Antifragile Sex

A few months ago I read a book by Nassim Taleb called “Antifragile: Things That Gain From Disorder.”

Taleb makes the point that institutions, governments, and markets respond to chaos and disorder in one of three ways:

Things that fall apart are “fragile.”

Things that endure are “resilient.”

And then there is a unique, little-understood class of things that actually grow stronger in the face of chaos and disorder. These things are “antifragile.”

What Taleb says of markets and institutions is true of genders as well.

Though women have been called “the fragile sex,” they are, in fact, the resilient one.

Any man who has watched his wife give birth can attest to that.

Man, on the other hand, is the antifragile sex.

Whereas women thrive DESPITE chaos and disorder, men thrive precisely BECAUSE of it.

When the world is on fire, a strange calm descends. Finally, you know, as a man, what you must do.

All the ambiguity and angst and complexity of modern life is burnt away, leaving one clear, ancient goal: stay alive.

That’s why, even with all the conveniences and titillations of our age, you still play out violent protector fantasies in your head…

Why your blood begins to pound when someone cuts you off on the freeway…

Why you binge-watch Sons of Anarchy and Vikings.

All of it strobes that primitive part of you that is wired for blood and burning.

For most of human history, this instinct was essential. The world was a violent, unpredictable place, and our antifragile qualities were thus in constant demand.

But now, we find ourselves in a strangely quiet peacetime… and we don’t know what to do.

You’re holding Peter Diamandis’ “Abundance” in one hand and a Walking Dead Blu-ray in the other.

You want to build a better world.

But you want to burn it to the fucking ground, too.

It is the great paradox of our time: how are we, as men, meant to flourish in peacetime when we have, for all of history, been defined by war?

There are three basic responses to this paradox:

Option 1: Burn the world to feel alive

Some men look around, see no place for themselves, and set the world on fire.

Consciously or not, they do so to recreate the conditions in which man’s penchant for violence has a place.

What they lose in material comfort they seek to gain in a restored order… a reinstatement of man’s place as unchallenged, uncomplicated alpha amidst the ruin.

Option 2: Deny the lust for burning

Some men glimpse their warring nature and shudder.

Ashamed at their heart’s stirring for blood and burning, they suppress and deny.

They decry all forms of violence, pulling out all stops to convince their women that there is no darkness in their heart, that they are “not like those other men.”

They deny their demons’ presence until, at some juncture, when these men are weakest and most desolate, their demons pour out through the cracks and destroy, unacknowledged and thus uncontrollable.

Option 3: Burn within

Rather than plunge the world into darkness to assuage your discontent…

Rather than pretend you are “above” blood and burning, only to have your house burn down around you as you sleep…

Embrace your demons, and look at your lust for burning with a clear eye.

Do not suppress the fire, nor let it run wild, but rather, press it into new service.

Willingly burn within, setting your own heart on fire.

For peacetime is not an excuse for sloth, but a rare freedom to indulge in deeper, more profound forms of burning, so that you may transcend mere survival and burn through to utterly new levels of love and mystery.


  1. I love your writings. I know they are directed towards the masculine energy, but we all have that energy within us. I’m a female who craves actual freedom and autonomy. This post is a little nugget of wisdom and inspiration for all. Glad I stumbled upon it.

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