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

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

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

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

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

Z3N0

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

Z3N0