor. It is entertaining for others. But the point for us is not to develop one aspect of ourselves — like a blind man who is forced to develop his hearing to a greater degree than normal — but to grow and to develop our entire being; not to be entertained or an entertainer, but to live.