Conflicts of Philosophical Interest

Today I was witness or rather witness to the aftermath of the following conversation:

“Y, are you a Christian?” – X

“Yes, why?” – Y

“What do you think then about gay people?” – X

“Well in my religion they are committing sin.” – Y

“Which means what?” – X

“So that means they’re going to hell.” – Y

“Does that mean you think I’m going to burn in hell?” – X

“Well, yes.” – Y

“Homophobe.” – X

In this instance, both parties claimed they were being discriminated against for reasons of sexuality and religion respectively. Neither party seemed willing to budge or discuss their philosophies past their own understanding and refused to really communicate further in the moment that I was around for. It amazed me a little, that there was no room for nuance in either camp. As someone who identifies as bisexual (or at least no straight as far as I can tell, who knows, I don’t care all that much), I would be one of these fried poor denizens of the underworld.

There was not much understanding from Y who’s opinions on such matters were finite. It wasn’t so much of a stretch of the imagination that this would be the case considering Y’s young age and black-and-white view on the world. It was almost as if they spoke in fact, without malice nor ill-intention. They only became upset and defensive when they were accused of homophobia which to me highlights a whole other topic of definition and semantics and understanding. I was more disappointed by X’s labelling without understanding or room for movement. In a community where we are one and beings of unity, I would have thought there’d be more emphasis on developing understanding between ideologies. Yet X’s opinions were as black and white at Y’s.

In the end, in any case, no matter the philosophy, the following seems largely forgotten:

“Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself” – Mathew, 22:37

In this tiny interaction where I witnessed no resolution, I witnessed the beginnings of so many conflicts throughout history. It gave stock to Marcus Aurelius’ writings on familiarity and that all things in existence are cyclical.

What sets me in a pensive mood is the lack of nuance or availability of fluidity and that being a Christian and queer are mutually exclusive, a concept I never really considered. Of course, the mainstream religious schools say this is very much the case due to the writings in Leviticus. Yet recently I read and essay on how this is in fact a fallacy of translation.

“Furthermore, Lings considers the context in which Lev. 18:22 is written. He explains that the passage “deals with various illicit relationships in the sexual realm: one marrying two sisters (18:18), intercourse with a menstruating woman (18:19), infidelity (18:20), and bestiality (18:23).”[20] Most of Leviticus 18 deals directly with incest. Notably, the list of laws from Leviticus 18 is reordered in Leviticus 20.  In Leviticus 18 the order of the topics is ambiguous, but in chapter 20 the so-called homosexual law appears within a list referring to incest.” – Anonymous Student, https://blog.smu.edu/ot8317/2016/05/11/leviticus-1822/

Perhaps it is easier to see things in black and white rather than allow for the mind to explore fluidity. It is easier after all to hate than love as it is easier to stereotype and label rather than to not. This goes for any corner of the political and spiritual spectrum. It’s easy for us to point the finger and say: “sinner,” or “bigot” than actually talk to each other as people.

I’ve quoted this before, but it’s relevant again and again, and a testament to why this particular piece of media was so influential to my own life:

Because it’s always the same. When you fire the first shot, no matter how right you feel, you have no idea who’s going to die. You don’t know whose children are going to scream and burn. How many hearts will be broken. How many lives shattered! How much blood will spill… before everybody does what they were ALWAYS going to have to do from the very beginning! SIT. DOWN. AND. TALK.” – The 12th Doctor, Doctor Who, “The Zygon Inversion”

Conflicts of philosophical interest do not exist. What does exist is a wall of pride built between perceptions hiding the common ground in a DMZ of ideas.

Tear the wall down.

Z3N0

The Little Things

I was properly angry for the first time in months last night. What was it you ask? Was it some massive injustice that caused you to lose your rag? Some Obi-wan Kenobi and Anakin Skywalker duel of wits and fates? No, of course not don’t be ridiculous: it was my friends having a Netflix watch-along group and had omitted to tell me. Incredible isn’t it? I do not feat my own death nor do I fear the loss of my home and all my treasures yet this is what upset me, this is what I allowed to upset me.

Perhaps it was the hypocrisy of it all, being told to try more with them while at the same time being excluded from an area of expertise that would have allowed me to have a good time with them – a degree in media helps with film recommendations. Or perhaps I was allowing myself to self-destruct to protect myself further from minor slights.

When we spend our time in our philosophies dismissing the big things like death and loss and pure hatred of circumstance, the little things slip through the cracks. It’s like a land slide: little droplets of water accumulate in the mountainside until one day they little droplets become force to topple the mountain. It was in Orson Welles’ War of the Worlds that the technologically superior and almost all powerful alien invaders were defeated by the common cold. Perhaps it’s hubris not to assume that nature would do as nature does if left unattended – if I left my own circumstance unattended, and if I left my own emotions to them unattended.

I reflect now, what other minor things have been bothering that I’m allowing to build up under the surface in the shifting soil? Each passive aggressive slight, each mosquito bite, each stubbed toe. What things are in my power to regain control over? Not the slights, they are actions of another; the bites can be cured by closing my window at night and some spray; the stubbed toes can be avoided by being more careful with the bathroom door late at night.

What of the tribe? What of my lack of faith in the tribe? I cannot control what they do only my perceptions of them and I perceive little mutual respect, my cup flowing over to receive dust in return. Perhaps I’ve missed the point of friendship if I expect something, anything back at all even the sanctity of trust and transparency. I cut myself from them, finding myself to be lonely in their company, now I am alone – bar one individual. They asked me why, why I could not bring myself to eject from them too. The truth is and was that they are my best friend, the one I thought and perhaps think I can be raw and honest with in the truest way possible to my own nature.

“The Doctor: You betrayed me. You betrayed my trust, you betrayed our friendship, you betrayed everything I ever stood for. You let me down!

Clara: Then why are you helping me?

The Doctor: Why? Do you think I care for you so little that betraying me would make a difference?” – “Dark Water”, Doctor Who

Perhaps in the end, we all rely on people more than we like to admit to ourselves. The contented man is happy within himself true, but when we taste that sweet fruit of truest company, nothing compares. Yet like all fruit, it turns sour. Its time comes and there is a time to accept and throw it away. There will be more fruit: unripe, ripening, ready to be harvested and savoured. We are farmers in our own way. I keep finding myself coming back to the same tree for the same fruit.

My intent now is to ensure the soils around this tree – the entire orchard – never shift and slide down the mountain again.

As a man once said: “It ain’t much but it’s honest work.”

Z3N0

Falling Forward

I’ve been in discussion with someone tonight about the nature of the mistakes we make and how we respond to our mistakes and other mistakes. Because there are no mistakes and everything happens for a reason in line with our own natural ability to endure. Destiny and choice are not words that come associated with each other yet the way we fall, the way we get up often is. This person I’m talking to described it as falling forward which I’d never thought of before.

It’s such a simple phrase and something that will come up in all facets of the stoic philosophy. When we trust in the universe, we fall forward and get back up with ease because we know that each misstep happens for a reason. Without a faith in the universe, we can even say we fall forward because of a faith in ourselves and our philosophies of constant self improvement. Even naturally, we are hardwired in our biology to be kept safe and learn from these trips to not do them again. Our bodies repair themselves, forming new skin over the old damaged parts. It’s all transient and we all move forward and we fall in the same direction, following the laws of time and space that bind us all.

“Whatever happens to you was being prepared for you from everlasting, and the mesh of causes was ever spinning from eternity both your own existence and the incidence of this particular happening.” – Meditations 10.3

Billy Joel famously sings that we didn’t start the fire and it’s true.

“Great men are forged in fire. It is the privilege of the lesser men to light the flame.” – The War Doctor, Doctor Who: The Day of The Doctor

It’s how we step from the fire is what defines us. How do we carry those burns forward? Or if we emerge, unscathed, how do we tread? Is it with an ashy coating on our feet or are we victorious like Apollo in the sun? Yet, it’s always forward and always in the singular direction never turning back. We will all meet the same end but we all fall and stand up a little differently.

I like to see myself as a person who walks with my hand held behind me for someone to hold on to and pull themselves up when they need it, without looking back to see or care who it is I’m helping. I needed the same help to stand up in my own time, from my very first stumbling as I was learning to walk to this morning when I needed help at a self-checkout. It’s all altruism that has been offered to me, it would be such arrogance to not think to return the same good will back to the humanity that shaped me.

For others, it’s different: a life of challenge and pain to overcome. They stand up again and again with bruised knees, a limp yet with a determined demeanour. Those are the people I admire and if called, my hand will be held out to them all the same without judgement. We walk in parallel and entwined with each other in this existence, all moving forward, stumbling, standing, and carrying on.

It is our nature. To expect not to fall forward is to expect to never learn. I carry a cactus on my journey – it incentivises being cautious when both falling and standing. What do you carry?

“Dig inside yourself. Inside there is a spring of goodness ready to gush at any moment, if you keep digging.” – Meditations 7.59

Whatever it is, with a smile; always with a smile. Keep finding your own goodness, each fall forward is a gift and a testament to your own strength. Be proud of yourself for each lesson learned and each vice overcome and every virtue met as you move forward, joined in the chorus of footsteps of the universe.

Z3N0

Clouded Destiny

In roleplaying games like Dungeons and Dragons and other things like that we can see clearly the trajectory of our character, if not the story itself. We can cheat and expose the mystery and see the bigger picture, finding comfort in the predictability like an episode of Columbo. In these roleplaying games, we can say that character X is going to do occupation Y because of Z reason and that’s that. Before we know it, we’ve got ourselves a grand high wizard regardless of circumstance. It’s playing god with the fates and twisting the threads to our will to see life through a clearer lense.

It’s not like that is it? In the real world, destiny is clouded; it’s a mere concept that exists always one step ahead of our own cognition and only identifiable with the gift of hindsight. All of us, are fish swimming down a ever transient stream, totally oblivious to the grander ecosystem of the planet around us. Is the fish any less of a fish for its ignorance? Does it panic in existential dread on what the future holds, on what destiny has predetermined for it? No, of course not – it keeps swimming.

Our lives are in motion and grow with us like a simulation, with new area coming into view and buffering before our very eyes. Destiny is the programming behind the simulation. As a player in the great game of life, do you seek enjoyment from the game, or the lines of code behind it? It’s the principle of The Matrix Trilogy, despite it allegories and meanings, are those who are ignorant of the truth of the reality any more or less happy or enriched as the ones who are? Yet, perhaps it’s less complex than those very good films by the Wachowski sisters, perhaps it’s simply something that we humans cannot comprehend in this material form. Case closed, discussion over: while we exist as minnows in the ocean, we could never appreciate the dry land.

It’s all fluid, this clouded destiny and constantly evolving and moving around us before returning to an apparent equilibrium of ‘okayness’. It’s not a fixed structure like we can understand or read like a very long novel, it’s…

“A big ball of wibbly wobbly, timey wimey stuff” – The Tenth Doctor, Doctor Who

When we talk about fighting destiny isn’t that such an automatically arrogant statement? Because to fight destiny implies that we can even try. If a person overcomes great adversity and defies the odds to become a good and just and virtuous icon then that implies that was their destiny. They did not overcome destiny, they were an actor within its stream, carried by its circumstance. Even on death and the passing of all things, while to the individual grief is a damning thing, to destiny, all things have been in motion and will continue to be in motion. Life is renewed, loved ones life on in another state of being whether that in memory, teaching and learning, or scientific research donation which leads to a cure for bowel disease.

“Mortal man, you have lived as a citizen of this great city. What matter if that life is five or fifty years? The laws of the city apply equally to all. So what fear is there to your dismissal from the city? This is no tyrant or corrupt judge who dismisses you, but the very same nature that brought you in. It is like the officer who engaged the comic actor dismissing him from the stage. ‘But I have not played my five acts, only three.’ ‘True, but in life three acts can be the whole play.’ Completion is determined by that being who caused your first composition and now your dissolution. You have no part in either causation. Go then in peace: the god who lets you go is at peace with you.” – Meditations 12.36

Be at peace with not knowing your destiny or where your path will take you. It started the same way mine did and will end the same way mine will. What happens in between is for you to remember and find out, yet the only certain thing not clouded by perception is the current moment that you exist in.

Stop your questioning, start your living. Love it all.

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

Stoicism and Anti-Terrorism

I did an anti-terrorism online course today and it was really quite enlightening. It spoke about terrorism attacks being the tip of the iceberg of manipulation. Of course, that’s new information but to see it visualised in such a way, opened my eyes to the power of the sense of belonging and not belonging. It’s funny because I’ve never felt that I have belonged anywhere. Imposter syndrome, they call it. It permeates all my personal relationships and professional relationships for as long as I can remember. Even within my own family, I feel like an outsider – the middle child despite being the only child.

Over time this has grown on me, this feeling of loss. It just is a thing and a seemingly unshakable void like a fixed point in time. Once it was all consuming, a ravenous black hole but now it’s trapped in a bottle, unable to grow or feed. Of course when I open a bottle or two it breaks free. I was isolated and full of weird ideas about the world as a child. I was the perfect target and yet I can remember distinctly a conversation I had where I sat on my high horse and judged Shamima Begum, the so-called ISIS Bride. The person defending her was saying things like “Have you ever made a mistake” and “have you never done something stupid”. It didn’t hit well at all. It bounced off me as the words didn’t feel right, because I was right, this wasn’t a mistake and it wasn’t a stupid one. A stupid mistake as I argued, was stubbing your toe or a locking yourself out of the house. She did not make a mistake she was manipulated and sold up the river, radicalised, made complicit and then demonized. The argue could be made that that’s the exact same situation that happened in WW2 with Nazi guards who committed atrocities in the name of someone else’s fucked up ideology.

So where do we go from here? Changing gears, a bit because there’s nothing I can say that can change the past and that argument about complicit Nazi soldiers has been waged for nearly a century – something I have no business wading into. The only thing I’ve got is that sense of not belonging. What can we take from Marcus Aurelius (yes, I’ve nearly finished the book so you can expect some variation of sources soon)? Forgiveness, learning, a belonging to the self and society, acceptance.

“If you have ever seen a severed hand or foot, or a head cut off and lying some way away from the rest of the body – analogues is what someone does to himself, as far as he can, when he will not accept his lot and severs himself from society or does some unsocial act. Suppose you have made yourself and outcast from the unity of nature – you were born a part of it, but now you have cut yourself off. Yet here lies the paradox – that it is open to you to re-join that unity. No other part has the privilege from god, to come together again once it has been separated and cut away. Just consider the grace of god’s favour to man. He has put it in man’s power not to be broken off from the Whole in the first place, and also, if he is broken off, to return and grow back again, resuming his role as a member.” – Meditations 8.34

You are not alone.

My favourite line from Doctor Who.

You may never feel like you belong but you do. Despite not feeling that I belong: I have a job; I have a supportive family; I have a core group of friends who have stuck by me. If that were to change, what is to stop me from re-joining society? If I were to be imprisoned, what is to stop me from being apart of that society, with service of others where I can. It is in our nature, our biological imperative to grow and regrow. Even in the most fundamental of ways: you are not alone in your own stardust, you are not alone floating in the endless ocean of universe like the rest of us. Let no one say who is and who isn’t belonging. It’s fabricated, it’s a fraud. By breathing, we belong. No clubhouse sticker or violent initiation act will make us belong anymore to the universe than we did before. It only makes us complicit.

Everything that happens, has happened and it will pass. No radical thought, no hatred, no rage to some loss of control because we never had it in the first place.

“He who sees the present has seen all things, both all that has come to pass from everlasting and all that will be for eternity: all things are related and the same.” – Meditations 6.37

You are not alone.

We’ve done this before. We can do it again.

That’s terror – it’s futility but also, it’s anti-terror in its certainty.

Z3N0