Seneca’s Third Letter

I shall start by saying that I am guilty of Seneca’s criticism of his friend Lucillius. I would be a hypocrite to say that I have not called people friends and not seen them as people I can trust. I collected people I would describe as friends, the word losing all meaning. What is this criticism?

“If you are looking on anyone as a friend when you do not trust him as you trust yourself, you are making a grave mistake, and have failed to grasp sufficiently the full force of true friendship.”Letters from a Stoic III

He’s right, of course yet I feel it doesn’t go far enough in this particular extract. The question can be asked how can a person trust in friends as they trust themselves if they don’t trust themselves to begin with? Can you trust yourself to keep a secret? No? Then how can you trust another to keep yours. Before we go looking for faults in others, we – and I, for sure – need to remember John 8:7 about those without sin casting the first stone at the sinner.

“Think for a long time whether or not you should admit a given person to your friendship. But when you have decided to do so, welcome him heart and soul, and speak as unreservedly with him as you would yourself.” – Letters from a Stoic III

Are you kind to yourself? Are you honest with yourself? Are you respectful of yourself? Are you accepting of yourself? If the answer is no to these questions then how can you in good conscience admit that friendship knowing that you will not speak as unreservedly with them, heart and soul, as you would yourself? Now I’m not saying that you can only be a straight laced, no-issues neurotypical perfect human to be able to have friendship. That would be hypocritical as I like to think that now, in this moment, I have true friends. What I am saying is, how can we judge the measure of another’s friendship on these grounds if we don’t look inward first and find out what that means.

“Regard him as loyal, and you will make him loyal. Some men’s fear of being deceived has taught people to deceive them; by their suspiciousness they give them the right to do the wrong thing by them. Why should I keep anything back when I’m with a friend? Why shouldn’t I imagine I’m alone when I’m in his company?”

Bernard Shaw said something similar if I’m not mistaken about treating people greatly and they will be great. I am also guilty of what Seneca says, I have a friend that I feel to be a true friend yet due to our electric communication and the distance between us – and the film Catfish – I admit that I assumed the worst, laughably so. Yet I trust this person with myself and from our conversations, they trust me with themselves in our truest way. What irrationality is this suspicion? It’s like shit on the shoe – it stinks but it can be wiped off. Of course things happen, there are lapses and gaps and the trust seems to be thin, and circumstantial. Yet is this my own perception and ingrained taught suspicion or reality? The former, obviously – monitored and regulated by citalopram and philosophies.

Yet Seneca goes on to make another fair point which I think is key to remember:

Trusting everyone is as much a fault as trusting no one (though I should call the first the worthier and the second the safer behaviour).”

We need to strike a balance in our lives, across all things. This expands to our social relationships and the emotion we put into them. A Jedi epithet is that desire unbalances us, and to an extent its true. Should we desire relationships or should we accept them as they come in balance and acceptance of when they do not – from acquaintances and colleagues to lovers. It’s like a balanced diet or balanced exercise regime. Stoicism and my preferred religious philosophies are about walking the middle path, in perfect harmony with the self and Universe. It permeates all our actions, a need for balance.

“For a delight in bustling about is not industry – it is only the restless energy of a hunted mind. And the state of a mind that looks on all activity as tiresome is not true repose, but spineless inertia…

A balanced combination of the two attitudes is what we want; the active man should always be able to take things easily, while the man who is inclined towards repose should be capable of action. Ask nature: she will tell you that she made both day and night.”

Find your balance in friendships and yourself. Trust carefully but wholly. Love reservedly but give love unreservedly – both for yourself and others. Find your middle way along The Way.



What You Wish For

There is a lot of stuff out there about manifesting and attracting energies. The concept of speaking your intention into the universe and receiving has never really settled with me until today.

At work, I bought myself a cinnamon donut and a banana milkshake. I didn’t check the ingredients of either product and being allergic to nuts, this was stupid. I got back to work from the café and said to a co-worker: “I hope this has nuts in so I can have a birthday at home tomorrow“. Of course, I didn’t really mean it, I was making a joke; I’ve been negotiating for another colleague to make me a banoffee pie for the occasion and I’d rather not miss it. Not fifteen minutes after I said the words, I nearly threw up on someone after a misplacing my trust in a burp.

I was on the fence before about manifesting and the power of intention but this seemed to tip me over. Maybe it was karma for being so smug about it and a reminder from my fleshy vehicle and Universe to not be so glib. While co-workers panicked around me looking for my epi-pen I was quite relaxed and amused by the situation. I used to say that if the devil himself appeared before me, that I would not be scared but in fact relieved as if there is a devil, there is a God and there is a plan bringing certainty to uncertainty. For a strict atheist, someone may call me a fantasist as it’s coincidence. Yet, I’ve never been a believer in coincidence as all things have cause and all things have consequence so surely coincidence is a product of the Whole and thus pre-prepared.

So what do we do in the face of a daunting existence of such a fast acting karmic force? Simply: endure and adapt. Either it exists and we should speak our truths plainly and with good intent or it doesn’t and we should speak our truths plainly with good intent.

“Either a stew, an intricate web, and dispersal into atoms: or unity, order, and providence. Now if the former, why do I even wish to spend my time in a world compounded at random and in like confusion? Why have any concern other than somehow, some time, to become ‘earth unto earth’? And why actually am I troubled? Dispersal will come to me, whatever I do. But if the latter is true, I revere it, I stand firm, I take courage in that which directs all.” – Meditations 6.10

Your directed energy and what you put into the universe is what the universe gives back to you. Every YouTube reiki healer and tarot reader will tell you the same thing. Of course, that often comes with the caveat that they want you to buy their merch to dispel any bad energy…

“Nature gives all and takes back. To her the man educated into humility says: ‘Give what you will; take back what you will.’ And he says this in no spirit of defiance, but simply as her loyal subject.” – Meditations 10.14

Either a collection of random parts forming a greater mechanism and we are all connected in our ways, or we are designed as such and we are all connected in our ways. It doesn’t matter. What matters is, the flow is constant and reactive. Whether it be a harsh word to another that comes back around to you or a miscalculated cinnamon donut.

You get what you wish for whether you like it or not. As I’ve said before, to quote the philosopher Jagger: “you can’t always get what you want.”

It’s becoming a bit of a running theme or a cosmic joke. Maybe it’s all a cosmic joke. Whatever it is, all that I know is true: despite being possible deadly, cinnamon donuts are the shit.


You Can’t Always Get What You Want

I don’t think I’ve spoken about this before explicitly.

Today I got a present, The Republic by Plato – a book I wanted to add to my collection like a philosophical General Grievous, but it was not of the same publishing collection so subsequently sticks out like a sore thumb on my shelf. I was asked if it was what I wanted and yes it was. Was I specific in my ask for the particular design collection? No – so there is no blame. So when asked if I liked it, I said yes because it’s what I wanted. Of course I will at some point replace it and pass on that copy to a friend but it highlighted for me a facet of stoicism that is acceptance of things that we cannot control.

Similarly, another situation that I find myself in is that my job is out of my hands in the sense that my continued employment is no longer secure. Was it ever secure? No, of course not, all things are temporary and come to an end when they do. It’s not what I want, but what is there to do about it? Scream and yell? What a waste of energy when the only person who will feel anything negative is me. The universe doesn’t care, my employer certainly won’t considering the forty or so million employable people in the UK to replace me.

I suppose in a sense, the past year has been a continual lesson for the entire western world about learning about not being able to have what you want. Going without services and luxuries that those in impoverished places would not even dream to be a given as it is in other parts of the world. Yet, like Jagger says, as we near the end of another lockdown: we got we needed. What we needed was perspective of what matters and what doesn’t. For the better for some, for the worse for others – yet even then, what is good and bad but relative constructs?

The only thing that seems to matter is the acceptance that you can’t always get what you want. Expecting otherwise would be insanity. Parents and teachers tell children that they need to get up for school even if they don’t want to, explaining that as an adult you have to do things that you don’t want to do so get used to it. Yet when at school, we are taught that the free world is our oyster to do anything we want to do. It stands to reason then that two fundamental ideologues are being taught. The first: you can’t always get what you want; the second: you can always get what you want if you try hard enough. Again, missing the crucial point from Jagger in both, tying them together in a nice harmony: if you try sometimes you get what you need. Want, more often than not, has absolutely fuck all to do with reality. To quote another philosopher slash musician: don’t be another brick in the wall. Don’t expect things to go your way – I don’t, not to say you should do what I do because I’m as flawed as any other. Yet should surprise be our reactions when they do go right and we do get what we want?

“First, do not be upset: all things follow the nature of the Whole, and in a little while you will be no one and nowhere, as is true now even for Hadrian and Augustus. Next, concentrate on the matter in hand and see it for what it is. Remind yourself of your duty to be a good man and rehearse what man’s nature demands: then do it straight and unswerving, or say what you best think right. Always, though, in kindness, integrity, and sincerity.” – Meditations 8.5

Look back over your past at what you’ve got but not wanted but needed.

For me it’s being absolutely drunk at the time of receiving a phone call about my great-grandmother’s death. I was drinking pitchers of Bloody Mary mix like they were going out of fashion in the comfort of my own university dorm room and since, I’ve avoided that kind of consumption like the plague.

Another: a serious telling off from the Head of Human Recourses at my workplace about disclosing information to colleagues. I didn’t want that but needed it as a wake up call at my own miss placed trust and my own misconceptions about what a friendship is. Since, I’ve had a much quieter, much more peaceful time at work. Such a step back actually gave me more time to read the philosophies in my breaks. I am actually, very grateful.

Maybe that’s the takeaway: be grateful for every experience. Be grateful for every heartbreak and every mistake.

The stoics have a famous saying: amor fati, which means love fate. You can’t always get what you want, but you will love it anyway. It’s part of the Whole; you can’t love the day and reject the night as they are in their nature one of the same. It’s all the same, so love it all, from your kin to your death.


Where is Your Action?

I’m inside on a sunny day because X is in one of those moods where everything must have an answer. There’s a need to talk about a lump on the back of my foot and to see a chiropodist; my nails not looking good again as we enter into a busy time at work; my constant back pain needing to be seen to; my space needing to be cleaned because it’s dusty. I spoke to a friend about this. She said simply:

“Do your feet need things? Does you back need things? Does your room need tidying?” – Y

Yes to all of those thing, of course.

“Then where is your action?” – Y, attached to a gif of Major Armstrong from Fullmetal Alchemist flexing.

So where is my action? Why am I avoiding conversations about these things when I could just do these things? What’s the hold up? Cost? Timing? Anxiety? I can afford the cost, I can spare the time, and I don’t feel any particular anxiety over these thing. Yet here I am.

What are you putting off?

I don’t even realize that I’m doing it. Right now, I’ve got a 2500 word report to write for my job due for the 27th, yet have I used this free Saturday to write it? No, of course not. I another sense, I’ve been actively passive: I smudged my house with sage, dusted and debating LGBTQ+ rights on the internet with strangers for who living and let live is a complex ask. Have I made much progress on teaching my contemporaries to be a little more tolerant? Not at all, and it perhaps I knew it was a fruitless task going into the conversation, knowing it would take up so much of my time to avoid the list of things I should be doing.

Interesting: I would rather be doing those things. So why do I find myself not starting?

The revenge of the procrastination nation.

I would quote from Aurelius or Seneca or Lao Tze, but tonight I feel ashamed to look in their long dead eyes, into the soul’s philosophy. What have I achieved in my avoidance? Nothing other than a minor headache above my eyebrow after trying to argue that the existence of another being is not up for the debate of the layman but universal truth.

Bracing the shame, removing the judgement of the words of another:

“I view with pleasure and approval the way you keep on at your studies and sacrifice everything to your single-minded efforts to make yourself every day a better man. I do not merely urge you to persevere in this; I actually implore you to.” – Letters from a Stoic, V

Implore yourself. I implore myself. Because today I have not kept to my studies or sacrificed anything to learn to be a better person. Yet in my reflection, perhaps the cognition of this is learning. Perhaps the sacrifice in the pride of a day doing nothing is the sacrifice and the feeling of a wasted day of nothing but flapjacks and playing Stellaris on the PC is the lesson.

Here’s to Sunday: a new day of action, one that Seneca would view with pleasure and approval; a day that I can view with pleasure and approval.


Quick Quote Post: 4

I’ve come to the end of my reading of Meditations and in the stoic sense, I am observing with dignity the end of my journey with the Emperor and I’ll revisit often. I’ve never been able to deal with endings before but recently, I’ve been more and more accepting of them. Perhaps it’s even time to finally get round to watch the final season of Bojack Horseman.

There were somethings in the 12th Book of Meditations that seemed to stand out in my mind more so than the rest of the book. Each verse being more and more relevant to my life or the life of the 21st Century. So without further delay, something to reflect on and take into the weekend:

“When you fret at any circumstance, you have forgotten a number of things. You have forgetten that all comes about in accordance with the nature of the Whole; that any wrong done lies with the other; further, that everything which happens was always so in the past, will be the same again in the future, and is happening now across the world; that a human being has close kinship with the whole human race – not a bond of blood or seed but community of mind. And you have forgotten this too, that every man’s mind is god and has flowed from that source; that all is as thinking makes it so; that each of us lives only the present moment, and the present moment is all we lose.” – Meditations 12.26

I write this and think of a friend. A friend who is worried by family, by work, by a relationship, and by housing issues. I think of myself. I think of all those across the world and beyond into the past and future. Then I think of the now and the only thing I lose…


A Reading List

I thought I’d make another rather calm post, more directly informative – like my meditation guide. This one, as the name suggests is a personal reading list of mine that covers my own growth as a stoic, a Taoist, and a philosopher – if I can call myself that.

Marcus Aurelius, Roman, Emperor, Statue, Face, Beard
The author of Meditations for reference

So without further a-do:

  • Meditations, Marcus Aurelius
    • Rather infamously at this point, my go to starting point. Digestible and easy to pick up where you left off for passages.
  • How to be a Stoic, Prof Massimo Pigliucci
    • A modern exploration of stoicism and actually really funny.
  • Letters from a Stoic, Seneca
    • The next upcoming quote source – a collection of letters and correspondence from Seneca to his friend throughout his life.
  • Discourses and Selected Writings, Epictetus
    • Considered the ultimate handbook on stoicism and source of the wealth of information in How to be a Stoic.
  • The Analects, Confucius
    • While not stoicism, the analects lays out a rather structured view on vice and virtue from various narrators and writers noting the lessons and legacy of Confucius.
  • Tao Te Ching, Lao Tze
    • The primary text of Taoism formed by a collection of chapters and verses.
  • The Book of Chaung Tzu, Chuang Tzu
    • A contemporary of Confucius, this book is a collection of tales and accounts of the applications of The Way.

Now for books that I have no idea what I’m letting myself in for with. Hot of the presses arriving today via the brutal efficiency of Amazon:

  • The Cynic Philosophers from Diogenes to Julian
    • This book was picked up because of the story recounted within How to be a Stoic about Diogenes which has stuck with me since reading that book quite a while ago now. Diogenes was in his bucket-thing in the centre of Athens relaxing in the sunshine as he did. Alexander of Macedon, the great conqueror arrived in the city with his entourage followed by an adoring crowd to seek the wisdom of the philosopher. He said, “What can you say to your Emperor?”, or something to the effect – I can’t remember the exact quote. Diogenes replied: “Move you’re blocking the sun.”
  • Selected Works, Cicero.
    • What shelf of Greco-Roman philosophy would be complete without Cicero?

More works are to follow on this reading list, from Plato to Aristotle and the myriad of Buddhist texts will soon appear now doubt. Yet for now, this is a start and I recommend that you, like me, start here.

Definition of Insanity

I was talking through my recent post with a friend who took my stance on relationships as cynical and in itself, self-harming. I disagreed with my friend, because, after all: the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result. The opposite of the stoic rational mind is the irrational repetition of a harmful action.

With this in mind, I thought I’d draw up a list for myself – and others – of things that are in this sense, the definition of insanity. We can see them, exposed for their parts and simply say enough. It’s as simple as:

“If it is not right, don’t do it: if it is not true, don’t say it” – Meditations 12.17

  • Drinking red wine and not expecting a hangover. I mean, come on. Every time I think it’s a good idea and then for some reason I’m surprised when it’s not. Simply: avoid merlot.

  • Sleeping with someone because it seems like a good idea at the time and expecting things to have no particular consequence. Yet, of course, every time waking up with the sudden fear of a million STD’s and a sense that this will lead to some unexpected circumstance (which it often does). It’s almost as if there’s this sudden detachment of body and mind between two people only to realize and try to rationalize that mistake after. Sometimes it works out ok, sometimes it doesn’t yet it’s never not led to that sudden fear and dread of consequence. Sex always has consequences. While are neither good nor bad in the stoic sense: a product of vice is still a product of vice.

  • Staying up late and expecting to be bright eyed and bushy tailed in the morning. I did it today. Insanity. I know. Took me a sugar free Red Bull and three coffees to make it through work. What else is there to expect? If you don’t get enough sleep you’ll be tired and the consequences of that have no blame but to the self.

  • Falling for someone unavailable and expecting a happy ending (in the conventional sense, I’m speaking). What does it do apart from prove that I – we – are capable of hurting our own feelings? I don’t have an answer for that question yet it seems to be a lesson that needs to be taught repeatedly.

  • Expecting people not to act in a shameful or ignorant way. I’ll not my use my words here, but the Emperors: “Whenever you are offended at someone’s lack of shame, you should immediately ask yourself: ‘So is it possible for there to be no shameless people in the world? It is not possible.” – Meditations 9.42. Expecting the impossible to be possible is not a rational thought.

  • Expecting independent growth from another without being a positive catalyst. We can only control ourselves, we cannot telepathically try to encourage others not to make daft decisions or expect them to stop being how they are because we would prefer it. When you desire an action to happen, take the action, with virtuousness and kindness. I can’t magically will people to relate to their environment or others in a more productive way despite some strange repetitive expectation.

  • Expecting to lose weight and save money yet buy a £3 meal deal everyday on high fat content foods along with sugary mochas whenever chance I get. Everyday I expect myself to act differently, to show some restraint yet I make no active change. Everyday I get a caffeine headache and feel bloated yet expect not to. Is it the expectation or the action that I’m most perplexed by? I have no answers to that.

There’s perhaps more juxtapositions and hypocrisies of the soul I could list for myself. We could be here until the stars go out picking at every weird irrational act of my own character and the human condition. What can you pick out for yourself? What can we both break free from? What can we calmly reflect upon, notice and accept as a part of ourselves to keep in balance with our nature?

“The external things whose pursuit or avoidance troubles you do not force themselves on you, but in a way you yourself go out to them. However that may be, keep your judgement of them calm and they too will stay still – then you will not be seen wither to pursue or avoid.” – Meditations 11.11

Discard the irrational, return to the rational in balance, walking the middle path.


Emotional Self Harm

I am a habitual emotional self-harmer in the sense that I have some strange addiction to unrequited affection. It’s always been the way, from my time at school to university to now. You try to fill the gaping void with all sorts of distractions and pleasures but ultimately the chasm still remains. It’s self flagellation of the soul, and you think I’d learn before letting desires, crushes and stronger feelings consume me and leave me a melancholic grump until I find the next hit of dopamine, serotonin and oxytocin. It’s a vice I can’t seem to let go of, deep rooted like Japanese knot weed that suffocates and ruins a perfectly balanced garden.

It’s made me very good at ruining friendships much like the song “Jenny” by the Studio Killers (great song, I’ll link the Spotify at the end). Yet all of my actual relationships have formed with people in the nether zone of having feelings for another. I thought I’d learned but apparently not. It’s becoming a thing I’ve got to live with like my height or ginger bits in my hair. Can being a completely hopeless romantic be cured? I always thought I was the Creed Bratton of The Office US, living my life with my own little adventures but some days it’s like I’m shamefully Michael Scott.

Today, I’m fairly certain I killed a friendship that’s become very important to me because of the icky feeling. I’m going to have to live with that. Feeling like a twat on a Naked Attraction or Take Me Out making a fool of myself once again and taking for granted meaningful friendship, overcome with a strange pull to make things complicated within my own mind. This friend apologised to me. It’s like saying: “oh I’m sorry because it’s my fault that you are sat there smashing your face on a brick for no reason.”

Times like this, I feel like I’m a bad stoic, not even a stoic – the rational mind lost to ether. I have this feeling in my chest and numbness on my tongue. I don’t know what it means but it’s more familiar now than it’s ever been the countless times before I’ve felt it.

I have a feeling that destiny is telling me repeatedly that now is not the right time for feelings. Or that destiny is telling me that there is never going to be a time for these feelings.

“Look at causation stripped bare of its covers; look at the ulterior reference of any action. Consider, what is pain? What is pleasure? What is death? What is fame? Who is not himself the cause of his own unrest? Reflect on how no one is hampered by any other; and that all is as thinking makes it so.” – Meditations 12.8

It’s a vice, isn’t it? A pleasure seeking of the mind and heart, constantly in conflict as the yin and yang. In these moments, the desire unbalances and shakes the foundations of the still lake, disturbing the delicate ecosystem within. To be a stoic is to accept being alone. This has roots in my own outsider syndrome meaning that I prefer close one-to-one relationships rather than large groups. Yet it’s a double edged sword and I need to learn to accept. I need to accept the need to control and regulate this facet, this flaw of my own human condition; be contented to live without. Rocks don’t need someone’s hand to hold.

“Another saying of his [Epictetus]. “We must discover an art of assent, and in the whole field of our impulses take care to ensure that each impulse is conditional, has a social purpose, and is proportionate to the value of its goal. We must keep absolutely clear of personal motivation, and at the same time show no disclination to anything outside of our immediate control.” – Meditations 11.37

Infatuation with anyone or anything is an emotional self harm, is my conclusion. Passion is a hop, skip and jump from obsession. Desires should be directed to virtuous goals not cloying needs for companionship; imposed ideas and ideals on another human being that they neither can or want to live up to. In reflection I know, it sounds very nice guy but I disagree with that as to say that it’s a duty of acceptance. Being alone in the self, not spiritual connection to the universe, is a reality like death. To reject being alone, to fear being alone in the romantic sense is like fearing the night, rejecting the sky.

I look out my window and see stars. Would they be anymore beautiful if were to admire them while holding hands with someone? No – they don’t care, they twinkle all the same.


Getting on With It

In my workspace, I am one of a number of people on temporary contracts that are coming to an end. We were told that we would have to reapply for these jobs formally with a month of a grace period before the roles would be advertised elsewhere. The reaction to this was poor. Questions popped up such as: “why do I have to reapply, can’t my I just have renewed or changed contract?” and “so I have to fight for my job?” and “if there’s no chance of me losing my job, why do I have to reapply?” and what not.

The meeting which took place two weeks ago didn’t have the same affect on me as it did everyone else. I’m not taking a high horse stance but I think that stoicism has a large part to play. My reaction to it was: this job is a stable job; the work is manageable; it’s close to home; I can do this for another year at least. So what’s a bit of paperwork and an interview with someone I’ve worked with for two years who I know well? An hour or two of my life to secure employment in a turbulent time that has a good income and pension scheme doesn’t seem to be a pain at all. The HR jargon given to us about why we needed to reapply and that the contracts wouldn’t be automatically extended washed over me. It was a whole lot of words to say very little and what was said was: this is how it is, get on with it, sorry not sorry.

Fire! Rabble!

“Are you not upset by this?” – X

“No, why? Are you?” – Z

“We have to fight for our jobs, I don’t get it.” – X

“Meh, I’ve seen Lord of the Flies, I’ve got this.” – Z

Okay, so maybe the sarcasm wasn’t entirely helpful but it was laughable. What do people think a fight is these days? A bit of paperwork and an interview? I understand that people have their own anxieties, I’m not knocking that, but really? A HR formality is a disprefferred incident not some grand injustice where someone is being dragged from their home in the dead of night to a gulag for an undetermined crime. In the stoic sense, sure, even that is a disprefferred in different.

This is the same odd hyperbolic logic that has caused thousands to flock to the local Primark today as they reopen across the UK. They must have a new pair of cuddly socks and some flip-flops so queued for hours for the privilege. Are we that privileged? Have we all become so accustomed to a life style of such ease and comfort that we go mad for leggings and panic at the thought of some minor administrative hoops.

“Nothing happens to any creature beyond its own natural endurance. Another has the same experience as you: either through failure to recognize what has happened to him, or in a display of courage, he remains calm and untroubled. Strange, then, that ignorance and pretension should be stronger than wisdom.” – Meditations 5.18

Getting on with it because we can, is something we should do. Is that British stiff upper lipped Blitz spirit or common stoic sense? For it to be truly British I think we need to be doing this with a cup of tea, at least. Yet I suppose that doesn’t really apply since the incidents I’m talking about all took place in the UK and include British people.

I’m not above complaining about things that have little to no affect on me in reality. Every night I seem to find myself grumbling at the amount of washing up to be done but with cooking comes washing up as a given. So in that reality, what’s the problem? It’s a logical consequence that shouldn’t bother me. My own ignorance can’t be ignored yet I take the victories of my rational mind where I can. The truth is plain: I need to get on with it.

“All that happens is an event either within your natural ability to bear it, or not. So if it an event within that ability, do not complain, but bear it as you were born to. If outside that ability, do not complain either: it will take you away before you have the chance for complaint. Remember, though, that you are by nature born to bear all that your own judgement can decide bearable, or tolerate in action, if you represent it to yourself as a benefit or duty.” – Meditations 10.3

What’s some paperwork? What’s some washing up? What’s some hardship, meaningless or meaningful? Nothing but swirling mist that will dissipate by our own action or on it’s own. What’s human life but swirling mist? What is the solar system but swirling mist?

I’m digressing but the point being: get on with it, no need for complaint, it’ll be fine. I can bear this life, you can bear this life, we can bear this life and it’s dispreferred indifferent pieces. When the whole jigsaw comes together, we see it’s beauty if we can allow ourselves.


Stoicism and Anti-Terrorism

I did an anti-terrorism online course today and it was really quite enlightening. It spoke about terrorism attacks being the tip of the iceberg of manipulation. Of course, that’s new information but to see it visualised in such a way, opened my eyes to the power of the sense of belonging and not belonging. It’s funny because I’ve never felt that I have belonged anywhere. Imposter syndrome, they call it. It permeates all my personal relationships and professional relationships for as long as I can remember. Even within my own family, I feel like an outsider – the middle child despite being the only child.

Over time this has grown on me, this feeling of loss. It just is a thing and a seemingly unshakable void like a fixed point in time. Once it was all consuming, a ravenous black hole but now it’s trapped in a bottle, unable to grow or feed. Of course when I open a bottle or two it breaks free. I was isolated and full of weird ideas about the world as a child. I was the perfect target and yet I can remember distinctly a conversation I had where I sat on my high horse and judged Shamima Begum, the so-called ISIS Bride. The person defending her was saying things like “Have you ever made a mistake” and “have you never done something stupid”. It didn’t hit well at all. It bounced off me as the words didn’t feel right, because I was right, this wasn’t a mistake and it wasn’t a stupid one. A stupid mistake as I argued, was stubbing your toe or a locking yourself out of the house. She did not make a mistake she was manipulated and sold up the river, radicalised, made complicit and then demonized. The argue could be made that that’s the exact same situation that happened in WW2 with Nazi guards who committed atrocities in the name of someone else’s fucked up ideology.

So where do we go from here? Changing gears, a bit because there’s nothing I can say that can change the past and that argument about complicit Nazi soldiers has been waged for nearly a century – something I have no business wading into. The only thing I’ve got is that sense of not belonging. What can we take from Marcus Aurelius (yes, I’ve nearly finished the book so you can expect some variation of sources soon)? Forgiveness, learning, a belonging to the self and society, acceptance.

“If you have ever seen a severed hand or foot, or a head cut off and lying some way away from the rest of the body – analogues is what someone does to himself, as far as he can, when he will not accept his lot and severs himself from society or does some unsocial act. Suppose you have made yourself and outcast from the unity of nature – you were born a part of it, but now you have cut yourself off. Yet here lies the paradox – that it is open to you to re-join that unity. No other part has the privilege from god, to come together again once it has been separated and cut away. Just consider the grace of god’s favour to man. He has put it in man’s power not to be broken off from the Whole in the first place, and also, if he is broken off, to return and grow back again, resuming his role as a member.” – Meditations 8.34

You are not alone.

My favourite line from Doctor Who.

You may never feel like you belong but you do. Despite not feeling that I belong: I have a job; I have a supportive family; I have a core group of friends who have stuck by me. If that were to change, what is to stop me from re-joining society? If I were to be imprisoned, what is to stop me from being apart of that society, with service of others where I can. It is in our nature, our biological imperative to grow and regrow. Even in the most fundamental of ways: you are not alone in your own stardust, you are not alone floating in the endless ocean of universe like the rest of us. Let no one say who is and who isn’t belonging. It’s fabricated, it’s a fraud. By breathing, we belong. No clubhouse sticker or violent initiation act will make us belong anymore to the universe than we did before. It only makes us complicit.

Everything that happens, has happened and it will pass. No radical thought, no hatred, no rage to some loss of control because we never had it in the first place.

“He who sees the present has seen all things, both all that has come to pass from everlasting and all that will be for eternity: all things are related and the same.” – Meditations 6.37

You are not alone.

We’ve done this before. We can do it again.

That’s terror – it’s futility but also, it’s anti-terror in its certainty.