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Letters from an Ancient Mind

My dear young friend,

You do me too great an honor in your assumption – and you greatly mistake my era. Our men have as much a wandering eye for a wench as have yours. I do, however, greatly appreciate your phrase for it: double standard. It is most appropriate. Your time, like mine, has two sets of weights in the bag. One measures the virtue of the husband, the other the virtue of the wife. As the Scripture says, the Lord abhors this.

What perturbs me is your assumption that there can be no logical argument against this. Did you really think this some caprice of the Lord God Almighty? The matter is one subject to logic. Hear me out. You need not even appeal to the Scriptures to expose this misery and fraud.

First, is it not evident to one and all that justice is a virtue? Is it not also evident that such a double standard is an affront to justice? So if a man has the nobility of soul to value virtue for its own sake, the matter is self evident. But of course such a man is most unlikely to have such a double standard.

The injustice, however, is clear. Your society, as mine, is unjust to all women in this regard. Women attract men by their beauty. That beauty fades with the years. This is God’s doing, not their own. Do they not apply themselves diligently in this? But a man becomes more desirable with age – as he becomes a man of stature. If we tolerate our double standard, is it not clear that it is the women who suffer? There is no justice in that.

Indeed, it is worse. Such a standard causes the integrity of the family to decay. Surely even the village dunce can see that fact. But is not the family the very brick of the city? If the bricks fail, how can the wall hold? If the wall fails, will not the barbarians of the mind soon be within the gate?

Worst of all is this: the double standard destroys the integrity of the man. Man is meant to be one – as God is one – and this standard makes him two. To his wife and children he must appear godly; to his mistress he must appear loving and generous; to the world he must reconcile both. The only way this can be is a permanent hypocrisy. Such a life destroys a man.

Now you can see why God abhors it – it destroys those whom he loves, and offends his justice.

I submit to you, however, that you are not helpless in this matter. I am old, the years of my pilgrimage are many, and my wealth sufficient that my opinions are tolerated with amusement by those too young to understand. It is most annoying. You, however, have a better place. Do you exchange winks with the unfaithful, or is it known that your views and conduct oppose such? As you are about to enter upon marriage, you might give some thought as to your bride’s view. How much more will she love a man whom she knows to be faithful?

Grave matters are at stake. Give your whole mind to the problem. Think about it with care. You cannot be both faithful and unfaithful – and now would seem a good time to decide your policy.

I am an old man. My advice is cheap. But I may tell you this: my wife knew me to be faithful to the day of her death – and both of us were happier for it.

As ever,

Isaac the alchemist

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