The Tao: Chapter VIII

The Tao Te Ching has inspired me to realise some core truths about what matters and what does not in the spiritual sense more so than the rational philosophical. Yet perhaps that’s a bit of a fluff announcement in itself considering how the two were never mutually exclusive. There is a sense of great foundation in the 8th chapter, clearer perhaps to a layman than the other musings that have come before – some interesting things about the universe being inherently female is one but that’s another discussion in itself.

“In a home it is the site that matters; In quality of mind it is depth that matters; In an ally it is benevolence that matters; In speech it is good faith that matters; In government it is order that matters; In affairs it is ability that matters; In action it is timeliness that matters.” – Tao Te Ching, VIII

It’s rather to the point and as someone who has been criticised (or envied, depending on who you ask) for their pragmatism and bluntness, I rather appreciate its straightforwardness. It’s wholly beautiful, a code that requires few words and few interpretations to be understood.

In regards to the home, in my interpretation, the “site” refers to the foundations and environment. Homes are not houses and such, here we can say either this is in regards to a physical place or the family. Foundations of equality, balance, harmony and truth are the sticking posts of this structure, its confines filled with love stronger than concrete.

The depth of mind for me is comparable to the epithet from the Jedi friends: there is no ignorance, there is knowledge. A shallow mind is a stagnant one like a puddle. Quality is found in the growth and endless vastness; the ability to learn and expand beyond its own perceived horizons with infinite potential – a potential every human has access to if we just dare to see ourselves.

When it comes to allies, I’ve spoken about the stoic discussions of friendship before, specifically from Seneca. The same rings true here, in benevolence we find an ally and friend. That is the only motivation of a companionship: benevolence outwards and inwards, any relationship made to serve or fulfil a need other than the sake of friendship itself is fickle and flawed.

Now we come to the part that is less relevant perhaps to those not in office: government. I suppose it’s true though to an extent, anyone who watched the scenes coming out of Washington DC on January 6th would agree that chaos breeds chaos. An ordered mind, an ordered government is the only way to properly govern. Sure, the separation of church and state is important to ensuring the priorities of the people but so should there be a separation of self and state, because its not a career for the individual but a vocation of the communal – a shared responsibility that’s one for the greater good of everyone not just the few or fickle.

When we speak about affairs we speak about what we chose to do in our lives. For example, in my own affairs, it would be quite dim to decide to become a maths tutor when I’m not really good at maths nor do I like doing it. Ability and affairs are what we speak about when we talk about our natures in stoicism and what is true to our individual nature and what are we doing to enable we can live according to our greatest good in alignment with the greatest good of the collective humanity.

Finally, this line reminds me of the quote of Marcus Aurelius about never acting in a way that would be cause for regret. Action, while we can be actively passive, is required and necessary. If you a believer in divine timing and Providence, no action happens outside of when it is meant to, even your own. Living every day as it is your last, without some mad panic that the terrible “live, love, laugh” wall signs would have you believe is a good start. Even perhaps today you say, not today and you stay in bed, you are choosing to take that action and that’s fair enough. But if you decide to rush out of bed to get on a plane to take yourself off into the unknown chasing love and life, no time is the wrong time.

Z3N0

Command of the Self

So I started reading The Art of War by the Chinese master tactician Sun Tzu. While the first few pages have been an enjoyable and interesting read so far, something keenly caught my attention.

“Command is

Wisdom,

Integrity,

Compassion,

Courage,

Severity.” – The Art of War, Chapter One

So far, I’ve seen that Sun Tzu’s philosophy, despite being on war, is primarily Taoist in nature (unless I’ve missed the point), something that’s highlighted by Jia Lin in the follow extract:

“An excess of wisdom can lead to rebellion; untempered compassion can cause weakness; absolute integrity can cause folly; brute courage can produce violence; excessive severity can be cruel. All five virtues must be present together in a general; each must play its role.”

For the rest of my readings, I shall be interchanging the term “general” with “sage” as the Taoist sense or “junzi” in the Confucian sense or simply “stoic“. Of course the commentary and the intended meaning applies on the surface to warfare, something those terms to do not go hand in hand with but no one ever said that Marcus Aurelius was one to shy from wars.

Here, I find the principles related directly to the self rather than blanket qualities of a military commander. For example wisdom is a necessity of life and a part of philosophical growth, and like Jia Lin says, too much can cause rebellion. In this sense, the rebellion will come from the alienation of the world around you if you retreat too far into the centre of you. Integrity is a key concept of stoicism and humanity yet a inflexible position will make your soul brittle to change – a natural part of the Whole. Compassion is a necessity for unity and wholeness yet like Seneca said, and in agreement with Jia Lin, the person who trusts everyone and opens their heart to everyone is just as vulnerable and at risk than someone who trusts no one and opens their heart to no one. Courage to do what is right and be confident in self is an essential part of becoming a fully developed person both generally and philosophically but there is a fine line easily crossed that turns courage into recklessness and confidence into arrogance. When it comes to severity, it is true we should be severe with ourselves and hold ourselves to a high standard but also temper that with understanding and empathy, similarly with others. In fact I would argue, that severity walks hand in hand with conviction and when they let go of each other, either can be flimsy or toxic.

As I progress through The Art of War I hope further my understanding of tactical applications to the self. In the 21st Century, I suppose unless you are actually on the battlefield there is little to worry about in way of command and conflict. Then again, what was it that Marcus Aurelius said?

“The art of living is more like wrestling than dancing, in that it stands ready for what comes and is not thrown by the unforeseen.” – Meditations 7.61

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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

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Hades

I wanted to talk a little about the demonization of the Greek God, Hades. It’s incredible to me that the protector of the dead has become the ultimate Hollywood villain just because of his name and relation to death. It’s so fitting that the fear of such a natural thing creates villains out of the one who watches over us as we pass into the next reality or unreality.

He’s depicted as such a violent, petty character full of schemes to overthrow Zeus and the Olympians when in actual fact, he did nothing of the sought. He stayed well clear of the squabbles and fights and in actual fact, it was Poseidon who sought to dethrone the God of Thunder. On the subject of violence, it was Apollo who skinned alive those who lost against him in music competitions, it was Hades who was called the Invisible due to his passivity. We fear his darkness why? Why do we fear the dark yet embrace the sun as if the two are inseparable forces of nature rather than integral to our existence?

Even in the case of Persephone, in some recounting of the tale, he did not kidnap her as some would say but asked Zeus for her hand as tradition in Ancient Greek custom. The following drama was in fact caused by the scorn of Demeter, his mother-in-law who demanded that her daughter return home rather than spend her days in the Underworld. Hades, to arranged with Persephone to eat a pomegranate seed, binding her to both worlds. Perhaps an unpopular retelling, far less villainous. Yet he was famous for a foul mood being always distracted by his duty and bound often to never leave his Obsidian Palace.

The demonization of Hades is tied to our fear of dark, the yin.

“The yin-yang elements or energies are constantly moving and influencing each other.
The maximum effect of one quality will be followed by the transition toward the opposing quality.
The yin-yang aspects are in dynamic equilibrium. As one aspect declines, the other increases to an equal degree.
All forces in the universe can be classified as yin or yang.

Yin characteristics: passive, negative, darkness, earth, north slope, cloudy, water, softness, female, moisture, night-time, downward seeking, slowness, consuming, cold, odd numbers, and docile aspects of things.

Yang characteristics: active, positive, brightness, heaven, south slope, sunshine, fire, hardness, male, dryness, day-time, upward seeking, restless, producing, hot, even numbers, and dominant aspects of things.”https://www.nationsonline.org/oneworld/Chinese_Customs/yin-yang.htm

We cannot exist without the balance of both strength and passivity; life or death; masculine or feminine – like all things: fluid and transient.

It’s fear that makes monsters out of our own nature and natural expressions of the universe – there is no ignorance, there is knowledge. When a thing is understood, we remove our conceptions of fear. We fear the dark of ourselves, clinging to the light and the strength we think makes us strong. Yet, it is the facing of all facets of our own existence that makes us strong – the acceptance of the Hades and Apollo within us all.

Admitting your own weakness is a strength all to itself. Expose the light to the dark and the dark to the light, bring yourself the love you deserve wholly. Only then can you see others for who they are and not what you perceive them to be through the lens of balance. You will see all things in alignment with The Tao and you will be find yourself enriched.

I said to a friend today about that sometimes, the darkness, the yin, people would rather run away than face it. Finding themselves frightened by the weakness within or rather perceived weakness. Personally, I think if you can allow yourself to cry and to experience the catharsis that’s pretty fucking brave.

We are beings of love and light, true but also of the shadow. When we demonize and fear the shadow within, we make villains of ourselves from dastardly blue-flamed haired Disney villains to rigid modern warriors shattering at the sight of their own teardrops. Bask in the light and take solace within your Obsidian Palace.

This is The Way.

Z3N0

Never Let Me Go

Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro is a novel I’ve started reading, gifted to me by my workplace’s book club. I’m 35 pages in and so far I can say with almost certainty that I’m not going to enjoy it. Now, that’s not a criticism, far from it. It’s a masterpiece and is written with such precision, I can only aspire to be able to craft such atmosphere and feeling in a reader. The feeling from the first page evoked in the reader can only be described as vemod. I’ve spoken about that before, probably horrendously misspelt as vermod not vemod. To recap: vemod is a Scandinavian word that describes a poignant and lingering sad nostalgia.

The book about loss and times gone by – so far at least – put me in a reflective mood. I left my school at 18, being there from age 11 and stuck to the same friendship group for the entirety of that period. Yet, barely five years on, I’ve lost contact with every one of them. I look back now and think why that was and how I ended up where I am now, with the friends I do have either hundreds of miles away or entirely online. What a lonely feeling it is to realize ones own singularity. All that history, all of those stories gone like, to quote the 11th Doctor, “breath on a mirror“.

I’ve seen things you people wouldn’t believe. Attack ships on fire off the shoulder of Orion. I watched C-beams glitter in the dark near the Tannhäuser Gate. All those moments will be lost in time, like… tears in rain.” – Roy Batty, Blade Runner

Even the name of the book, Never Let Me Go, is so human. It’s a clinging on to the dreams and loves of the past as they slip from our fingers into the mists of eternity. All of us, one day become a few faded lines of text on a stone tablet in a field of stone tables and bones. It’s a tearful smile of an existence, all of us existing between each tear. It’s beautiful like a Bob Ross painting and as soothing as his voice as we are lulled into a casual sleep.

The thing I always noticed about Bob Ross’ paintings was that they always felt lonely to me. Like we, as the observers of his landscapes were alone in this wonderous vista, Adams and Eves, entirely alone. Perhaps that’s the unspoken beauty of the art and the art of life. In the end, we all have to let go – of the past, of our loves, of ourselves. We cling on as long as we can but in the end, not even the wind blows forever. And when we do leave, we leave by ourselves.

“Hence a gusty wind cannot last all morning, and a sudden downpour cannot last all day. Who is it that produces these? Heaven and earth. If even heaven and earth cannot go on forever, much less can man. That is why one follows the way.” – Tao Te Ching XXVII

So now, in knowing that all things are in a state of fading into eternity, why do we forego the moment? Why do we fret about the others that we have no control over rather than living in pure contentment with the moment that we exist in? Life is a series of moments so love each one and embrace each one. With each thing, ask of yourself, am I to regret this? Am I making the best purpose of my time? From being actively passive with some meditation or a well deserved nap to climbing to the tops of Kilimanjaro for a little perspective that you cannot find in the mirror, find purpose in it all. Ask yourself what benefits you and the greater good. Ask yourself what do you cherish?

Reflect on your life perhaps and see what you should let go, despite the things protest. What are you holding on to that hurts you and pricks at your soul? Which habit? Which condition? Which person? If we can’t hold on forever to our own flesh, we can’t hold on forever for someone else. What feeling are you holding on to? What detrimental responsibility long overdue to be let go of? Remember in these cases the tale of the scorpion and the frog. The scorpion rode on the frog’s back across the river with the promise that it would not sting, alas it did. When the frog asked why kill them both as they were drowning, the scorpion asked why the frog would even ask. It was the insect’s nature to sting.

So, as I continue to read Never Let Me Go, I’m sure Kazuo Ishiguro will treat me to further bluer shades of melancholy and opportunity for reflection. I welcome it, and recommend it.

Z3N0

Are You Suffering?

I’ve had a cold for the past week or so, brought on due to working in close proximity with someone who has no concept of hand sanitizer or understanding of why smearing bogies onto desks is not exactly sanitary. Yet the issue arose for me with a single question one morning before I went to work.

“Are you suffering?” – X

“No. I’ve got a cold.” – Z

It seemed a simple answer for me because having a malady of the body is a nuisance not really suffering at all and in my own experience, suffering arises from the self, whether that be spiritual or emotional. Effectively, bodily pain, is just that. Now I’m speaking from a position of privilege, my only real experiences of pain are from anaphylaxis, asthma and burns. Perhaps my view would change with continual pain, perhaps I would be less stoic about it and my hubris would be plain for all to see. I’d like to think that my philosophy would hold true, to my way, The Way.

“Pain is an evil either to the body – so let the body give its evidence – or to the soul. But the soul can preserve its own clear sky and calm voyage by not assessing any pain as an evil. Every judgement, every impulse, desire and rejection is within the soul and nothing evil can penetrate.” – Meditations 8.28

The Buddhists believe that all life is suffering and we can escape suffering by walking the Eight Fold Path to enlightenment and subsequently Nirvana when we break this cycle. The Taoists, a philosophy I lean closer to, see it as a balance between the yin and yang and you cannot have darkness without light and vice versa. This is a far more stoic approach and one I subscribe to. If we fear the coming of suffering and coming of pain we are fearing to live, yet if we obsess about pain and suffering and see only those things, we are not living.

In the end, all suffering comes from love: either a lack of, too much, or a loss. We cannot exist without love even octopi have some concept of the chemical compounds that flush the mind and carry the soul. It’s a fact of life and I’ve spoken about this to no end that life is love and love is life. Not to be gushy or romantic only seeing the clear truth of it all. After all, in the Taoist sense, how can we be one with divinity if we do not love the manifestations of it?

Even loss. Even the most painful of experiences where we lose something that can never be replaced in our own understanding of existence. While yes, we all return to universe, you can’t hold atoms like a parent, child or friend. We carry them with us in the impressions they leave, they’re never truly gone and we carry the lessons, the love, the suffering. We are immortal in each others lives until we fade entirely. In the face of such loss to who can we turn to aside from the stoics for our comfort or the Tao for security in the balance in the face of perhaps such random chaos. But, there is no chaos there is harmony. I can’t talk like an expert on this loss, I’m sure I’ve felt it for lovers and friends and my own actions yet, one day I will be faced with this challenge to be able to say something tangible past my own shallow impressions.

“Loss is nothing more than change. Universal nature delights in change, and all that flows from nature happens for the good. Similar things have happened from time everlasting, and there will be more such to eternity. So why do you say that everything has always happened for the bad and always will, that all those gods between them have evidently never found any power to right this, so the world is condemned to the grip of perpetual misery?” – Meditations 9.35

All things are under going change. We are transient beings, as is the universe.

I have not been suffering from a cold and never will, I will and am suffering from my own impressions of love. I asked for love from the universe in my subconscious, in my desire in my action and I gave it readily. The universe provided yet there are conditions, uncontrollable conditions that everyday test my love and my soul. Or perhaps these things do not test but I allow myself to be tested by feeling this pain in my chest. I see my love and I see it for another and it’s not returned. It’s not returned in the same kind and I am left with a feeling of inadequacy, loneliness and a deep amusement. Why amusement? Because each time in my life have I properly loved another, it has ended poorly and been rather unreciprocated or poorly timed never to come to fruition. Yet, I have been loved and not loved back myself, my focus on this unrequited feeling. It’s my own conceptions and impressions that hurt me and it’s all self-harm.

Perhaps I am coming to conclusions now because I have no citalopram in my system to help regulate my internal ecosystem. Not being caffeinated doesn’t help either.

It’s love that causes us harm but also sets us free and makes us human. This pain in my chest despite how it harms me and how I let it harm me, feels me with contentment. It reminds me that I cam capable of love, it reminds me that I can and do love and I am alive. Feel alive, feel this moment, feel your pain and your joy at the same time and love it all in the experience of what it mean to be human.

Love your suffering because it makes you you and how you respond defines your impressions on the world.

I’m sat here, suffering at a situation I’ve found myself in twice before. Where I can’t decide whether or not this is going to end the same way where I allow myself to be led around like a slave to my feelings tied to another or if I’ll miss the point entirely like the latter situation. I see it with contempt yet love the experience. What else is there to do with this pain other than laugh, live – not unlike a terrible live, laugh, love sign, the bane of my life. It’s something I’m going to move pass yet this feeling has become synonymous with my nature: to be a pining philosopher in a turtleneck, sipping wine, feeling alone in others’ company. I can think of worse fates. I’m not unhappy about it, I suppose.

See your suffering. Look in the mirror and face it. If you can’t reflect on your own suffering past your physical hurt and see its root cause, then you are enabling it. You are ignorant to the directing motions of your own mind and soul and you have lost your way. Reflect and see past your eyes to what ails you and find your cure. What do you live for? Who do you live for? The answer will take you back always to the same word: love.

Z3N0

Quick Quote Post: 7

I want to take today to share two verses from the Tao Te Ching on the balance of character. A friend spoke to me last night about having relationships that are unbalanced, unequal in their respect. For as long as I’ve known this person, they have been one of the most quietly strong individuals I’ve ever known, my best friend throughout my darkest time and perhaps there may have been more had I not in my arrogance neglected them too. They feel complicit in the behaviours of others for being a passive supporter of the relationships yet I disagree with that belief. I think this present moment and this very time is when they have been able to instead reassert a balance between integrity and passiveness. Now is the time for the archers on the walls to fire back at the invaders to the kingdom, dismissing trifling perceptions and immorality before they can reach the city. Like Bukowski said about success, these kinds of revelations are like flies: let them come to you before you can swat them. Don’t try.

“To use words but rarely is to be natural. Hence a gusty wind cannot last all morning, and a sudden downpour cannot last all day. Who is it that produces these? Heaven and earth. If even heaven and earth cannot go on for ever, much less can man. That is why one follows the way! A man of the way confirms to the way; a man of virtue conforms to virtue; a man of loss conforms to loss. He who conforms to the way gladly is gladly accepted by the way; he who conforms to virtue is gladly accepted by virtue; he who conforms to loss is gladly accepted by loss. When there is not enough faith, there is a lack of good faith.” – Tao Te Ching XXIII

“He who tiptoes cannot stand; he who strides cannot walk. He who shows himself is not conspicuous; He who considers himself right is not illustrious; He who brags will have no merit; He who boasts will not endure. From the point of view of the way these are ‘excessive food and useless excrescences.’ As there are Things that detest them, he who has the way does not abide by them.” – Tao Te Ching XXIV

Find your faith in yourself, find your way, find you middle path, find your balance and you will be the happier for it. It’s a natural thing, the natural state of being to be one with your own flow, synchronised with you chi and spiritual path.

As Bukowski said: don’t try.

Z3N0

The Stoic Employee

Today I had an interview to determine whether or not I would be in continued employment or not. Before hand I was asked by several people if I was worried or if I was panicked. The answer was and is no. My body may have been full of adrenaline before the talking part but ultimately, the stoic employee is not worried. The stoic employee does their best and knows that is the only aspect of the role that they can control so worrying about what exists without that control is a waste of everyone’s time.

We are not career people, in my opinion. Ambition and pride are deceivers of ones own ability in life as well as office. Ambition is not a welcome thing in my life, yet purpose is. I said to my interviewer:

“I don’t want to be climbing the highest mountain of financial and career success if that is not my path, I want to perfect the service I can provide from the ground I’m on now” – Z

How can I do my job efficiently, with purpose and virtue if my entire mission is to climb up? Of course it’s nice to be recognized but that doesn’t affect my virtue either. Confucius speaks about this quiet effectively with the subject of office being important during his time of Ancient China.

“The Master encouraged Qidiao Kai to take office. Qiadiao replied, ‘I am not confident I am ready to take this step.’ The Master was pleased.” – Analects 5.6

“The Master said, ‘Do not worry that you have no official position. Worry about not having the qualifications to deserve a position. Do ot worry that others do not know of you. Seek to be worthy of being known.” – Analects 4.14

“Ziyou said, ‘In serving your ruler, if you reproof is unrelenting and tiresome you will end up being humiliated. If you are that way with your friends, they will drift away from you.” – Analects 4.26

While there are key differences in the stoic school compared to the practice of Confucianism, ultimately some core principals overlap with the seeking of a balanced and moral approach to life and each other. In office how can one do this without an ability to see truth within themselves. If you are not qualified for a role, do not go for it. In times of need, you will adapt like all humans. As I said to my interviewer when asked about my ability to reflect and develop my professional skill set:

“If I’m not learning, I’m dead. Growth, in my opinion is not just for the trees.” – Z

Amazing that I got the job right? My feedback however was that I have a reputation for having a black and white outlook, that when I speak and the hammer of judgement comes down that it’s final. Perhaps it was my reaction to the formality and the process that added a little strictness to my tone but it was something new that I’d never considered before. When asked on my practice and how I respond to mistakes, perhaps my response gave proof to the allegation:

“There are no mistakes. I have grown and learned lesson and adapted from the missteps so I don’t begrudge them. How can I? When faced with something where I’ve gone wrong, I can only adapt and learn from it, what else can I do?” – Z

Most likely a fair comment but, as is the right thing to do, I accept the criticism and adapt to meet it with the help and support that they can provide me.

“We all work together to the same end, some with conscious attention, others without knowing it – just as Heraclitus, I think, says that people asleep are workers in the factory of all that happen in the world.” – Meditations 6.42

Find your purpose and service and a career will form around you. Don’t go looking for a career without service or purpose or it will be a hollow and fleeting thing.

Love your purpose, love your service. Be a stoic employee which is to say not blindly shut up and put up with bad practice. It is to act with the stoic disposition of moral integrity for the self and the Whole in what you give to the world.

Of course, a decent pay is always nice, helps with the roof over my head. Yet to quote Seneca:

“… thatch makes a person just as good a roof as gold.” – Letters from a Stoic XIII

Z3N0

A Reading List

I thought I’d make another rather calm post, more directly informative – like my meditation guide. This one, as the name suggests is a personal reading list of mine that covers my own growth as a stoic, a Taoist, and a philosopher – if I can call myself that.

Marcus Aurelius, Roman, Emperor, Statue, Face, Beard
The author of Meditations for reference

So without further a-do:

  • Meditations, Marcus Aurelius
    • Rather infamously at this point, my go to starting point. Digestible and easy to pick up where you left off for passages.
  • How to be a Stoic, Prof Massimo Pigliucci
    • A modern exploration of stoicism and actually really funny.
  • Letters from a Stoic, Seneca
    • The next upcoming quote source – a collection of letters and correspondence from Seneca to his friend throughout his life.
  • Discourses and Selected Writings, Epictetus
    • Considered the ultimate handbook on stoicism and source of the wealth of information in How to be a Stoic.
  • The Analects, Confucius
    • While not stoicism, the analects lays out a rather structured view on vice and virtue from various narrators and writers noting the lessons and legacy of Confucius.
  • Tao Te Ching, Lao Tze
    • The primary text of Taoism formed by a collection of chapters and verses.
  • The Book of Chaung Tzu, Chuang Tzu
    • A contemporary of Confucius, this book is a collection of tales and accounts of the applications of The Way.

Now for books that I have no idea what I’m letting myself in for with. Hot of the presses arriving today via the brutal efficiency of Amazon:

  • The Cynic Philosophers from Diogenes to Julian
    • This book was picked up because of the story recounted within How to be a Stoic about Diogenes which has stuck with me since reading that book quite a while ago now. Diogenes was in his bucket-thing in the centre of Athens relaxing in the sunshine as he did. Alexander of Macedon, the great conqueror arrived in the city with his entourage followed by an adoring crowd to seek the wisdom of the philosopher. He said, “What can you say to your Emperor?”, or something to the effect – I can’t remember the exact quote. Diogenes replied: “Move you’re blocking the sun.”
  • Selected Works, Cicero.
    • What shelf of Greco-Roman philosophy would be complete without Cicero?

More works are to follow on this reading list, from Plato to Aristotle and the myriad of Buddhist texts will soon appear now doubt. Yet for now, this is a start and I recommend that you, like me, start here.

Quick Quote Post: 3

Tonight being Good Friday, I thought I’d share some words about rebirth and rejuvenation without my usual waffle, exposition and/or bollocks. While I have my own issues on Easter and what it represents that I’ll be another post. Tonight, I thought I’d share some words from Lao Tze not Marcus Aurelius, today. I, like Jesus, am coming out of my cave (and yes, I’m doing just fine, thank you) fresh as a daisy wearing my Taoist Sunday best not my stoic toga. In these days of modern excesses of chocolate and eggs, I like to think about the middle path, the way.

“Do that which consists in taking no action; pursue that which is not meddlesome; savour that which had no flavour. Make the small big and the few many; do good to him who has done you an injury. Lay plans for the accomplishment of the difficult before it becomes difficult; make something big by starting with it when small. Difficult things in the world must needs have their beginnings in the easy; big things must have their beginnings in the small. Therefore it is because the sage never attempts to be great that he succeeds in becoming great. One who promises rashly rarely keeps good faith; one who is in the habit of considering things easy meets with frequent difficulties. Therefore even the sage treats some things as difficult. That is why in the end no difficulties can get the better of him.” Tao Che Ching Chapter 63

“In the pursuit of learning one knows more every day; in the pursuit of the way one does less every day. One does less and less until one does nothing at all, and when one does nothing at all there is nothing that is undone. It is always through not meddling that the empire is won. Should you meddle, then you are not equal to the task of winning the empire.” – Tao Che Ching Chapter 48

You’re wondering: “Z, what the fuck has that got to do with Easter?“.

Easter is a fraud: you should be experiencing and celebrating change and rebirth everyday. You should be experiencing change through learning and evolution of the self to the higher self. Be actively passive in your evolution, like the natural world around you. The Neanderthal did not evolve to the rational, free and critical thinking creature reading these words now, overnight. Life and change and learning is a constant celebration of you and the world that spins around you.

Eat all the chocolate eggs, pilgrim, it’s always Easter. The day is always good.

Not for Jesus at the time, obviously, but that sort of ruins my point, doesn’t it?

Z3N0