Observing a “New” World

Work, for the most part, has kept me busy – or at least needing deep escapism via means of Xbox when I arrive home. When we become wrapped up in the happenings of life – or the attempts to pretend otherwise – it becomes easy to lose track of the most important job that we all have: growth. It’s one of those things that comes to us whether we like it or not but the actual act of reflecting on that growth and study of one’s own spirit becomes one of those forgotten maintenance chores like adding salt to the dishwasher. Much like that example, ignored long enough, that job can become an enormous pain in the arse.

“To what use, then, am I now putting my soul? Ask yourself this question on every occasion. Examine yourself. ‘What do I now have in this part of me called the directing mind? What sort of soul do I have after all? Is it that of a child? A boy? A woman? A despot? A best of the field? A wild animal?” Meditations 5.11

It has been so long, I think, that when I look at myself beyond the mirror, I’m not sure if the landscape that I see is at all familiar. It has the same formations: the insecurities, the unaddressed prejudices, the old traumas, the little victories, the currents of inspiration, and the hard-fought virtues. Yet, when I look (not unlike Sauron gazing his eye over Mordor), the old worn paths have become overgrown to a point where they may well have never have existed; the once maintained walls have crumbled from neglect and mossy hills have formed from the rubble. I, like Gandalf, have no memory of this place.

The question is then, did we need such things? In myself, I feel fine: my sails have wind behind them and I’m moving in unison with purpose herself on the equally metaphorical waters of destiny. In feeling fine, I ask why I bothered spending so much time working on self-evaluation and reflection and philosophies at all? Perhaps that’s a realisation for anyone who has spent time pouring over pages of long dead thinkers and theologians and it’s awfully depressing. Or rather, the impression of that realisation is depressing as it all seems rather wasteful now. So, you have spent hours in meditation, weeks reading and months saving for that soul-searching trip to Bali to find yourself realising, two or three years down the line, that you’ve gone months not giving a second thought to philosophy and you’re doing just fine on your own. What now?

I’d say, as someone who has been thinking about this for a while (not that it makes me an expert by any stretch), go digging. Not literally, of course, because who can afford to have a garden these days? Digression aside, dig within that view of the look beyond the mirror. Those landscapes, as overgrown as they are, are built on the foundations of the philosophies that are now part of you as if they always were from the beginning. It’s like a psychological muscle memory where our strategies for resilience, empathy and compassion, harmony and serenity that we have learned from our philosophies and put into practice by experience have become a part of who we are.

To satisfy the nerd in me, I’d compare these mechanisms to the Forerunner worlds from the Halo franchise: lush paradises growing atop of almost arcane, chrome-plated engineering with eternal fire at core – the I Am presence.

I say these places within us are strange new worlds but in reality, these ever-evolving spheres are just us. These gardens are as messy as you can imagine at times but the truth of a person is in their philosophies. Of course, if you keep digging and find nothing but ooze and shit, then it’s time to put on your hard-hat and get to work. That goes for the self and others, of course, but to shoe-horn in a quote from RuPaul Charles:

“If you can’t love yourself, how the hell are you gonna love somebody else?”

… or begin to repair or build those SciFi analogy foundations.



Disagreeing with an Emperor

“So we must have a sense of urgency, no only for the ever closer approach of death, but also because our comprehension of the world and our ability to pay proper attention will face before we do”Meditations 3.1

I am disagreeing with Marcus Aurelius here. If all things are timed as they should be by the workings of Providence and all things happen for a reason, so do our lives. Rushing or panicking to complete things that may or may not need be done out of some heightened awareness of mortality doe not make the thing anymore important. A rushed job is not worth doing. I do agree with the following statement from 2.11:

“You may leave this life at any moment: have this possibility in your mind in all you do or say or think.”

Yet, if I do have this in mind, where is the need for urgency? If I’ve said all I needed to say, thought what I’ve needed to think and done what I’ve had to do, what’s the rush to do anything else? In bed on a Saturday morning, I’ve said all I needed to say (often nothing), done what I’ve needed to do (again often nothing), and thought what I needed to think (again nothing if I’m feeling particularly meditative). While Descartes may not be the model stoic, not being stoic at all, he did his best work in bed. So did Casanova but that’s another story. I’m not making excuses for procrastination, I’m just not seeing the point of a momento mori if I truly, amor fati.

I prefer another great bearded man’s words when it comes to such things:

“A wizard is never late. Nor is he early; he arrives precisely when he means to.” – Gandalf.

Maybe I’m a loathsome sloth but I see no reason to rush anything nor do I feel a sense of great urgency with my own life. Clocks tell me time passes and I live by them because I must as a part of society. I don’t begrudge this, it is what it is but if I’m going to be honest, I’d happily keep track of time by the increase of wrinkles on my forehead. If I am to go at any moment, what’s the use of being morbid about it and rushing from one objective to the next? Despite Gandalf being an immortal wizard being, Marcus Aurelius also said in 2.14:

“The longest lives and shortest lives are brought to the same state.”

The longest lived and earliest to die suffer the same loss.”

If I am to live in accordance with Nature, I am to trust it’s course. Perhaps it’s a privileged position to take. I live in a country with universal healthcare (for now) and have no conditions of concern. I have a relatively stable home life and my responsibilities extend to keeping my room clean and paying a rather measly sum for board each month. Yet still in this rather typical mediocrity of lower-middle class Britain, I am aware of my own mortality.

So I disagree with the belief of Marcus Aurelius and perhaps many a stoic. Watching the Doomsday Clock of my own life tick does not push me to action faster than my own motivation, inspiration, direction. Call me a hippy waste of space, a lay about, a lost lamb of the Summer of 69 born nearly 3 decades late. That’s your opinion yet I still find myself doing what I need to do, saying what I need to say and thinking what I need to think with a sense of ease, not urgency nor panic. I may be taking the Emperor too literally, I may be misinterpreting what he’s saying – of course, I’m open to that possibility.

In the meantime, I’ll be taking a leisurely stroll to the finish line, smelling the roses and coffee and all that shit. Why run? I’ve never been one for running. For one, I don’t have the right shoes.