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

The Emotional Battlefield

I was told recently that I’m a black and white individual, that I have a harsh and blunt demeanour. I didn’t notice my own sharpness until today. I was in a situation where someone became upset and I froze a little, confused on what to do. I just stood there and sighed; my internal monologue saying: “well fuck, what do I do now” instead of actually helping. The situation was resolved without me with a hug and kindness as I stood there a little like a spare part, my face with the expression of someone trying to solve some impossible equation.

What does this mean for me? Is it something for me to work on or something to accept within myself? Emotions make me uncomfortable in these situations yet for some reason, in others I can absorb myself fully into them, feel each facet and dissect them, exposing the root cause to begin to heal. I find myself saying often that I’m a tad psychic for this exact reason and my strange ability to know things and be able to advise the right thing in the right moment. Yet sometimes, I’m blinded.

It’s almost as if the fortress within is fussier than the one needed without. I am a fortress, my walls are made of tungsten and the palisades are as sharp as diamonds. Yet, I keep the drawbridge down for visitors, I need to both professionally, spiritually and socially. When I can be detached from a situation and not slap bang in the middle of it, I can casually dish out advice and good will like it’s Christmas yet when I’m there, in the thick of it, the drawbridge comes up. Plans are made, archers are readied and the vanguard forces are prepared to march and by the time all this is done, the event is over. The problem is now out of my hands. Fate has taken the wheel in the form of another person or condition uncontrolled.

This seems to extend to my life entire yet as my faith in myself and the Universe expands and my understanding of faith expands with it, it seems less and less of an issue to resolve. There is an acceptance of my own processing and my own judgement. As if I accept my weaknesses and allow things to resolve as they can when they are outside of my control. What other option do I have? Of course, I could force myself into these situations, throw myself into the deep end of the emotions of another to save the day yet is self sacrifice helpful? Do the tears I cry for another make the problem in the moment any easier? The resolution as I see it is to accept my talents and flaws in this: I am a long range actor not spearman in the war for emotion. A strategist is not a warrior and that’s okay.

Yet, as any sage should be, it pays to be prepared for when the gates fall in and the war comes home. Fortify your mind, accept the fates and the transience of your own chemical receptors to conditions. Face it all: love, hate, despair and joy with a critical eye. You will see through to the root causes of all of these things: why you feel this way and how you can remain from being overwhelmed. Of course if you find yourself overwhelmed, there’s no shame in it. That too will be as fleeting as everything else. It fades with time like a scar.

It’s about again, finding the balance within. To be able to be okay with that balance, even. It’s not an apathetic feeling just a contented one. Like you have everything you need and you have total acceptance of that. It’s a warm feeling that even in the face of your own weakness you are accepting the ebb and flow of the universe around you. Love it – amor fati.

This war at your gates for your emotional response, for your soul: it will last for as long as you do. Every human in history has battled the emotions from without, the true test is to not fight those within. See them, feel them, accept them and let them vanish as you roll your eyes at exactly what you don’t need. What do you need? Ask yourself. What do you need to feel in this moment and what makes it worth your time? Is it contentment, admiration, love, peace? Or is it something that keeps you up at night?

Z3N0

Schrodinger’s Douchebag

Urban Dictionary defines this term as:

“One who makes douchebag statements, particularly sexist, racist or otherwise bigoted ones, then decides whether they were “just joking” or dead serious based on whether other people in the group approve or not.
“Oh man women should just stay in the kitchen, it’s the only place they’re useful”
with one group “Haha just kidding, that’s sexist”
with anther “lol amirite”
“You’re a total schrodinger’s douchebag you know that right?””
– theoriginalspike October 23, 2013

Today I found myself in conflict with one such individual and it was remarkable to see it in action from another perspective outside of my teenage self. Of course as an adult it was a massive pain to deal with and entirely unnecessary. We encounter these professional gas lighters everywhere: in our workplace, in our local town centres, in the media, and in our homes. Are we surprised by this?

In a world of unaccountability and limited self-awareness, can we truly be surprised by this kind of behaviour? It’s not limited to individuals either. Entire corporations and governments get up to this sort of thing all the time. This ironic little paradox seeps into every layer of our society out of a refusal to face the music of immoral and unvirtuous behaviour. One such example who sticks out in my mind is Daniel Handler, also known as Lemony Snicket who’s so-called sense of humour has masked a number of rather exposing social faux pas. Another example: Kathy Griffin, who’s depiction of Donald Trump’s severed head was dialled back as a joke not a strange poor taste act of political activism.

In my experience today, I was faced with an individual who made a comment about a friend of mine. When challenged on this, it of course meant that I was the snowflake and couldn’t take the joke – something I have come to expect from this person after getting to know them over the course of the last five months. Admittedly, I lost my zen.

Of course, now, I’m the idiot who got angry on the internet over ones and zeroes by a perfect stranger. While my anger was well intentioned in trying to uphold my own integrity and stand up for a person who I trust as I trust myself, I feel a failure. I, in the moments following it could be accused of being a Schrodinger’s Choleric. I said to the others who were a part of this that I was fine and entirely at peace with the situation and that my tone was not intended to come across as angry. Of course: a lie. Here I am now, alone with myself, unable to justify my own feelings of rage towards someone who means very little to me. I’m also trying to justify how my rage affects the person who means a lot to me. What am I doing for them now aside from being distant and cold in my brooding?

“Anyway, where is the harm or surprise in the ignorant behaving as the ignorant do? Think about it. Should you not rather blame yourself, for not anticipating that this man would make this error? Your reason gave you the same resource to reckon his mistake likely from this man; yet you forget and are now surprised that he went wrong.” – Meditations 9.42.3

In reflecting on my own blame for this situation which has led to a number of awkward social snafus and potential further dramas, I see myself repeating in actions I thought I left behind. I see myself almost enjoying the drama of it all; I see myself indulging the ability to put someone down with words over some slight. It feels dirty and it feels like I need to have a bath to wash off my own stink. Yet, should I be surprised of my own nature to indulge in having a barbed tongue? Or would it be better to accept my flaws and see them for what they are which is a part of me and reflect on the application?

“Constantly test your mental impressions – each one individually, if you can: investigate the cause, identify the emotion, apply the analysis of logic.” – Meditations 8.13

This feeling I have now is shame. A shame for losing my temper and rather than teaching or tolerating kindly, I took a strange pleasure in the moment to be cruel. In defending others, I exposed my own darkness; something I thought fading like the night sky at dawn as I grow closer to my balance. Yet perhaps it was the desire to protect a person I care about that unbalanced me. I need to reflect and do better of course, yet if being unbalanced in the moments where we stand for those we love, then I think it’s entirely forgivable. A lesson to be learned in attachment, expectation of the ignorant and the expectations of the self.

In the end, the situation is resolved and while the offender is dealt with and my friends are secure in themselves and alignment, I feel alone. It’s a loneliness of my own making and I accept it.

Z3N0

On Love and Vemod

I’ve realized that in my past few writings and beyond that I’ve been rather critical of love and the feelings associated with the comfort in another. Like Marcus Aurelius focused on death, Seneca on civilisation, it seems my repeating topic seems to be love. Not that I’m comparing myself to those two, it just seems rather funny to me. A voice in my head says it’s pathetic but a louder chorus tells that voice to shut the fuck up and embrace the flow of my own journey and its inspiration.

Today, that happens to be a friend, a friend who I love and a friend who Seneca would describe as a friend, being a person who I can share everything with. I’m also finding myself attracted romantically to this friend but that’s neither here nor there and not relevant to our friendship, in my mind at least because it’s a minor detail; a fraction of a Whole, and I like clear sign posting for these kinds of things. This friend, explained to me the concept of vemod. It’s a Swedish term for a very specific feeling of nostalgic sadness, a feeling of loss of a thing that can never be replaced. My friend explains that they have this feeling, like a passive passenger. In a sense, so do I – ever since I confessed my feelings thanks to the stoic in me saying that an omission of truth is just a lie with a different flavour. For them, it’s more tangible of a partner in life rather than my own bashfulness and self-conciousness.

Perhaps we all feel a sense of vemod constantly throughout our lives without realizing the word for it. It’s similar perhaps to how so many people discover a diagnosis later on in life that explains away a million different circumstances with a single phrase. Reflecting on my past, the phrase in my life to explain away all the nostalgic sadness is my own name, my own mistakes, my own responsibility. If I pause, I think of all the hurt and heartbreak and destruction I caused in my own arrogance and feel a deep sadness for times before, not when I was doing these things but before I did them. A lost time of a cleaner soul, gone forever and irreplaceable within this existence.

I can’t reflect on my friend’s feeling, yet I can understand the circumstance. This friend who sees death regularly in a professional capacity and has seen it in the past in a personal way, perhaps may feel the erosion of the soul for this tender sadness. Would my own philosophy stand up in the face of that? Could I truly say amor fati in the presence of that overwhelming vemod?

In all truth, I don’t know and I don’t know what to say to my friend. I have nothing but admiration and love for them, a deep respect for the strength of character they possess. Even without claiming the stoic path, they remain stoic. I can’t say anything that won’t sound patronising in some way or reductive of their experience. To say a Jedi epithet that nothing is ever really gone, no one is ever really dead, is that a cure for vemod or an agitator? Well, you say, clearly something is gone as it’s not present. Was it not me who only days ago spoke about a void of the self? An undefined vemod?

I’m prone to cynicism but tonight I’m not feeling cynical I’m feeling hopeful.

I’m feeling that love can conquer vemod. A love of self, life, death, others, and fate itself. Loving death is not so bleak as you might think. Loving death is a beautiful thing, a thing of acceptance and kindness. A person fights for life, but if they lose, there is no shame. The body is a vehicle and the soul is the driver and one day for all of us, the car will break down and we have to get out.

Journey’s end, new ones begin, the highway never sleeps.

I love my friend. I embrace all of them and accept all of them, all of their being.

I love myself. I embrace all of me and accept all of me, all of my being.

I love Nature. I embrace nature and accept all of nature, all apart of the Whole.

How will you know? You will feel a fullness in your heart, both atriums filled and pumping warmth. Feel your chest now, place your hand there and breath in the air. Love it and yourself.

I love it, I love you – why wouldn’t I?

Fuck vemod, it’s an anchor to slow your voyage across the ocean of time and space.

“Joy varies from person to person. My joy is if I keep my directing mind pure, denying no human being or human circumstance, but looking on all things with kindly eyes, giving welcome or use to each as it deserves.” – Meditations 8.43

Z3N0

Emotional Self Harm

I am a habitual emotional self-harmer in the sense that I have some strange addiction to unrequited affection. It’s always been the way, from my time at school to university to now. You try to fill the gaping void with all sorts of distractions and pleasures but ultimately the chasm still remains. It’s self flagellation of the soul, and you think I’d learn before letting desires, crushes and stronger feelings consume me and leave me a melancholic grump until I find the next hit of dopamine, serotonin and oxytocin. It’s a vice I can’t seem to let go of, deep rooted like Japanese knot weed that suffocates and ruins a perfectly balanced garden.

It’s made me very good at ruining friendships much like the song “Jenny” by the Studio Killers (great song, I’ll link the Spotify at the end). Yet all of my actual relationships have formed with people in the nether zone of having feelings for another. I thought I’d learned but apparently not. It’s becoming a thing I’ve got to live with like my height or ginger bits in my hair. Can being a completely hopeless romantic be cured? I always thought I was the Creed Bratton of The Office US, living my life with my own little adventures but some days it’s like I’m shamefully Michael Scott.

Today, I’m fairly certain I killed a friendship that’s become very important to me because of the icky feeling. I’m going to have to live with that. Feeling like a twat on a Naked Attraction or Take Me Out making a fool of myself once again and taking for granted meaningful friendship, overcome with a strange pull to make things complicated within my own mind. This friend apologised to me. It’s like saying: “oh I’m sorry because it’s my fault that you are sat there smashing your face on a brick for no reason.”

Times like this, I feel like I’m a bad stoic, not even a stoic – the rational mind lost to ether. I have this feeling in my chest and numbness on my tongue. I don’t know what it means but it’s more familiar now than it’s ever been the countless times before I’ve felt it.

I have a feeling that destiny is telling me repeatedly that now is not the right time for feelings. Or that destiny is telling me that there is never going to be a time for these feelings.

“Look at causation stripped bare of its covers; look at the ulterior reference of any action. Consider, what is pain? What is pleasure? What is death? What is fame? Who is not himself the cause of his own unrest? Reflect on how no one is hampered by any other; and that all is as thinking makes it so.” – Meditations 12.8

It’s a vice, isn’t it? A pleasure seeking of the mind and heart, constantly in conflict as the yin and yang. In these moments, the desire unbalances and shakes the foundations of the still lake, disturbing the delicate ecosystem within. To be a stoic is to accept being alone. This has roots in my own outsider syndrome meaning that I prefer close one-to-one relationships rather than large groups. Yet it’s a double edged sword and I need to learn to accept. I need to accept the need to control and regulate this facet, this flaw of my own human condition; be contented to live without. Rocks don’t need someone’s hand to hold.

“Another saying of his [Epictetus]. “We must discover an art of assent, and in the whole field of our impulses take care to ensure that each impulse is conditional, has a social purpose, and is proportionate to the value of its goal. We must keep absolutely clear of personal motivation, and at the same time show no disclination to anything outside of our immediate control.” – Meditations 11.37

Infatuation with anyone or anything is an emotional self harm, is my conclusion. Passion is a hop, skip and jump from obsession. Desires should be directed to virtuous goals not cloying needs for companionship; imposed ideas and ideals on another human being that they neither can or want to live up to. In reflection I know, it sounds very nice guy but I disagree with that as to say that it’s a duty of acceptance. Being alone in the self, not spiritual connection to the universe, is a reality like death. To reject being alone, to fear being alone in the romantic sense is like fearing the night, rejecting the sky.

I look out my window and see stars. Would they be anymore beautiful if were to admire them while holding hands with someone? No – they don’t care, they twinkle all the same.

Z3N0