Identity

I was in an art class a few weeks ago discussing the topic of identity. This particular little thing took me a lot longer than everyone else it seemed and seemed to consume my thoughts at home with a need for just the right felt tip pens to finish it off. It was a breathe of fresh air after being confronted with weeks of writer’s block and a near total lack of creative and philosophical inspiration. Perhaps it’s true what my old friend from university said that I miss the visual creativity and my subconscious is crying out for a return to the media. Or perhaps it was a precursor to a conversation I had days after beginning this project with someone I care about very much. This person, following a mental break, reflects and makes art from what they were feeling at the time, finding it near impossible to verbalize feeling like a ‘snail mushroom’.

Strange how an oversized doodle is the only thing that has brought me any real creative interest over the past fortnight as the days become shorter and the nights become a little more restless each day. What then, can I learn from my own expression of identity aside from being a big nerd with a thing for sci-fi?

I ask myself this, in the stoic sense: what purpose does my action serve? Or perhaps, when it comes to writing on philosophy or creativity, what does my inaction serve? My mind moving from one little project to the next, drifting through thought processes in a fever dream of obscure fleeting ideas. I am comforted, however, as should you be, that everything in a rut has been experienced before and will continue to be experienced by the human nature. Which is almost ingrained in our identity as Star Wars references are ingrained in mine. I tell people all the time who claim to be feeling alone that they are not truly alone in what they are feeling as otherwise words would not exist for it in the first place. Obviously, feeling like a ‘mushroom snail’ is a little more niche which requires some other advice for that one but you get my point.

We drift through this existence always, as I have been drifting in my own. I think back to the advice from a friend: where is your action. I ask myself this, but then I ask, what is in my nature to act for and what does that mean for who I am? It’s something we all need to ask ourselves, isn’t it? Who we are before we act. Or perhaps alternatively, it is what we chose to act upon and how we act that defines our identity more than our innate being itself.

I was reading a few weeks ago that events and personality traits formed from events leave markers on DNA and can be passed through to offspring. So if a person is identifiably callous, the child shall have traits of callousness. It seemed a bit questionable and sparked another internal debate about condition versus nature. Going back to my own pseudo-theory that:

Biology + Condition = Person

So I look to my doodle, one that I seemed to spend so much time on when I could have been mind mapping ideas for short stories, full length novels and screenplays. I see perhaps only 2 things within it that relate to biological function rather than condition. Those being: the representation of sexual identity and the constellation of Taurus, showing my birthdate (vaguely). Or perhaps, I am being cynical of my own development, claiming to be a being entirely made of other people’s creations and influence. Perhaps the stack of books under my coffee of the philosophers and spiritual leaders are a biological factor. Perhaps human nature is instinctively driven to search for meaning, for the divine path, for the harmony with The Way and all of its manifestations. Perhaps that’s the point of this very minor exercise, to reflect on that fundamental truth that all things we experience as human beings are in our nature to experience and come together as ultimately the collective human identity as well as the identity of the individual. Each element representing a deeper complexity from the strange fascination with the unknown represented by Cthulu to the desire to explore and find purpose in the stars with the U.S.S Voyager.

Or perhaps, it’s really not that deep and doodling at work to stop me from counting the ceiling tiles over and over again is just that. Who knows, give it a try for yourself, let me know what you find. If anything to save you from counting ceiling tiles.

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

New Moon in Gemini

Today I was informed of the new moon in Gemini and what that means. It means new beginnings, new synchronicities and a fresh flow and perspective on Providence or rather destiny in motion. Almost subconsciously, I have already been reflecting on deception and clear intentions – another gift of the new moon -, becoming aware and cautious of self-deception within myself and others. While I’m sure the deception in others is not intentional or malice yet I am watching it all the same, and will help bring clarity where I can. It’s easy to spot someone else being deceived by either themselves in some way or another but much harder to turn the same spotlight inwards.

It makes sense thought. To accept you’re being deceived is to let go of something you wanted to be true. Having faith in things you want and not allowing yourself to notice the deception, even if unconsciously, makes you feel good in that moment. Seeing other peoples’ is easy because you’re not emotionally invested in the outcome. Nobody wants to admit something is too good to be true because that means being pulled out of the fantasy they’re selling you, no matter what that is, but nobody wans others hurt by someone else’s deception so we’re more in tune with it.” – X

This advice, of course, arrived right on time for the new moon and some rather draining distractions. It’s a fresh flow indeed, yet perhaps rather simply less murky waters as I, as we all, traverse down the stream of life itself. In fact so did a gift I treated myself to: a green quartz crystal to aid my quest to ensure the softness yet fortifications of my heart. It’s a reminder to be clear in our own communication and wants and needs and show our true face to the world. When we hide our goodness, the world does the same in kind. Because we all as human kin share a common humanity of some regard that transcends politics that provides an essential goodness in our being. The need for unity of the self and with others is a biological imperative that has created our society – with all its flaws still yet a work in progress – and not a Mad Max: Fury Road 2021. For those who are with a faith, we were made in the image of the creator, so surely by that fundamental concept, we are inherently good? Underneath all of the shit and self-deceiving concepts we cling to for a little comfort in a world without answers or rather a world without answers for those who are afraid to look.

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

Keep digging and you will also find truth to all the answers you seek. Most of the questions you have for yourself and your own moral and emotional turbulence can often be summed up by single words. The most common of these words: fear. Fear of so many things, things that will keep us in a grip of our own making if we refuse to seek clarity within and expose them to the light: the light of the New Moon in Gemini.

Self-deception is a disease of a destructive nature and as contagious as the common cold. When you have bene able to rid yourself of its symptoms and exist as a tranquil crystal clear lake in a tropical morning, then you will find your peace. While the waters are choppy and full of pollutants either their of your own accord or deposited by others, you will poison your own lands. Of course this analogy falls flat on its face when we confront the reality of real world pollution as lakes are not sentient and we should all be avoiding Nestlé products. Just bare with me for this, for the sake of the mental exercise and see yourself as a lake.

Perhaps be a little excited as much as your nature allows for the new cycle and the new dawn that will come to you. To quote one of my favourite pieces of music in games, specifically Dragon Age: Inquisition:

“Shadows fall
And hope has fled
Steel your heart
The dawn will come


The night is long
And the path is dark
Look to the sky
For one day soon
The dawn will come
” – Trevor Morris

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

Growing Roots

I was in a conversation today about feeling uprooted and disconnected from one’s kin and lost like driftwood. I can empathise with the feeling, finding a place to grow my roots seems to be a recurring theme. Yet is it as complex as we think it is? In the spiritual sense, it’s very easy to grow roots and ground ourselves to the Earth and the Whole.

Very simply, breathe and follow the breath until it is your only focus.

Close your eyes and close your mind to it’s own noise.

Keep your bare feet in contact with the floor beneath you and imagine roots sprouting from them and pushing down and down and down.

Reach the centre of the planet and wrap your roots around the core.

Isn’t that all we need to feel connected when the self evident truth of that we are, is not enough? We are all stardust of the same stock, after all. But it takes time to accept that and clarity to see it. Even in the genealogical sense, we can’t escape our roots as much as we try so why try? You can’t change the place of your birth after the fact so why examine the how’s and why’s of unmovable facts.

In the end, perhaps the feeling of drifting and restlessness is born from the heights to which we grow. When we scrape the sky, the earth below feels insignificant and we forget that we need it to exist. We cannot live without the dirt, that unavoidable stuff that binds us all together in nature. Can we fight our nature? No.

Roots are a part of us as they are a part of any plant on this planet. We need space to grow them out, time to do so, fertile ground and a will to do it. But that’s easier said than done isn’t it in shifting sands?

How do we find this perspective, this downward view to search for grounding? Of course, my favourite Roman emperor has the answer as usual.

“Rational beings collectively have the same relation as the various limbs of an organic unity – they were created for a single cooperative purpose. The notion of this will strike you more forcefully if you keep saying to yourself: ‘I am a limb of the composite body of rational beings.’ If though by the change of one letter from ‘l’ to ‘r’ [melos to meros], you call yourself simple a part rather than a limb, you do not yet love your fellow men from your heart: doing good does not yet delight you as an end in itself; you are still doing it as a mere duty, not yet as a kindness to yourself.” – Meditations 7.13

As limbs are a part of the body, so are trees a part of the forest; as the tendons are the roots to these limbs. What connects you to others and the world around you is not a state of mind but a constant fact for you to remind yourself of. A constant love for you to remind yourself of.

A constant fact for me to remind myself of. A constant love for me to remind myself of.

Heart in Hand

I never dissected a heart in school and my only experience with heart was when it was diced and pan fried with garlic, onion and white wine. It was a very strange experience, slicing into this lump of muscle and exposing the valves and ventricles, poke at the tendons with a spike. When watching Grey’s Anatomy the character Cristina Yang talks about the amazing feeling she gets when she holds a heart and cuts into it. She talks about the perfectness of the organ, the key to human existence and object of mystery to the great poets and romantics. I’m seven seasons in and I must have heard about the wonders of the cardiovascular system a hundred times. Yet today at 10:30am, I stared at this organ and felt something strange.

The only other time I’ve had this feeling that I can remember is when I was sitting in a religious studies class and sat passively enjoying the discussion. Something in me told me that I had to research teacher training courses, master’s degrees and all sorts of avenues because something in me said I must. It was like a switch that said: you love this. I still do love the discussion and I make a point of it everyday rather publicly.

Yet today I held a heart in my hand.

It may have been a lamb heart, a lamb with some serious post mortem clotting and some fatty build up in the aorta. Still, it felt right. Almost a cosmic wink in my direction. Here I was, holding a heart after spending years looking for heart within myself and within others and I was just casually holding one, feeling the fibres with a scientific curiosity. It felt very right, and while I did struggle at first to achieve clean cuts with the right-handed specialized scissors, I could see myself finding time to practise this skill. I can see myself badgering colleagues to do it again, to teach me to perfect it and then to sow it back up again like a child with a Fisher-Price doctor playset.

In these moments, as rare as they have been, I watch branching timelines stemming from a single moment. A single revelation. Like somewhere out there in the multiverse and across the infinite ocean of parallel-timelines, all this potential has already been made manifest. In these moments, I love life. I love the infinite possibility of it all.

It’s not just the heart though is it? It’s what it represents to us all. This heart in my hand – how many hearts have I held in my hand and been so careless before? Has it taken to this moment when it’s made manifest for me to realize the delicate nature of our hearts – not in the physical sense but emotional sense. I’ve felt mine break more times than I care to admit and I think I’ve discard and disregarded to many. No more.

So I go into the future, researching medical school in Scotland or the USA and weighing up my debts. But I also go forth with the promise to treat every heart in the chests of fellow humans with the same gentleness and understanding as I provided to the dead lamb. Was it a spiritual moment? I think it was, as I felt this strange desire from outside of me that said: you need to do more, you need to know more, you need to feel more. A friend of mine would call this divine intervention and perhaps it was something else. Perhaps it was a hint of my purpose. A nudge towards my service.

What is your service? What nudges have you felt?

Or perhaps it was nothing at all and these moments allow us to take pause and cherish what we have, what we don’t have and what we know and what we don’t know. A little active passiveness never hurt the soul, after all.

Still, I look good in a lab coat whether it be divine intervention or not.

Quick Quote Post: 4

I’ve come to the end of my reading of Meditations and in the stoic sense, I am observing with dignity the end of my journey with the Emperor and I’ll revisit often. I’ve never been able to deal with endings before but recently, I’ve been more and more accepting of them. Perhaps it’s even time to finally get round to watch the final season of Bojack Horseman.

There were somethings in the 12th Book of Meditations that seemed to stand out in my mind more so than the rest of the book. Each verse being more and more relevant to my life or the life of the 21st Century. So without further delay, something to reflect on and take into the weekend:

“When you fret at any circumstance, you have forgotten a number of things. You have forgetten that all comes about in accordance with the nature of the Whole; that any wrong done lies with the other; further, that everything which happens was always so in the past, will be the same again in the future, and is happening now across the world; that a human being has close kinship with the whole human race – not a bond of blood or seed but community of mind. And you have forgotten this too, that every man’s mind is god and has flowed from that source; that all is as thinking makes it so; that each of us lives only the present moment, and the present moment is all we lose.” – Meditations 12.26

I write this and think of a friend. A friend who is worried by family, by work, by a relationship, and by housing issues. I think of myself. I think of all those across the world and beyond into the past and future. Then I think of the now and the only thing I lose…

Z3N0

Destination Unknown

I was thinking about destiny today and the matter of free will versus predestination. It’s funny how stubbing my toe can cause some grand introspection. Perhaps it was fated? Clotho herself weaved stubbing my pinky against the bathroom door into the story of the universe to lead me to some revelation.

Fuck knows but it makes for good content.

Can we as human beings defy fate or would it be against the primary directive of the Universe whatever that maybe?

I think the answer is both complex and very simple: yes and no. While life entirely seems cyclical like a hardwired program, free will exists on the individual level. We can choose to get with the program or not knowing full well that it will run with or without us. You can choose to vote in an election or not, someone will still win. You can choose to accept a marriage proposal or not, would God blink at one less union in the kingdom? Then that raises the question, was it fated, weaved by ancient Clotho, to never be married in the first place? Each life a reflection of the grand program around it. I’ll reuse a quote from our favourite Classical emperor:

“You will see everything the same. People marrying, having children, falling ill, dying fighting, feasting, trading, farming, flattering, pushing, suspecting, plotting, praying for death of others, grumbling at their lot, falling in love, storing up wealth, longing for consulships and kingships. And now that life of theirs is gone, vanished. Pass on again to the time of Trajan. Again, everything the same. That life too is dead.”Meditations 4.32.

While the fate of all of us is ultimately returning to the earth from which we came, is what occurs in between really that important? Quite demoralising in that sense. So let’s think on a wider scale:

Worker in a factory, feels lost and on autopilot everyday making toys. Without them on that particular day, a certain toy would not be packaged and sorted into a loading truck…

A truck driver is stuck in traffic, transporting these toys. The delay causes another complication: the shipment is fulfilled and so the driver is rerouted by their boss to another store…

The store the driver delivers to is closed due to an incident in the shop floor so it is deserted and the toy stock is resupplied. The store is closed until the next morning preventing customers from buying the toy at that moment…

As soon as the store opens, a mother who is running late, goes in and sees the toy and picks it up for her son, not really looking at it but thinks he needs a treat after catching COVID (or something)…

She gifts the toy to her son, the toy happens to be the exact one he wants, it’s his new favourite and he keeps it for years, sharing it with his own son decades later…

Another:

I sleep funny last night so when my alarm wakes me up I feel groggy and I need a coffee…

I get to work and have a coffee and then I have another after a rather slow morning that does it’s best to send me to sleep…

Three coffees later I have a Lucozade with my meal deal and feel quite buzzed…

I get home and seem quite peppy and zip around the house and in my haste I stub my pinky on the bathroom door…

Here were are now.

Are those stories examples of the butterfly effect in action or destiny in motion? Why not both?

In the end, the worker in the factory while feeling like they would never make an impact on the world around them is the most vital part of the story. Even the minor inconveniences along the way shape the river that we all flow down. It’s not as morbid as it first appears. It’s actually rather comforting to think in these terms. On these terms, we realise that all humans, all things, know each other. There’s close to 8 billion of us on Earth, the web Clotho weaves must intersect so many times that it stops resembling a web at all. It’s a tapestry: the very fabric of time and space that our stories form the fibres of for an audience of our Maker. Or perhaps, the tapestry itself – thriving, breathing, ever growing – is our Maker. No bearded man in a toga; an intelligent magic carpet we all ride atop of.

I can’t think of what a better comparison would be: Towelie from South Park or Magic Carpet from Aladdin.

In any case, I’m digging being part of it and even though I’ll never see its destination, the journey’s just as good. Whatever the truth really is, I’m grateful for a bad night’s sleep and a sore toe.

Z3N0