Christmas Cheer

This year Christmas will be different for many people, I’m sure. It’s going to be one on my own; in my lock down hacienda, the invisible weight of COVID sat on my chest. It’s a lesson – again – to be careful about what I wish for as I’ve always idealised the Hugh Grant About A Boy Christmas, watching horror movies. The film says that no man is an island, and I think there’s a lot of undue stigmas that come with being an island. In this case, we’re going to think philosophically, not literally, as I’ve gotten quite accustomed to the privilege of timely deliveries of brie slices at my bedroom door.

I’m now at Day 4 of my isolation and Day 2 of being confirmed as a plague carrier, and this is the earliest I’ve been up all week. Which is perfectly reasonable, hell, Descartes had all of his best ideas in bed, and that’s not something you’ll hear on a self help YouTube video. Even stoics would ask, is this your purpose? To be in bed? I ask, how do you know it’s not? We can get a lot done from our beds; Descartes did, so did Cassanova. So now, in bed, I am reflecting on being alone. My best company hundreds of miles away, and my family on eggshells not sure what to say – from either pro-vax or anti-vax camps.

I’m not feeling down about it, nor should anyone, but it’s understandable. I understand that I have a more extraordinary privilege than, say, an older adult entirely alone in every sense and not just experiencing a weird yet relatively comfortable alienation. It would be understandable that I would be wallowing in despair, coming out of a proto-relationship mired in miscommunication, baggage and excessive hope to add to my troubles. Understandable but not rational.

“Let nobody any more hear you blaming palace life: don’t hear yourself blaming it.” Meditations 8.9

I’ve concluded, in this odd little way, I’m happy. I am legitimately happy. Despite my body complaining and fighting itself, I have nothing in my mind and soul to complain about. Sure, the future of going back to my job doesn’t excite me all that much, but it doesn’t exist. Nothing outside of the moment we live in exists, not really. The only thing we bring to the moment is ourselves and lessons from the past, and everything I have learned has led to this realisation of happiness. Yet, I am alone. Alas, I couldn’t give a shit.

I’m too busy to care. There are too many things to read, write, watch and think about. I am enacting purpose. There is purpose in my thought, purpose in my action, each thing in its place. The worst part of this momentum was how it began: randomly like the odd collision of two atoms in an expanse of nothingness.

So I can’t be preachy; I can’t help anyone find their moment because of its randomness and nature of being such a personal beast – like Christmas cheer, I suppose. The truth is we are islands by nature if we can find the just-right moment to see how to utilise the island’s natural resources. Sovereign islands, of personal luxury solitude. Yet, not at all alone. For all the water separating the islands, there are billions of them, each unique and each that can offer and give and share, trading ideas, lessons and life.

In the end, I suppose, removing all the fluff and analogies, with happiness, as is written on Bukowski’s epitaph: “don’t try.” Failing that, there’s always a Hugh Grant movie on Netlfix.

Happy Holidays,

Z3N0

Being Like A Squirrel

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

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

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

“You’re going to be alone.”

“You’ve failed.”

“They hate you, you know.”

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

“Have you checked yourself for lumps?”

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

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

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

You’ve failed – you’ve not attempted.

They hate you – you haven’t asked.

And so on…

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

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

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

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

Z3N0

Adaptations

Charles Darwin once said:

“It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent. It is the one most adaptable to change.”

Actually, it wasn’t Darwin at all it was supposedly Leon C. Megginson supposedly, well does it matter? It was quite the rabbit hole I fell into just then for a simple quote to sloppily introduce my writing. Interesting, nonetheless and a testament to the blurring of time and memory and perception.

Today I found myself at a crossroads where I can chose to adapt strategies to circumstances to detach myself from them, abandoning promises and obligations not only to others but to myself. I was seen as snappy in my approach at work with these things, blunt and to the point with a no nonsense attitude while in fact, I felt myself being clear and concise. In my personal life, I have developed a new role within my little corner of cyberspace for myself, working in away better suited until I am able to re-join the community at large. These scenarios are rather vague, of course but they also slot into, for me, my experience of the past week or so as a period of change and adaption with rather rapid effect.

Within 20 minutes on Saturday afternoon, I had moved house, for example.

These things may have had an effect on my body, of course. I am exhausted and live off coffee more than ever, awaiting a biological and neurochemical adaptation of body clock to compensate. Yet, my mind, the directing source and soul is clear and flexible. Of course I will not lie, in the moment of these instances I was far from a still lake but we follow the advices:

“Withdraw into yourself. It is in the nature of the rational and directing mind to be self-content with acting rightly and the calm it thereby enjoys.” – Meditations 7.28

… And then, you will see

“A deep scowl on the face is contrary to nature, and when it becomes habitual expressiveness begins to die or is finally extinguished beyond rekindling. Try to attend this very point, that this is something against reason. In the field of moral behaviour, if even the consciousness of doing wrong is lost, what reason is there left for living?” – Meditations 7.24

It’s a fluid thing, our emotions, our responses and ultimately adaptations. If we are rigid in our experience then we will become brittle in our minds and philosophies prone to shattering. But this fluidity is not to be some uncontrolled ever thundering waterfall or busted damn holding back an overfilled lake. Think of the coral reefs and their carefully maintained ecosystems within an endless expanse of simply vastness. Not one clown fish will ever remain.

The clown fish will one day grow legs and then maybe a tail, then maybe lose that tail and so on.

I’d say, rather shamelessly that my recent experiences – or perhaps it’s always been this way with me – can be summed up with one gif:

The first gif on my blog

And, I’m not entirely unhappy to say that this gif, out of context with the rest of the film Hercules, is the sum total of my progress along the Path to date. My own emotions adapting to the philosophies and the circumstances to which they are applied. It’s tangible and real evolution and I love it.

Amor fati.

We all adapt, we all change and even in the fastest of situations and most changeable of days, we adapt all the same. After all, if we don’t adapt, what becomes of us?

Just ask the woolly mammoth.

Z3N0