Monday 4 May 2020

Why I'm celibate and teetotal


I'd like to go a little off-piste today. Throw out some thoughts. I've been reading Nietzsche and Jung from the comfort of my small tropical apartment. It's somehow affirming to see some of your ideas stated succinctly in rational text. It's also jarring to see other beliefs disabused by those same texts. Either way it's always a worthwhile endeavour to re-evaluate your philosophical positions. Let's dive right in.

Apart from the agglomeration of huge masses in which the individual disappears anyway, one of the chief factors responsible for psychological mass-mindedness is scientific rationalism, which robs the individual of his foundations and his dignity. As a social unit he has lost his individuality and become a mere abstract number in the bureau of statistics. He can only play the role of an interchangeable unit of infinitesimal importance. Looked at rationally and from outside, that is exactly what he is, and from this point of view it seems positively absurd to go on talking about the value or meaning of the individual.” ― C.G. Jung, The Undiscovered Self.

Bleak. True, but bleak. As I read the highlighted sentence I was overcome by the same emotion I felt ascending the Annapurna Massif in Nepal. A feeling of utter insignificance, as I gazed up at the snowy Himalayan giants. The same emotion arising in two vastly different settings. Bizarre. One due to our insignificance in the vast cosmos and the other due to our irrelevance within the human herd.

I've had a niggling awareness of my own disposability and irrelevance to society since leaving home at 16 where I was subsequently trained and sent off to a war at 20 - it doesn't get any more disposable than that! Despite the ego's persistence in evaluating ourselves more favorably than is objectively warranted, it's true we're merely interchangeable units of infinitesimal importance in societal terms. From a work angle, most employers don't value their staff and prefer to have them running on a treadmill of stress, fear and anxiety. Good for the company. Terrible for you. C'est la vie.

One way to mitigate this reality (pertaining to the world of work) might be to acquire an in-demand skill set. But that only partially offsets the reality - it doesn't change it. There's always another interchangeable unit out there ready to replace you. Another way might be to unsubscribe from society's prescribed life-course as much as you can. I guess that's what I did?

In addition to work I've also felt a sense of disposability when it comes to women. I've always felt less at ease in relationships - something that made bachelorhood an easy choice. I think Robert Briffault states it best:

"The female, not the male, determines the conditions of the animal family. Where the female can derive no benefit from association with the male, no such association takes place." - Robert Briffault.

As a bloke, you're always on the clock. Always responsible for shit. It's true the female must benefit in some way. It might be via sex, kids, accommodation, status, companionship, protection, entertainment or cold hard cash - but she must derive some benefit. The moment the bennies dry up - for whatever reason - game over. She'll magically not love you anymore. There are other interchangeable units who'll provide those things waiting in the wings. Like crabs in a bucket.

I'll concede there might be unicorn-esque exceptions. But those exceptions would prove the rule. My main reason for being a bachelor is not an unwillingness to provide those things. It's more an unwillingness to sacrifice my sovereignty. My freedom is not for sale.

Since I believe life has no intrinsic meaning or value, it might be said I'm circling a drain of existential nihilism. Bringing up these depressing kernels of truth would support that.  However, that doesn't mean life can't be fulfilling. Read. Write. Create. Learn. Cycle. Travel. Exercise. Hang out in cafes. Try not to piss people off. Learn to love solitude and the peace that comes with it. Enjoy a simple life of minimalism. Marvel at the stars on clear nights. There's not much I would change right now.

Inner peace

I've been voluntarily celibate for two years. I've been nicotine and alcohol free for 16 months. People's reactions range from meh! to omg that's impossible! when they hear this. I've struggled to articulate my reasons at times so I've given the matter more thought. I've come up with four discussion points.

1. Self mastery
2. Health
3. Money
4. Inner peace

Self mastery is defined as self-control, the ability to exert a strong will against our impulses. To be the best version of ourselves we can be. Whether it's trekking Britain's highest peaks, running marathons or studying fluid dynamics - I've always relished certain challenges. However, mastering my sexual, nicotine and alcohol addictions were another level. The Buddha tells us suffering arises from attachment to desires. It was time to eliminate three of em.

The male sexual impulse is a gargantuan force. Controlled by our primitive limbic cortex (or lizard brain), it's the foremost reason for the male desire for unfreedom. Damn sexual thirst. I doubt I would've been capable of reining in these urges in my teens, 20s and 30s. However, through a combination of possessing a mid-40s (slightly) lower sex drive and having had more than my fair share of v-jay-jay over the last 30 years, I found this to be a moderate challenge.

A lad on HMS Victorious once told me "Oxygen, food and water? Yes. Sex? No. No one's ever died from not having sex." He had a point. His words were always in the back of my mind. The amount of time, energy and money saved by not chasing tail shouldn't be overlooked. It should also be noted that the male sex drive isn't necessarily a bad thing - without it none of us would be here.

The nicotine and alcohol dependencies were different animals. After three decades of abusing these poisons I had to dig deep. A lot of neural pathways and social conditioning to break. For years I'd despise my mental weakness every time I lit a tab or got pissed. I hated being dependent on them. Making sure I had me tabs-n-lighter anytime I went out. The anxiety as you're down to the last few. I didn't need this shit anymore. I'm stronger than this.

So, cold turkey it was. A few lousy months before the clouds cleared. But all the better for it now. The health benefits are clear. Easier breathing is an obvious one but, for me, it's the clarity of thought that has impressed me the most. My mind feels clean and sharp - for the first time as an adult! The removal of those constantly gnawing cravings. Bliss.

Although saving money was not a goal I've certainly noticed a reduction in expenses. No more lady drinks, tabs or Leo!! They hold no power over me anymore. Those savings have even gone some way to enabling early retirement.

The final point is the calm and inner peace I often feel. I've never known this before. Serene contentment humming in the background. Suppressing the anxiety. Another wonderful side-effect I never expected. My addictions were thirsts that could never be satiated. There was never enough v-jay-jay, tabs or beer to leave one satisfied. Remove those desires and it's hard to explain the sense of liberation. Amazing.

Looking back, it wasn't easy overcoming these obstacles. However, I'm glad I did. It was worth the effort. There's a rewarding sense of achievement in knowing you've mastered thyself. This personal journey has even offered an insight into where abstinent monks are coming from. I kinda get it. I kinda like it.

At this point in life I'm completely fine if I never have another shag, tab or beer again. I've had me fill. They're overrated. I just couldn't see it before. It's like Sisyphus let the boulder roll down the hill.


  1. Thanks for this post. Great to read a blog from a guy at the same(ish) stage of life as myself.
    I can't believe that I'd rather find a great new stretch of a YouTube trainer than a new girl. Lol
    My goal in life at 52 seems to be the nurturing of this great sense of wellbeing that is eminating from the pit of my stomach.

    1. Great to hear from someone who gets it. Cheers.

  2. You are a huge inspiration to me! Thank you.

  3. Btw, which school do you teach with online?

  4. Hi mate it's Kevin here (the Irish guy who shat 700 quid in Phnom Penh ��). Hows Hows it going over there? I was in Peru and got an evacuation flight out. Got a free ticket first class. Back in the west coast of Ireland now waiting for this bollocks to blow over

    1. Hey lad, glad to hear you're ok. Still going strong in Battambang.

  5. Looking forward to the next update matey.
    Been a while, all good?