What is best in life?
Conan seems to have a pretty good answer for that.
But unfortunately in this day and age pillaging is often frowned upon.
So what alternatives do we have?
We can lead a life of hedonism sampling all the pleasures of life.
Now hedonism gotten a bad reputation, people think it’s all about eating as much as you can, doing drugs, having sex, and partying. But in reality it is a legitimate philosophy and one that many people unknowingly follow. Its all about avoiding pain and maximizing pleasure. That means eating good food, having a scotch, and traveling all with close friends and people you love. It doesn’t even involve excess.
But I find this to be a rather materialistic and ignoble way to live life. Almost cowardly. You fear pain and try to avoid it instead of dealing with it as it comes. After all some of the best things in life involve pain.
What about the ascetics then?
Rejecting the flesh and living for enlightenment or devoted to God (the Rule of Saint Benedict is an interesting read). This could have some promise. You are living for a greater ideal, holding yourself to strict rules and disciplining the flesh.
But as a wise man once said the glutton and ascetic are both slaves to their stomachs. And on top of that the ascetic life in the long term seems stifling and devoid of some of the great joys of life.
You see I want to have the experience and joy of the hedonist. I want to have vitality and hunger for life. But live with an ideal that I’m striving for. To fully embrace all of lives pleasures and pains while chasing my dreams.
This passage from The Phoenix on the Sword by Robert E. Howard illustrates the extreme of that desire,
“With his back to the wall he faced the closing ring for a flashing instant, then leaped into the thick of them. He was no defensive fighter; even in the teeth of overwhelming odds he always carried the war to the enemy. Any other man would have already died there, and Conan himself did not hope to survive, but he did ferociously wish to inflict as much damage as he could before he fell. His barbaric soul was ablaze, and the chants of old heroes were singing in his ears.”
Neither the cowardly hedonists nor the self-sacrificing ascetics lead a life like that. They may have some pleasant experiences and hold lofty ideals. But they don’t suck the marrow out of life like Conan did.
No, Conan fought and clawed for everything he desired. He wanted something and he went for it. He didn’t let anything stop him.
But we can’t achieve things in such a visceral way, not anymore. There are too many comforts and obstacles. Too many people to slay your way to a throne Like Conan did. Hell Conan would have easily been shot if he tried to take over anything in our world, for all his strength and power a bullet to the head would have killed him just as dead as anyone else.
So that leaves the question of how do we achieve that same barbaric soul, that is focused, driven, and unconquerable.
That’s a big question with thousands of winding roads we can travel trying to answer it. I doubt anyone would arrive at the same answer even if they tried. And something that I’m going to spend a long time thinking and experimenting with.
However I think I’ve got the first step figured out. That key to build the foundation on.
Developing your will is the one thing that anyone can do to take what they want. If you can master yourself and direct your energy towards what you desire then you’ll be farther along the road then 90% of people who waste away in front of screens living their lives through stories.
So discipline is the name of the game. You’ve got to be able to say “No” before you can have the power to say “I Will”.
Once you cans say “No” then you’ll be able to get everything out of life. Or you’ll end up broken and bleeding, but not defeated.
And while I talk a big game here, actually living up to it is another matter entirely. But I’m making progress. Are you?