Pleasures of the Flesh

I’ve been noting in my Lightning Rounds that a few experienced players have been reaching the end of their run on the hedonic treadmill and are finding the whole experience unfulfilling. Last week, I wrote of how neither hedonism nor meaningless LTR’s will leave a man fulfilled. Now it seems Frost is suffering from player burn-out as well.

Except for a few men, playerdom will never be fulfilling in the end. Shallow pleasure does not bring contentment, only momentary happiness. Meaningless sex is simply the same effect as drugs, except one step removed (or more accurately, drugs are simply artificial inducements of effects similar to that which meaningless sex will bring). As with drugs, it will not satisfy, but it will become increasingly consuming as it becomes increasingly less pleasurable.

You will have sex, feel pleasure, then have but feel slightly less pleasure, and each time you will require more sex, more kinkiness, hotter women, and yet still feel slightly less pleasure each time. Meanwhile, you never feel the contentment you seek. The hedonic treadmill continues to roll until you either die or get off.

So, why not just ride for a while and get off at the right time?

The treadmill takes its toll even after you get off. Just as a carousel rider suffers as an alpha widow, so to does the ex-player suffer from the player’s curse.

A man who limits himself to one sexual partner has, by definition, the best sexual partner of his life with whom he is having the best sex of his life. The player, not so much. Any long-term relationship he may try will always be haunted by the ghosts of better sex and more beautiful partners of time past. The more partners he had prior, the more likely and stronger the hauntings.

There is no purpose to be found in hedonism, only emptiness.

I bought male and female slaves, and had slaves who were born in my house. I had also great possessions of herds and flocks, more than any who had been before me in Jerusalem. I also gathered for myself silver and gold and the treasure of kings and provinces. I got singers, both men and women, and many concubines, the delight of the sons of man.

So I became great and surpassed all who were before me in Jerusalem. Also my wisdom remained with me. And whatever my eyes desired I did not keep from them. I kept my heart from no pleasure, for my heart found pleasure in all my toil, and this was my reward for all my toil. Then I considered all that my hands had done and the toil I had expended in doing it, and behold, all was vanity and a striving after wind, and there was nothing to be gained under the sun. (Ecclesiastes 2:7-11, ESV)

Other men go make a different, but no less mistaken, extreme. Rather than pursuing meaningless sex from multiple women, they pursue meaning in a single woman. They find their identity and purpose in loving and serving another fallen person. This is as almost as empty as the meaningless sex, and will leave a man almost as hollow in the end. How is her value more than your own?

A man’s purpose of life can not be found in women or a singular woman.

If a man fathers a hundred children and lives many years, so that the days of his years are many, but his soul is not satisfied with life’s good things, and he also has no burial, I say that a stillborn child is better off than he. For it comes in vanity and goes in darkness, and in darkness its name is covered. Moreover, it has not seen the sun or known anything, yet it finds rest rather than he. Even though he should live a thousand years twice over, yet enjoy no good—do not all go to the one place? (Ecclesiastes 6:3-6, ESV)

So, where can purpose be in life be found?

For this, we can turn to Genesis:

And God blessed them. And God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.”

This is the first commandment; this is for what God made man.

Man’s purpose is to be found in filling and subduing the earth. Work was what man was created and/or evolved for. Man is meant to tame the land and to build from that which he needs and desires and to fill his tamed land with his own.

Man’s purpose is in building something greater than himself and then to create future generations to enjoy it.

Yet, there is a problem:

“Because you have listened to the voice of your wife
and have eaten of the tree
of which I commanded you,
‘You shall not eat of it,’
cursed is the ground because of you;
in pain you shall eat of it all the days of your life;
thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you;
and you shall eat the plants of the field.
By the sweat of your face
you shall eat bread,
till you return to the ground,
for out of it you were taken;
for you are dust,
and to dust you shall return.” (Genesis 3:17-19, ESV)

I have read this verse many times in my life, but only recently did I realize the full measure of agony contained within these words.

It is only in his work that man can find meaning, yet rather than something pleasurable, work is something difficult, bitter, and wearying.

How bitter this cup, that man’s purpose is to toil, yet his toil is naught but pain to him. To his even greater agony, when his toil is through and he surveys the work gained by through the sweat of his brow, he always knows that from dust it came and to dust it will return.

To find purpose, a man must always be working, always in bitter toil, yet know that all his work will eventually crumble in ruin.

I hated all my toil in which I toil under the sun, seeing that I must leave it to the man who will come after me, and who knows whether he will be wise or a fool? Yet he will be master of all for which I toiled and used my wisdom under the sun. This also is vanity. So I turned about and gave my heart up to despair over all the toil of my labors under the sun, because sometimes a person who has toiled with wisdom and knowledge and skill must leave everything to be enjoyed by someone who did not toil for it. This also is vanity and a great evil. What has a man from all the toil and striving of heart with which he toils beneath the sun? For all his days are full of sorrow, and his work is a vexation. Even in the night his heart does not rest. This also is vanity. (Ecclesiastes 2:18-23, ESV)

What is a man to do when all is vanity? How can man continue on, when all about his is rust and decay

Here is all for man to do:

Go, eat your bread with joy, and drink your wine with a merry heart, for God has already approved what you do.

Let your garments be always white. Let not oil be lacking on your head.

Enjoy life with the wife whom you love, all the days of your vain life that he has given you under the sun, because that is your portion in life and in your toil at which you toil under the sun. Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with your might, for there is no work or thought or knowledge or wisdom in Sheol, to which you are going. (Ecclesiastes 9:7-10, ESV)

A man accepts that life is vanity; he accepts that life is toil, but he continues. He finds what joy he can, knowing joy is illusionary, while working to build, knowing that his works will fade and decay.

A man’s purpose is to continue to build and enjoy the fruits of his labour even when he can not find meaning in the building or its fruits.

28 responses to “Pleasures of the Flesh

  • Matt

    And if I am toiling only for myself, there is no pleasure. A man is meant to have a family and a community, and I will never have either in today’s world. My life is simply watching the days pass and waiting to die.

  • ray

    To find purpose, a man must always be working, always in bitter toil, yet know that all his work will eventually crumble in ruin.

    works of the flesh, yes

    but works done for Father, like this post, dont crumble away

    A man who limits himself to one sexual partner has, by definition, the best sexual partner of his life with whom he is having the best sex of his life

    exactly, and when his partner is a virgin, she will always retain some element of that freshness, even into middle age

    and their sex life and general intimacy will reflect their exclusive bond, as their flesh and psyches arent “divided” by experience with prior partners

  • donalgraeme

    An interesting perspective. Thanks for the though provoking post.

  • oogenhand

    Reblogged this on oogenhand and commented:
    Good argument for male virginity. Even better argument for having a transcedent goal in your life.

  • dannyfrom504

    the real question though is:

    where are the women worth committing to? the “players dilemma” is something i’ve spoken of before, but it’s not really a problem as it is a right of passage.

    i think most men need to get all that various notches out of the way before they “settle down”. once they come to the realization that sex really isn’t that big a deal, they make better partners.

    just my 2 copper.

  • ar10308

    If men use all women as nothing but notches, there won’t be any left worth committing too…

  • Made Men

    You framed this post really well.

    I don’t see a contradiction though. The pleasures of the flesh include wine, women, dancing, toil, and song. The pursuit of anyone of these to the exclusion of others, of course, is where folks go wrong.

  • RG3

    Would recommend Marcus Aurelius’s
    Meditations, Seneca’s Letters, and Zorba the Greek to go along w Ecclesiastes.

  • zhai2nan2

    >Would recommend Marcus Aurelius’s
    Meditations, Seneca’s Letters, and Zorba the Greek to go along w Ecclesiastes.

    You could also go to the New Testament, which has some comments on how the Old Testament is not an adequate guide.

  • adiaforon

    Excellent that you mention Ecclesiastes. So rare is this book mentioned in Christian discourse.

  • tommy john's surgeon

    Considering that many men, even today, are involuntarily celibate, “player burnout” sounds like someone whining about a First World problem.

  • Tia

    I’m pleasantly surprised to see detachment teachings in the bible.

    I had no idea.

    Does it also outline daily practices (we call that sadhana in my tradition) to cultivate detachment?

  • A♠


    Though you don’t know me from Adam…

    I solemnly assure you that I have been where you are.

    The secret is to start doing things for yourself.

    Clean your place.

    Work on your car.

    Buy yourself little things [a few new clothes, a couple books, etc.]

    See, I’ve been plagued with depression since I emerged from the womb.

    And when I lost my fiancé, a lucrative career and my best friend all in the span of a few months—

    I gave up on life.

    I drank so much whiskey I shat blood and smoked until ever breath was a wheeze, hoping I’d die very soon.

    But the fact is:

    Troubles come long before the hearse.

    And after you lose even more than you’d thought possible, due to misery—

    you realize how foolish it was to give up so early.

    Take my words or leave them.

    I can only do my part.

    The rest is up to you.

    But remember:

    Death is coming, regardless.

    And life is short.

    There’s no need to rush the process.

  • Free Northerner

    @Matt: Listen to Ace. I understand the desperation; it sometimes comes to me as well. Try to find something worthwhile to live with your life.

    @danny: I’d have to agree with ar on this one. Every girl that becomes a notch is one less girl that is suitable for marriage.

    @Made Men: The man of God avoids all extremes.

    @RG3: Aurelius is on my list. I’ll look into the others.

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  • A♠

    Free Northerner,

    Thanks, sincerely, for the back–up.

    Since it’s easy (and lamentably understandable) to be written off as a crank.

    Side note: Many thanks for the linkage, as well.

    While I write for myself most of all—

    It’s nice to know people gain something from it.

    ~ A♠

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  • Keanu

    Yep, one of the red pill truths that we men don’t like to admit to ourselves, especially in the sphere. Men are haunted by former hot sexual encounters as much as women are haunted by the carousal.

  • Eve

    I read these scriptures a million times in my youth…yet I’ve never seen them interpreted so insightfully. Beautifully written piece and very thought-provoking.

  • Chewie

    One of the most concise and perceptive ‘sphere posts I’ve read. You have a way with words. Thank you for the inspiration to read Ecclesiastes.

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  • k8

    But thank God, Jesus has come and saved us from this life of emptiness. Didn’t he tell us to love each other and to love God with everything we have? That’s our purpose now isn’t it? It’s hard to realize that everything else we do is meaningless, but I guess that’s what Jesus was trying to say the whole time in the New Testament.

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    God, in His mercy, has given us something we can build eternally, His kingdom.

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