Enter Epictetus

So those of you who have been reading or following my journey thus far will have noticed a bit of an old habit of returning to Marcus Aurelius when in need of wisdom or soundbite. Moving onwards, while perhaps I should persevere with Seneca, I’m becoming a little bogged down in the details of Roman politics for my liking and shall be changing course. Like the title suggests: enter Epictetus.

I was out for lunch with a family member today discussing the usual things you do with family being primarily career and starting a family of my own and the question of when either things will ever come together. In my initial flicking through of Epictetus, I landed on a section that, another gift from Universe, spoke to me almost directly through the centuries. It’s a fresh page yet to be covered in my pencil scribbles, a reprieve only until I remember to get pencils next time I’m at the shop.

“Everyone has preconceptions. And one preconception does not contradict another. I mean, who of us does not assume that what is good is beneficial and choice, in all cases to be desired and pursued? Who of us does not assume that justice is fair and appropriate? So where does conflict come in? In the application of preconceptions to particular cases. One person, for instance, will say, ‘Well done, there’s a brave man,’ while another says, ‘He isn’t brave, he’s just deranged.’ This is how conflict originates and it is the source of difference amongst Jews, Syrians, Egyptians and Romans. They don’t dispute that what is holy should be preferred above everything else and in every case pursued; but they argue, for example, over whether it is holy or unholy to eat pork.” – Discourses and Selected Writings, 1.22

What we seek is the same from person to person: happiness and enlightenment. Yet preconceptions from person to person dictate the road taken to those goals or who we go with. It’s the similar argument of to be vaccinated or not to be with either camp declaring bravery or madness. Similarly, the heart citing bravery for clinging onto concepts of togetherness with someone while the brain scoffs – that one being a conflict of preconceptions rather than contradiction. Both want the same thing – harmony not chaos.

There is no chaos, there is harmony.

Through preconceptions, we dictate, much like the various religions what is holy or unholy to us and in those dications, we are collectivist. Yet in the finer details, the individual experience and impression is absolute law. When we see this, in all of us, in all things, we can witness the greater harmony of the Whole and see a fuller picture of a united humanity.

In our own lives, we all strive for the same core things that fall on Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs: physiological needs, safety needs, belongingness and love, esteem, and self-actualisation. The finer points, those nitty gritty things in the abstract are entirely arbitrary to the grander scheme of things. But in those points, we carve parts of life out for ourselves and make it our own with the stories and scars that leave an impression on us.

So, to answer the question that I dodged from my grandmother:

No things didn’t workout with person X, and I am in fact losing interest in career Y, but my needs are well on their way of being fulfilled all the same. Preconceptions of success that are not my own preconceptions have no bearing on that. Why would they have bearing on anyone? Of course that’s easy to say, with people experience enormous pressure to achieve someone else’s ideas of success not being a uncommon story. Then we ask ourselves, what are our preconceptions? What are our ideals? Who are we? Who am I?

Ask yourself.

Go on.

Z3N0

Remember Who You Are

Being in the rut that I’ve been in has led me to forget a number of things and to discount a number of things. While this feeling of stagnation has clearly had its triggers and root causes that I can see clearly, in those times I have forgotten the core things that make me me – the me of the now, not before.

“Concentrate on the subject or act in question, on principle or meaning. You deserve what you’re going through. You would rather become good tomorrow than be good today.” – Meditations, 8.22

Or perhaps, we should turn to a modern philosopher, Jagger, with his words arranged by the incomparable Violet Orlandi:

Make sure to subscribe for more of her work and check her Spotify, linked at the end of this post.

In the moments of a grey fuzziness, ask that question: who are you? Set yourself that task. Break down each part. Who am I? I’ve been wallowing trying to find those answers since Saturday, and tonight, I got to bed early around 8pm. Now, its nearly 11 and I’m wide awake writing as a necessity to my own peace of mind. In my head there is a new sense of clarity and when I reflect on this I have no idea this sudden burst of energy comes from or injection of, in the words of Jagger, getting what I need.

Who am I?

I’m the armchair stoic – quite literally as of this moment, in an armchair -, sat in my kimono with a coffee and a wry smile. A Taoist of sorts in the school of Shangqing, my faith in Universe affirmed with a generous splash of Jedi philosophy. The observer of my own vastness, and observer rather than follower of existence – not disconnected or above from society yet positioned rather nicely in my own headspace rather than within another. Happiness is my destination, and it’s something that I work on myself, never being a thing tangible for longer than fleeting moments. I have no scars on my body – save a few minor cat scratches – the tissue cerebral only, each mark a lesson and imprint on my DNA. I have a fashion sense of a vaguely forgotten timelord and one of those energies that people seem to need to rely on, rather inexplicably. I have my flaws and marks, a confusing relationship with my own gender and a hyper-attention to detail battling with a desire to see the bigger picture. Yin and yang, working overtime in their conflict as I work to find a balance if I’ve not already found it without realizing.

Who are you?

Remove your trappings and purple dyes and look at yourself, honestly. Be generous yet be true because often is the case where we find ourselves being our own worst critic, using judgements that are not truly our own to assess ourselves. This judgement, creating more stress and anxiety for whose benefit?

“Look within: do not allow the special quality or worth of any things to pass you by.” – Meditations, 6.3

So here I am, oddly energized at 23:20, with a level of strange catharsis coursing through me like it was some trapped animal escaping from captivity back into the wild. I recommend it, in the words of Jeremy Jahns, it’s a good time with no alcohol required.

Step into your own existence, mine looking vaguely like a less artistic Dean McCoppin from Iron Giant if not exactly – my beard is better. What does yours look like? Remember who you are in those moments; those moments where sleep is the only enjoyable activity of the day and it calls at all waking moments. If you need help, seek it. Find what works for you whether that be medications or therapies or meditations to help you along your way, your journey is your own and you will strike a deal between the internal and external remedies. Of course, anything harmful masquerading as a remedy is just another layer to the crushing weight of blankets forcing you and trapping you into an existence of sleepy stagnation where this waking world is nothing more than a meaningless, headachy dreamscape.

We’ve all been there have we not? I know I have and I still have friends who can attest to the 6 months or so of my life which to me is just a blur of poor decision making – not mistakes, as of course there is no such thing.

With that being said, with there being no mistakes, where’s the harm in digging deep? Digging deep within to find an honest mirror of the self and see all the good you are and who you are at your core with purpose and diligence. The only thing preventing any of us is fear of the unknown and fear of what we might see and fear that we have not grown in philosophy as much as we have in years.

“Only thing we have to fear is fear itself” – Franklin D. Roosevelt, Inaugural Address, 1933

Z3N0

P.S. As promised, a link to Violet Orlandi’s Spotify:

Summer Months

The summer seems to be such a ethereal time for me, each day just happens and washes over like a passing breeze with little consequence. Each action seems futile, each step forward is a step back and for all of my musings and ramblings of the past I find myself in a dream-like haze of an existence.

Last month, for my posting was a write-off and this month of August looks like to be too with trips and hazy twilights. It’s almost as if this is the feeling of retirement, like some surrender to the flow of things entirely passive and accepting of some core concepts: aloneness, oneness, tiredness. What am I waiting for? In myself, in my soul I feel a waiting for something, some kind of action or call to action from the universe that perhaps will never come. Is this depression returning with a vengeance or is it simply active passivism? As I sit here in this study and melt away in the heat unbecoming for England, I wonder if this is it. If this is the great peace I’ve been looking for: boredom. I’m not seeking adventure or seeking some great ambition yet it feels that purpose and companionship in purpose seem to be great ambition and adventure.

A tarot reader would perhaps describe this apathia as my cup being empty and the advice they could give me is that the only person who is able to refill this cup is me. Yet with what? The answer: purpose. Where does one find purpose? Within. Where within? When I close my eyes there is vastness yet the observer of this vastness is silent and without answers. I turn to Universe, with my meditations being shallow and cut-off of late yet Universe is silent. Am I being tested? Is this a test of philosophy to see how alone I need to feel, how apathetic I need to feel before I return to my old habits of self-destruction of both body and soul?

To add to my concerns: I can’t sleep.

I’m awake at night persevering with hypnosis videos and reiki and ASMR yet nothing is helping me. Instead I stare into space and think of which nation I will play as tomorrow in my new obsession: Crusader Kings III. The mistakes of my past catch-up to me in those moments. Not from looking back, trapped in regret, but rather from not having anyone there to talk to. It’s funny, when alone with your thoughts it comes back to that. It’s a self-imposed solitary confinement, ending up being surrounded by those that you ultimately can’t connect with or are exclusively online – relationships dictated by internet connection and sheer timing. Even those who are still with me have moved on. Old faithfuls, no longer faithful. New connections futile and unwelcome. Is it time to accept the solace? Take heart in its acceptance? How many other lineages have ended like mine will: only child, childless and forgotten. Too many to count, so in the end, what’s the worry since it seems so natural. Even the grand dynasties have long since been forgotten with the descendants of Genghis Khan referring to their heritage as a fun party fact, one of millions.

So I lay awake, the fan on full blast, staring over at my collection of books. Asking each: what would you do? They would suggest that I do something productive with my time yet I’m in need of someone to tell me what that looks like. What is productive? What is helpful? The only thing that seems to keep me on the Path of rationality is the knowing of the alternative chaos.

The stoics talk about the smoky room and if the room becomes too smoky, to exit it. Is that what I’m waiting for? The smoke to fill my room to give me a reason to leave, waiting around just in case I’m incensed to stay? It’s not even a particularly major worry or concern – death, that is. It has definition and clear answers. What does limbo have to offer? This apathia and purgatory of circumstances? Neither here nor there in body, soul or mind. Yet perhaps this is the depression talking and I should just get on with it like Mark Corrigan from Peep Show and start chain cooking roast dinners to keep myself busy.

Not all glum, parsnips are my favourite.

Z3N0