Progress Everyday

I was watching a Ryan Holiday video and he spoke about the point of stoicism not to be immediate change but the choice to improve oneself everyday in line with the stoic path. Which to me, is very similar to an exercise of the mind and soul as the gym is for the body. As the athlete trains the muscles and the physical nature of the self with routines and diet, the philosopher does so in a similar way with discussion, reflection and knowledge.

There is no ignorance, there is knowledge.

It’s a choice, as I was saying not long ago. It’s an active choice to move on from one’s own vices to live a virtuous life in harmony with the greatest good of not just the self but all of humanity rather than fester in the status quo. It’s the difference between being actively passive and actively cowardly, hiding from the truth of consequences of thought and action. Ideologies that feed into our vices serve only to enable our behaviors that are destructive. So you have the power with your tongue to break someone’s spirit, but the true power is perhaps in holding it in the first place.

Brains are designed to keep us safe, locked in paradigms of familiarity rather than healthier alternatives. Say we were brought up on turkey twizzlers and microwave mac ‘n’ cheese, the change to broccoli and sashimi is not going to be particularly enjoyable. Yet, it’s better for us and others in the long run. Let’s continue the metaphor: not only are we healthier in ourselves but also it eases the expected pressure on medical facilities and family members who will watch us fester in this lifestyle of consumption.

It goes the same with philosophy and ideology of course, the more harmful things we consume and accept about ourselves the more unhealthy we become. I’ve quoted this particular scene before, but following the conversation I just had less than an hour ago, it’s in my mind again:

BoJack Horseman : “Ow, crap. I hate this. Running is terrible, everything is the worst.

[Lying down, panting heavily]

BoJack Horseman : “Oh my God, oh my God.

Jogger : [stands over BoJack] “It gets easier.

BoJack Horseman : “Huh?

Jogger : “Everyday, it gets a little easier.

BoJack Horseman : “Yeah?

Jogger : “But you gotta do it everyday, that’s the hard part. But it does get easier.” – BoJack Horseman, “Out to Sea”

So when we wake up in the morning and scowl at the sun for waking us or the unfulfilling shit job we have to go to, does this make us any less a stoic or a virtuous person? Or does it make us human on the path to make progress everyday to do as our nature has intended us to do in harmony with our surroundings and self?

I like to think it’s the latter. What can I say? I’m an optimist – yes, I surprise myself.

Z3N0

What No Longer Serves You

One thing that has always bugged me about the modern spiritualism and reiki practice is that there is an emphasis on removing energies that “no longer serve you”. This phrase is where stoicism and spirituality or neo-spirituality in the globalist internet amalgamism of the different faiths and practices clash, in my opinion. So the phrase, as harmless as it seems is clear enough. It’s purpose is to demonstrate that you do not need energies or emotions or thought patterns anymore that once provided support or helped your development. Yet, in this grand oceanic experience that we all exist in, to say that anything serves us is either misplaced semantics or pure arrogance of the human condition.

What serves you? As if you are the master of fate, destiny and its energies, as if the universal Way of things serves you and not collaborates or exists in harmony. Nothing serves you, because that suggests you have agency over the universe which you do not. The only thing that truly serves you is your own virtue that you project in thought, action and voice put out into the universe.

“Whatever happens to you was being prepared for you from everlasting, and the mesh of causes was ever spinning from eternity both your own existence and the incidence of this particular happening.” – Meditations, 10.5

Perhaps, if we think about it in another sense, if we take into account the butterfly effect of the universe – Providence or Fate – everything serves us from our mistakes to the grumble we have when we get up in the morning to appease or fulfil that simplest of truths: amor fati.

I’m not exactly sure where the concept comes from that the universal energies serve us (which I will continue to italicize to prove a point). So The Way, in its perpetual flow and forward motion bows to serve the individual rather than enable the collective consciousness of the universe? Perhaps it’s the human element on modern or contemporary spiritualism that has led to this idea that we have a control of the energies around us rather than see them as either projections of the self or harmonious external substances. It adds a comfort to think that we have control or agency over these things rather than the truth of the matter that the only thing we can control is ourselves. It’s a kind of strange mantra that we have power over the universal building blocks to elevate ourselves to some kind of wizard-like figures, each of us Gandalfs or Dumbledores or Dr Stranges.

I’m all for identifying energies and beliefs that are not our own and making efforts to remove those pollutants from ourselves to seek the truth within and without. But should we not be doing that with an accurate outlook on what is and what is not within our control as expressions of the same Whole? We have a commonality as human beings and that is our own plainness and also brilliance. What we do not share because we do not have it is the service of the universe, it does not serve us. We are a part of it similarly to how a carbon atom is a part of you or an anemone is a part of the reef. It’s a harmonious symbiotic relationship that just is. We serve the universe in its motion and in our actions in each moment that shape the course of destiny.

“For my ally is the Force, and a powerful ally it is. Life creates it, makes it grow. Its energy surrounds us and binds us. Luminous beings are we, not this crude matter.” – Yoda, The Empire Strikes Back

We exist in harmony with all things and love what fate brings us. Try as we might to wrestle destiny into a headlock, to make the energies of the universe both of light and dark serve, we exist at the pleasure of providence not the other way around.

Take heart in it, don’t fear it.

Amor fati.

Z3N0

Writer’s Block

Recently, those who come to my blog will have noticed my writer’s block. Every day I sit down and look over a blank word processor unable to get my thoughts to find themselves on the page. I’m not sure why, it’s not that I’ve been without content. Several times a day I find myself falling back on stoicism and the philosophy of various places from Ancient Greece to Leeds.

There’s a dizziness to the modern work week. We get home at 5pm to find ourselves in a burnout with our minds racing with all the things from the day, each thing more meaningless than the last. The minutiae will be the death of this world, and perhaps the next global conflict will arise from a misspelled email.

So I asked myself today as I sat at work in the break room, shoving Mini Cheddars into my mouth in a mad rush, is it all worth it? When we get up in the morning, is this our purpose? As individuals in our workplaces we should ask ourselves whether or not this is our purpose, should we not? I know someone who was a plumber for years but decided to change and become a full time teaching assistant. Of course this caused some stir with a comment about this being the reason why we have skilled labour shortages. But frankly, fuck those comments because if we are destined to live the life the misanthrope would have us lead for their own convenience rather than our truest callings then we are doomed to their misery.

When you wake up, are you doing so with the view that you will act with your truest purpose? In my eyes, mine has been and always will be to write yet that’s not exactly a viable vocation in this climate, especially not one where my taxes are about to shoot through the roof to 47%. A strike down from the aforementioned misanthropic or just reality? When facing reality then, how can we live to our truest purpose and our utmost happiness under the restraints and expectations of others?

The answer is we can’t. We can’t function within the confines of another’s biases and impressions functionally and properly without our own integrity and individuality eroding. It’s the balance we strike between collective responsibility and individual expressions and freedoms that erode when we allow them to erode or more likely, are in a position where they do overtime. Of course, it’s like weather erosion: even the most stalwart of cliff faces cannot stat entirely pristine against a constant tide and acid rain.

Where do we go from here?

Where do we find ourselves and the outlets for a purpose unfulfilled under the constraints of modern financial expectations?

The only place of course, is within always.

You can vote for whichever political party you like and still feel disenfranchised with the self, who has power over nation is irrelevant to your own power of the self. The people who cry: “not my President” and the like, act as this is some major revelation like the leader of collective has ever been leader of you: individual. You have the choices to live your life as you see fit, yet must expect consequence for those choices whether they be for virtue or vice of a personal nature. While we toil under the flags and purposes and expectations of our forefathers, we have control over the thing they will never have: this moment.

What we chose to do with this moment, acting as our nature instructs and in harmony with our highest and greatest good, defines not just the self but the destiny itself.

So, while I sit here and type, as my nature demands, I ask you:

What are you doing?

Z3N0

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

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

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