Willful Ignorance of the Soul

I was in conversation today – or perhaps it was yesterday, time seems to be moving at such a strange pace that I’ve not been able to keep up in my own mind – where someone told me that the topic of religious education and talk of philosophical concepts was a waste of time. Why, I asked was it a waste of time and the response was as follows:

“Well I don’t believe in it and it’s all weird.” – X

“What you’ve just said there is exactly why this sort of thing is needed.” – Z

It makes me wonder, whether or not this kind of willful ignorance of not only the culture and beliefs of others but in fact the self is indicative of a wider pandemic of ignorance. Let’s think about it for a moment. This cynicism or rather rejection of exploration of even the most basic of philosophical thought is perhaps a dangerous indictment of the kind of society we are all contributing to. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not just faithful in universe but also the principles of science that frame it. Take Prof. Massimo Pugliucci, one of the most famous modern stoics is an atheist and scientist, showing for me that there is room in the grand church of stoic philosophy for a wide range of thought.

It was in the aforementioned conversation that animism was the subject of discussion at the time, being the ancient beliefs of the Aboriginal peoples. The lack of willingness to learn and receptiveness to new ideas was oddly disturbing to me and I felt a irrational flush of panic for the future. Yet, I stopped myself, what could this snippet tell me about the human condition other than in that moment the content of the discussion was dry for that particular age group and those present were not the most receptive to ideas at the best of times whether they be of a philosophical nature or not.

Despite this good catch by the stoic voice, there is still some thought to be put into this. Has it become such a stigmatised thing in the West to have faith whether it be communal or personal? Between the extremists and the charlatans perhaps it’s not had the greatest press recently, to have a faith of some sorts that is. I keep in my mind what the stranger in Leeds told me nearly a month ago:

“Don’t be religious, be faithful.”

Or could it be that I am being too harsh on the uninitiated to this kind of reflection. It’s such a personal journey, who am I to judge anyone’s reaction or response to this kind of information. For some it comes so natural for others it’s alien. I suppose a diet of Cartoon Network isn’t so much conducive to philosophical thought as Bible studies which definitely aren’t for everyone – in fact may be too much for some who seem to take books of love and compassion such as the Bible and Quran and find hatred, which in my opinion says more about the reader than the text. Strange then, I had the same education of Justice League and The Batman yet still find myself here questioning here where things changed.

Perhaps it is my own wilful ignorance of expectation of others and my expectation of others which is causing a moral panic within my own soul about the fate of humankind. A kind of strange hubris of philosophy and I need to learnt to keep in mind, rather than postulate and diagnose the world with apathy to keep in mind a core forgotten tenet of stoicism:

“Teach or tolerate.”

Perhaps, in the end, we all should.

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

On Being Filial

Filial, is the act of being a good child to ones parents and Confucius talks a lot about this in his writings. He speaks about being the ‘good son’ and respecting the wishes of the parent and holding their honour in high regard even if they act without. It’s seemingly the root of the reverence of blood in our philosophies that spread westward. While there is nothing wrong with respecting ones elders and holding high esteem for our own family, we also have a standard duty of care irrespective of differing bonds.

“A youngster should be filial to his parents when he is at home and respectful to his elders when he is away from home.” – Analects 1.6

Not particularly controversial, of course, we should have respect for everyone. In my opinion, it is the elderly who can teach us the most about the world but that is not to say that we should also stick stubbornly to outmoded and harmful tradition out of respect and resistance to evolution.

“The Master said, ‘When your father is alive, observe what he would like to do. After your father is dead, reflect on what he has done. If for three years you refrained from altering your father’s ways, you can be called filial [xiao].'” – Analects 1.11

This is where I disagree with Confucius with this level of predisposition to fixate on things that in the stoic philosophy is ultimately meaningless and transient. To be a good child to a parent we must follow every whim no matter how harmful? Sure, observe but in no means act upon things that would be harmful not just to our own virtue but also that of humanity as a whole – with each person representative any harmful act committed is just so to the person committing it. I agree with reflection, how could I not? Yet remaining unmoving in action and evolution of idea and process for three years is a dilution of the self for purposes of some semblance of title and honour. What is honour but that of virtue?

It makes me think about this, because of course, I am a geek:

Final wishes, are as adaptable as the perceiver of them like any lesson or message making such statements of being filial, ultimately entirely open to perceptions of the observer rather than actor. So what makes a good child? Blind following of ideals that are not fit for purpose in a universe of transience and flux, or adaptability and one’s own virtue within the teachings of one’s parents? Of course, no matter the relationships we have with our parents, positive or negative or non-existent, we learn lessons from them. Not just from the impressions in the DNA, but also in the philosophical and spiritual.

Being filial does not mean we mourn for three years and break our backs to please and seek approval from the present or non-present figures in our lives. It means we live true lives as virtuous beings for the common good. Pride is in that, not within ourselves – we do as we do -, but from those who brought us into this world whether we realize it or not. And, in those cases where the parental figure is adversarial and a figure of vice and malice, surely then our own virtue is a testament to the stoic epithet that to overcome our enemy we will not be like them. The say apples don’t fall far from trees but this is horseshit. Apples fall where they fall, the tree has little to do with the universal forces that we all obey. Once the apple has fallen, it is no longer to the tree to dictate its course.

“I do my own duty: the other things do not distract me. They are either inanimate or irrational, or have lost the road are and are ignorant of the true way.” – Meditations 6.22

Z3N0

The Difference A Day Makes

If you need more evidence about the transience and flux of time, see how much can change in a single 24 hour period. From the micro to macro, we have examples throughout history of how single moments in minute corners of our experience can change the course of fate. Of course, by changing the course of fate, I mean to divert it for a brief instance in the history of the multiverse, before it returns to it’s new equilibrium on a path of fine.

Take the current UK COVID-19 response, for example. Lockdown lifting seems imminent one day and hopes of holiday dashed by the next. One day the Conservatives seem set for an electoral landslide in the next GE only for Dominic Cummings to appear with enough bombs dropped to level Whitehall.

One of my favourite comic books, The Killing Joke talks about this from the perspective of The Joker.

DC Comic, Warner Bros.

It’s entirely nihilistic and on brand for the supervillain but is he wrong to define how changeable the world is, our reality is? A single experience can change our entire outlook on life for the better or worse, dependant on how deeply we allow it to affect us. For that, I refer to Stilbo:

“…when his home town was captured and he emerged from the general conflagration, his children lost, his wife lost, alone and none the less happy man, and questioned by Demetrius. Asked by this man, known, from the destruction dealt out to towns, as Demetrius the City Sacker, whether he had lost anything, he replied, ‘I have all my valuables with me.’ There was an active and courageous man – victorious over the very victory of the enemy! ‘I have lost,’ he said ‘nothing.’ He made Demetrius wonder whether he had won a victory at all.” – Letters from a Stoic IX

While the film of The Killing Joke was an insult to the source material, I can’t deny the raw talent of Mark Hamill and Kevin Conroy all the same… I digress.

The Joker isn’t wrong but his nihilism is terribly destructive and selfish – realistically, what can we expect from a comic book villain? In a sense, it’s so meaningless and transient that it is maddening but its also brilliant. So brilliant in fact that we should not be surprised by anything at all nor upset by it. One day we sleep under a roof the next day open sky, yet we endure and overcome. We do this together, for the sake of each other not just ourselves.

The Way flows ever onwards never stopping, as our blood and our breath, even in death: we return to the blood and breath of the universe.

Each day when we wake up, take stock. See all the things you have and all the things you need. Take stock of what you are grateful for having because in seconds it may all fade with you or without you. From your friendships and relationships to the sheets you sleep in.

Amor fati and you will love whatever it brings, whatever the day.

I suppose, despite how sad it all seems, how lonely it is in the moment of these things happening, we learn quickly. I’m not above feeling sad and alone and despairing but I’m also someone who can find the root causes of these things. Fate, and love and all that comes with it are surmised by a metaphor my friend told me today.

“If you have a horse at your stables, that you love taking care of and it enjoys your company. You do activities together and everything’s perfect. Then a storm strikes, the horse is not being itself, it’s afraid and stressed. As the owner, you wish to calm it down and let it know that all is well. You tug at its reins, but it does not comply. It shoves away instead, so you naturally tug at it harder to make it come back to you. It’ll eventually relent and do as you wish but then it’s no longer genuine. It’ll look for chances to escape and be free again while you as the owner forces it back, it’ll be unhappy and so will you since things are no longer the same.” – X

Don’t tug on the reins and let this happen organically. Or rather as Bukowski said about fame and success: don’t try. You’ve got this more than you realize, fellow traveller; trust me and trust yourself.

Z3N0

Being The Outsider

I’ve recently picked up a new game to play with friends, Conan Exiles it’s called and effectively it’s Minecraft with an emphasis on gratuitous violence and slaughter. You may have heard of it, it’s the game that allows you to fine tune your character’s endowment – I know, I’m a learned and sophisticated man (!). Yet this feeling hit me, a feeling so familiar when I spend time with others. It’s the feeling of being the outsider and not quite fitting in as the rest; being the spare part left on the shelf, only used for the sake of using it; the idiot little brother of the team of equals like the glorified side kick. I became frustrated at the game and frustrated at myself for feeling that way, with an unshakeable feeling of inadequacy and rejection.

It’s my personal nemesis: insecurity. It’s the cause of mistrust between me and my friends because I don’t trust them and in turn they don’t trust me. I’ve spoken before to no end about the need for trust and how vital it is to be a member of the Whole and wider human city yet I’ve not been able to take my own advice for one reason or another. I’m much better at giving advice than accepting, even if it’s my own. It’s an alienation of the self and in turn of others who feel hurt by the questioning of loyalty and little tests and fishing expeditions. It’s not perhaps as destructive as it once was in my life where I would actively commit acts to prove things right to myself. It’s funny, I can look back now and see it and recognize it in so many others that I’ve seen it in since. I can’t judge them for my own sins nor any other, I suppose as in the end it’s all self harm to the soul.

I meditated on it – something I do when I can’t find clarity in the moment, and something I recommend for everyone else. I found comfort in my own disquiet, seeing myself float through the endless expanse of universe alone, an island to myself. I held out my hand, not to reject the experience of it being held but accepting that it wouldn’t be. Then I heard a voice that was not my own and felt a tugging on my physical body. It was calling to me, to remind me that I wasn’t alone and despite by attempts to sweep it away to bask in my own solitude, it was stubborn and wouldn’t leave.

Not even an hour later, I messaged my friend who watched my grow increasingly isolated in myself for something to write about since Sundays can be quite slow for a spark. They suggested this very topic. That from my own perspective that I was a spare part but I was appreciated and was missed when I quit for the day. It made me smile, for a stoic I quit in a rage but then as a stoic reflected on the why and Universe provided me my friend’s insight. I’m grateful to them and fate, and I’m grateful to fate for the friendship.

Sometimes, we are outsiders in life. As stoics, as philosophers in our own right even people who simple wish to experience meta cognition, we separate ourselves to see the bigger picture. We need to to be able to observe the truth of things within ourselves and others and form a healthy and natural poise. Yet, something I need to manage is to not allow that separation to alienate me from the people I care about the most, my fellow human beings beyond that and my environment beyond that, et cetera.

Fellow outsiders, something to take notice of:

Batman can’t exist without his friends. Not without: Alfred, the first Robin, the second Robin, the third Robin, the fourth Robin, Catwoman, Oracle, Batgirl, Spoiler, Nightwing, Batwoman, Batwing, The Signal, Lucius Fox, James Gordon, even the Justice League.

And that’s Batman.

“‘I shall show you,’ said Hecato, ‘a love philtre compounded without drug or herb or witch’s spell. It is this: if you wish to be loved, love.” – Letters from a Stoic IX

Z3N0

Unexpected Wisdom

I was rounding off Seneca’s 9th Letter when he verbalised what I’ve always thought about the impact of meaningful literature and media on us and the wisdom therein.

“Think how many poets say things that philosophers have said – or ought to have said! Not mention the tragedians of our native Roman drama (which has a serious element in it as well and stands half way between comedy and tragedy), think of the quantity of brilliant lines to be found lying about in farces alone!” – Letters form a Stoic IX

So, I thought I’d share some of my favourite lines from the farces that live on as tangible wisdom to live by. Of course, I’ve gone on about the Jedi Code to no end as a Taoist call to arms so I shall spare that here.

  • “Some people live more in 20 years than others do in 80. It’s not the time that matters. It’s the person.” – The Tenth Doctor, Doctor Who 

  • “Chance, Grace. Chance is everything. Whether you’re born or not. Whether you live or die. Whether you’re good or bad. It’s all arbitrary.” – Two-Face, Batman: The Animated Series

  • “Just when we think we figured things out, the universe throws us a curve ball. So, we have to improvise. We find happiness in unexpected places. We find ourselves back to the things that matter the most. The universe is funny that way. Sometimes it just has a way of making sure we   wind up exactly where we belong.” – Meredith Grey, Grey’s Anatomy

  • “We all make choices, but in the end our choices make us.” – Andrew Ryan, Bioshock

  • “It’s what you taught me. Do the right thing. That’s all that matters.” – Batman, Batman: Arkham Knight

  • “Every day we change the world, but to change it the world in a way that means anything, that takes more time than people have.” – Elliott Alderson, Mr Robot

  • “Human progress isn’t measured by industry. It’s measured by the value you place on a life. An unimportant life. A life without privilege. The boy who died on the river, that boy’s value is your value. That’s what defines an age. That’s what defines a species.” – The Twelfth Doctor, Doctor Who

  • “Destiny? What would a boy know of destiny? If a fish lives its whole life in this river, does he know the river’s destiny? No! Only that it runs on and on out of his control. He may follow where it flows, but he cannot see the end. He cannot imagine the ocean.” – Jeong Jeong, Avatar: The Last Airbender

  • “It is the small things, everyday deeds of ordinary folk that keeps the Darkness at bay. Simple acts of love and kindness.” – Gandalf, The Hobbit

So wherever you may find it, don’t think to shun wisdom because some great philosopher wasn’t the one who said it. Wisdom is all around you. I suggest, start your searching in the mirror.

Z3N0

Best We Can

If it’s not clear already: you can’t control Providence.

Things are as they will be without us becoming frustrated at our own powerlessness against the force of destiny. Sure, destiny can’t build a wall or take the bins out, only we can do that but further than our own actions, it’s all intangible. If it is in your power as an individual to change the world for the better, to be that change you desire take action, do it now. Yet we don’t all have that power do we? We make our own little ripples behind the best we can, nothing more and nothing more can be expected of us.

In my job, my contract is coming to an end and I have to reapply with a formal interview. I’ve been asked on several occasions if I’m worried. The answer is no because I have confidence in myself and have taken all the actions I can to ensure I’ll be successful. Not to brag, but I’m good at my job. Yet, if they choose to end my contract I’ll be good knowing that I did what I could and gave my best to the company and people. They’ll be no hard feelings because they’re my own feelings and why the hell would I allow myself to feel shitty about doing my best? Why should you?

I have a friend, who I’ve mentioned previously who I have romantic feelings for. Does what they feel towards me change my perception of them or cause hard feelings? No of course not. If they tell me they want to keep things friendly or that another is a better match, so what? I’ve been the best friend I can for them, for myself and others around us. Does it matter that others have expressed romantic interest in this person? No of course not. I’m still going to be me and love my friend no matter what. Did I do what I could to express my interest? Yes. Will things come to fruition? Who knows, who the fuck cares. In the past I’ve been quick to ruin things, quick to take rejection personally. But even if they are personal, are the criticisms of my behaviour not correct? If they are or were, I like to think I’ve changed. In college I was infatuated with a girl, in fact I think I loved her but it never happened. She described herself at a later time as the ‘villain’ of my story. Evidently: a drama student. Yet she was wrong, I was the villain to my own story and my behaviour was my own problem. But we learn don’t we? Grow and go.

We do the best we can.

It’s our duty as human beings to each other and for each other and for ourselves. I say this quite often at work when dealing with interpersonal conflict.

“She’s been saying horrible things about me behind my back, things that aren’t true.” – X

“Are you a good person? Do you believe it, I mean? Are you a good person and do you do all you can to be A good person?” – Z

“Yes.” – X

“So what does hot air matter?” – Z

So I ask you the same thing, reader. Are you a good person, in your heart of hearts? Have you grown into a person you can be proud of?

Do the best you can, and you will be secure in yourself. You may never be rich, may never be in love, may never be famous but what does that matter? Being universally good – virtuous – is a good life. Or at least, in the words of Batman himself:

“A good life … good enough.” – Frank Miller, The Dark Knight Returns.

Ultimately, if you’re not going to listen to your own rational mind or me, you’ll listen to Batman. I would, he’s scary and seems like he’s got a few issues.

Z3N0

Stoic Advice For Pain

I am experiencing pain at the moment, physical that is. For the second time, I have a lump in the roof of my mouth that will need another biopsy and some home-kit blood tests required some serious stabbing with planchets. Laughable I know, I can deal with it. In this time of pandemic, I am grateful just for what I have. Yet a true application of stoicism took place today. While this is not so notable, it’s worth mentioning: while I was building myself up to jab my finger tips with this needle there was a moment of hesitation. The dreaded what if. I said to myself, like a stoic: “You are fearing pain rather than experiencing pain. Pain is inevitable, get on with it.

While you can call me chicken-shit for even needing to build up the nerve to do something that diabetics do on a daily basis – that would be fair – it’s a minor example of stoicism in action. It doesn’t need to be this grand monologue about ethics on biblical proportions. It’s the little things everyday that keep us moving along the path properly and with dignity. I am not harmed by feeling pain, in reality, neither are you. It’s a sensation of the body to tell you that the vehicle has been damaged in some way.

“Whenever you suffer pain, heave ready to hand the thought that pain is not a moral evil and does not harm your governing intelligence: pain can do no damage either to its rational or to its social nature. In most cases of pain you should be helped too by the saying of Epicurus: ‘Pain is neither unendurable nor unending, as long as you remember its limits and do not exaggerate it in your imagination.’ Remember too that many things we find disagreeable are the unrecognized analogues of pain – drowsiness, for example, oppressive heat, loss of appetite. So when you find yourself complaining of any of these, say to yourself, ‘You are giving in to pain.’Meditations 7.64

I’ll refer to Batman comics here. In the stories, Batman is often under attack and his Batmobile is damaged and it gives him an alert – our analogue for pain in this analogy. Sure, he’s often disgruntled but he works around this, he adapts and still manages to get on with what he needs to do. This, in this case, is often beating seven shades of shit out of someone with a mental illness.

Back to the real world, this lump in the roof of my mouth: either normal mucosa or perhaps a salivary or glandular issue, or perhaps a tumour. It hurts but so what? I’m not worried about the what if’s of it, and with a bit of Bonjela its soothed enough for me to not notice it for hours. I have taken steps to call my GP to arrange a consultation because that would be self-destructive laziness not to. It’s like knowing you have a sort of flat tire on your car and ignoring it – or Batmobile to carry on the analogy.

Fearing pain is like fearing change, fearing change is like fearing breath entering and leaving the body. Yet in those moments where we allow our unnational thoughts to obscure the truth we falter. Allow yourself to have these moments, it’s only natural, but also allow yourself to access the rational mind. Let these moments be just that: moments. Not long drawn out panics nor worries that lay heavier than the sensation of the planchet itself.

“If you remove the judgement of anything that seems painful, you yourself stand quite immune to pain. ‘What self?’ Reason. ‘But I am not just reason.’ Granted. So let your reason cause itself no pain, and if some other part of you is in trouble, it can form it’s own judgement for itself.” Meditations 8.40

There’s a phenomena I experienced as a child that many other may also have experienced. I was clumsy and fell over a lot and got in all sorts of scrapes. Yet there was this one occasion in Bordeaux on a camping holiday when I was in a quadbike crash. Long story short: it was on top of me. I wasn’t too bothered, I was confused more than anything, bemused even. Yet when others told me how dangerous it was and how bad it looked, I suddenly felt a wash of pain and wailed and complained. My own rational mind thought it was amusing yet something happened. Was it shock or was it one of those moments where the expectation of pain was worse? In any case I got back on and finished the fucking lap – finished last, of course.

The Buddhists hold a core belief that pain and suffering in some form or another is inescapable in the human condition. The Taoists believe that where there is pleasure, there will also be pain (at different times -unless you’re into that, no judgement here). Both are true. I get colds in the winter so naturally, it’s a dispreffered time of year yet I don’t panic when the leaves start to brown. Accept pain like you accept the days of the week transitioning into the next. Accept it and adapt whether that be in mind, body or spirit.