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

Tangible Growth

I’ve been speaking recently about growth that’s tangible and observable, or at least if not growth its clear steps in the right direction of the Path. I have to be careful, as we all do, like Seneca said to be aware that we are growing in philosophy not just age with each passing day. The air seems a little lighter with these reflections like each particle bouncing off me hits a little gentler.

A conversation I had today, is not even worth quoting was about the semantics of the word vaccine. In this conversation I was told a vaccine cannot be called a vaccine unless it totally 100% prevents you from catching a pathogen. I didn’t argue this point and was rather proud of myself for not at all reacting even by rolling my eyes for the disturbance as I was happily watching X-Files – perhaps ironically. It’s something I’ve not experienced before or rarely experience, moments where I can reflect in the in the situation and it seems to be slowed to half speed and to process each passing thought removing each impression that I impose or is imposed upon me. It was a rather cathartic experience, one of lightness and clarity. True, I was grateful for when the conversation was over and I could return to Mulder and Scully.

But it also for me, raises questions of predestination, or at least this and my recent watching of Loki. If all things are foretold by destiny with our forward motion almost a universal imperative, what other kind of growth is there if not tangible? Let’s look back over the past, our past each moment and see each thing we have learned and each misstep that had to have happened to lead us all to this moment. Today I could have entered into a bitter argument and fallen on my face, adding to the list of failures and tribulations that litter my life but I saw another path and took it. Or perhaps, there is only one path and the one I have walked in this existence led to that moment whether I wanted to or not. The past two years of social withdrawal and philosophical adventure leaving imprints on my subconscious, seeping into the waking world with every action whether aware of it or not. Like all experiences, each lasting thought or process it leaves its mark and leaves and impression of unspoken directive. It’s almost like an unwritten yet binding constitution of your own – our own – existence, tumbling over itself and winding around like a seedling to sapling to young twig to venerable oak to pulp and back again to the soil.

Lives and life, exists in a ever-growing ouroboros, the snake eating its own tail. The ancients understood this and its a concept that goes largely forgotten about.

“There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio,
Than are dreamt of in your philosophy.”
– Hamlet 

So let’s expand my minor conversation today to the macro, cosmic scale. It started, supposedly with the Big Bang and will end with the Great Heat Death of the universe where all living things slowly die and implode in on themselves leaving only the quiet that was before. Then, perhaps eons later in the distant dark, two atoms, remnants of a time gone before drift together and: clink! Big Bang 2, or 3, or 4, or 5, and so on. Existence is birth, growth and death. But there is no death really just a change of state. In the same way, there is no birth just another change of state, perhaps even then there is no growth. It’s all inhaling and exhaling of a single cosmic being destined to return to atoms like I am. So with that being said, are we not entirely privileged just in our existence to be able to recognize growth when it happens? To experience this moment and feel it around us, and see the growth from our own birth to now, is a wonderous thing.

195 Ouroboros Symbol Illustrations & Clip Art - iStock
The ouroboros

It’s a frightening thought, this meaningless in our own experience yet at the same time it’s wholly freeing as it gives us all a truer sense of purpose and duty to each other to seek truth of said experience.

Luminous beings are we, not this crude matter.” – Yoda, The Empire Strikes Back

As seers of this truth and as accepters of this eternity and wonderous cosmic harmony and certainty, what do we have to fear from anything? What do we have to fear aside from the concept itself and a biological incentive to fight against predetermined passing? What is there to fear aside from experiencing joy in the time we have and the time we can allot to ourselves to find that joy? The joy in life, in love and in fate and all that it brings us. With a duty as kin of this growth within and without, to in line with all the highest and greatest good and alignment to improve constantly what we have for each other.

It’s all growth and we will only ever know growth. We will not know of our birth or death. So keep in mind each step you take and see the impression you leave. Are you happy with what you see?

Amor fati.

Z3N0

Being Defended

It’s unusual to find myself being defended, much preferring to do it myself and with an efficiency to my own taste with a confidence in my own ability to deal with a situation in my control. Yet today, for the first time in a long time or at least for the first time in my own recollection as I sit here, I am being asked to put my faith in someone else defending me. I have to trust that they have my best interests at heart and I have to trust in the skill of their rhetoric to dismiss an individual entirely blind to his own shenanigans. It’s a test of friendship and love not just trust. In the end, the entire situation is out of my control, in fact I would have never have known about it if not for the courtesy.

It’s another test.

Another test of philosophy in the face of what I can and cannot control. I can only watch, provided courtesy of doing so, like a spectator watching a boxing match. It’s far more invasive than the casual observations like this. It’s like watching the news about the world and feeling that wish to be able to help but ultimately knowing that you can’t. Nothing can be done and you have to have faith in the universe as well as faith in the self that you will make the right choices in line with your nature and highest and greatest good for humanity.

Tonight’s topic was going to be about days and the illusion of bad days and good days. In the end, all we have are regular days that come one after the other and each day demands a little thing different for us to relinquish. Today, I am asked to relinquish my own conviction and integrity and allow an ally to hold those things in their hands. They have the power. Yet should things not go as I would prefer what would I lose? Aside from my temper – which is something that’s a constant work in progress.

“When someone does you wrong, you should consider immediately what judgement of good or evil led him to wrong you. When you see this, you will pity him, and not feel surprise or anger. You yourself either still share his view of good, or something like it, in which case you should understand and forgive: if, on the other hand, you no longer judge such things as good or evil, it will the easier for you to be patient with the unsighted.” – Meditations 7.26

I do pity the actor who I am being defended from. This person is making overtures to hide and deflect their own inadequacies and failings, something I can relate to. Yet, still I would be lying if my thoughts we not entirely dismissive of his intent good or bad, his execution so sloppy that if he were a surgeon he would have killed his patient twice over. The assassin of my name came armed with a plastic spoon. So what do I have to worry about? The faith in another is faith in the self, so surely as a person of a faith in self to do what is right here, why should I not trust my defender similarly?

It’s an unpleasant feeling, being this powerless for the most minor of things yet perhaps this is another thing to accept in itself as part of the natural endurance of what it means to be human. My own turbulent feelings wash over me about trust and who to trust and what to trust, questioning all things at all times and analysing a thing to its core. It’s a double edged sword that forces me to see a flaw in even the most perfect of diamonds and feel slighted by its existence as if my search to find that flaw wasn’t the intent in the first place. It’s a judgement for me to release, an impression of my own on another who has been perhaps as transparent as I have been in my wants and needs in the bond we share. The game of one-step-forward-two-steps-back is a game that I play with myself and tonight I have to trust, I have to face my own game and kick over the board or be locked into an emotional purgatory of pain and distaste.

As I was writing this I felt a tickle on my neck and a panic: a big furry caterpillar was crawling over me somehow attached to me undetected. I took it outside and put it in the hedgerow yet I think about what it’s telling me. I think about the metaphor in my hands of my own rebirth of perspective or rather the rebirth require of my own perspective.

Amor fati, bitch,” it says, “Evolve: trust, love, accept.”

Z3N0

The Emotional Battlefield

I was told recently that I’m a black and white individual, that I have a harsh and blunt demeanour. I didn’t notice my own sharpness until today. I was in a situation where someone became upset and I froze a little, confused on what to do. I just stood there and sighed; my internal monologue saying: “well fuck, what do I do now” instead of actually helping. The situation was resolved without me with a hug and kindness as I stood there a little like a spare part, my face with the expression of someone trying to solve some impossible equation.

What does this mean for me? Is it something for me to work on or something to accept within myself? Emotions make me uncomfortable in these situations yet for some reason, in others I can absorb myself fully into them, feel each facet and dissect them, exposing the root cause to begin to heal. I find myself saying often that I’m a tad psychic for this exact reason and my strange ability to know things and be able to advise the right thing in the right moment. Yet sometimes, I’m blinded.

It’s almost as if the fortress within is fussier than the one needed without. I am a fortress, my walls are made of tungsten and the palisades are as sharp as diamonds. Yet, I keep the drawbridge down for visitors, I need to both professionally, spiritually and socially. When I can be detached from a situation and not slap bang in the middle of it, I can casually dish out advice and good will like it’s Christmas yet when I’m there, in the thick of it, the drawbridge comes up. Plans are made, archers are readied and the vanguard forces are prepared to march and by the time all this is done, the event is over. The problem is now out of my hands. Fate has taken the wheel in the form of another person or condition uncontrolled.

This seems to extend to my life entire yet as my faith in myself and the Universe expands and my understanding of faith expands with it, it seems less and less of an issue to resolve. There is an acceptance of my own processing and my own judgement. As if I accept my weaknesses and allow things to resolve as they can when they are outside of my control. What other option do I have? Of course, I could force myself into these situations, throw myself into the deep end of the emotions of another to save the day yet is self sacrifice helpful? Do the tears I cry for another make the problem in the moment any easier? The resolution as I see it is to accept my talents and flaws in this: I am a long range actor not spearman in the war for emotion. A strategist is not a warrior and that’s okay.

Yet, as any sage should be, it pays to be prepared for when the gates fall in and the war comes home. Fortify your mind, accept the fates and the transience of your own chemical receptors to conditions. Face it all: love, hate, despair and joy with a critical eye. You will see through to the root causes of all of these things: why you feel this way and how you can remain from being overwhelmed. Of course if you find yourself overwhelmed, there’s no shame in it. That too will be as fleeting as everything else. It fades with time like a scar.

It’s about again, finding the balance within. To be able to be okay with that balance, even. It’s not an apathetic feeling just a contented one. Like you have everything you need and you have total acceptance of that. It’s a warm feeling that even in the face of your own weakness you are accepting the ebb and flow of the universe around you. Love it – amor fati.

This war at your gates for your emotional response, for your soul: it will last for as long as you do. Every human in history has battled the emotions from without, the true test is to not fight those within. See them, feel them, accept them and let them vanish as you roll your eyes at exactly what you don’t need. What do you need? Ask yourself. What do you need to feel in this moment and what makes it worth your time? Is it contentment, admiration, love, peace? Or is it something that keeps you up at night?

Z3N0

You Can’t Always Get What You Want

I don’t think I’ve spoken about this before explicitly.

Today I got a present, The Republic by Plato – a book I wanted to add to my collection like a philosophical General Grievous, but it was not of the same publishing collection so subsequently sticks out like a sore thumb on my shelf. I was asked if it was what I wanted and yes it was. Was I specific in my ask for the particular design collection? No – so there is no blame. So when asked if I liked it, I said yes because it’s what I wanted. Of course I will at some point replace it and pass on that copy to a friend but it highlighted for me a facet of stoicism that is acceptance of things that we cannot control.

Similarly, another situation that I find myself in is that my job is out of my hands in the sense that my continued employment is no longer secure. Was it ever secure? No, of course not, all things are temporary and come to an end when they do. It’s not what I want, but what is there to do about it? Scream and yell? What a waste of energy when the only person who will feel anything negative is me. The universe doesn’t care, my employer certainly won’t considering the forty or so million employable people in the UK to replace me.

I suppose in a sense, the past year has been a continual lesson for the entire western world about learning about not being able to have what you want. Going without services and luxuries that those in impoverished places would not even dream to be a given as it is in other parts of the world. Yet, like Jagger says, as we near the end of another lockdown: we got we needed. What we needed was perspective of what matters and what doesn’t. For the better for some, for the worse for others – yet even then, what is good and bad but relative constructs?

The only thing that seems to matter is the acceptance that you can’t always get what you want. Expecting otherwise would be insanity. Parents and teachers tell children that they need to get up for school even if they don’t want to, explaining that as an adult you have to do things that you don’t want to do so get used to it. Yet when at school, we are taught that the free world is our oyster to do anything we want to do. It stands to reason then that two fundamental ideologues are being taught. The first: you can’t always get what you want; the second: you can always get what you want if you try hard enough. Again, missing the crucial point from Jagger in both, tying them together in a nice harmony: if you try sometimes you get what you need. Want, more often than not, has absolutely fuck all to do with reality. To quote another philosopher slash musician: don’t be another brick in the wall. Don’t expect things to go your way – I don’t, not to say you should do what I do because I’m as flawed as any other. Yet should surprise be our reactions when they do go right and we do get what we want?

“First, do not be upset: all things follow the nature of the Whole, and in a little while you will be no one and nowhere, as is true now even for Hadrian and Augustus. Next, concentrate on the matter in hand and see it for what it is. Remind yourself of your duty to be a good man and rehearse what man’s nature demands: then do it straight and unswerving, or say what you best think right. Always, though, in kindness, integrity, and sincerity.” – Meditations 8.5

Look back over your past at what you’ve got but not wanted but needed.

For me it’s being absolutely drunk at the time of receiving a phone call about my great-grandmother’s death. I was drinking pitchers of Bloody Mary mix like they were going out of fashion in the comfort of my own university dorm room and since, I’ve avoided that kind of consumption like the plague.

Another: a serious telling off from the Head of Human Recourses at my workplace about disclosing information to colleagues. I didn’t want that but needed it as a wake up call at my own miss placed trust and my own misconceptions about what a friendship is. Since, I’ve had a much quieter, much more peaceful time at work. Such a step back actually gave me more time to read the philosophies in my breaks. I am actually, very grateful.

Maybe that’s the takeaway: be grateful for every experience. Be grateful for every heartbreak and every mistake.

The stoics have a famous saying: amor fati, which means love fate. You can’t always get what you want, but you will love it anyway. It’s part of the Whole; you can’t love the day and reject the night as they are in their nature one of the same. It’s all the same, so love it all, from your kin to your death.

Z3N0