Fear of Rest

There seems to be a pervasive fear of passiveness within stoicism and a demand for action where often non is required. I’ve spoken about this before and my disagreements with Marcus Aurelius but it seems to be a thing that permeates society entirely. There’s this stigma against just sitting, just resting, just taking a moment to passively reflect and recharge. It’s considered a thing for the retired or the dead yet what is meditation if not preparation for the state of death itself?

So you want a lay in on a Saturday after a long week? Ok – do it. Where’s the guilt in creating a balance for yourself between the needs for individual recuperation and the demands of the capitalist worker machine? It doesn’t take much of a scroll through channels to find some documentary that demonizes people for being ‘lazy’ or for living a life of harmony with themselves. When has ever, in the media, there been a positive story about a meditative retreat other than to mock it?

There’s this frenzy for activity and no time to reflect on the activity in need of doing or has been done. If we can’t take the time to reflect – just to sit or lay down – where do we find time for art, culture, growth? To pause in a place, to take in the breath and not just breath but to experience is how we experience inspiration. When we find these moments in the eyes of a loved one, taking in a panorama, sitting within the halls of a temple, we are at rest. We are experiencing a waking moment of meditation. The last time I felt this was when I held a lamb heart in my hand and the universe span around me as I was calm at the eye with this moment of inspiration and clarity.

Descartes and Seneca had this in common: both sought to retreat from society to be able to see it better before returning to it. Of course, the two philosophers couldn’t be more different yet despite my claim of being a stoic, I lean on the side of Descartes’ method of philosophy. He believed that the best ideas come to you when you are most comfortable and where he felt comfortable was in bed. It’s a balance isn’t it? We must not indulge the body to a point of poor health in this comfort but we must also not reject these comforts that nature and Providence has provided for us. What would be the point of that? Rejecting our own nature is self-defeatist.

Do not fear rest or moments to indulge in being passive. Being actively passive is a Taoist practice, to observe the yin and yang in harmony. How can we observe, if we do not pause? There’s a proverb that I’m going to paraphrase: you cannot be one with the divine if you do not appreciate it’s manifestations.

Appreciate the time you have, don’t rush through it. I’m 23 years old and I don’t want to rush my life, to achieve all there is to achieve overnight without ever stopping to ask why I’m doing it; without ever stopping to feel the moment; without ever stopping to feel the touch of linen on my skin, the pleasure in holding an equal in my eyes; the moment to enjoy the sensations of foods and warmth of the sky. It could all be over tomorrow and I appreciate and accept that. So why would I rush to the end, with no care for the journey?

“It is knowing what you want to say and never finding the words. It is a chorus, replaced with silence. Hearing teachings without meaning. It is like having a beloved pupil to whom you have shared everything, sacrificed everything, and then having them turn from you… and forget all you were.” – Kreia, Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic 2

Z3N0

Pity not Anger

Currently I’m dealing with a person that should anger me. Or rather, other human beings would understand looking objectively if they were to anger me. They have accused me of things I have not done; warped facts to establish a false narrative; weaponized honesty against others; acted in hostility to defend their own demand for pleasures, and actively inflate minor details for a larger reaction. It’s annoying, no? Angering? Worthy of pure contempt and fiery rage to throw the interloper out for their nature as a cheese grater on my brain. No, because then I will be no better than them. Would any of us be better than the creator of upset if we were to become upset ourselves? Of course not. We would just be adding to the hot air and noise and disruption to our own natures.

I pity this person because I see a desperate act and need for validation. I see anxiety that I see in myself. I see a desire for pleasure and the thirst to be seen. It’s pity I feel, a deep heavy sense of pity. I cannot change this person’s behaviour, they have identified me as a bad actor for revealing truths, not in a malicious way but as a way to hold a mirror to someone so that can see too.

“When someone does you some wrong, you should consider immediately what judgement of good and or evil led him to wrong you. When you see this, you will pity him, and not feel the surprise or anger. You yourself either still share his view of good, or something like it, in which case you should understand and forgive: if , on the other hand , you no longer judge such things as either good or evil, it will be easier for you to be patient with the unsighted.” – Meditations 7.26

This person used me as a weapon to emotionally manipulate another to satisfy pleasures. It’s a very convoluted and complex situation, perhaps so niche that it’s never happened before. Yet, that’s not true either is it? Every emotion we can experience has been experienced. Every manipulation at its core, each scheme and plot has been played out. From the betrayal of Caesar to the Gunpowder Plot to this very niche instance. Nothing that happens cannot be overcome, nothing in your life you are truly alone in experiencing.

“Nothing can happen to any human being outside the experience which is natural to humans – an ox too experiences nothing foreign nature of the oxen, a vine nothing foreign to the nature of vines, a stone nothing outside the property of a stone.” – Meditations 8. 46

It’s strange this feeling of calm, it’s almost unnatural in comparison to the feelings of those around me. I feel ambivalent of the words they call me, the lies they say, the vitriol they spit in my direction to unbalance others. Instead, I feel a deep remorse for them. I am sorry that their life is in such a state that this was necessary. I will be there for my friends, wholly, to support them, to love them as I love myself to repair their hurt hearts. A weird kind of sadness to be sad for another’s actions towards me instead of hateful. It’s a new experience for me and I don’t mind it. It’s not as heavy as anger nor is it as sticky.

My priority, as should yours in these situations, are the ones who are hurt. I will be there not for reasons of making myself look better or improving relationships but to genuinely be there for them. Anything else would be an injustice of the soul.

“What is my object in making a friend? To have someone to be able to die for, someone I may follow into exile, someone for whose life I may put myself up as security and pay the price as well.” – Letters from a Stoic IX

Anger is not for the stoic neither is retribution. My first, and your first priority should be the return to a new, better equilibrium, friends first.

Love fate and all it brings and you will be secure in your self. When you are secure in yourself, you’ll feel no anger to those who don’t.

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

Candles in the Dark

When you hold out a flame for someone the best you can to get them through the dark, what do you do when you stumble and they’ve left you behind? How are you supposed to feel, when one rock of two leaning against each other disappears, leaving you to metaphorically tumble down the mountain on your own? I don’t know what other analogy to use to describe it, this weird realisation that you’re not as integral to person as they are to you. Do we wait as we flounder? Wait for them and hope that they’ll reach out as you’ve right to reach out before? Or is it in vain?

If in vain, we are just left with this feeling of not rejection but isolation. Isolation in our own perception of how things are compared to how things really are. It leaves me to wonder and ask, are feelings of attraction and admiration mirages? Intangible things that deceive and delude, leaving us alone in the cold desert with only our own thoughts. It makes the whole process and exploration of finding some sort of happiness with another individual seem inherently toxic when we think about it in the stoic sense. It’s almost as if that desire for happiness over takes actual happiness.

Seeing things as they are, people as they are and not who we think they are to us – or we are to them – is, in my experience, a painful awakening. Like a beating heart in your hand turning to sand and spilling away. But in the end, it was always going to wasn’t it? A friendship, an affection, an attachment – all shifting sands.

Like candles in the dark, these things are brief and are prone to fading out.

How many candles have you cried over? None? Well, then, why shed tears over such things?

What have we to gain over such actions when we know the temporary nature of things?

Why am I upset? Ask yourself. Is it the effort you put into it? The money you’ve spent? The time?

What would you have done instead of spending those things? We can learn something from everything and everything has purpose, as I’ve said before.

“The recurrent cycles of the universe are the same, up and down, from eternity to eternity. And either the mind of the Whole has a specific impulse for each individual case – if so, you should welcome the result – or it had a single original impulse, from which all else follows in consequence: and why should you be anxious about that? The Whole is either a god – then all is well: or if purposeless – some sort of random arrangement of atoms or molecules – you should not be without purpose yourself. In a moment the earth will cover us all. Then the earth too will change, and then further successive changes to infinity. One reflecting on these waves of change and transformation, and the speed of their flow, will hold all mortal things in contempt.” – Meditations 9.28

It’s all in motion like blood around the body and it never stops and if it does then there will be nothing but the void until two tiny atoms crash into each other for the second big bang. Do we shed tears each time we exhale or inhale? Each time old cells die and others are born, and one hair falls from a follicle only to be replaced again, do we wallow in despair?

No. Fuck that.

Z3N0

The Void Within

Something is missing in my life. Maybe I’ve spoken about it before but it’s a feeling that comes and goes like the rain. It’s a feeling of emptiness. It’s a heavy vacuum within me like a black hole that pulls downward from the base of my heart to the pit of my stomach. It’s a cold feeling and it travels to my brain around where I imagine my third eye to be and sits there like a feeling of dread.

What is this dread?

It’s loneliness.

Yet I have friends?

What is this loneliness other than the gnawing broodiness coming on. A need for a deeper connection within myself like a primal directive to find a home and tribe of my own. Had I not evolved from these baser needs? Surely as a civilized man in the 21st Century, it is unnatural to have this almost biological lachrymose. So, remove the judgement. I’ve done that yet my body persists and the chemicals in my mind still demand satisfaction. It’s like a drug, a high on being loved and giving love.

I once purchased an in depth horoscope analysis to dissect my nature as a Taurus. As pathetic as that was in the rational mind, it was accurate and representative of a time before I began to grow into who I am now. Yet some things stuck. The first being that I rejected my mother emotionally but embraced my father and in doing so, vulnerability and feelings of love are seen as hostile actors. They’re seen as deep needs but also threats. Leading to, without a sense of balance, in fighting between masculine and feminine energies with both sabotaging and craving deeper human connections on an emotional and sexual level. The latter of that was something I overindulged in to try and to fill that vacuum (take that how you will) but it was never satisfied because surface isn’t enough. The surface of a still lake looks pretty but the true wonders lie within its waters.

It’s not very stoic though, is it? A lonely heart. I’ve been in love twice before. Both times being poor turnouts and I’ve been hurt before too. Yet we grow and go, don’t we?

What can we do in the face of this kind of void? A growing emptiness that only the right thing can fill. But then, would we be so distracted on the idea of perfection that we miss it entirely? That’s the curse isn’t it? With Tinder and Bumble, we look for the perfect match but sometimes miss what exists in our present moment. We forget the things that are really important, high on our own quests and desires that unbalance us to be able to find true balance, a true harmony with the yin and yang with our twin-flames.

Supposedly, when it comes to twin-flame romances, it may take lifetimes to meet each other and throughout lifetimes coming close and then missing the mark only to reunite in another meat sleeve centuries down the line, our past lives forgotten, our souls washed clean of the muck. Yet that’s not particularly encouraging is it? To be subjected to a life of mediocrity with the hopes that the next one will be better? Is it not the more stoic thing, the more rational thing, and more balanced thing, to find harmony in the present rather than wait for it to be thrust upon us through the window of death?

Yet we relapse into this void, this ache.

“It is such a quiet thing, to fall. But far more terrible is to admit it.” – Darth Kreia, Knights of the Old Republic 2

Is loving and desiring to love, against our nature? Or is it so intrinsically human that to deny the ache for meaning in the arms of another is the thing against our nature. Is this all we need? As people? Or is the answer rooted in the inadequacy of the self?

“Without stirring abroad one can know the whole world; without looking out of the window one can see the way of heaven. The further one goes the less one knows. Therefore the sage knows without having to stir, identifies without having to see, accomplishes without having to act.” – Tao Te Ching XLVII

As the harmony within settles and the balance of my chi takes hold, is there anything else but certainty in the okayness of it all? It will be okay: for me, for you, for us. Can you look in the mirror – truly look – and find your way? I’m smiling now, but I can’t tell if it’s a happy smile or one of simply amusement at the universe and my place in it. How fickle it all is, how fleeting and how much more fun it would be to share it with someone. All of us clinging to the surface of this rock, smiling at it’s irreverence. We are together in that, at least.

Z3N0

No Bad Decisions

There are no bad decisions, there I said it.

That may seem easy to say and reductive in the long view of a heinous and hateful history that all humans share and that we all either suffer from or have privilege from. Yet in the end, on the personal level, the lessons we take from the mistakes we make are the ones that teach us the best. With that logic, if all mistakes are lessons and all lessons are inherently in service of growth, there are no true mistakes.

If we trust in Universe, The Way, God, then we trust that all things happen for a reason. Even if we trust in none of those things, trust in the self and the nature of things. By doing that, we feel no ill will towards ourselves or others. It’s a stoic philosophy, not spiritual or intangible, it just is the way. When we reach this conclusion, even in the face of great pain and loss, everything becomes lighter and warmer.

“With each object of experience consider its origin, its constituents, what it is changing into, what it will be when changed – and that no harm will come to it.” – Meditations 11.17

See through the hurt and ask yourself, what have you learned? What have you learned about yourself and what have you learned about the object that leaves its mark on you? What mark is this, even? Scars are lessons, even the unseen ones and a reminder that we heal and move on. A friend said to me on Thursday, “grow and go“.

So what in the grand scheme of history, am I saying that the atrocities of the past and present are inherently good? No, those things are unjust and manifestations of wanton vice. What did we learn from them? Aside from learning about better ways to kill each other, what did we learn? Too many lessons for me to count here, but we grow as a people, united as kin. On the macro and micro, we grow. Even in the darkest of nights, there is dawn on the horizon and that will never change, not until the Sun swallows the Earth and by then, perhaps we would have transcended to the stars to a new form of being.

“You should meditate often on the connection of all things in the universe and their relationship to each other. In a way all things are interwoven and therefore have a family feeling for each other: one thing follows another in due order through the tension of movement, the common spirit inspiring them, and the unity of all being.” – Meditations 6.38

Another way of thinking about it is this: locked yourself out of the house? Call the locksmith. If it ever happens again, you will know who to trust to get the job done. Miss an opportunity to ask out the person you are in love with? You have learned never put anything off again, never procrastinate. Like me, have you eaten something without checking the ingredients for allergens? You will suffer sure, but you will not be so careless again and you will handle it better next time at least.

Love all of your decisions. Amor fati.

Love all of their decisions as opportunities to be better, to learn to be better and not be like your enemy. Amor fati.

Love circumstance, you will learn to find strength in yourself and what you have. Amor fati.

“A stone thrown in the air: nothing bad for it on the way down or good for it on the way up.” – Meditations 9.17

Z3N0

Seneca’s Third Letter

I shall start by saying that I am guilty of Seneca’s criticism of his friend Lucillius. I would be a hypocrite to say that I have not called people friends and not seen them as people I can trust. I collected people I would describe as friends, the word losing all meaning. What is this criticism?

“If you are looking on anyone as a friend when you do not trust him as you trust yourself, you are making a grave mistake, and have failed to grasp sufficiently the full force of true friendship.”Letters from a Stoic III

He’s right, of course yet I feel it doesn’t go far enough in this particular extract. The question can be asked how can a person trust in friends as they trust themselves if they don’t trust themselves to begin with? Can you trust yourself to keep a secret? No? Then how can you trust another to keep yours. Before we go looking for faults in others, we – and I, for sure – need to remember John 8:7 about those without sin casting the first stone at the sinner.

“Think for a long time whether or not you should admit a given person to your friendship. But when you have decided to do so, welcome him heart and soul, and speak as unreservedly with him as you would yourself.” – Letters from a Stoic III

Are you kind to yourself? Are you honest with yourself? Are you respectful of yourself? Are you accepting of yourself? If the answer is no to these questions then how can you in good conscience admit that friendship knowing that you will not speak as unreservedly with them, heart and soul, as you would yourself? Now I’m not saying that you can only be a straight laced, no-issues neurotypical perfect human to be able to have friendship. That would be hypocritical as I like to think that now, in this moment, I have true friends. What I am saying is, how can we judge the measure of another’s friendship on these grounds if we don’t look inward first and find out what that means.

“Regard him as loyal, and you will make him loyal. Some men’s fear of being deceived has taught people to deceive them; by their suspiciousness they give them the right to do the wrong thing by them. Why should I keep anything back when I’m with a friend? Why shouldn’t I imagine I’m alone when I’m in his company?”

Bernard Shaw said something similar if I’m not mistaken about treating people greatly and they will be great. I am also guilty of what Seneca says, I have a friend that I feel to be a true friend yet due to our electric communication and the distance between us – and the film Catfish – I admit that I assumed the worst, laughably so. Yet I trust this person with myself and from our conversations, they trust me with themselves in our truest way. What irrationality is this suspicion? It’s like shit on the shoe – it stinks but it can be wiped off. Of course things happen, there are lapses and gaps and the trust seems to be thin, and circumstantial. Yet is this my own perception and ingrained taught suspicion or reality? The former, obviously – monitored and regulated by citalopram and philosophies.

Yet Seneca goes on to make another fair point which I think is key to remember:

Trusting everyone is as much a fault as trusting no one (though I should call the first the worthier and the second the safer behaviour).”

We need to strike a balance in our lives, across all things. This expands to our social relationships and the emotion we put into them. A Jedi epithet is that desire unbalances us, and to an extent its true. Should we desire relationships or should we accept them as they come in balance and acceptance of when they do not – from acquaintances and colleagues to lovers. It’s like a balanced diet or balanced exercise regime. Stoicism and my preferred religious philosophies are about walking the middle path, in perfect harmony with the self and Universe. It permeates all our actions, a need for balance.

“For a delight in bustling about is not industry – it is only the restless energy of a hunted mind. And the state of a mind that looks on all activity as tiresome is not true repose, but spineless inertia…

A balanced combination of the two attitudes is what we want; the active man should always be able to take things easily, while the man who is inclined towards repose should be capable of action. Ask nature: she will tell you that she made both day and night.”

Find your balance in friendships and yourself. Trust carefully but wholly. Love reservedly but give love unreservedly – both for yourself and others. Find your middle way along The Way.

Z3N0