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.


Quick Quote Post: 3

Tonight being Good Friday, I thought I’d share some words about rebirth and rejuvenation without my usual waffle, exposition and/or bollocks. While I have my own issues on Easter and what it represents that I’ll be another post. Tonight, I thought I’d share some words from Lao Tze not Marcus Aurelius, today. I, like Jesus, am coming out of my cave (and yes, I’m doing just fine, thank you) fresh as a daisy wearing my Taoist Sunday best not my stoic toga. In these days of modern excesses of chocolate and eggs, I like to think about the middle path, the way.

“Do that which consists in taking no action; pursue that which is not meddlesome; savour that which had no flavour. Make the small big and the few many; do good to him who has done you an injury. Lay plans for the accomplishment of the difficult before it becomes difficult; make something big by starting with it when small. Difficult things in the world must needs have their beginnings in the easy; big things must have their beginnings in the small. Therefore it is because the sage never attempts to be great that he succeeds in becoming great. One who promises rashly rarely keeps good faith; one who is in the habit of considering things easy meets with frequent difficulties. Therefore even the sage treats some things as difficult. That is why in the end no difficulties can get the better of him.” Tao Che Ching Chapter 63

“In the pursuit of learning one knows more every day; in the pursuit of the way one does less every day. One does less and less until one does nothing at all, and when one does nothing at all there is nothing that is undone. It is always through not meddling that the empire is won. Should you meddle, then you are not equal to the task of winning the empire.” – Tao Che Ching Chapter 48

You’re wondering: “Z, what the fuck has that got to do with Easter?“.

Easter is a fraud: you should be experiencing and celebrating change and rebirth everyday. You should be experiencing change through learning and evolution of the self to the higher self. Be actively passive in your evolution, like the natural world around you. The Neanderthal did not evolve to the rational, free and critical thinking creature reading these words now, overnight. Life and change and learning is a constant celebration of you and the world that spins around you.

Eat all the chocolate eggs, pilgrim, it’s always Easter. The day is always good.

Not for Jesus at the time, obviously, but that sort of ruins my point, doesn’t it?


Another Test

Last night I was tested again in my faith of the universe and my own philosophy. Marcus Aurelius talks about life being cyclical and what shook me has happened before. It was almost familiar, the gut wrenching feeling and chill of the blood. I knew the sensation immediately yet it was worse this time, much more physical. It was almost as if my mind had checked out; electing to fuck off and let the body do it’s thing while it disconnects and turns inward.

By all stoic accounts, I handled it poorly: drank a lot and spiralled into over thinking. Yet it took a near stranger to put things into perspective. Her words echoed the philosopher in my head that was drowned by cortisol. It’s funny as without this event, I’m not sure I’d have had the opportunity to talk to this person in such a candid way and connect with a stranger on the internet to become friends (or at least friendly).

“All that happens is an event either within your natural ability to bear it, or not” Meditations 10.3

Did I pass the test? Or did I pass it at my own standards? The damage to a reputation of a man several years dead means nothing to me as he no longer exists. The person writing this as we speak is fresh and new and his reputation has no bearing on me now. False narratives created to hurt a man long dead is meaningless, the only person affected is the malignant story teller. It’s not my virtue affected, it’s theirs. How many others can speak of this? How many other people on the planet who have evolved from caterpillar to moth must still carry the sins of the larvae? Perhaps I’m being too fast, perhaps I’m still gestating in the chrysalis.

My friends tried to make me see this yet it was the words of a stranger that I am truly bloody grateful for.

“Lying, too, is a sin against the same goddess: her name is Truth, and she is the original cause of all that is true. The conscious liar sins to the extent that his deceit causes injustice: the unconscious liar to the extent that he is out of tune with the nature of the Whole and out of order with the nature of the ordered universe against which he fights.” Meditations 9.1.2

I was a prolific liar, a conscious one who cared little for the injustices around me. Differentiating not giving a fuck and being generally a fucker was a talent lost on me. So when I hear of lies, conscious or unconscious, can I really judge? I know the damage they can cause in the material world but in my soul, do I have the right to feel anything other than pity? Failing that: apathy.

“He that is without sin among you, let him cast the first stone at her.” – Jesus, John 8:7

And so:

“There is no blame. If you can, put him right: if you can’t, at least put the matter right. If that too is impossible, what further purpose does blame serve?”Meditations 8.17

Maybe one day, I’ll have to face the consequences of the lies of another in person. When that day comes, it’s not the alleger that’ll be my priority, it will be the consequences. Even then, what use is it worrying about now? What use is another’s false feelings about me to me?

After all, it’s 2021. It’s far simpler than it used to be when it comes to shutting out the noise. Two words on every device connected to the internet: shut down.