Christmas Cheer

This year Christmas will be different for many people, I’m sure. It’s going to be one on my own; in my lock down hacienda, the invisible weight of COVID sat on my chest. It’s a lesson – again – to be careful about what I wish for as I’ve always idealised the Hugh Grant About A Boy Christmas, watching horror movies. The film says that no man is an island, and I think there’s a lot of undue stigmas that come with being an island. In this case, we’re going to think philosophically, not literally, as I’ve gotten quite accustomed to the privilege of timely deliveries of brie slices at my bedroom door.

I’m now at Day 4 of my isolation and Day 2 of being confirmed as a plague carrier, and this is the earliest I’ve been up all week. Which is perfectly reasonable, hell, Descartes had all of his best ideas in bed, and that’s not something you’ll hear on a self help YouTube video. Even stoics would ask, is this your purpose? To be in bed? I ask, how do you know it’s not? We can get a lot done from our beds; Descartes did, so did Cassanova. So now, in bed, I am reflecting on being alone. My best company hundreds of miles away, and my family on eggshells not sure what to say – from either pro-vax or anti-vax camps.

I’m not feeling down about it, nor should anyone, but it’s understandable. I understand that I have a more extraordinary privilege than, say, an older adult entirely alone in every sense and not just experiencing a weird yet relatively comfortable alienation. It would be understandable that I would be wallowing in despair, coming out of a proto-relationship mired in miscommunication, baggage and excessive hope to add to my troubles. Understandable but not rational.

“Let nobody any more hear you blaming palace life: don’t hear yourself blaming it.” Meditations 8.9

I’ve concluded, in this odd little way, I’m happy. I am legitimately happy. Despite my body complaining and fighting itself, I have nothing in my mind and soul to complain about. Sure, the future of going back to my job doesn’t excite me all that much, but it doesn’t exist. Nothing outside of the moment we live in exists, not really. The only thing we bring to the moment is ourselves and lessons from the past, and everything I have learned has led to this realisation of happiness. Yet, I am alone. Alas, I couldn’t give a shit.

I’m too busy to care. There are too many things to read, write, watch and think about. I am enacting purpose. There is purpose in my thought, purpose in my action, each thing in its place. The worst part of this momentum was how it began: randomly like the odd collision of two atoms in an expanse of nothingness.

So I can’t be preachy; I can’t help anyone find their moment because of its randomness and nature of being such a personal beast – like Christmas cheer, I suppose. The truth is we are islands by nature if we can find the just-right moment to see how to utilise the island’s natural resources. Sovereign islands, of personal luxury solitude. Yet, not at all alone. For all the water separating the islands, there are billions of them, each unique and each that can offer and give and share, trading ideas, lessons and life.

In the end, I suppose, removing all the fluff and analogies, with happiness, as is written on Bukowski’s epitaph: “don’t try.” Failing that, there’s always a Hugh Grant movie on Netlfix.

Happy Holidays,

Z3N0

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.

Z3N0

For references of Dr Peter Joyce see my other post:

https://z3n0.com/2021/03/03/marcus-aurelius-and-an-introduction-to-criminology/