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

Tangible Growth

I’ve been speaking recently about growth that’s tangible and observable, or at least if not growth its clear steps in the right direction of the Path. I have to be careful, as we all do, like Seneca said to be aware that we are growing in philosophy not just age with each passing day. The air seems a little lighter with these reflections like each particle bouncing off me hits a little gentler.

A conversation I had today, is not even worth quoting was about the semantics of the word vaccine. In this conversation I was told a vaccine cannot be called a vaccine unless it totally 100% prevents you from catching a pathogen. I didn’t argue this point and was rather proud of myself for not at all reacting even by rolling my eyes for the disturbance as I was happily watching X-Files – perhaps ironically. It’s something I’ve not experienced before or rarely experience, moments where I can reflect in the in the situation and it seems to be slowed to half speed and to process each passing thought removing each impression that I impose or is imposed upon me. It was a rather cathartic experience, one of lightness and clarity. True, I was grateful for when the conversation was over and I could return to Mulder and Scully.

But it also for me, raises questions of predestination, or at least this and my recent watching of Loki. If all things are foretold by destiny with our forward motion almost a universal imperative, what other kind of growth is there if not tangible? Let’s look back over the past, our past each moment and see each thing we have learned and each misstep that had to have happened to lead us all to this moment. Today I could have entered into a bitter argument and fallen on my face, adding to the list of failures and tribulations that litter my life but I saw another path and took it. Or perhaps, there is only one path and the one I have walked in this existence led to that moment whether I wanted to or not. The past two years of social withdrawal and philosophical adventure leaving imprints on my subconscious, seeping into the waking world with every action whether aware of it or not. Like all experiences, each lasting thought or process it leaves its mark and leaves and impression of unspoken directive. It’s almost like an unwritten yet binding constitution of your own – our own – existence, tumbling over itself and winding around like a seedling to sapling to young twig to venerable oak to pulp and back again to the soil.

Lives and life, exists in a ever-growing ouroboros, the snake eating its own tail. The ancients understood this and its a concept that goes largely forgotten about.

“There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio,
Than are dreamt of in your philosophy.”
– Hamlet 

So let’s expand my minor conversation today to the macro, cosmic scale. It started, supposedly with the Big Bang and will end with the Great Heat Death of the universe where all living things slowly die and implode in on themselves leaving only the quiet that was before. Then, perhaps eons later in the distant dark, two atoms, remnants of a time gone before drift together and: clink! Big Bang 2, or 3, or 4, or 5, and so on. Existence is birth, growth and death. But there is no death really just a change of state. In the same way, there is no birth just another change of state, perhaps even then there is no growth. It’s all inhaling and exhaling of a single cosmic being destined to return to atoms like I am. So with that being said, are we not entirely privileged just in our existence to be able to recognize growth when it happens? To experience this moment and feel it around us, and see the growth from our own birth to now, is a wonderous thing.

195 Ouroboros Symbol Illustrations & Clip Art - iStock
The ouroboros

It’s a frightening thought, this meaningless in our own experience yet at the same time it’s wholly freeing as it gives us all a truer sense of purpose and duty to each other to seek truth of said experience.

Luminous beings are we, not this crude matter.” – Yoda, The Empire Strikes Back

As seers of this truth and as accepters of this eternity and wonderous cosmic harmony and certainty, what do we have to fear from anything? What do we have to fear aside from the concept itself and a biological incentive to fight against predetermined passing? What is there to fear aside from experiencing joy in the time we have and the time we can allot to ourselves to find that joy? The joy in life, in love and in fate and all that it brings us. With a duty as kin of this growth within and without, to in line with all the highest and greatest good and alignment to improve constantly what we have for each other.

It’s all growth and we will only ever know growth. We will not know of our birth or death. So keep in mind each step you take and see the impression you leave. Are you happy with what you see?

Amor fati.

Z3N0

Empathy Sponge

Something I live with and only recently came to terms with, as in acceptance (thank you, stoicism), is that I am an empath. I’m not sure what that means scientifically, the Myers-Briggs Type Index isn’t particularly helpful as I flit from INTP to INFP to INFJ depending on the test and that’s the extent of my psychological knowledge. Although, I have seen lots of crime shows and read a book on neurology but that hasn’t seemed to be of any help. The spiritual discourse, is much more accessible to me: taking on other’s energy and having to clear it off and having stowaway emotions and the like.

Example A:

I was at work and a member of the team began to share some things about their lives and started crying. Everyone had lots of things to say and I didn’t – I was busy. When the moment passed and she was okay, someone said: “Z, such a typical man, can’t deal with emotions.”

I left the room shortly after and stood in the toilet having to deep breath and fight back tears that I knew weren’t mine.

Example B:

I have a highly controlled and very closely monitored libido, primarily for stoic reasons. Power over the self is the ultimate power – the only power I have – and due to Lockdown, things have been quiet on that front. Yet I’ve recently connected with someone who I admire for being so free with their sexuality and accepting of it rather than control it or lock it down. Suffice to say, the closer we have become as friends and as connected we have become, it has had an affect on me. A testament to the connection perhaps as we’ve never met in person.

Example C:

My hobby of a night is to play Star Wars: The Old Republic and have an active role in a roleplay guild – like Dungeons and Dragons but in space. It’s almost like method acting as while not nearly to the same extent as they do for my character, things bug me ‘ooc’ or out-of-character. It shouldn’t, I know this: it’s fictional puppetry yet the personalities seem to have an effect. When the group is calm, having fun through the characters so am I. Yet when they are not, I feel myself agitated.

While the energy of most people washes past, when I make connections with individuals, it seems I catch stowaways. For a stoic, this is a challenge and perhaps entirely contradictory to the entire philosophy. Yet, I disagree. I think it’s a spiritual or psychological thing I just happen to have that I can adapt to or be drown in it. Maybe I’m alone in my experience as an empath: these emotions hit me, I don’t know what to do with them and they hang on like a heavy backpack. Sometimes, of course the burden isn’t too bad like in the case of my sexually liberated friend – not bad at all.

Yet it takes a toll on me, physically. After a day at work where I may encounter hundreds of people all with their own energies, emotions and ailments, I am mentally drained to a point where I struggle to keep my eyes open. Some days at work, I may not even do anything physically demanding, spending most of it sitting, yet I feel like I’ve ran a marathon.

I deal with it because I have to. I manage it and protect myself through meditation to empty my mind and aura. I choose my friends more carefully based on the baggage I end up having to carry which is not an indictment of them at all. Perhaps it is sometimes. A person who is deeply angry at the world with no intention of changing just from the energy that they present is worth avoiding where possible. In another sense, it’s been helpful when I can understand another person better and do what I can for them in my capacity acting in a virtuous way. Of course I can get the wrong vibes. Sometimes they cross wires with my own feelings and others’ feelings but navigating that is part of the process of not just an empath but a stoic – even just as a human being.

Meditation is the key to being a healthy, functional empath. There was a time where I would absorb all the energies around me and become so tired and dismissive of everyone that I just told them to fuck off because I’d rather be alone. It makes things more intense, this ability that I’m still only the cusp of empowering. It makes every relationship feel richer and intimacy the more intimate. Yet the price is then, disappointment or a betrayal of the self when this becomes or is unhealthy. As a child I was always called sensitive yet I never appreciated it for two reasons. For one Batman was my icon and secondly, it felt untrue. I was being sold a simplistic lie that never sat well. I am a stoic but I’m also an empath; a rocky road to be sure, but my only road.

So, I put it out there, fellow empaths: how have you managed? I’d love to hear from you; let’s help each other. Or not, of course, if you don’t want to. As individuals and as rational beings: we got this.

Z3N0