Going to Space

I have a question: what does going to space mean for the rest of the world? What does a billionaires vanity project do for the greater good? What moral goodness can be found in shooting oneself up into orbit in a phallic shaped vehicle?

I heard a fun fact today that the $5billion spent on Jeff Bezos’ afternoon activity lasted only 10 minutes. The same amount of money could have secured vaccinations for 2 billion people. What else could that have done? Solved the national debt? Put millions of homeless people into long term housing, end the water crisis?

Richard Branson and Jeff Bezos, I have little admiration or respect for either of them.

So, you can go into space, what now?

Are you fulfilled? Are you happy?

What makes me happy: the thought of a home cooked meal and a snuggle on the sofa watching trash TV like millions of others at a push. Yet I suppose if I let myself, I could be miserable doing that. Who needs to go to space to feel truly content? How alone must one feel to be so intensely dedicated to insular causes.

“What sort of people they wish to please! And what kind of actions are the means of their success! How quickly time will cover everything – and how much is covered already.” – Meditations 6.59

Reflecting on that, how long will it take for the history books to look back at 2021, see the suffering and turmoil and see the men who could have been injecting hope and prosperity. Instead, they see these tycoons of industry shoot themselves into the upper atmosphere to see all those below like specks not the peers, kin, fellow beings of the same Whole that they are.

Never before in human history have beings been able to accumulate such wealth and technological luxury. Has it been so easy to be so callous and tone deaf? And yes, I am fully aware of the French Revolution, I’m not suggesting we eat the rich. I’m pointing out the enormity of social responsibility that comes with such masses of power.

Unless of course, we want to live in a society where it is everyone for themselves. A kind of insular living where we build our castles and watch the world burn from the battlements, sipping champagne.

Perhaps my philosophy is skewed by my generation and politics. Yet, I accept those biases and see them for what they are which is an idealism to ensure that we live for each other harmoniously not callously for ourselves.

What would I do with such money? What would you do?

Becoming so bored and tired in our lives, clasping onto our gold like Smaug in his mountain, would we go to space?

Can I truly say that I would be any better?

I suppose a better question is, what makes you happy? Is it yourself and what you have or admiration and what you don’t have?

“Take your joy in simplicity, in integrity, in indifference to all that falls between virtue and vice. Love mankind. Follow god. Democritus says, ‘All else is subject to the law of convention: only elements are the absolute real’, but enough for you to remember that all is subject to law. Precepts reduced to the very few.” – Meditations 7.31

Z3N0

Isolation Round 2: Sweaty Boogaloo

So here we are again, in the sweat box that is the back bedroom, isolating from the rest of the household following a call from work. It is the second time in two-weeks and while the first time round wasn’t at all difficult or challenging to the soul or body, now with the heat rising to Mediterranean heights, my biggest challenge is not to melt into the floor like a green-hued witch.

I once thought on taking myself to Mumbai for a cultural excursion, living in a chorl for the summer months but now I realize that might not be a good idea.

Let’s reflect then on the impact of climate change on our world, as the heat rises. Surely, it is in everyone’s best interest to be a climate change advocate? Even from the conservative stance rather than liberal. If those on the right wish to curb and dissuade immigration, surely it would make sense to endeavor to ensure that the nations south of Europe are at least habitable for humans – something that will change if climate trends do not. While the northern hemisphere begins to slowly resemble North Africa what will be left of the south?

Speaking purely form the stance of a devil’s advocate here, it confuses me to why climate change is so often seen as a partisan issue. It’s a human issue caused by humans. Sure, environmental factors contribute such as St. Helen’s, Mt. Etna and other volcanic activity that I can’t name off the top of my head. Hell, even the dinosaurs caught a shit deal. Yet in each of those cases, it was not in the control of the dominant species to change that, to ensure the survival of their race.

Every year it’s become on of my running jokes that this will be the coolest summer for the next thirty years.

True, in it’s current form, the lithium-ion battery reliance of electric vehicles will become unsustainable with lithium eventually becoming a rare commodity but, it’s also reusable unlike fossil fuels. So why do we cling to the ways of the past? Out of some nostalgia for the Industrial Era when children died up chimneys covered in soot and bird shit; when the smog of London was so thick that it caked everything it touched; or perhaps, let’s look more recently to a time when profit-hungry oil conglomerates spilled their treasure into the sea poisoning everything for miles and miles. For what reasons do we hold on to these methods? Pride? Stubbornness? A strange and deep love of petrol station coffee?

People mock Greta Thumburg, those of the older generation. They mock her and call her a puppet. A puppet for what? Those dastardly liberals with an evil goal of saving the world? Just the other day I saw and article of plans to release Aston Martin DB5’s with electric engines and modernised interiors. The old ways aren’t dying, because they were never the old ways. The ways are simply evolving.

And, as I’m facing the choice right now in my hotbox, the paths seem clear: adapt or live in abject misery, cutting of your nose to spite your face. We have a social responsibility to each other whether we like it or not. Even those who claim to be an island and entirely free of societal bonds, I simply say:

“Who made your iPhone?”

Z3N0

Weekend Posting

This month due to my posting hiatus, my uploading and writing has been a bit of a non-existent mess. It’s been something that’s been my problem for a while, that is, especially on the weekends.

With that being said moving forward with my writings, I shall be limiting myself to the weekdays to be able to have a richer content base. Of course, if I find myself hit by inspiration I shall be writing as I like but typically, I’ll be sticking from here on out to the weekdays.

So this, is not a real post – just a notice

And with that, adieu, enjoy the Sunday.

Quick Quote Post: 13

Today saw the departure of dear colleagues and I must admit, I had to refrain from hugging anyone to stop myself from crying in front of 100 people. I know, I know, not very stoic. That being said, I am an empath, so to stop myself from succumbing to a collective despair and nostalgic melancholy, measures had to be taken. I recalled a few lines of Marcus Aurelius and became rigid in composure neither falling to ecstasy or despair. What despair is there? Three valued colleagues who have mentored and befriended me are retiring and due to spent the next few decades with a well-deserved respite from years of solid graft. What’s the tragedy? There is only celebrations surely at the closing of a chapter and welcoming of a reward.

“Somethings are hurrying into being, others are hurrying to be gone, and part of that which is being born is already extinguished. Flows and changes are constantly renewing the world, just as the ceaseless passage of time makes eternity ever young. In this river, then, where can there be no foothold, what should anyone prize of all that races past him? It is as if he were to begin ro fancy one of the little sparrows that fly past – but already it is gone from his sight. Indeed this is the nature of our very lives – as transient as the exhalation of vapour from the blood or a breath drawn from the air. No different from a single breath taken in and returned to the air, something which we do every moment, no different is the giving back of your whole power of breathing – acquired at your birth just yesterday or thereabouts – to that world from which you first drew it.” – Meditations 6.15

And another, to round off the thought:

“There is nothing to value in transpiring like plants of breathing in like cattle and wild creatures; nothing in taking the stamp of sense impressions of jerking to the puppet-strings of impulse; nothing in herding together or taking food – this last is not better than voiding the wastes of that food. What, then, is to be valued? Applause? No. Not therefore the applause of tongues either: the praise of the masses is the mere rattle of tongues. So you have jettisoned trivial glory too. What remains to be valued? To my mind, it is to act or refrain from action according to our own proper constitution, something to which skills and crafts show the way. Every craft seeks to make its product suit the purpose for which it is produced: this is the aim of the gardener, the vine-dresser, the breaker of horses, the dog-trainer. And what is the end to which the training of children and their teaching strives? So this is the true value: and if this is firmly held, you will not be set on acquiring any of the other things for yourself. Will you not then cease to value much else besides? Otherwise you will not be free or self-sufficient or devoid of passion: you will need to be envious and jealous to suspect those who have the power to deprive you of these things, and to intrigue against people who poses what you value. In short, anyone who feels the need of any of these things is necessarily sullied, and what is more je will often be driven to blame the gods too. But reverence of your own mind and the value you give to it will make you acceptable to yourself, in harmony with your fellows, and consonant with the gods – that is, praising all that they assign and have dispensed.” – 6.16

Z3N0

Command of the Self

So I started reading The Art of War by the Chinese master tactician Sun Tzu. While the first few pages have been an enjoyable and interesting read so far, something keenly caught my attention.

“Command is

Wisdom,

Integrity,

Compassion,

Courage,

Severity.” – The Art of War, Chapter One

So far, I’ve seen that Sun Tzu’s philosophy, despite being on war, is primarily Taoist in nature (unless I’ve missed the point), something that’s highlighted by Jia Lin in the follow extract:

“An excess of wisdom can lead to rebellion; untempered compassion can cause weakness; absolute integrity can cause folly; brute courage can produce violence; excessive severity can be cruel. All five virtues must be present together in a general; each must play its role.”

For the rest of my readings, I shall be interchanging the term “general” with “sage” as the Taoist sense or “junzi” in the Confucian sense or simply “stoic“. Of course the commentary and the intended meaning applies on the surface to warfare, something those terms to do not go hand in hand with but no one ever said that Marcus Aurelius was one to shy from wars.

Here, I find the principles related directly to the self rather than blanket qualities of a military commander. For example wisdom is a necessity of life and a part of philosophical growth, and like Jia Lin says, too much can cause rebellion. In this sense, the rebellion will come from the alienation of the world around you if you retreat too far into the centre of you. Integrity is a key concept of stoicism and humanity yet a inflexible position will make your soul brittle to change – a natural part of the Whole. Compassion is a necessity for unity and wholeness yet like Seneca said, and in agreement with Jia Lin, the person who trusts everyone and opens their heart to everyone is just as vulnerable and at risk than someone who trusts no one and opens their heart to no one. Courage to do what is right and be confident in self is an essential part of becoming a fully developed person both generally and philosophically but there is a fine line easily crossed that turns courage into recklessness and confidence into arrogance. When it comes to severity, it is true we should be severe with ourselves and hold ourselves to a high standard but also temper that with understanding and empathy, similarly with others. In fact I would argue, that severity walks hand in hand with conviction and when they let go of each other, either can be flimsy or toxic.

As I progress through The Art of War I hope further my understanding of tactical applications to the self. In the 21st Century, I suppose unless you are actually on the battlefield there is little to worry about in way of command and conflict. Then again, what was it that Marcus Aurelius said?

“The art of living is more like wrestling than dancing, in that it stands ready for what comes and is not thrown by the unforeseen.” – Meditations 7.61

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Painful Perspectives

So I’ve discovered or rather rediscovered my complicated relationship with gluten. It causes stomach cramps, constipation and a lot of pain in the lower abdomen and back that made me double over. In fact it was so bad that I spent the first hour of my working day itching for my next toilet break like a secret crack addict. On my way out I explained my symptoms to a colleague who made the connection that my experience sounded a lot like period pain.

“How do women do this every month? It’s just not realistic?” – Z

“Ok so think, whenever you speak to a woman or someone who is biologically female, think that any of them could be going through what you’re going through now and have been for years.” – X

Amazing isn’t it, the little things that we seem to forget to be grateful for, even down to our own biology. I wasn’t ignorant of the problem before yet this painful perspective was something that I needed to hear to quit my literal bellyaching and shut up.

It was my physical pain of the day followed by a test of emotional pain. With truths being revealed that not was all perfect as I had envisioned – my own failing. A relationship on hold or not at all existing to begin with has me asking where was the purpose? All things have purpose and all things come from the Whole so to this end where is the purpose of such tests? For the other party, a lesson in what could be and for me a test on what could be with neither thing coming to fruition for perhaps the point of this connection was just that and nothing more.

Of course, I wasn’t so gracious about it and needed a nap and a few glasses of Fireball to contemplate the purpose of Fate’s plan. Fate asking: do you love me? Of course, but also fuck you – there was a nicer way to do that. But obviously, what does Fate care? It conspires to protect us all as a friend once told me but it teaches painful lessons most efficiently with a ruthlessness that tests each of our convictions and philosophies. It’s a thing that brings us perspective after the fact and leads to such conclusions so unsatisfactory at the time – much like the season finale of Loki – yet only in reflection can be appreciated for what it was. I’m not sure if I’m there yet with the acceptance and smile to give to Fate. I mean, yes of course, thank you so much for the medicine but it tasted like shit so I’m still a little salty.

I think that’s fair for us all to be like that in our philosophy. One day I will look back on this and ask why I wasn’t more accepting immediately and stoic immediately like the Stoics on Reddit would love to see. Yet I don’t think it’s about that. Are we to be as harsh with our own growth as Fate is?

There are some key stoic lessons to take from my day at least, some key quotes of reminder and reflection to take into tomorrow, at least with a begrudging smile.

“It is ridiculous not to escape from one’s own vices, which is possible, while trying to escape the vices of others, which is impossible.” – Meditations 7.71

“Mere things stand isolated outside our doors, with no knowledge or report of themselves. What then reports on them? Our directing mind.” – 9.15

“That all is as thinking makes it so. – and you control your thinking. So remove your judgements whenever you wish an there is calm – as the sailor rounding the cape finds smooth water and the welcome of a waveless bay.” – 12.22

Needless to say, the copy of Meditations on my bed side table is battered and covered in scribbles by this point.

Z3N0

The Last 14 Days

For the last 10 of 14 days that I’ve been absent from writing I was in COVID isolation.

I found it entirely ironic that three days after being vaccinated (for the first jab), that I was asked to isolated for ten days due to secondary contact. Thankfully I was negative with each test yet strangely, I found the experience not entirely unpleasant. Aside from the looming threat of muscle atrophy in my legs, there was little to worry about. There was nothing for me to complain even without philosophy and little need to reflect or pause on anything that caused worry. What was there to worry about? Either I was positive or negative and in either case, I’d still be in my room watching Criminal Minds and having meals delivered at my door. There was no need to pause and quote, no need to feel anything other than apathy for the situation even perhaps gratitude to the universe for the time off.

I thought to myself, what need was there to write? What need was there to share this until it is over? So I held off and put down my books and laptop for a time to focus on the simple pleasures of just being. I made choices and found clarity in a departure from a situation that grounded me: being my roleplay guild and the people in it. One day, a minor conflict had me asking myself why I was doing this, why I was bothering and what use was the energy I put into the one-way and increasingly strained relationships. So I just let go and felt the weight lift. Of course, I felt a little guilty about leaving behind people to deal with it, leaving them to their own devices and own situations yet those things would have happened with or without me. It’s almost as if a level of optimistic nihilism about my presence in the eyes of people and things I put so much effort into left me relaxed without a reference to Aurelius.

So I cut someone off, blocked and dipped out of there, why? Why walk away?

Honestly I don’t know. Something just said that it was time. It was time to walk away and time to let a thing pass on. It’s like the quote about grapes (full disclosure, I’m without my books to refer to right now): unripe, ripe, plucked and pruned.

While one thing passes to obscurity and the nebulous mists of the past, another thing comes into being, a wish fulfilment of a connection. It’s almost as if the universe exists in a balance – who’d have thought? It’s a connection that has been brewing in the background for weeks now and as the time draws closer to what will be a rather casual meeting at a Wetherspoons, the heart chakra feels a unique pull. Here, in this situation, not my own within COVID prison, it was like Fate was testing me, and us. First, the date was cancelled as this person was placed in isolation, second was my own and thirdly was a hospital trip. It was like we were being made to wait and develop a connection. Ironically, throughout this time we streamed Too Hot To Handle. As someone who has been known for a short attention span and issues with commitment, it seemed almost a perfect examination of my own readiness for a real thing. Here we are, six weeks in and thing have seemed to aligned finally. Even my own changing living situation has brought us closer together geographically. Perhaps then, in these days off, a pause on life, is a gift from fate to reorganize and see clearly what I want, need and what I don’t want and need.

Amor fati.

Have I missed writing? No, honestly. And it’s not a negative thing to say that because in the end, a break was what I needed. It was holistic. And, in the event that I did have COVID, I would have been tested further on my resolve and readiness in philosophy.

I was reading more of Seneca’s writings recently and he spoke about testing oneself by sleeping on the floor once a month and going without. I’ve probably mentioned it before but it seems like a time without the luxuries of 2021 – even with shitty internet connection from my back bedroom -, has done it’s job as intended. Yet even then, it wasn’t much of a test.

“Lying on you back, getting fed nutrients through a tube? It’s my idea of a fucking holiday.” – Malcom Tucker, The Thick of It, Season 3, Episode 1

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