Progress Everyday

I was watching a Ryan Holiday video and he spoke about the point of stoicism not to be immediate change but the choice to improve oneself everyday in line with the stoic path. Which to me, is very similar to an exercise of the mind and soul as the gym is for the body. As the athlete trains the muscles and the physical nature of the self with routines and diet, the philosopher does so in a similar way with discussion, reflection and knowledge.

There is no ignorance, there is knowledge.

It’s a choice, as I was saying not long ago. It’s an active choice to move on from one’s own vices to live a virtuous life in harmony with the greatest good of not just the self but all of humanity rather than fester in the status quo. It’s the difference between being actively passive and actively cowardly, hiding from the truth of consequences of thought and action. Ideologies that feed into our vices serve only to enable our behaviors that are destructive. So you have the power with your tongue to break someone’s spirit, but the true power is perhaps in holding it in the first place.

Brains are designed to keep us safe, locked in paradigms of familiarity rather than healthier alternatives. Say we were brought up on turkey twizzlers and microwave mac ‘n’ cheese, the change to broccoli and sashimi is not going to be particularly enjoyable. Yet, it’s better for us and others in the long run. Let’s continue the metaphor: not only are we healthier in ourselves but also it eases the expected pressure on medical facilities and family members who will watch us fester in this lifestyle of consumption.

It goes the same with philosophy and ideology of course, the more harmful things we consume and accept about ourselves the more unhealthy we become. I’ve quoted this particular scene before, but following the conversation I just had less than an hour ago, it’s in my mind again:

BoJack Horseman : “Ow, crap. I hate this. Running is terrible, everything is the worst.

[Lying down, panting heavily]

BoJack Horseman : “Oh my God, oh my God.

Jogger : [stands over BoJack] “It gets easier.

BoJack Horseman : “Huh?

Jogger : “Everyday, it gets a little easier.

BoJack Horseman : “Yeah?

Jogger : “But you gotta do it everyday, that’s the hard part. But it does get easier.” – BoJack Horseman, “Out to Sea”

So when we wake up in the morning and scowl at the sun for waking us or the unfulfilling shit job we have to go to, does this make us any less a stoic or a virtuous person? Or does it make us human on the path to make progress everyday to do as our nature has intended us to do in harmony with our surroundings and self?

I like to think it’s the latter. What can I say? I’m an optimist – yes, I surprise myself.


Back To Work

So I decided to come back to work, not in the typical sense but in perhaps the only that matters: the work of philosophy on here. I’d taken a bit of a break, the summer and trips keeping me away from the internet or away from tangible insight.

I took myself to Leeds on a city break and indulged at two fantastic restaurants, Livin’ Italy and Little Tokyo (the address of both found in the postscript). The atmosphere of both places was fantastic, both rustic and true to their cultures and entirely authentic in cuisine. Yet it was not the lobster at Livin’ Italy that I will remember forever, nor the yaki udon of Little Tokyo but instead the words of a man on a street.

His name was Oliver and he stopped me to talk to me about Jesus. He spoke to me about first of all himself and how that he came to the very real realization that material things mean nothing in the end as we are all born the same way and die the same. He spoke about giving it all up to follow his heart and follow the fire of life, a fire you could clearly see in his eyes and cheeks. I was glued to the spot as he spoke, something telling me that I should listen.

“Have faith, be a believer but don’t be religious.”

It reminded me of the words of the Tao Te Ching and the scripture that says that the sage is both of the world and not. He invited me to his church, to experience what he called an “alive” experience as opposed to a “dead” one of human rites and traditions with no real meaning past the impressions of time and culture.

“We are all running in circles. We smoke, we drink, we go on to the next sexual partner after another to fill a void within ourselves. But we are all looking for the same thing,” he says, as he points to the grey sky of the early evening.

While the perspective was entirely Abrahamic, it seemed to light a fire in this man and seemed to leave a lasting impression on me and the wisdom of his words ring true in the most fundamental way. My own words were less convincing to a friend on the interconnectedness of the universe and that we are all expressions of the same life. Yet Oliver, with his hours in the main high street of Leeds sharing his fire and light with those who spoke to him in a world of sceptics, was something entirely inspiring to me. His words were not of hate or damnation or hellfire but instead of peace and harmony and finding serenity. The cynic inside me asks whether or not that was the next topic of conversation as he did allude to dark forces – a topic for another day – yet in that moment, it seemed like where we stood in the bustling city that there was a unique peace.

He gave me his phone number, perhaps he gave it to many people, but suggested that if I ever feel the need to talk for advice on finding my connection to the divine and my own spirit, to call him. One day I might but the most likely thing is that I won’t. Yet those 11 digits on the back of a flyer is are on the shelf next to Epictetus, Aurelius and Seneca just in case.



As promised, my recommendations of places to eat in Leeds

As someone with allergies, both places were extremely accommodating as a bonus.

What You Wish For

There is a lot of stuff out there about manifesting and attracting energies. The concept of speaking your intention into the universe and receiving has never really settled with me until today.

At work, I bought myself a cinnamon donut and a banana milkshake. I didn’t check the ingredients of either product and being allergic to nuts, this was stupid. I got back to work from the café and said to a co-worker: “I hope this has nuts in so I can have a birthday at home tomorrow“. Of course, I didn’t really mean it, I was making a joke; I’ve been negotiating for another colleague to make me a banoffee pie for the occasion and I’d rather not miss it. Not fifteen minutes after I said the words, I nearly threw up on someone after a misplacing my trust in a burp.

I was on the fence before about manifesting and the power of intention but this seemed to tip me over. Maybe it was karma for being so smug about it and a reminder from my fleshy vehicle and Universe to not be so glib. While co-workers panicked around me looking for my epi-pen I was quite relaxed and amused by the situation. I used to say that if the devil himself appeared before me, that I would not be scared but in fact relieved as if there is a devil, there is a God and there is a plan bringing certainty to uncertainty. For a strict atheist, someone may call me a fantasist as it’s coincidence. Yet, I’ve never been a believer in coincidence as all things have cause and all things have consequence so surely coincidence is a product of the Whole and thus pre-prepared.

So what do we do in the face of a daunting existence of such a fast acting karmic force? Simply: endure and adapt. Either it exists and we should speak our truths plainly and with good intent or it doesn’t and we should speak our truths plainly with good intent.

“Either a stew, an intricate web, and dispersal into atoms: or unity, order, and providence. Now if the former, why do I even wish to spend my time in a world compounded at random and in like confusion? Why have any concern other than somehow, some time, to become ‘earth unto earth’? And why actually am I troubled? Dispersal will come to me, whatever I do. But if the latter is true, I revere it, I stand firm, I take courage in that which directs all.” – Meditations 6.10

Your directed energy and what you put into the universe is what the universe gives back to you. Every YouTube reiki healer and tarot reader will tell you the same thing. Of course, that often comes with the caveat that they want you to buy their merch to dispel any bad energy…

“Nature gives all and takes back. To her the man educated into humility says: ‘Give what you will; take back what you will.’ And he says this in no spirit of defiance, but simply as her loyal subject.” – Meditations 10.14

Either a collection of random parts forming a greater mechanism and we are all connected in our ways, or we are designed as such and we are all connected in our ways. It doesn’t matter. What matters is, the flow is constant and reactive. Whether it be a harsh word to another that comes back around to you or a miscalculated cinnamon donut.

You get what you wish for whether you like it or not. As I’ve said before, to quote the philosopher Jagger: “you can’t always get what you want.”

It’s becoming a bit of a running theme or a cosmic joke. Maybe it’s all a cosmic joke. Whatever it is, all that I know is true: despite being possible deadly, cinnamon donuts are the shit.