Circe Says: Ancient wisdom for modern problems

Circe is an ancient Greek minor goddess who spends her days on X, chronicling the late-stage American empire and dispensing advice on life and love in the digital era. You can submit your advice questions to her directly at Circe @vocalcry.

Let’s say you wanted to escape a cult. Let’s say the cult is academia, to keep things abstract. How would you do it?

When you consider that the number of people with freshly minted PhDs every year far exceeds the number of people who join the Church of Scientology, it is worth asking how academia continues to find young recruits willing to give away years of their productive lives to engage in esoteric rituals in near poverty and social isolation for a slim chance at life-of-the-mind transcendence.

The one quality that most cult members share is that they’re looking for an all-powerful mentor (or, in your case, a dissertation advisor) — a figurative daddy who will reward them when they’re good and scold them when they’re bad. Academics have this in spades. They’ve never developed an identity outside of being the teacher’s pet, and they struggle to make decisions without envisioning what grade they will get on their report card in life.

Leaving academia involves recognizing that you’re in a cult and learning to accept that there is no final report card. The only grade you’ll get in life is pass/fail, which will only be awarded to you by a higher power. If you can come to terms with this, you might have a chance at escape. And if you can’t, joining a tech startup is always an option.

I have read many ‘red-pill’ books to try to understand what men want. They all seem to be aimed at manipulating a woman’s desire for love to extract intimacy, only to lose interest in the woman afterward. I am losing hope about relationships and genuinely questioning why these men express that their version of true love is harems and cheating. Do any men truly love women? Is this really what love is about?

A healthy relationship with both parents and a normal adolescent romantic awakening: no “red-pill” guru had both. Like all ideologies constructed around a master narrative to explain the world, “red-pill” concepts are founded on a grain of truth and distorted to massive proportions to attract a target audience. In this sense, the “red pill” is no different from Marxism, radical feminism, or any other ideology that preys on minds desperate for clarity in a world that is full of complexity.

It is true that, on average, there are biological and psychological differences between men and women that require a theory of mind to appreciate fully and that being aware of these differences can help bridge the gap between the sexes, especially in the context of a relationship. The “red pill” organizes some of these differences into a seemingly coherent worldview that serves as a basis to justify the manipulation of women by men to often unsavory ends.

It is worth noting, however, that every single “red-pill” guru eventually repents and comes to the conclusion that a monogamous relationship with one woman is more fulfilling than living like a degenerate. Dan Bilzerian is only the most recent in a long line of “red-pill” prodigal sons — without exception, all of these men eventually reach the same conclusion.

It is also worth noting that the average well-socialized, well-adjusted man will never consume red-pill content, let alone create red-pill content. This latter pool of men is the one you should be fishing in when looking for love, which is a very real and wonderful thing. I cannot tell you where or when you will find your Prince Charming, but I can categorically tell you that he will not have internet brainworms.

Are you wasting a girl’s time by continuing to date her if, after six months, you can’t yet see a future involving marriage but otherwise have no good reason to break up? If so, how to best end things without sounding mean? If not, how long do you wait to see if marital visions develop?

The short answer is yes, and the long answer is also yes.

Most men know when they meet the woman they want to build a future with early on, usually much earlier than six months. If it hasn’t developed, it isn’t likely to develop with the passage of time. If you are looking for a wife (presumably, she’s looking for a husband), then not seeing a future involving marriage IS a good reason to break up. Not only is it a good reason, it’s the best reason.

Every day you spend with a person you don’t see a future with is a day you’re robbing from both of you [time] that can be spent either in search of a spouse or in the company of that spouse. It is never pleasant to end things, but be honest about not seeing a future even if you can only offer vague reasons as to why. A woman will be far less upset about being rejected after six months than about being strung along for years only to eventually break up anyway and hear that you married another woman that you met only six months ago.

Console yourself with the thought that 10 years from now, you’ll both be happily married to other people and that you’re taking a step today to ensure that future. And if the thought of ending up with other people instead of one other makes you sad and regretful, maybe it’s worth reconsidering and buying a ring. But please — no moissanite.

I have a raging desire to set my boss on fire, and I’m exhausted by this and want it to end. How do I get over my desire to set my boss on fire?

Buy a ticket to Burning Man and superimpose your boss’s face onto the burning effigy with the Apple Vision Pro. Or you can just find a new job.

Circe, how do I get over relentless heartbreak?

Barthes and Stendhal exhausted many words on this very dilemma to no avail, but as a 1000+-year-old goddess (though who’s counting), I’ve had centuries to test out various theories (turning your beloved’s object of affection into a sea monster does NOT work), and I’m here to offer practical solutions.

First, give yourself a predetermined period to grieve. Watch sad movies, vent to anyone who will listen, read “The Sorrows of Young Werther” — whatever makes all of those melancholy feelings bubble to the surface. Don’t bury … them; tragedy cleanses the soul. But you MUST be disciplined about the cut-off time for this period.

Second, do not have any contact with this person. Hide any and all evidence of their existence. Do not stalk their social media. Do not ask your friends about them. For all intents and purposes, you must disappear them from your life.

Third, make a list of everything you dislike about them, even if it’s totally ridiculous minutiae — their shoes, their eyebrows, anything that inspires even mild distaste. Anytime you reminisce about them, read the list. Read it again. Then eat a cookie. This is no longer the time for philosophical musings. You must not be above subjecting yourself to operant conditioning.

Fourth, find a way to distract yourself with something that gives you purpose: work, friends, hobbies, etc. Getting in shape never hurts. Keep busy in a way that feels productive.

If you follow this plan without cheating, you are guaranteed to feel better in about six months. Trust me, if I can get over Glaucus, you can get over anyone.

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