In Practice

So today I went back to work after some extended time off and as I sat on the bus on my morning commute, I put into practice something I was forgetting. I was dreading going back, the institution representing my own stagnation in life with my career, family and development. There is nothing there for me in terms of tangible movement and aspiration other than my own progress of the self. Arguably this is the most important progress however some serotonin would be nice and future that seems tangible.

There I was on the bus – the later bus as I missed the first one thanks to an unregulated sleeping pattern – and I realized I had been forgetting to practice perhaps the most fundamental of all stoic practices and a phrase that I’ve repeated to no end.

“Today I escaped from all bothering circumstances – or rather I threw them out. They were nothing external, but inside me, just my own judgements.” – Meditations, 9.13

I took advice from another source, an unlikely source, that being Darth Kreia from Knights of the Old Republic 2, and felt the moment around me. I felt the surface of the seat against my body and the feeling of my hands in my lap and the headphones in my ears playing no music. My entire focus was inward and the external rumblings drifted away as I scanned myself and acknowledged each complaining part and released it unto itself. In the aftermath, as I was stepping off the bus at my stop, I was at peace with what was to come from the day.

It was uneventful and drama free as it was always going to be unlike my worst case scenarios. It had no real challenges or difficulties other than my body demanding sleep by three o’clock. Even the foible of the new policy of not having a coffee outside of breaks was negotiated and my addiction satiated. Everything was calm and serene or perhaps it was chaotic and it was I who was calm and serene – would I have known the difference?

It’s in these moments, in reflection of when these little occurrences take place that I enjoy my own progress of philosophy. That I’m not as Seneca said just growing in age not wisdom. To think without the practice of stoicism, I’d have been on edge all day waiting for it to go wrong as my own judgements had predicted and worn myself out more than I already was just from mentality alone.

I think back and wonder how many days slipped away from me just from lack of practice or practise – I never know which. How many hours I’ve wasted murmuring and chuntering to be entirely embarrassed only with myself and to myself about the lack of imagined scenario.

How many hours have you wasted?

Z3N0

Risking It

So I thought I’d have a rant today, as much as one can calling themselves a stoic. It’s a story of Warner Bros. and the turbulent relationship with DC Comics.

I’ve written to no end about this in long paragraphs to friends and in essays for university on the failing of what has been the development of superhero stories from 1992 to present day. It was in 1992 that on the issue of risk, Tim Burton was told that his third Batman film following Batman Returns was not happening due to the dark nature of the film which reflecting poorly in merchandise sales. The executives felt that it was a risk and so effectively fired him from the project. In doing so, Danny Elfman left as did the leading man, Michael Keaton. This had a knock on effect for the following films where the toys were designed before the films and subsequently flair and spirit and joy was sucked from each project with the finale of Batman & Robin havig George Clooney apologising to this day.

Then we move on to the failed Superman film of 2005 which would have been directed by Tim Burton in a revival with Nicholas Cage as the man of steel. Sadly, this was cut and in its place, Superman Returns, a film that the hero, Brandon Routh spend much of his career running away from until the recent Infinite Crisis crossover specials in the CW superhero shoes. Now, those programs, I’d say sum up the philosophy of Warner Bros. with its acquisitions with the CW Universe as it’s so-called being effectively The Vampire Diaries in domino masks. The vampire stories worked didn’t they? The love twists and miscommunications leading to the majority of the conflict and story rather than actual creative storytelling driving the converging plot lines.

But then, it happened again in 2013 with Man of Steel. Seeing the success of the uniquely individual Dark Knight Trilogy – finally a win for Warner, it was to be emulated in its darkness and compared to those films, even with Hans Zimmer returning for the music. This film missed the mark with many fans and movie goers not because it was a bad film, but because it was playing it safe with its concepts, leaning heavily on what worked before and what came before instead of evolving into its own thing and being true to itself. While Henry Cavill did his best, the character fell flat.

So came Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, a film so heavily dictated by cost cutting and executive decisions that a good 50 minutes was cut from the film leading it to have to be re-released. The reasoning: the original cut was a lower age rating than the director’s cut, meaning that it would be less of a risk and have a wider audience. Secondly, it was a long film so only so much money could be generated from showings per day.

I will stop here, as the Justice League and subsequent films debacle will go on forever but to cut that long story short: once again it needed a re-release to be finally free, to be finally whole in its self. Even the new The Suicide Squad was another soft-reboot, required to have creative licence, depth, imagination and heart.

In fact, it could be said that the best films from DC are the animated, with Warner not taking risks on their costs and storytelling as the market is much more niche and predictable. So what does this tell us? Z, you ask, what the fuck has this little trip down movie history lane got to do with stoicism?

The point is, you do not have the luxury of soft reboots to fix mistakes when you realize that by not taking a risk you have trapped yourself in your own choices. You, like executives, curtail your own efforts of leading a whole experience, uniquely yours because you feared lack of pay off. Sure, perhaps Tim Burton’s Batman 3 may have been terrible, but was what we got any better (not mentioning the silver lining of Elliot Goldenthal’s music)? In 6 years time, George Clooney would have spent 30 years apologising for that film.

So what I’m saying it, using this reality of cinema history as an allegory: your life has no reboot as far as you are aware so take every opportunity and live wholly not locked in the box of what-ifs. Take the leap and if you fall, your life will be marked for your bravery not cowardice and to quote perhaps the only successful Batman live-action franchise of this side of 2000:

Why do we fall sir? So that we can learn to pick ourselves up.” – Alfred Pennyworth, Batman Begins

Unlike DC Comics, you can’t bank on a multiversal cosmic event featuring a scarlet speedster to fix and undo all the mistakes you made and take all those opportunities and risks you regret not taking. For Hollywood executives, the cause of their fear is a loss of money.

The only question is, what is yours?

Z3N0

Discussing Ignorances

Ignorance is an infectious thing born from our own anxieties and fears. It’s almost a willingness to perpetuate states of harmful unknowing. A lot of the time, not even the conditioning or person can be blamed for their own ignorances as it seems to be a hardwired brain function. It’s our brain’s function to keep us safe from perceived danger based on judgement – remove the judgement remove the harm. Yet it’s not that easy is it? Especially when it comes to ingrained prejudices (applied ignorance), to things such as sexism, racism and so on.

It spreads so far, from one person to the next with one person’s ill-feeling latching on to me about another’s ignorance. It sits in my stomach like a heavy glutenous weight. Of course, it’s not surprising for people to be ignorant or harbour views that are morally denatured, it’s an expectation of life. Yet where there is ignorance there can also be knowledge and we teach or tolerate. Yet in failing teaching there is an expectation to tolerate, where lies the greater challenge when tolerance is a pseudo-passiveness to malicious action. How far does that expectation go before it becomes a matter of integrity and common good to intervene and neither teach nor tolerate but scold. Unless of course, we can argue that scolding the sexist or racist or homophobic is anything other than a poorly done teaching moment.

What do other people’s ignorances teach us about human beings but the frailty of our own images and our own ability to accept things as they are. It’s an egotistical mindset, and a belief that the world must fit into a framework that the ignorant is comfortable with or not exist at all. It’s something that I would critique of my favourite superhero, Batman.

“You sold us out, Clark. You gave them the power that should have been ours. Just like your parents taught you. My parents taught me a different lesson… lying on this street… shaking in deep shock… dying for no reason at all. They showed me that the world only makes sense when you force it to.” – Batman, The Dark Knight Returns

It’s a kind of fascism of the mind that demands an action in the external not just to be satisfied with the misery of the internal. Ironically, for all the destruction it brings, ignorance is a unifying collective trait of human beings despite the disconnectedness it brings. Misery loves company, after all.

So how do we face those ignorances? How do we tell the sexist, the harasser, the homophobe, the cheater, the greedy, and so on, to change. Not just for the selfish sake of the self but for the collective harmony? Well you can’t. Simply put. It can’t be done. Ignorances have the defense mechanism of pride and in men is often much more pervasive, hence the continuation the patriarchy, something no longer fit for purpose – if it ever was. It’s a reckless pride and stubbornness and attempts to correct someone’s path will cause more issues than if you had let them stumble down it. It’s what the amazing phrase ‘own the lib’ comes from, winning minor disputes through loudness of voice alone out of a desire to perpetuate a dream of the right way of doing things (the definition of which differs greatly depending on culture).

The only way I have seen these ignorances be brought to light and wither away under that sun, is to hold up a mirror. As someone, who has had my own fair share of ignorances born of both fear and the adoption of thoughts and values that were not my own, the only way to let go of them is to see them. Because often, the homophobe, the racist or the sexist will defend to the last that they are these things.

“Z, I want to apologise.” – X

Why?” – Z

Last year you were saying a lot of things that I said were racist and I argued back and didn’t listen. They were racist.” – X

“Yes, I know. But, how did you come to this conclusion?” – Z

“I watched the news over the summer with BLM. The things they were saying that hurt them and what people said, I said those things and I’m sorry.” – X

The truth is then, in the end, we can act for the sake of the common good and integrity of our own philosophy and morality to curb or redirect the ignorances of another but the only person who can cure themselves of ignorance is the ignorant.

We can spend lifetimes teaching, but the student has to learn themselves.

Z3N0

Quick Quote Post: 14

Tonight I was apart of a roleplaying event, and a quote came up from one of the players whose character is a drunkard swashbuckling space pirate. On the topic of the character killing people for profit and being judged for it, a phrase came up:

“Isn’t it ignorant to judge another’s lifestyle?” – X

I thought about this, in reflection of a stoic sense outside of the Jedi context, and I turned to Marcus Aurelius for comment where I had none.

“Whenever you are offended by 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. Do not then ask for the impossible. This person is just on of the shameless inevitably existing in the world. Have the same thought ready for the rogue, the trator, every sort of offender. The recognition that this class of people must necessarily exist will immediately make you kinder to them as individuals. Another useful thought of direct application is the particular virtue nature has given us to counter a particular wrong. Gentleness is given as the antidote to cruelty, and other qualities to meet other offences. In general, you can always re-educate one who last lost his way: and anyone who does wrong has missed his proper aim and gone astray.

And what harm have you suffered? You will find that none of these who excite your anger has done anything capable of affecting your mind for the worse: and it is only in your mind that damage or harm can be done to you – they have no other existence.

Anyway, where is the harm or surprise in the ignorant behaving as the ignorant do? Think about it. Should you rather blame yourself, for not anticipating that this man would make this error? Your reason gave you the resource to reckon this mistake likely from this man, yet you forgot and are now surprised that he went wrong.

Above all, when you complain of disloyalty or ingratitude, turn inwards on yourself. The fault is clearly your own, if you trusted that a man of that character would keep his trusts, or if your conferred a favour without making it an end in itself, your very action its own and complete reward. What more do you want, man, from a kind act? Is it not enough that you have done something consonant with your own nature – do you now put a price on it? As if the eye demanded a return for seeing, or a the feet for walking. Just as these were made for a particular purpose, and fulfil their proper nature by acting in accordance with their own constitution, so man was made to do good: and whenever he does something good or otherwise contributory to the common interest, he has done something what he was designed for and inherits his own.” – Meditations 9.42

Perhaps space piracy is not what Aurelius had in mind when he discussed this point. Yet, who knows, maybe he did or maybe applications of curing cruelty with gentleness and meeting ignorance with expectation and indifference were as relevant in the 1st Century as they are in a galaxy far, far away.

Z3N0

Undefined

I had a shower thought this morning, something that seemed to come from nowhere:

The world does not define you.

It’s not an entirely groundbreaking thought but its something that I couldn’t let go of as I was washing my hair. The world, all this stuff does not define you, it exists purely as contrast to you. Hate or love is pure contrast and the impression is leaves on us is not a thing at all just our own perception of what is and what isn’t. As human beings we make this world what it is, we define it. We define it in both our own enlightenment and ignorance. The world owes us nothing in the same sense the weather does not owe us to shine brightly when we want it to. Even the actions of other living beings, other fish in this ocean, do not define who we really are. Their actions, like all the other corporeal stuff, is simply contrast to our own being. It’s what makes us individuals, that contrast that keeps us a unique shade amongst it all.

Sure, we pick up bits of characteristics from here or there but only as far as we all allow. We are not defined by those things, are we? Are you defined by your mother’s eyes or your best friend’s temperament? No, of course not. The world has become good at making monsters, sure but the truth is more so that the world is very good at empowering darkness and drawing it to the surface. It’s like colour theory: the brightest colours makes the darkest ones pop.

We as humans shape the landscape as our collective action and attitude shapes society. Subsequently, it could be said then that has an impression on us. For example, no one is born with racial bias but it is a taught behavior and what is that but an impression that the world imprints? I say, it’s not an impression that’s forced on an individual but one accepted through adoration of the holder of the belief. A son will adopt the philosophies of the father through adoration alone, whether it be what the best football team is to the finer points of race hate.

You are not defined by anything other than yourself and what you allow yourself to be defined by, whether that be philosophy or title.

You either accept a thing such as a name or colour of your hair as defined by genetics, or you do not and you reject and take action to correct the course as best suited to your own definition of self, your own nature and highest good.

Such as bad weather does not define your day, other people do not either. There is such great freedom in knowing how free you really are from the definitions of others and the wider world if you just find the comfort in your own soul to accept that.

“Failure to read what is happening in another’s soul is not easily seen as a cause of unhappiness: but those who fail to attend to the motions of their own soul are necessarily unhappy.” – Meditations 2.8

Even when you say that you don’t want to be like someone or something – or that you do – it is not an impression that leaves you with this assertion but the contrast between you and the existence of the other thing. And, in this contrast, there is a balance of what is you and what is not you. What separates you from others, in the grand scheme, is a razor thin line of difference as we are all beings of the same biology, history, atoms and so on. What you actively embrace in those similarities and differences define you, by choice in your actions, right down to the unconscious thought.

Your past does not define you, your future does not define you. All you are and all you will ever be is what you accept yourself to be in this moment, right now as you read these words until the next moment comes.

The only opinion on definition of your own self that matters is yours. In the end, it’s the only thing we can ever truly say we own. As we exhale our last, the only thing we take is our selves. And who that is, is entirely up to you.

Z3N0

Power of 3

Recently I have gotten back into meditation and spiritual healing sessions in the form of reiki sessions through Youtube. Now while not entirely for everyone, the ASMR element of reiki is at the very least helpful enough to calm you down into a meditative or at least hypnotic relaxed state. As well as this, I have found a few tarot video channels. While my friend would say to be cautious of tarot as energy is fluid and subsequently what is being shown can be literally any possibility, et cetera et cetera.

Despite this, I have a few favourites that work for me personally in a way that helps me either feel supported in my own spiritual healing or entering to that headspace. I’ve previously posted a similar list but since it has been a long time since then, I thought an update was in order.

There will only be 3 to this list as all the best things seem to come in 3s do they not?

First of all this channel, Lotus Evolutionary, while not having regular content as others, is very useful to me for reasons unknown aside from what is being imparted. I seem to prefer these sorts of videos where the action is directional to the viewer’s point of view rather than directed at a stand-in bed. I full recommend the other healing videos on this channel and watch for further updates should they come along.

The second channel on my list is Fiadh Luna, who’s videos seem to fly by and are entirely hypnotic and becoming for me a firm favourite. There’s a pure sense of organic calmness with these videos and Fiadh seems to impart healing very naturally. Whether you are a believer or accepting of the concepts of this kind of healing (whether you call it reiki or visually guided mental pathway reprogramming of some description), there’s a spark here that feels very real to me.

Sundaisy Wellness Energy Healing is another small channel that deserves more love for the unique and calming centre that is brought to each video. I keep saying this but even if you’re not accepting of reiki or energy work, the meditative quality of this video alone is extraordinary, with the closest comparison being to say a revered practitioner such as Mooji who I have written about previously.

As someone could tell, I prefer the smaller channels because I have a personal philosophy about larger content creators. The larger the following, the more diluted the product. It’s like my love affair with The Yorkshire Roast Company when I was living in central York. A roast dinner wrap was the perfect finale to a night out yet as they became popular and trending on social media, something changed and I don’t know if it was the overall quality of product or wait times but it wasn’t the same. Then again, that phenomena is found all over the place and the law of supply and demand. But I digress.

If you enjoy any of the content I’ve shared with you today, please do make sure to support these creators with subscribes and support in comment sections. If you’ve found something healing in their content and it has helped you in some way, let them know, be braver than I.

Sweet Spot

I find myself in at a bit of a loose end when it comes to hobbies and career with both things seemingly rather vacuous and without any real fulfilment. Currently as it is, my hobbies of gaming and roleplaying have been a little lacklustre as well as my own visions of returning to work and the routine. This great fatigue seems rather endless and as such, I have turned to the old faithful of Marcus Aurelius:

“Live through life the best way you can. The power to do so is in a man’s own soul, if he is indifferent to things indifferent. And he will be indifferent if he looks at these things both as a whole and analysed into their parts, and remembers that none of them improses a judgement of itself or forces itself on us. The things themselves are inert: it is we who procreate judgements about them and, as it were, imprint them on our minds – but there is no need for imprinting at all, and any accidental print can immediately be erased. Remember too that our attention to these things can only last a little while, and then life will be at an end. And what, anyway is the difficulty in them? If they are in accord with nature, welcome them and you will find them easy. If they are contrary to nature, look for what accords with your own nature and go straight for that, even if it brings you no glory. Anyone can be forgiven for seeking his own proper good.” – Meditations 11.16

It’s hard not to spiral into a strange stagnant despair of things and to stop the thought process before it takes off is the challenge of us all. Which is worsened by watching the world and observing the actions of world leadership, those who ideally we are to aspire to look up to, abandon their own obligations to themselves and each other, giving up or acting with obsessive passion to achieve nothing but more mess. Yet then, like Aurelius says, it is the job of the stoic to look for what accords with your own nature, and remove the impression and judgement.

“Unhappiness, is a sign one has lost one’s balance. – Barsen’thor, Star Wars: The Old Republic

I find that more and more the true balance is much more challenging than riding a bike, which was difficult for me enough as it is. But like riding a bike, when you get it, you just get it and you never forget. You have to block it all out, all that distraction and noise and focus on what is in accordance with you, within. Because you will find it. Finding that sweet spot of time and space that allows you to breathe and seeks out both the detail and big picture in harmony and see past a thing with total understanding and unmoving eyes is something that becomes a habit.

It can be applied to any problem or impression ultimately but it is not a case of not having emotions of a thing or being blind to the emotions of others, but understanding them and not letting them overwhelm or control. In the end, the only thing you can control is yourself never circumstance, even when you feel like you have no control over the self, in fact you do, it just requires that aforementioned sweet spot.

One such experience, is finding myself dismissive of things that would once annoy the hell out of me. The root cause: ignorance, both malicious and accidental. It’s not person or people but ideas born of ignorance, which leads to fear, and …

Fear is the path to the dark side … fear leads to anger … anger leads to hate … hate leads to suffering.” – Yoda, The Phantom Menace

Et cetera.

When we learn to become dismissive of these things – by being indifferent to things indifferent – and understanding that hatred is just a key to unlocking more of our own suffering at the hands of a concept or ideology and our impressions of them, it’s like a weight being lifted. It’s something that I personally had to experience and have multiple times with my own anger towards individuals, actions and concepts ranging from the hubris of Western military intervention to the all consuming insecurities of a former friend and the destructive tools of deflection they used. Ironically, the latter was diffused with the realisation that I have been guilty of the exact same thing – it’s funny how things look in the mirror sometimes.

It’s not a simple ask but when achieved it will seem so simple all along, like riding a bike for the first time. That sweet spot, the wonderful slice of clarity where everything just slips away may come too late for comfort but it will come. It just takes a little work to find it.

Z3N0

Back To Work

So I decided to come back to work, not in the typical sense but in perhaps the only that matters: the work of philosophy on here. I’d taken a bit of a break, the summer and trips keeping me away from the internet or away from tangible insight.

I took myself to Leeds on a city break and indulged at two fantastic restaurants, Livin’ Italy and Little Tokyo (the address of both found in the postscript). The atmosphere of both places was fantastic, both rustic and true to their cultures and entirely authentic in cuisine. Yet it was not the lobster at Livin’ Italy that I will remember forever, nor the yaki udon of Little Tokyo but instead the words of a man on a street.

His name was Oliver and he stopped me to talk to me about Jesus. He spoke to me about first of all himself and how that he came to the very real realization that material things mean nothing in the end as we are all born the same way and die the same. He spoke about giving it all up to follow his heart and follow the fire of life, a fire you could clearly see in his eyes and cheeks. I was glued to the spot as he spoke, something telling me that I should listen.

“Have faith, be a believer but don’t be religious.”

It reminded me of the words of the Tao Te Ching and the scripture that says that the sage is both of the world and not. He invited me to his church, to experience what he called an “alive” experience as opposed to a “dead” one of human rites and traditions with no real meaning past the impressions of time and culture.

“We are all running in circles. We smoke, we drink, we go on to the next sexual partner after another to fill a void within ourselves. But we are all looking for the same thing,” he says, as he points to the grey sky of the early evening.

While the perspective was entirely Abrahamic, it seemed to light a fire in this man and seemed to leave a lasting impression on me and the wisdom of his words ring true in the most fundamental way. My own words were less convincing to a friend on the interconnectedness of the universe and that we are all expressions of the same life. Yet Oliver, with his hours in the main high street of Leeds sharing his fire and light with those who spoke to him in a world of sceptics, was something entirely inspiring to me. His words were not of hate or damnation or hellfire but instead of peace and harmony and finding serenity. The cynic inside me asks whether or not that was the next topic of conversation as he did allude to dark forces – a topic for another day – yet in that moment, it seemed like where we stood in the bustling city that there was a unique peace.

He gave me his phone number, perhaps he gave it to many people, but suggested that if I ever feel the need to talk for advice on finding my connection to the divine and my own spirit, to call him. One day I might but the most likely thing is that I won’t. Yet those 11 digits on the back of a flyer is are on the shelf next to Epictetus, Aurelius and Seneca just in case.

Z3N0

P.S.

As promised, my recommendations of places to eat in Leeds

https://littletokyoleeds.co.uk/

https://livinitaly.com/

As someone with allergies, both places were extremely accommodating as a bonus.

Internet Sagas

So I am now 23 parts into a 50 part video series on the life story of Christine Westen Chandler who is thought to be one of the most scrutinized and publicly documented people on the planet. This person, who goes by Chris Chan in most circles recently came to a more public spotlight outside of the niche corners of Youtube after the revelation that this they committed coerced incestual relations with they’re dementia suffering mother.

It’s not often that that kind of headline is just the tip of the iceberg.

It seems that this person who’s grasp of reality is so loose has been on the receiving end of years of manipulation and bullying to a point where every interaction with someone outside of the elderly parents was a troll. Each troll, documenting encounters and recording them. While I’m not saying what happened to Barbara Westen Chandler is the fault of the internet – clearly her repeated assault by Chris Chan was no one’s fault but Chris Chan’s – it seems from the hours of documentary that I’ve watched that the Internet wanted a monster and so, they made themselves one.

I honestly don’t think this will be the last case of something abhorrent coming out of a desire to be seen on the internet. Chris Chan was and is obsessed with fame and sex and escapism. I’m sure they’re not the first. I was watching something recently about a streamer who killed his girlfriend because the audience dared him to just like that. How many times have we seen the rise and fall of so-called makeup influencers in the past three years? Or how about the case of Nikadao Avacado, a mukbang content creator who is suffering numerous health issues due to absurd amounts of food he eats for content.

There’s a supply and demand for grotesque entertainment as if fiction writers can’t satiate the audience anymore. There needs to be a participation and a control and an illusion of control in some way. Who is to blame? The audience or the performer when the show goes horribly wrong?

In the end, is it our increasingly hardwired desire for instant gratification of sensation that creates these things? This strange desire for control and immediate relief of impulse creating bullies out of us all, trying to put the universe into a headlock and beat it into submission.

I digress.

So Part 23 of this saga with Chris Chan sees the umpteenth attempt at finding a “sweetheart” which ends up being another wind-up and him becoming angry and racist and ragey at faceless tormentors. Whole communities sprung up to prank this one individual over and over again and the question of how this person becomes so frankly fucked up seems as plain as day. Now Chris Chan is – rightfully – arrested and their mother is in care from recent reports and people are scratching their heads asking how this happened. Surely it’s a sarcastic rhetorical question.

Then I wonder, by even asking the question myself in the first place and sitting down to watch this collation of events that I am contributing to the monster and feeding the beast. Chris Chan, who believes that the dimensions are due to merge together and the DC and Marvel heroes are to come into our reality is supposedly glad to finally be truly famous. And here I am, another passive observer feeding that mentality.

Throughout this saga, several people appear to be supportive and genuinely looking to help Chris from becoming who they are today to no avail or to be revealed as another troll. It’s stranger than fiction and created a spectacle, a circus where the audience is the ringleader and quite possibly one of the most toxic, destructive and long lasting pieces of performance art the world has ever seen.

It doesn’t take much of a hop of logic to see the correlation between this monstrosity and the losses of life that’s come from Love Island. It’s anonymity that gives people power over those who are public or unequipped to be anonymous. Even in the most secure of online relationships, the one with anonymity has the high ground in the relationship. In long distance romances, people are held hostage and damaged by the emotions and actions of someone they may never meet – hell, hypothetical emotions and actions.

As a people, we have more control over ourselves than ever before in human history yet the illusion of powerlessness creates this warped need for power over another. It’s perhaps a subconscious desire in us all to create something and it falls to the individual if that thing is a thing of virtue or vice or indifferent entirely. There is no real right and wrong, only the consequences of actions that can be defined as those three factors. Yet taking the strange and well documented case of Chris Chan as an example, what kind of world are we all as individuals creating? What kind of madness are we bringing into being for our own amusement?

Not long ago I wrote a short story about madness from ambition and reckless passions and the monsters those things unleash. I think about that story and I think to myself that when we talk about responsibility for actions, we need to really be honest with ourselves and really dig deep into those recesses. Otherwise what will the next big saga be? The world is a reflection of society and society is the culmination of institution and people. We are all responsible for it.

In the end, I have no words to express the increasing disquiet of the entire story and the callous and self serving world it reflects. Now I’m not absolving Chris Chan of their sins, far from it. They acted selfishly, with warped desire and without rational cause on twisted impulses. I hold nothing but contempt for the entire situation.

Alas, what can any of us do, in reflection to prevent something else like this happening again? Because it will happen again and again, of course it will. We can only act on the individual level and to do so, it must be a call to push for virtue, control of the self and reflection of the higher good.

There’s a strange heavy cloud that hangs over, like a humid uncomfortable brewing storm of the self unsure of what to do. I look to the words of Marcus Aurelius about those being without blame and those being without judgement of action. Yet I’m failing to see here how anyone can come away from it all feeling cleaner than the rest. Even as a passive watcher after the fact, observing, listening like its just another crime documentary…

“Hey Bat, when you’re flying, what’s the city look like from on high?”

“It looks dirty.” Batman Gotham Knight, 2008

Z3N0

Sleepless Kingdom, Part 2

I’ve broken up this short story, as my last in two consecutive parts just to break up the reading and not to make the post too chunky. I prefer it this way as it makes things more digestible from a formating perspective and it also gives me a nice continuity of posting. Plus as a side note, I woke up extra early this morning to write a epic on my experience with the spiritual recently and an updated list of recommended reiki and tarot channels (all that spiritualism the atheist in me is repulsed by) yet ended up distracted by two very testing dogs I’m now living with.

Anyways, I’m digressing, back to the story:

My phone’s alarm saved my life. Her shrill scream had morphed into its irritating beeping and, with my eyes still glued together, I dismissed the infernal thing. It was another bright and sunny January morning in the life of Nelly Pritchard and it required a black coffee and a cigarette. With the fluffy dressing gown equipped and provided the necessary nod of greetings to an unknown face in the hallway – a conquest of Room 2’s rugby enthusiast occupant -, I drifted into the kitchen like detritus on a beach. Clara, fresh faced from a full eight-hours of rest followed in, disturbing the preparation of black coffee, three sugars. She pounced onto the countertop with the energy totally unnecessary for whatever time it was in the morning.

‘So?’ She began, ‘Did you get any reading done last night or did you end up just falling into the Netflix trap?’

‘Erm, yeah, some,’ I groggily replied, gently stirring a stained teaspoon in the coffee. ‘No Netflix. Just scran and John Milton.’

‘Wholesome,’ she said, nodding from her perch. ‘Did Jack message you?’

‘No, I haven’t checked.’

Clara stared blankly in return, her knowing eyes demanding that I take action. She was irritatingly good at that and it had become a fair portion of our relationship. I dropping the spoon into the sink and blew gently on the coffee before taking a sip, holding steady against Clara’s silent instruction. It took less than a few seconds for the resolve to break and I put down the oversized novelty mug and slipped my hand into the fluffy pocket of the robe. As I inspected the phone’s screen, my heart sunk and familiar beads of sweat began to form at my temples. Clara raised an eyebrow at my sudden panic but remained still on her perch. The words on the screen were scrambled. Each time I found myself grasping their meaning they shuffled like a deck of cards in a game of solitaire. As I forced my groggy mind to concentrate on the increasingly meaningless symbols, the air became thick and clammy.

I was frozen. Only my eyes retained any notion of free movement and I forced them away from the screen – God they were heavy, like they were being weighed down by swaying anchors. Looking up I saw her. She had always been there, standing in slightest dark of the room. It was Gran, grinning with the same idiot grin that I gave her. Behind her emerged two slinky, shadowy compatriots; faceless mannequin figures made of pure ghostly darkness that stretched their elongated forms to the heights of the ceiling. A scream lost its way in my throat and only materialized as a light gasp. The bitch bared her shards of teeth at me as I struggled and fought and cried silent cries in the frozen moments of her trap. Existence outside of my focus on her and her new friends had ceased to exist. It had faded away like the peripheral vision of weary eyes. From Gran’s grin came her scream and a voice. Jack’s voice. ‘Clara, come here! I think Nell’s having a seizure and I can’t wake her up!’

Shadowy arms reached out and the Gran’s terrible cosmic maelstrom behind the grey gnashing teeth expanded to swallow reality in a thunderous cold crescendo.

Then there was nothingness. A deep black void like a starless night in the country or the deepest impressions of my therapist’s endless Rorschach tests. As I drifted through its depths, I wondered if this was the end of all things or just the purgatory. A blank space between my world and the next. Yet perhaps I was wrong on all counts and this deep inky ocean of infinity was the inside of Gran’s stomach. I had been swallowed like Jonah into the infernal whale.

Seconds, minutes, hours, days: none of it mattered. Nothingness was the only truth. I wondered if in my state that I’d had a heart attack in my sleep and my visions of old Gran had finally gotten the better of me. I wondered if I could even apply such logic to the situation if this was death. If Gran herself, the wicked bitch, was a sentient predator, hunting in her sleepless kingdom, feeding of the victims like a leech. Nothingness lasted for an eternity for it was eternity. It was the end of all things, I knew it was, that was the conclusion I’d reached after days or perhaps years of query, it was the true oblivion. Then I heard another voice. It was not Clara’s, Jack’s or even my own. It was alien and not of a language I had ever heard before yet for some reason, I trusted it and loved it like a child loves the idea of heaven. I understood; by Christ, I understood and from that moment on, every Sunday I’ve been kneeling and praying and singing the hymns. I have the words that it spoke tattooed across my forearm like I could ever forget them.

‘The song has been violated. Retrieve the child.’

… Fin.

Z3N0