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 Last 14 Days

For the last 10 of 14 days that I’ve been absent from writing I was in COVID isolation.

I found it entirely ironic that three days after being vaccinated (for the first jab), that I was asked to isolated for ten days due to secondary contact. Thankfully I was negative with each test yet strangely, I found the experience not entirely unpleasant. Aside from the looming threat of muscle atrophy in my legs, there was little to worry about. There was nothing for me to complain even without philosophy and little need to reflect or pause on anything that caused worry. What was there to worry about? Either I was positive or negative and in either case, I’d still be in my room watching Criminal Minds and having meals delivered at my door. There was no need to pause and quote, no need to feel anything other than apathy for the situation even perhaps gratitude to the universe for the time off.

I thought to myself, what need was there to write? What need was there to share this until it is over? So I held off and put down my books and laptop for a time to focus on the simple pleasures of just being. I made choices and found clarity in a departure from a situation that grounded me: being my roleplay guild and the people in it. One day, a minor conflict had me asking myself why I was doing this, why I was bothering and what use was the energy I put into the one-way and increasingly strained relationships. So I just let go and felt the weight lift. Of course, I felt a little guilty about leaving behind people to deal with it, leaving them to their own devices and own situations yet those things would have happened with or without me. It’s almost as if a level of optimistic nihilism about my presence in the eyes of people and things I put so much effort into left me relaxed without a reference to Aurelius.

So I cut someone off, blocked and dipped out of there, why? Why walk away?

Honestly I don’t know. Something just said that it was time. It was time to walk away and time to let a thing pass on. It’s like the quote about grapes (full disclosure, I’m without my books to refer to right now): unripe, ripe, plucked and pruned.

While one thing passes to obscurity and the nebulous mists of the past, another thing comes into being, a wish fulfilment of a connection. It’s almost as if the universe exists in a balance – who’d have thought? It’s a connection that has been brewing in the background for weeks now and as the time draws closer to what will be a rather casual meeting at a Wetherspoons, the heart chakra feels a unique pull. Here, in this situation, not my own within COVID prison, it was like Fate was testing me, and us. First, the date was cancelled as this person was placed in isolation, second was my own and thirdly was a hospital trip. It was like we were being made to wait and develop a connection. Ironically, throughout this time we streamed Too Hot To Handle. As someone who has been known for a short attention span and issues with commitment, it seemed almost a perfect examination of my own readiness for a real thing. Here we are, six weeks in and thing have seemed to aligned finally. Even my own changing living situation has brought us closer together geographically. Perhaps then, in these days off, a pause on life, is a gift from fate to reorganize and see clearly what I want, need and what I don’t want and need.

Amor fati.

Have I missed writing? No, honestly. And it’s not a negative thing to say that because in the end, a break was what I needed. It was holistic. And, in the event that I did have COVID, I would have been tested further on my resolve and readiness in philosophy.

I was reading more of Seneca’s writings recently and he spoke about testing oneself by sleeping on the floor once a month and going without. I’ve probably mentioned it before but it seems like a time without the luxuries of 2021 – even with shitty internet connection from my back bedroom -, has done it’s job as intended. Yet even then, it wasn’t much of a test.

“Lying on you back, getting fed nutrients through a tube? It’s my idea of a fucking holiday.” – Malcom Tucker, The Thick of It, Season 3, Episode 1

Z3N0

Pilgrimage

I’ve spoken before about visiting the Kaaba, the Basilica and the pagoda of Cebu in some Abrahamic-meets-Taoist adventure.

It occurs to me that I want to do this but I don’t want to go alone. Isn’t it strange? That feeling of knowing that self-sufficiency isn’t enough. Is it anxiety or is it something else? I was thinking about this today as I sat alone at lunch in the little workroom making notes in Meditations as I normally do. While I would be enriched and in awe of these places, where does my learning take me if I don’t have someone to share it with? Where does learning take any of us? Or perhaps it’s far simpler than that and this pilgrimage I want is less of a pilgrimage and more of a grand adventure inspired by some Doctor Who forgotten episode.

This need for independence and self-sufficiency that I’ve strived for all my life is all well and good yet in the face of real adventure, real enlightenment, I find myself in need of a companion.

“Pick me up and throw me where you will. Wherever I land I shall keep the good within me happy – satisfied, that is, if attitude and action follow its own constitution.”Meditations 8.45

In a way, despite this yearning, this is a solitary mission. By removing the judgement of such yearning imposed upon myself, I remove the thought and by removing the thought I remove the feeling. But there is no feeling – just a deep vacuole where something should be. I wonder how many others feel this or have felt this.

“All things are the same: familiar in experience, transient in time, sordid in substance. Everything now is as it is was in the days of those we have buried” Meditations 9.14

In the time of the Spanish Flu, I suppose there was such yearning for touch and connection. In the time of plagues past from 1346 to even further back in 165, was there such a feeling?

Or perhaps it’s more cosmic than that. The twin flame school of thought describes that all souls are made of two parts that require coming together to become balanced (how very Taoist). Perhaps this is my own souls way of telling me in feeling rather than words that both parts of me needs to go on this journey and the experience is so important to the wholeness of my being that I need to wait until both parts are joined.

Obviously, I’m not going bloody anywhere for the time being which something we all have to deal with. In the meantime, I’ll plan for lighter trips, staycations around the UK until the time is right. Of course, I won’t be able to find pizza like I would in Rome in Whitby but I suppose the fish and chips in Rome wouldn’t be quite the same either.

For now, this particular pilgrim is perfectly happy with waiting, with chicken and chips and Coronation Street.

Z3N0