Do Men Need Monotony

Thoughts on IntellecutalTakeout’s “Why America Has a Generation of Little Men”. There are various explanations for the decline of manliness or manly success in today’s culture. Examples include women now receiving more education than men, and young men being more likely to live with their parents than women of the same age. The article lists several of the explanations that have been thrown around:

  • The decline of physical labor
  • The arrangement of the education system
  • The decline of apprenticeships
  • The social emphatuation with man-bashing

Add to these, suggests IntellectualTakeout, Bertrand Russel’s thoughts on the importance of monotony:

A boy or young man who has some serious constructive purpose will endure voluntarily a great deal of boredom if he finds that it is necessary by the way. But constructive purposes do not easily form themselves in a boy’s mind if he is living a life of distractions and dissipations, for in that case his thoughts will always be directed towards the next pleasure rather than towards the distant achievement.

For all these reasons a generation that cannot endure boredom will be a generation of little men, of men unduly divorced from the slow processes of nature, of men in whom every vital impulse slowly withers, as though they were cut flowers in a vase.

IntellectualTakeout’s ideas are definitely a nod to a series on the virtues of boredom on BrainPickings, likewise citing Bertrand Russel and including another Russel piece of wisdom:

A life too full of excitement is an exhausting life, in which continually stronger stimuli are needed to give the thrill that has come to be thought an essential part of pleasure. A person accustomed to too much excitement is like a person with a morbid craving for pepper, who comes last to be unable even to taste a quantity of pepper which would cause anyone else to choke. There is an element of boredom which is inseparable from the avoidance of too much excitement, and too much excitement not only undermines the health, but dulls the palate for every kind of pleasure, substituting titillations for profound organic satisfactions, cleverness for wisdom, and jagged surprises for beauty… A certain power of enduring boredom is therefore essential to a happy life, and is one of the things that ought to be taught to the young.

I have doubts as to how well this generalizes to men overall, and further doubts as to whether any benefit of boredom is specific to men, but it certainly appeals to me; whether there’s a predisposition by personality or gender or anything else, the “slow and steady” produce a pulse of reality that enlivens by its very quietness and stability.

For this reason I have at times been left speechless when, after explaining a decision or course of my day, I have been asked, “Did you enjoy it? Is that fun for you?” What does that have to do with anything?

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