Wednesday 10 September 2014

What should single men *do*?

Some ideas, or notions - from a perspective which sees current arrangements as extremely bad and contributing to vast misery and despair.

I am implicitly referring to able-bodied men in decent health, who can work and make a living.


Given that it is generally much better to be married and to have children; what about those men (and it would mostly be men) who do not marry, do not have children - and whose lives are therefore celibate (as the ideal)?

1. Do not live alone. People are not meant to live alone: it is bad for them.

If you have one and if possible, continue to live with your family. If you don't or can't, then live communally in some kind of structured environment (like a college, boarding school, the military or other community). Or with a group of friends or similarly-placed men. At least have meals together.

But if no such thing exists, as is usually the case, the prospects are indeed bleak. Finding some such environment should be a life-priority. 

2. Work is not enough. Work and leisure is not enough.

You must be religious, and live a life of service in a (real) church if you are not to go off the rails psychologically and spiritually - one way or the other.

3. If possible and appropriate, befriend and become attached to some family or families that you can help in whatever ways they need, and where you can become 'part of the family' to some extent.

The life of a 'live in' servant of some type may be suitable (caretaker, gardener etc) as long as it is not solitary.

4. If you are a Christian with a 'monastic' tradition of the religious life, consider living in a religious community, and serving that community in whatever capacity they need - perhaps as a 'lay brother'.

The above list is far from exhaustive - but the problem for single men is, and doubtless always will be, a real one - and, psychologically, a big one.


Note added: I think the point I most would emphasize is that the single man must not make work his priority, and fit everything else around it. Nor should he live for his leisure: for weekends and holidays. Neither of those will be effective, and either may prevent him finding what he really needs. The strategic priorities, that towards which he plans and schemes, should be along the lines described above. For example, he might seek a job in a place where there is a good church, or to stay with his family. 


Smythe said...

Thank you for bringing this topic up Bruce; it is critically important.

I went through a period of enforced solo living several years ago. I found myself wishing I had a job more demanding of my time and watching a lot of TV (I normally don't watch it at all).

In many ways, demanding jobs and digital entertainment enable isolated living. If these things disappeared, perhaps people might start looking at rebuilding community, even in some small way.

Bruce Charlton said...

@Smythe - It is not that I think there is a complete solution - but if people are at least aiming in the right direction then they have a batter chance. So, *adapting* to the solo living by working harder and watching a lot of TV, if it is effective to a significant degree, will tend to lead to acceptance of the solo life and may even fix it - for example by continually optimizing career regardless of the consequences to the possibility or actuality of a life in a community. Also solo living can become an addiction, and 'other people' perceived as mainly demanding nuisances.

Anonymous said...

Hey now, the hermit, the sage and the lighthouse keeper have a long and venerable tradition in human history. Sure, most of them are nuts, but some of them weren't.

Personally, I would lose my marbles if I were around people all the time.

Probably reasonable advice for most people. I sit around thinking about math and data and reading books. Others ... I don't know what they do with themselves.

Bruce Charlton said...

@Scott - I think you are glossing over the problems. The Eastern Orthodox, who base their who religion around the idea that the solitary ascetic hermit is potentially the highest form of Christian, go to great lengths to provide a long monastic training and selection process before individuals are allowed to become hermits. This is based on the problems that arise when not doing so - the hermits go over to the dark side and are afflicted by demons.

Lighthousekeeper was always treated as a severe punishment in English traditional culture.

Modern people need to realize how historically-weird it is to live alone, eat alone - as so many people do now (and as I have done in the past). It is no small thing!