Abstinence

No, not that kind. Well, not exactly.

I’m rushing through Into the Wild (rushing because it is amazing, not because I want to hurry), and it’s pretty interesting; I just passed through a chapter that talked about several other people who, like the book’s focus, Chris McCandless, ventured into the wild (with varying degrees of success). Apparently, there is a common theme among many of them of not just abstaining from civilization, but technology and even sex as well. Thoreau, whose Walden I started this summer and am saving for a time I can focus on it more, was a lifelong virgin. McCandless, it seems, may have been too for his short life. It strikes me as an odd tendency but maybe not entirely unreasonable. As much as there is a pull from nature, surely part of the reason for going into the world is to get away from people.

A quote from Thoreau, for me, suggests a slightly different interpretation, though. He wrote, “Chastity is the flowering of man; and what are called Genius, Heroism, Holiness, and the like, are but various fruits which succeed it.” For the sake of discussion (and my largely American, sex-loving audience), don’t think of chastity in terms of only sex, but more along the lines of moderation or self restraint.

After my technofast earlier this fall,  I saw how valuable self restraint could be. We humans are prone to getting caught up in things, to getting into habits and taking them for granted. Fasting or abstaining from those things, taking the habit and making it deliberate, has always been a way man sought to regain a measure of control. It can work, too. Perhaps this is why pilgrims, philosophers, and holy men (frequent residents if the desert) have long been it’s closest adherents.

I don’t mean to say you should abstain from sex, or technology, or civilization or anything. But consider it, at least for a while. Test yourself, and find out what you really need.

More about McCandless soon. Ciao!

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One Response to “Abstinence”

  1. Ovais Says:

    Well said! A lesson for those who reflect.

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