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

Hello Old Friend

I suppose that it’s been a while, hasn’t it?

I suppose that’s on me, I have been distracted with trying to live the socially and emotionally invested life full of romance and optimistic visions of love and unity. Alas, at this time, it was a failure and it has faded into obscurity as if I was trying to catch fog with a net.

“It is clear to you, I know, Lucillius, that one can lead a happy life, or even one that is bearable, without the pursuit of wisdom, and that the perfection of wisdom is what makes the happy life, although even the beginnings wisdom make life bearable.”

Yet, I seemed to forget in my fumbling in the world of Love Actually the following passage that came in the next sentence:

“Yet this conviction, clear as it is, needs to be strengthened and given deeper roots through daily reflection; making noble resolutions is not as important as keeping the resolutions you have made already.” – Letters from a Stoic, XVI

In a sense, it seems that in my hastiness to apply the knowledge and wisdom that I have learnt over my years of readings and reflecting, that I have forgotten to keep going. It’s almost as if my brain – or rather just me – retired from it all at the first glimpse of hopeful domestic bliss as if I had come to the end. There I was, as George W. Bush full of strange vacant smiles waving the flag to claim that the mission was accomplished.

A pattern is forming, I think across the board in all my relationships as I have to watch myself like a hawk: I’m either entirely disinterested in the maintenance of the thing and disturbed by a glimmer of intimacy or deeper understanding, or enraptured with the whole thing.

I’m finding myself a binary being of either off’s or on’s when it comes to enjoying the company of others and following another rather disappointing ending of things, I’m leaning to the off switch. There are no mistakes, of course, we have to remember that as a point of not just stoicism but Buddhism and Taoism and even the Abrahamic faiths and I’ve spoken to no end about that before. Yet here I am, understanding and observing the familiar pattern of my own behaviour, breaking it down and analyzing each piece of it still strangely uncomfortable. Reason dictates that, as we know, there is no ignorance, there is knowledge, yet I feel ignorant all the same.

I was reading recently about Cixin Lui’s Dark Forest novel and the eponymous principle of existential cosmic horror. It states the universe is a finite dark forest with a finite amount of space and resources. Each civilisation within it is a dark hunter, moving as silently as they can to not be detected: a kind of Hunger Games if you will, of cosmic proportions. It speaks of the dread we feel in the dark, hiding from each other and ourselves, watching and waiting with a quietened breath to what will happen next or who will strike. It’s almost as if, I play this game – or perhaps we all do – with the universe, or Allah or Yahweh or God or Brahman or The Dao, on an individual level. A level of deep apprehension and tension with the cosmos: a gunslinging showdown with destiny seeing who will blink first.

Or perhaps I’m being a miserly fart who just got dumped and I’m sour at Fate and all it brings. In another sense, it’s a kindness to be given a new perspective and a new breath of inspiration to reflect and turn inwards. It’s a silent companion we all have: the ability to turn inwards and talk to ourselves intimately the way no one else is allowed to do. Solitude is a gift granted so rarely in the 21st Century that we should smile and say thank you.

Hello old friend, and thank you.

Z3N0