Isolation Round 2: Sweaty Boogaloo

So here we are again, in the sweat box that is the back bedroom, isolating from the rest of the household following a call from work. It is the second time in two-weeks and while the first time round wasn’t at all difficult or challenging to the soul or body, now with the heat rising to Mediterranean heights, my biggest challenge is not to melt into the floor like a green-hued witch.

I once thought on taking myself to Mumbai for a cultural excursion, living in a chorl for the summer months but now I realize that might not be a good idea.

Let’s reflect then on the impact of climate change on our world, as the heat rises. Surely, it is in everyone’s best interest to be a climate change advocate? Even from the conservative stance rather than liberal. If those on the right wish to curb and dissuade immigration, surely it would make sense to endeavor to ensure that the nations south of Europe are at least habitable for humans – something that will change if climate trends do not. While the northern hemisphere begins to slowly resemble North Africa what will be left of the south?

Speaking purely form the stance of a devil’s advocate here, it confuses me to why climate change is so often seen as a partisan issue. It’s a human issue caused by humans. Sure, environmental factors contribute such as St. Helen’s, Mt. Etna and other volcanic activity that I can’t name off the top of my head. Hell, even the dinosaurs caught a shit deal. Yet in each of those cases, it was not in the control of the dominant species to change that, to ensure the survival of their race.

Every year it’s become on of my running jokes that this will be the coolest summer for the next thirty years.

True, in it’s current form, the lithium-ion battery reliance of electric vehicles will become unsustainable with lithium eventually becoming a rare commodity but, it’s also reusable unlike fossil fuels. So why do we cling to the ways of the past? Out of some nostalgia for the Industrial Era when children died up chimneys covered in soot and bird shit; when the smog of London was so thick that it caked everything it touched; or perhaps, let’s look more recently to a time when profit-hungry oil conglomerates spilled their treasure into the sea poisoning everything for miles and miles. For what reasons do we hold on to these methods? Pride? Stubbornness? A strange and deep love of petrol station coffee?

People mock Greta Thumburg, those of the older generation. They mock her and call her a puppet. A puppet for what? Those dastardly liberals with an evil goal of saving the world? Just the other day I saw and article of plans to release Aston Martin DB5’s with electric engines and modernised interiors. The old ways aren’t dying, because they were never the old ways. The ways are simply evolving.

And, as I’m facing the choice right now in my hotbox, the paths seem clear: adapt or live in abject misery, cutting of your nose to spite your face. We have a social responsibility to each other whether we like it or not. Even those who claim to be an island and entirely free of societal bonds, I simply say:

“Who made your iPhone?”

Z3N0

The Last 14 Days

For the last 10 of 14 days that I’ve been absent from writing I was in COVID isolation.

I found it entirely ironic that three days after being vaccinated (for the first jab), that I was asked to isolated for ten days due to secondary contact. Thankfully I was negative with each test yet strangely, I found the experience not entirely unpleasant. Aside from the looming threat of muscle atrophy in my legs, there was little to worry about. There was nothing for me to complain even without philosophy and little need to reflect or pause on anything that caused worry. What was there to worry about? Either I was positive or negative and in either case, I’d still be in my room watching Criminal Minds and having meals delivered at my door. There was no need to pause and quote, no need to feel anything other than apathy for the situation even perhaps gratitude to the universe for the time off.

I thought to myself, what need was there to write? What need was there to share this until it is over? So I held off and put down my books and laptop for a time to focus on the simple pleasures of just being. I made choices and found clarity in a departure from a situation that grounded me: being my roleplay guild and the people in it. One day, a minor conflict had me asking myself why I was doing this, why I was bothering and what use was the energy I put into the one-way and increasingly strained relationships. So I just let go and felt the weight lift. Of course, I felt a little guilty about leaving behind people to deal with it, leaving them to their own devices and own situations yet those things would have happened with or without me. It’s almost as if a level of optimistic nihilism about my presence in the eyes of people and things I put so much effort into left me relaxed without a reference to Aurelius.

So I cut someone off, blocked and dipped out of there, why? Why walk away?

Honestly I don’t know. Something just said that it was time. It was time to walk away and time to let a thing pass on. It’s like the quote about grapes (full disclosure, I’m without my books to refer to right now): unripe, ripe, plucked and pruned.

While one thing passes to obscurity and the nebulous mists of the past, another thing comes into being, a wish fulfilment of a connection. It’s almost as if the universe exists in a balance – who’d have thought? It’s a connection that has been brewing in the background for weeks now and as the time draws closer to what will be a rather casual meeting at a Wetherspoons, the heart chakra feels a unique pull. Here, in this situation, not my own within COVID prison, it was like Fate was testing me, and us. First, the date was cancelled as this person was placed in isolation, second was my own and thirdly was a hospital trip. It was like we were being made to wait and develop a connection. Ironically, throughout this time we streamed Too Hot To Handle. As someone who has been known for a short attention span and issues with commitment, it seemed almost a perfect examination of my own readiness for a real thing. Here we are, six weeks in and thing have seemed to aligned finally. Even my own changing living situation has brought us closer together geographically. Perhaps then, in these days off, a pause on life, is a gift from fate to reorganize and see clearly what I want, need and what I don’t want and need.

Amor fati.

Have I missed writing? No, honestly. And it’s not a negative thing to say that because in the end, a break was what I needed. It was holistic. And, in the event that I did have COVID, I would have been tested further on my resolve and readiness in philosophy.

I was reading more of Seneca’s writings recently and he spoke about testing oneself by sleeping on the floor once a month and going without. I’ve probably mentioned it before but it seems like a time without the luxuries of 2021 – even with shitty internet connection from my back bedroom -, has done it’s job as intended. Yet even then, it wasn’t much of a test.

“Lying on you back, getting fed nutrients through a tube? It’s my idea of a fucking holiday.” – Malcom Tucker, The Thick of It, Season 3, Episode 1

Z3N0

Wake Up(!)

Today, just moments ago in fact I was a witness to a conversation where I was told watch some Facebook shared videos that will explain away the Coronavirus Pandemic and explain that Donald Trump’s true purpose in his presidency was to expose the abusers of young children in the ruling powers whoever they may be. Within this video was a clip of Jason Mamoa and his own children and he was hugging them and the video posed this as some gross act of abuse on strangers.

That’s fake, clearly.” – X

No it’s not look at it in context with the rest of the video he’s doing something wrong clearly or he wouldn’t be part of this.” – Y

We live in a time where we are told to question everything about what we see and what we are being told yet some refuse to question themselves. They seem incapable of questioning their own assumptions of how things are and how they truly are.

Suppose we all wake up and see abusers everywhere we look, what does this mean for the average citizen or audience of this over-shared poorly edited video? Nothing of course, rationally, if this all powerful organization ruling everything and stealing our children in the night really were what this video claimed them to be, then they would have the power to ensure it was not spoken about in the first place. The video would never have been shared on such a regulated platform instead would have been written via typewriter and copied with an analogue press.

“It all links back to Obama! This affects all of us?” – Y

First of all, I find this fascination with Obama amazing, in fact all fascinations with the inner workings and intricacies of Democratic politicians. I half expect my next conversation with Y to be about how Alexandria Ocasia-Cortez’s shoe size is the secret code to an underground bunker to where the all-powerful are hiding Bin Laden.

What do we do with all this information when we have it? What use is it to any of us to live our lives without fear? Where do we go with this fear aside from projecting it onto others, living some misanthropic purgatory waiting for The Great Reset whatever that means.

“I just want to live a happy life and get on with it.” – Y

“Okay so do that.” – Z

“I am but no one else is: wearing masks and not opening their eyes.” – Y

It all goes back to the same primal fear of not being in control, of craving the good old days that were just days. Back before the internet before it all went wrong with Bill Gates and Tom Hanks and myriad of other public figures who are all involved somehow. Back in the days with Agent Orange, MK Ultra, the public destruction of Marilyn Monroe, Chernobyl, the Cold War, the assassination of JFK and Martin Luther King Jr, and the massacre that never happened in 1989. The good old days?

Good old days for whom?

The world changes, all things change. We must accept in our capacity that things are as they are and a symptom of Providence and a part of the natural wider Whole. If there is an imbalance, the scales will handle themselves in time. But I ask, man from the pub, “what can you do about any of it that will make a tangible difference outside of your own mind?”

Of course a highly defeatist attitude for some, who didn’t love The Lego Movie? Yet masquerading pure fear and panic as acceptance is not acceptance. It’s deception of the self. Whatever that fear may be, whether it be COVID-19, becoming obsolete, being forgotten, strangers moving in next door, failing your MOT, or even that your BBQ is ruined by rain. Dig deep because you can’t kill weeds without finding the roots.

“The universal cause is a torrent, sweeping everything in its stream. So, man, what does this mean for you? Do what nature requires at the moment. Start straight away, if that is in your power: don’t look over your shoulder to see if people will know. Don’t hope for Plato’s utopian republic, but be content with the smallest step forward, and regard even that result as no mean achievement. How worthless are these little men in the public eye who think their actions have anything to do with philosophy! They are full of snot. And who will change their views? Without a change of view what alternative is there to slavery – men groaning and going through the motions of compliance? Go on, then, talk to me now of Alexander and Philip and Demetrius of Phalerum. I shall follow them, if they saw the will of universal nature took themselves to her school. But if they simply strutted the dramatic role, no one has condemned me to imitate them. The work of philosophy is simple and modest. Do not seduce me to pompous pride.” – Meditations 9.29

So I say to you, wake up to philosophy of the universe and follow the true way. Accept wholly or you will be living a masked misery which is the same as misery and the world looks at you like a mirror. Be the change you want to see or not at all. There are no half measures in finding your balance.

“Do or do not, there is no try.” – Yoda, The Empire Strikes Back

Z3N0

Stop Fighting

Recently I’ve stopped fighting things that affect me directly. This may seem backwards but when a thing happens that is by its nature insulting or hurtful to me personally, what is that but my own judgement? It’s all hot hair against my skin, ones and zeroes on a screen eliciting chemical reactions in my brain. That’s all it is. It’s a meta cognition of melancholy to be aware of the feeling and stand in front of it to get on with things in a way that’s not destructive to the self. Self harming is probably a better word, emotional self harm that I’ve spoken about before.

Yet when it concerns others and the rights of others, my own integrity demands a response. Is that in line with what being a stoic is, or a hero complex? Or surely it is the recognition of ones own kin and to support our community to be better and a calmer, more accepting place, is the duty of care I have as a human being. It’s a discourse not a fight for the holistic heart of humanity not a demonization of who is wrong and uplifting of who is right.

For example:

“I still can’t believe people are happy to put poison into themselves for ‘Convid’.” – X

“Okay.” – Z

What was said was directed at me and my choice to take the vaccine when it is offered to me. What does it matter the opinion of someone else who can’t and won’t empathise? Who can’t and won’t try to understand that the carefully curated Facebook echo chamber is not the pinnacle of truth – even then, what truth is not perspective?

Marcus Aurelius talks a lot about teaching or tolerating and for a while I thought that in my actions I was, yet was I? Are passive aggressive put downs really tolerance or just another way of fighting? Honestly, I’m guilty of hubris when it comes to this journey but what’s the point of learning if mistakes are not made? What’s the point of having a blog about philosophy if it’s not packed full of prepositions?

Today another event caused me to think. I am an avid role player and twice has mine and another player’s characters grown close and incensed me to either write stories for these characters or more recently buy art. Then for both, this is, in my eyes, relegated, cast aside for ease putting my character in the awkward position and me as a role-player in conflict with others. What right do I have to be upset about the actions of puppetry? Literal puppetry? It’s all fictional and the actions are literally judgements imposed on blank slates, a literal metaphor in motion. Yet I felt this pang of rejection, of sadness, like the company of my character for this other player, my company was not worth their time. Why did I feel this way? I suppose it’s like actors becoming upset when they feel that their character is side-lined in a show like Grey’s Anatomy or Game of Thrones. I suppose I could stand up for the integrity of this fiction, take a moral stance and fight. No. Why fight that? Why fight for something so chemical? I think I’ve got a real friendship with the other role-player, I care about them, what purpose would it be to allow the insignificant to cloud the judgement – a judgement to be removed?

Stop fighting the actions of the others thinking they will change or make a difference because fighting gets us no where.

The Doctor: Ah. And when this war is over, when — when you have the homeland free from humans, what do you think it’s going to be like? Do you know? Have you thought about it? Have you given it any consideration? Because you’re very close to getting what you want. What’s it going to be like? Paint me a picture. Are you going to live in houses? Do you want people to go to work? What’ll be holidays? Oh! Will there be music? Do you think people will be allowed to play violins? Who will make the violins? Well? Oh, You don’t actually know, do you? Because, just like every other tantruming child in history, Bonnie, you don’t actually know what you want. So, let me ask you a question about this brave new world of yours. When you’ve killed all the bad guys, and it’s all perfect and just and fair, when you have finally got it exactly the way you want it, what are you going to do with the people like you? The troublemakers. How are you going to protect your glorious revolution from the next one?

Bonnie: We’ll win.

Doctor: Oh, will you? Well maybe — maybe you will win. But nobody wins for long. The wheel just keepts turning. So, come on. Break the cycle.

Bonnie: Then why are you still talking?

The Doctor: Because I’m trying to get you to see. And I’m almost there.

Bonnie: Do you know what I see, Doctor? A box. A box with everything I need. A 50% chance.

Kate: For us, too.

[The Doctor sighs.]

The Doctor: And we’re off! Fingers on buzzers! Are you feeling lucky? Are you ready to play the game? Who’s going to be quickest? Who’s going to be the luckiest?

Kate: This is not a game!

The Doctor: No, it’s not a game, sweetheart, and I mean that most sincerely.

Bonnie: Why are you doing this?

Kate: Yes, I’d like to know that too. You set this up — why?

The Doctor: Because it’s not a game, Kate. This is a scale model of war. Every war ever fought right there in front of you. Because it’s always the same. When you fire that first shot, no matter how right you feel, you have no idea who’s going to die. You don’t know who’s children are going to scream and burn. How many hearts will be broken! How many lives shattered! How much blood will spill until everybody does what they’re always going to have to do from the very beginning — sit down and talk!” – Doctor Who, Season 9, Episode 7 “The Zygon Invasion”

He’s my favourite Doctor, Peter Capaldi. Always will be. Even in the most unexpected places, in the places considered unphilosophical, we find wisdom. From the Jedi to The Doctor. Where does fighting get us? Where does it end other than where we should have started?

Z3N0

Pilgrimage

I’ve spoken before about visiting the Kaaba, the Basilica and the pagoda of Cebu in some Abrahamic-meets-Taoist adventure.

It occurs to me that I want to do this but I don’t want to go alone. Isn’t it strange? That feeling of knowing that self-sufficiency isn’t enough. Is it anxiety or is it something else? I was thinking about this today as I sat alone at lunch in the little workroom making notes in Meditations as I normally do. While I would be enriched and in awe of these places, where does my learning take me if I don’t have someone to share it with? Where does learning take any of us? Or perhaps it’s far simpler than that and this pilgrimage I want is less of a pilgrimage and more of a grand adventure inspired by some Doctor Who forgotten episode.

This need for independence and self-sufficiency that I’ve strived for all my life is all well and good yet in the face of real adventure, real enlightenment, I find myself in need of a companion.

“Pick me up and throw me where you will. Wherever I land I shall keep the good within me happy – satisfied, that is, if attitude and action follow its own constitution.”Meditations 8.45

In a way, despite this yearning, this is a solitary mission. By removing the judgement of such yearning imposed upon myself, I remove the thought and by removing the thought I remove the feeling. But there is no feeling – just a deep vacuole where something should be. I wonder how many others feel this or have felt this.

“All things are the same: familiar in experience, transient in time, sordid in substance. Everything now is as it is was in the days of those we have buried” Meditations 9.14

In the time of the Spanish Flu, I suppose there was such yearning for touch and connection. In the time of plagues past from 1346 to even further back in 165, was there such a feeling?

Or perhaps it’s more cosmic than that. The twin flame school of thought describes that all souls are made of two parts that require coming together to become balanced (how very Taoist). Perhaps this is my own souls way of telling me in feeling rather than words that both parts of me needs to go on this journey and the experience is so important to the wholeness of my being that I need to wait until both parts are joined.

Obviously, I’m not going bloody anywhere for the time being which something we all have to deal with. In the meantime, I’ll plan for lighter trips, staycations around the UK until the time is right. Of course, I won’t be able to find pizza like I would in Rome in Whitby but I suppose the fish and chips in Rome wouldn’t be quite the same either.

For now, this particular pilgrim is perfectly happy with waiting, with chicken and chips and Coronation Street.

Z3N0

Lazy Sunday

On this lazy Sunday it was suggested by my household members, X and Y, that I see about moving to a commune in Goa at some point in the next 5 years. It has everything that appeals to me: white sandy beaches, clear waters, yoga classes, good food – the works. Yet for some reason, maybe it’s because I’ve seen the DiCaprio film The Beach and enough Charles Manson documentaries to last a lifetime, it didn’t appeal to me. There’s something that seems incredibly odd about it and the whole situation falls into my own uncanny valley. Sure, it would be idyllic. I would sit about most days reading stoic works and discovering Taoism (which is another post in itself), basking in the sun like a fat bastard iguana. So what’s holding me back? Am I so attached to grim old England and it’s people that I can’t imagine being so far from it and them. Or is it fear? A cosmic horror of the unknown: what if I get there and don’t like it and there’s no turning back?

There’s a phenomena called Paris Syndrome commonly experienced by particularly Japanese tourists who visit France. With Paris being so hyped as the city of love and Western sophistication, the reality is so overwhelming to some that it can cause deep psychological trauma. They experience a number of symptoms commonly associated with schizophrenia.

Now, I’m not saying I’m fearful of such a thing, because that’s not a reasonable thing to worry about. Perhaps it’s just the Taurus in me, stubbornly clinging onto my roots and being unchangeable in the face of what could be a blissful experience. But do any of us need a blissful surrounding to have a blissful experience? Even from the foundations of stoicism, a core belief is that fulfilment can only be found from within. I could find myself in Goa, sweating my arse off, curling my back into all sorts of yoga shapes to try to be one with the commune and be entirely miserable.

Happiness is not a place.

Perhaps that’s why the COVID-19 Lockdown and the subsequent sequels haven’t seemed to bother me.

“Men seek retreats for themselves – in the country, by the sea, in the hills – and you yourself are particularly prone to this yearning. But all this is quite unphilosophic, when it is open to you, at any time you want, to retreat into yourself. No retreat offers someone more quiet and relaxation than that into his own mind…” Meditations 4.3

No matter how far you run, the finish line is always where you started.

I know this post is short, I did tell you in the title it’s a lazy Sunday…

Z3N0