We must learn again that command over the world presupposes command of self. For how can men control the growing monstrousness of power when they cannot even control their own appetites? How can they shape political or cultural decisions affecting countless others, when they are continually failing themselves?
There was a time when philosophers, historians, and poets used the word "asceticism" as an expression of "medieval hostility to life," and advocated instead a life lived in search of "experience," of immediate sensation . . . we do well to realize here that there has never been greatness without asceticism, and what is needed today is something not only great, but ultimate: we must decide whether we are going to realize the requirements of rule in freedom or in slavery.
An ascetic is a man who has himself well in hand. To be capable of this, he must recognize the wrongs within himself and set about righting them . . . He must acquire a certain distance from things; must train himself to resist what "they" say. Street, traffic, newspaper, radio, screen, and television all present problems of self-discipline, indeed of the most elementary self-defense--problems we hardly suspect, to say nothing of tackling. Asceticism is the refusal to capitulate, the determination to fight them, there at the key bastion--namely, in ourselves.