Being Like A Squirrel

We often find that we keep ourselves busy just to avoid thinking.

It’s one of those wierd coping methods we all have and fill our lives with work, activity and Netflix to keep sane when we try to run away from our own thoughts. Is it cowardice that keeps us from looking where we don’t want to look? For me, I can’t sit on the bus without music or risk the creeping invasion of overthinking and hollow gut feelings of a strange dread. It makes those moments before sleep the most terrifying parts of the day. Those moments where there’s nothing else to think about other than exactly what we’ve been trying to avoid.

Then perhaps, is this why we find that some people have such a hard time on holiday? A panicked pause between stuff – a silence of the mind leaving nothing but the echoes of exactly what we don’t want to hear.

“You’re going to be alone.”

“You’ve failed.”

“They hate you, you know.”

“What was that earlier? Did you notice that?”

“Have you checked yourself for lumps?”

So what can we do to combat this? When the panic strikes it seems entirely hopeless to escape the thoughts and patterns until we find something to distract us from them. Here, I think of a song I heard recently that I forget the name of, the core concept was: be like a squirrel.

A squirrel gathers nuts and acorns for winter, one at a time. They don’t attempt to tackle the enormity of the task all in one go, this tiny animal takes things as they are, one piece at a time.

You’re going to be alone – we call a friend or look for a social outlet.

You’ve failed – you’ve not attempted.

They hate you – you haven’t asked.

And so on…

Of course, easier said than done but we approach these problems and each of our worries and troubles like a squirrel, acting with one acorn at a time. It’s the core of stoicism: progress everyday. As long as we can make progress in some way everyday, then we are achieving. Even if that means spending an entire day in bed, trapped by lathargy, we are making progress by taking that time for ourselves in some way. Even a relapse, we think of them as backsteps but in fact we are falling forward, with each new thing to trip over, a new lesson and thus: progress.

Recently, I lost someone. Not literally, but it was a rather definitive break up for the sake of prioritising healthy choices and recovery over relationships. Which is fine of course, a reasonable and logical choice. Yet for us both, I think, when we both felt such a pull towards each other, it makes for a difficult ending. But like the Jedi philosophy (psuedo-Taoism), says, nothing is ever really gone just transmuted. A feeling of loss, transmuted is a lesson in ressiliance and a smile of gratitude for the experience in waiting. So how do we transmute?

The answer is another question with a more satisfying answer: how does the squirrel meet it’s problems? One nut at a time.

There’s a joke in that, I’m obviously far too mature and serious to make (wink).

Z3N0

Hello Old Friend

I suppose that it’s been a while, hasn’t it?

I suppose that’s on me, I have been distracted with trying to live the socially and emotionally invested life full of romance and optimistic visions of love and unity. Alas, at this time, it was a failure and it has faded into obscurity as if I was trying to catch fog with a net.

“It is clear to you, I know, Lucillius, that one can lead a happy life, or even one that is bearable, without the pursuit of wisdom, and that the perfection of wisdom is what makes the happy life, although even the beginnings wisdom make life bearable.”

Yet, I seemed to forget in my fumbling in the world of Love Actually the following passage that came in the next sentence:

“Yet this conviction, clear as it is, needs to be strengthened and given deeper roots through daily reflection; making noble resolutions is not as important as keeping the resolutions you have made already.” – Letters from a Stoic, XVI

In a sense, it seems that in my hastiness to apply the knowledge and wisdom that I have learnt over my years of readings and reflecting, that I have forgotten to keep going. It’s almost as if my brain – or rather just me – retired from it all at the first glimpse of hopeful domestic bliss as if I had come to the end. There I was, as George W. Bush full of strange vacant smiles waving the flag to claim that the mission was accomplished.

A pattern is forming, I think across the board in all my relationships as I have to watch myself like a hawk: I’m either entirely disinterested in the maintenance of the thing and disturbed by a glimmer of intimacy or deeper understanding, or enraptured with the whole thing.

I’m finding myself a binary being of either off’s or on’s when it comes to enjoying the company of others and following another rather disappointing ending of things, I’m leaning to the off switch. There are no mistakes, of course, we have to remember that as a point of not just stoicism but Buddhism and Taoism and even the Abrahamic faiths and I’ve spoken to no end about that before. Yet here I am, understanding and observing the familiar pattern of my own behaviour, breaking it down and analyzing each piece of it still strangely uncomfortable. Reason dictates that, as we know, there is no ignorance, there is knowledge, yet I feel ignorant all the same.

I was reading recently about Cixin Lui’s Dark Forest novel and the eponymous principle of existential cosmic horror. It states the universe is a finite dark forest with a finite amount of space and resources. Each civilisation within it is a dark hunter, moving as silently as they can to not be detected: a kind of Hunger Games if you will, of cosmic proportions. It speaks of the dread we feel in the dark, hiding from each other and ourselves, watching and waiting with a quietened breath to what will happen next or who will strike. It’s almost as if, I play this game – or perhaps we all do – with the universe, or Allah or Yahweh or God or Brahman or The Dao, on an individual level. A level of deep apprehension and tension with the cosmos: a gunslinging showdown with destiny seeing who will blink first.

Or perhaps I’m being a miserly fart who just got dumped and I’m sour at Fate and all it brings. In another sense, it’s a kindness to be given a new perspective and a new breath of inspiration to reflect and turn inwards. It’s a silent companion we all have: the ability to turn inwards and talk to ourselves intimately the way no one else is allowed to do. Solitude is a gift granted so rarely in the 21st Century that we should smile and say thank you.

Hello old friend, and thank you.

Z3N0