Many of us have lived our lives under the impressionable belief that success must always be at the hanging end of our every endeavor. Like a child that scurries back home to his mother after a frightful scold by the neighborhood grump, every time we are plunged into the occasionally forced social interaction, our guiding principle of self-worth becomes irreversibly tied into how successful we perceive we are in relation to everyone else around us. And scarcely do we pause to wonder the damned meaning of it all.
In the noted absence of traditional societal norms, it is to no surprise that, where once great meaning and purpose proudly stood at the height of a man’s shoulders, now miserly and exaggerated displays of material and social excess reign supreme: empty valuations for an equally empty people.
Under modernity, collective priorities have completely shifted from the community to the individual. This leaves the question of larger-scale morality abandoned in a marketplace of free ideas, one in which we cannot reasonably expect to overtake the monumental giants of human avarice, selfishness, narcissism, and egotistical idealism.
Faith, we decided, was nothing more than the folly of men for delusion; tradition we concluded, an offender to all that we now call justice. And history? History, a burden on our backs, a guilt to be never forgotten, and a wound to be continuously sprinkled with the salt of our slobbery tongues.
No longer can a man’s silence be taken for wisdom, nor his serenity for prudence; all must dance on this wheeling globe of pretend, spinning endlessly into nowhere, or risk rapidly falling out of relevance and living unremarkably by the standards of our day.
But should we be concerned with the standards that now seem to burden our every aspiration? Should we sweat and worry and toil to meet a manner of living that, prior to the late 20th century, would have been considered decadent by any sufficiently civilized European society? Is it not enough to live comfortably and within our current means and slowly but surely strive for more, but with an air of good sense and grace?
Freedom Without Responsibility Creates A Moral Vacuum
The thing about modernity is that with every freedom to man granted, he remains stripped away of his usual duties, many of his roles, and consequently much of his purpose. Suddenly much of what man knew for the entirety of his evolutionary process is simply a “construct,” he is informed. All of the urges he feels, the thoughts he endures, and the way that comes natural to him is alien to what is now “right” and “proper” to civilized society.
Masculinity becomes unsightly, a ghastly little wisp to be quietly tucked in under the sensible man’s buttoned-up dress shirt and brightly-colored khakis, only to be brought out by the wife on command when she tires of the usual, unexciting sexual fare and fantasizes about being ravaged by an eccentric, domineering billionaire with an unapologetic sense of self and an untamed character.
Now with no greater moral north to cling to, success is measured by what you can obtain on the Earth, and who has the most of it. There is little space for abstract virtue and boring modesty, because that’s all relative anyways! And thus we are thrust upon the middle-class olympics, in which we watch (and are encouraged to follow) the overworked suburbanites enslave themselves into perpetual debt to live a lifestyle they can’t afford, with money they can’t pay back, with time they don’t have, and relationships they can’t keep alive.
Not even for the sake of their children, who grow up lacking the most fundamental human affection and approval despite not missing one single plate of food or the latest iPhone device on the market—the very definition of excess for the sake of excess, but in all else: poverty.
We took the simplicity out of living and turned it into a mass-produced, micro-transactional, sugar-saddled machine, complete with all the ills that come accompanied by a meaningless existence based on desperately outcompeting one another: widespread depression, constant high-stress, and an increasingly superficial personality centered on an almost child-like narcissism that could rival the gravitational pull of our great star, the Sun.
All of this further amplified by the constant rush and isolating comfort of technology and infinite media-on-demand that seems to work more to keep us from thinking than helping us think at all. Contemplation has become strange, introspection unglamorous, and all forms of sensible planning have been thrown to the wind in favor of any light gust of emotion that might suggest we need obtain yet another thing to achieve completeness.
And then we let these people define success for us, and we are left at a loss as to why our lives aren’t as successful as we hoped them to be. What’s worse, their success isn’t real, we find out. It is a farce designed to fool everyone but themselves, a curtain they put on when the audience comes to watch but when one peeks behind, the stage is in shambles, the actors are out of character, and the water cooler is full of hot air.
Do not be deceived by the theatrics of these impostors, and seek rather the meaningful and the virtuous, to the extent that you can define your own authentic metric of success that makes headway for the goals you have set for yourself as a man, that is what it means to succeed.
Success Cannot Be Bought At The Store, Nor Can It Be Shipped Off In Lofty White Boxes, It Must Be Endured
All other available measures of success offered to us today are empty, and racing against the limp for a shot at passing human envy and pathetic vainglory is not worth the caloric expenditure or your finite allowance of time on this planet.
Alas, without faith, community, or country to pledge your life to, what remains is what should always have come first for a fully realized individual: yourself. And it is this self, that once cultivated, will make you (with most certainty) the most truly successful person in the modern room.