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


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


The Jedi Code Part 2: Taoist Boogaloo

So I did a bit more reading after last night’s post – albeit a rather lazy glossing over details kind of post. It deserved more depth so here it is.

In The Book of Chuang Tzu, specifically “Chapter 1: Wandering Where You Will” there is a rather familiar sounding code:

The perfect man has no self;

The spiritual man has no merit;

The holy man has no fame.

Does this sound familiar to you as it does to me? The Jedi Code speaks of contradictions such as this because wouldn’t such a perfect man be deserving of a sense of self? A spiritual man worth having a sense of merit? Or the holy man, is he not worth knowing? Like the Jedi of our favourite sci-fi franchise, Chuang Tzu seems to have a belief in altruism as a point of being the foundation of the human condition rather than egoism. Of course, famously his teachings oppose Confucius’ emphasis on social structure and order perhaps being more in line with the spiritual Jedi belief of The Force and the oneness with all things. Such as the quote from Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back:

“You will know (the good from the bad) when you are calm, at peace. Passive.”

Confucius, in my view would see this a a ridiculous notion. His reverence for social structure and using ones virtue to change a culture to a more couth format requires a person to be active not passive. You cannot be an observer and an actor in the same sentence.

“I could not prove myself in office. That is why I acquired my skills.”Analects 9.7

“The Master wanted to live among the Nine Yi barbarian tribes. Someone said, ‘But they are uncouth. How could you put up with their ways?’ The Master said, ‘A gentleman has lived among them, so how could they be uncouth?'”Analects 9.14

Here we can reference Dr Peter Joyce’s words on deviance here as mentioned in my previous post which I shall link at the bottom. From a certain point of view, Confucius’ gentleman (junzi) may have been as seen as uncouth himself in his own conduct based on the reaction from the others around him in the foreign culture. Of course Taoists such as Duke Ai and Confucius while having key philosophical differences, still were on friendly terms and agreed on the aspect of virtue:

“Confucius and I are not in a relationship of the subject and nobleman, for our friendship is founded upon Virtue.”

I shall share a few lines from “Chapter 11: Leaving the World Open” from The Book of Chuang Tzu:

“So the sages contemplate Heaven but do not assist it. They are concerned to perfect their Virtue but do not allow it to encumber them. They set forth according to the Tao but do not make plans. They work with benevolence but put no reliance on it. They draw extensively upon righteousness but do not try to build it up.”

My reading of this is that the Taoist sages are passive actors who hold self-improvement as more important than the act of trying to improve others. How can we help others before we help ourselves? Even RuPaul Charles lives by this:

“If you can’t love yourself, how in the hell can you love somebody else? Can I get an amen?”

It’s not a zealous act, it’s tempered and moderate. Benevolence is worked with but no relied upon, which I believe is another thing we can live by as either stoic or hypothetical Jedi. We act benevolently but do not rely on others to do the same. Without this expectation, there’s no disappointment. It’s a balanced approach, that the Swedish may call lagom. A passive still lake is such because it exists in balance with itself: the interior ecosystem in harmony, the surface undisturbed.

There is no chaos, there is harmony.

While Taoism at is core is a far more spiritual ideology than stoicism (the spell checker amuses me here, with Taoism demanding a capital letter but stoicism doesn’t), they seem to compliment each other in the teachings. When they come together, we can see the formulation of the Jedi Code. While I’ve not begun my readings on Buddhism, I’m sure the same could be said for that too. Perhaps this was the intention of the creators of the Jedi Code back in 1987 in the Star Wars: Roleplaying Game. In any case, in my opinion, the text is a digestible standard to live by and adapted as the individual stoic sees fit. That’s what I love about stoicism: it’s not binding to one reading, it’s unique to every persons’ path. Some purists may scoff at me, going on like the Jedi Code is second only to Marcus Aurelius himself but so be it. If the philosophical Frankenstein that is Jedi teachings inspires people of all ages to look within, to see what Zeno, Epictetus or even Chuang Tzu saw, is this not a good thing? The path to enlightenment has to start somewhere and if it leads to stoicism, Taoism, Buddhism or any other form of spiritual and philosophical school, what right does anyone have to judge? After all:

There is no ignorance, there is knowledge.


For references of Dr Peter Joyce see my other post:


The Jedi Code

There is no emotion, there is peace;

There is no ignorance there is knowledge;

There is no passion, there is serenity;

There is no chaos, there is harmony;

There is no death, there is the Force.

Does that sound reasonable to a stoic? I think it does. It sounds almost Confucian in it’s nature. Of course, a classic Confucian would replace the words “The Force” with “The Rites“. Similarly, a Christian may use the term “God“, a Muslim may use the term “Allah“, a spiritualist may use the term “Universe” and so on and so on.

It’s a code of contradictions at face value as we know both peace and emotion to exist similarly to passion and serenity. While in my view there is only harmony and chaos is an illusion, a debate could be made of that too. In my view, the Code of the Jedi is quite possibly the best reflection of a aspirational philosophy in pop culture.

The Youtuber, Papito Quinn makes the point that perhaps the Code would make more sense if each line started with the prefix: when. Becoming:

When there is no emotion there is peace.

Aside from removing the comma, the meaning creates an aspirational code rather than a fixed one. On a personal level, the Code for me is something I could see myself living by. I think to an extent as a stoic (still feels fraudulent saying that) it’s like putting on a comfortable jumper. It fits well, it’s warm and fuzzy, and has a picture of Baby Yoda on the front. Of course, being a space wizard comes with other quirks but at its core, the fundamental philosophy of the Jedi code is sound and with a few lexical tweaks is a very viable avenue for a big fucking nerd stoic such as myself.

Specifically, where the Code could draw criticism is in the 3rd line. How can you live without passion? Are you, Z3N0, not passionate about philosophy? Passion is not the same as love or compassion. In my view, passion as a concept is the first step on the way to obsession. Passion is the fire in desire, it’s the uncontrolled drive behind ambition. I’m not an ambitions person but I do have direction of career and personal standards. It’s like love: there are different kinds. A hedonist would scoff at me and call me a incel (perhaps just not hedonists – HA!) but sexuality and intimacy is not the same as unhealthy passion. It’s good to see passion, sure, but you could never accuse Gordon Ramsay of a stoic disposition in the kitchen or Nicki Minaj of being serene in art.

In any case, the 2nd line is what I seem to live by, and this blog is perhaps a tribute to:

(When) There is no ignorance, there is knowledge.


P.S. Check out Papito Quinn’s channel here for more Star Wars philosophy: