Sudden and Unexpected

A received a tearful call tonight informing me that the young son of a family friend had been killed in a car accident earlier this afternoon.

We weren’t close yet in these moments all I can remember are the days when we were both at school. I was a few years older and asked to look out for him when he started big school. He never needed looking out for, he was far savvier than I ever was even at that young age.

I think about the lessons taken from Marcus Aurelius and the philosophers and wonder if in the face of sudden and unexpected death we can ever truly practice what we preach. It’s a twisting of the gut that I can’t rationalize.

Einstein said that there is no death – not really. All of space and time were created all at once; destiny is and was always set in stone. There is no death because as we travel across this oceanic landscape of space-time, nothing is ever really gone. We all have been dead for trillions of years and are yet to be born for aeons more. Is that comforting to say or to feel?

A little distance perhaps from the immediate family affords me the privilege of a little naval gazing rather than crying. While millions across the world – and billions throughout history – have lost a child, the reality of it still doesn’t strike as logical or aligned with some natural order of things.

What is the natural order of things?

I was in a bar yesterday discussing happiness with a man who, in a past life, found himself living with Buddhist monks.

“What is happiness?” – X

“Fulfilment I suppose, an acceptance.” – Z

“What is acceptance?” – X

Well? What is acceptance?

When we are happy, we can say nothing affects us, or we’d all be taken with the wind like a limp tree. Yet what is acceptance? Is it accepting people on the bus playing music too loud or is it acceptance with the blind faith of the natural order that would kill a young man barely twenty with a bright future?

Marcus Aurelius writes that the griever’s problem is not mine since I would be carried away with the same grief. Yet apathy is the enemy of humanity, and we live for each other and mourn for each other the same way.

It’s an interesting conundrum and an emotional tightrope walk.

I feel loss, that’s perhaps the only way I can describe my emotions. It’s a hollow cold feeling. It pulls downwards like a heavy crown of ice. My feelings don’t bother me though.

The well-being of his parents bothers me.

Another futile projection perhaps. I’m miles away and neither my presence nor words could bring much comfort.

While being both sudden and unexpected, loss brings a minefield of conflicting thoughts and emotions. I suppose then, we can never truly be prepared beyond our own impressions of what could be.

Loss. Such a familiar word and experience to humanity yet so sudden and unexpected every time.

I have no final words of wisdom nor concluding sign-off. I’ve yet to come to any conclusion on how to react or feel appropriately. Perhaps when I figure it out I’ll add an addendum.

What Can You Do?

I was reading today that the Loire in France is drying up in places and that three nuclear power plants rely on its water for cooling. Sometimes, I think that my urges to play Fallout: New Vegas come not from a deep desire to escape my step-brother’s yellow bell pepper bolognese dinners, but from divine intervention to teach me how to prepare mutant gecko steaks.

As much as we crave individual liberty and the ideals of a libertarian society, human civilisation as we know it is wholly collectivist. Look no further than the gas shortages and the grain blackmail to see that whether we like it or not, humanity relies on each other to survive. So then, I ask, what can the individual do to put not just their mind at ease but also actively impact the world around them?

“Endure, Master Wayne. Take it. They’ll hate you for it, but that’s the point of Batman, he can be the outcast. He can make the choice that no one else can make, the right choice.” – Alfred Pennyworth, The Dark Knight (2008)

Be Batman? Yes but also no.

Latex nipples and gruff voices aside, that quote from The Dark Knight can easily be applied directly to you. Change the word “Batman” to “human” and there you have it. The purpose of individual liberty is laid bare: the choice to make the right choice. Whether that means grinning and baring yellow bell peppers in bolognese or standing on a picket line as the person you voted into office slanders you to millions.

It’s ironic that Christopher Nolan’s trilogy ended up being as strange love letters to authoritarianism and thinly-veiled fascist ideologues.

I suppose in these last few months where the world has seemed to time travel backwards to the Cold War, with nuclear panic and purging of women’s rights, keeping your head seems to be the only real victory worth living for. We may be broke, depressed and suffering through one modern crisis after the next yet we are unbroken still; no matter how hard edgy, rage-fueled cokeheads in office and podcast booths try to destroy all that they do not understand or care about.

“‘No thief can steal your will.’ – So Epictetus.” – Meditations, 11.36

In a time where history tells us we’ve never had it so easy yet the victories of the individual remain the same as they did millennia ago.

“Perfection of character is this: to live each day as if it were your last, without frenzy, without apathy, without pretence.” – Meditations, 7.69

Pastures New

I’ve been away for a while thanks to work, hobbies and writing. Life has found its way to keep me on my toes and busy enough to be able to shy away from the crushing sense of loneliness that I so smugly dismissed over Christmas time. To be fair to my past self, I had Hugh Grant movies on repeat.

I discovered a great tragedy of time that actually I found to be very amusing. I have spent two years achieving a qualification that is entirely irrelevant to the process of what my true goals are. In the stoic sense, the momento mori that ticks of the days of my life to the end would feel rather pointless. Wasted and lost, my early twenties swallowed up by a smug and dismissive management structure. While yes I did find love of a romantic sense in this time, I now suffer from that irritating curse of what I very much believe to be unrequited love and am stuck in a situation of silence. Yet, even as I see my money dwindle on piss-poor pay and my mental health decline from having to re-live my teenage years living with my parents, I find the whole thing rather darkly funny.

As I look over at pastures new, my application processes in the works and hope in my heart, I feel nothing but a profound sense of amusement.

You could, I suppose, chalk it up to divine timing. We could say that we all experience years of being stuck in ourselves, trapped in our own paradigms until the tipping point. When we reach this point, we look back and laugh and how silly the whole thing was in the first place. But would I give the time back? Would I hop in my TARDIS and change my own timeline for a more streamlined life experience? No of course not.

That’s the funny thing, even more so than how little my current applications care about the two years of work. It’s the acceptance I feel. Perhaps it is a universal experience regarding how we look back on our lives not with regret but a bemused shrug, if not pride at least. Then we can ask ourselves, I suppose, even in stagnation are we ever really stagnating or just slow-moving. Each day we make progress as small as it seems. I’ve spoken about this before, this phenomenon but I think that each time I’m reminded of it, it’s worth mentioning. Not just for me, but for whoever reads this.

“What is your profession? Being a good man.” – Meditations 11.5

Despite the dead-end job and the laughable excuse of a pay-scale, and the shitshow that is finding a life partner in 2022, Marcus Aurelius here, still 1842 years after his death, is right. It doesn’t matter what we do as long as we can say we are doing our best in each moment to be the best we can be.

So, in my final thoughts after my hiatus, I ask of you, the reader to ask yourself to be the best you can be. If you are doing anything in your life just doing your best and trying to be your best is all anyone or anything – divine or otherwise – can ask of you.

Between you and me, if being your best means napping for at least three hours a day to attempt that, then I salute you. I need at least an hour, myself.

Z3N0

Willful Ignorance of the Soul

I was in conversation today – or perhaps it was yesterday, time seems to be moving at such a strange pace that I’ve not been able to keep up in my own mind – where someone told me that the topic of religious education and talk of philosophical concepts was a waste of time. Why, I asked was it a waste of time and the response was as follows:

“Well I don’t believe in it and it’s all weird.” – X

“What you’ve just said there is exactly why this sort of thing is needed.” – Z

It makes me wonder, whether or not this kind of willful ignorance of not only the culture and beliefs of others but in fact the self is indicative of a wider pandemic of ignorance. Let’s think about it for a moment. This cynicism or rather rejection of exploration of even the most basic of philosophical thought is perhaps a dangerous indictment of the kind of society we are all contributing to. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not just faithful in universe but also the principles of science that frame it. Take Prof. Massimo Pugliucci, one of the most famous modern stoics is an atheist and scientist, showing for me that there is room in the grand church of stoic philosophy for a wide range of thought.

It was in the aforementioned conversation that animism was the subject of discussion at the time, being the ancient beliefs of the Aboriginal peoples. The lack of willingness to learn and receptiveness to new ideas was oddly disturbing to me and I felt a irrational flush of panic for the future. Yet, I stopped myself, what could this snippet tell me about the human condition other than in that moment the content of the discussion was dry for that particular age group and those present were not the most receptive to ideas at the best of times whether they be of a philosophical nature or not.

Despite this good catch by the stoic voice, there is still some thought to be put into this. Has it become such a stigmatised thing in the West to have faith whether it be communal or personal? Between the extremists and the charlatans perhaps it’s not had the greatest press recently, to have a faith of some sorts that is. I keep in my mind what the stranger in Leeds told me nearly a month ago:

“Don’t be religious, be faithful.”

Or could it be that I am being too harsh on the uninitiated to this kind of reflection. It’s such a personal journey, who am I to judge anyone’s reaction or response to this kind of information. For some it comes so natural for others it’s alien. I suppose a diet of Cartoon Network isn’t so much conducive to philosophical thought as Bible studies which definitely aren’t for everyone – in fact may be too much for some who seem to take books of love and compassion such as the Bible and Quran and find hatred, which in my opinion says more about the reader than the text. Strange then, I had the same education of Justice League and The Batman yet still find myself here questioning here where things changed.

Perhaps it is my own wilful ignorance of expectation of others and my expectation of others which is causing a moral panic within my own soul about the fate of humankind. A kind of strange hubris of philosophy and I need to learnt to keep in mind, rather than postulate and diagnose the world with apathy to keep in mind a core forgotten tenet of stoicism:

“Teach or tolerate.”

Perhaps, in the end, we all should.

Z3N0

Progress Everyday

I was watching a Ryan Holiday video and he spoke about the point of stoicism not to be immediate change but the choice to improve oneself everyday in line with the stoic path. Which to me, is very similar to an exercise of the mind and soul as the gym is for the body. As the athlete trains the muscles and the physical nature of the self with routines and diet, the philosopher does so in a similar way with discussion, reflection and knowledge.

There is no ignorance, there is knowledge.

It’s a choice, as I was saying not long ago. It’s an active choice to move on from one’s own vices to live a virtuous life in harmony with the greatest good of not just the self but all of humanity rather than fester in the status quo. It’s the difference between being actively passive and actively cowardly, hiding from the truth of consequences of thought and action. Ideologies that feed into our vices serve only to enable our behaviors that are destructive. So you have the power with your tongue to break someone’s spirit, but the true power is perhaps in holding it in the first place.

Brains are designed to keep us safe, locked in paradigms of familiarity rather than healthier alternatives. Say we were brought up on turkey twizzlers and microwave mac ‘n’ cheese, the change to broccoli and sashimi is not going to be particularly enjoyable. Yet, it’s better for us and others in the long run. Let’s continue the metaphor: not only are we healthier in ourselves but also it eases the expected pressure on medical facilities and family members who will watch us fester in this lifestyle of consumption.

It goes the same with philosophy and ideology of course, the more harmful things we consume and accept about ourselves the more unhealthy we become. I’ve quoted this particular scene before, but following the conversation I just had less than an hour ago, it’s in my mind again:

BoJack Horseman : “Ow, crap. I hate this. Running is terrible, everything is the worst.

[Lying down, panting heavily]

BoJack Horseman : “Oh my God, oh my God.

Jogger : [stands over BoJack] “It gets easier.

BoJack Horseman : “Huh?

Jogger : “Everyday, it gets a little easier.

BoJack Horseman : “Yeah?

Jogger : “But you gotta do it everyday, that’s the hard part. But it does get easier.” – BoJack Horseman, “Out to Sea”

So when we wake up in the morning and scowl at the sun for waking us or the unfulfilling shit job we have to go to, does this make us any less a stoic or a virtuous person? Or does it make us human on the path to make progress everyday to do as our nature has intended us to do in harmony with our surroundings and self?

I like to think it’s the latter. What can I say? I’m an optimist – yes, I surprise myself.

Z3N0

What No Longer Serves You

One thing that has always bugged me about the modern spiritualism and reiki practice is that there is an emphasis on removing energies that “no longer serve you”. This phrase is where stoicism and spirituality or neo-spirituality in the globalist internet amalgamism of the different faiths and practices clash, in my opinion. So the phrase, as harmless as it seems is clear enough. It’s purpose is to demonstrate that you do not need energies or emotions or thought patterns anymore that once provided support or helped your development. Yet, in this grand oceanic experience that we all exist in, to say that anything serves us is either misplaced semantics or pure arrogance of the human condition.

What serves you? As if you are the master of fate, destiny and its energies, as if the universal Way of things serves you and not collaborates or exists in harmony. Nothing serves you, because that suggests you have agency over the universe which you do not. The only thing that truly serves you is your own virtue that you project in thought, action and voice put out into the universe.

“Whatever happens to you was being prepared for you from everlasting, and the mesh of causes was ever spinning from eternity both your own existence and the incidence of this particular happening.” – Meditations, 10.5

Perhaps, if we think about it in another sense, if we take into account the butterfly effect of the universe – Providence or Fate – everything serves us from our mistakes to the grumble we have when we get up in the morning to appease or fulfil that simplest of truths: amor fati.

I’m not exactly sure where the concept comes from that the universal energies serve us (which I will continue to italicize to prove a point). So The Way, in its perpetual flow and forward motion bows to serve the individual rather than enable the collective consciousness of the universe? Perhaps it’s the human element on modern or contemporary spiritualism that has led to this idea that we have a control of the energies around us rather than see them as either projections of the self or harmonious external substances. It adds a comfort to think that we have control or agency over these things rather than the truth of the matter that the only thing we can control is ourselves. It’s a kind of strange mantra that we have power over the universal building blocks to elevate ourselves to some kind of wizard-like figures, each of us Gandalfs or Dumbledores or Dr Stranges.

I’m all for identifying energies and beliefs that are not our own and making efforts to remove those pollutants from ourselves to seek the truth within and without. But should we not be doing that with an accurate outlook on what is and what is not within our control as expressions of the same Whole? We have a commonality as human beings and that is our own plainness and also brilliance. What we do not share because we do not have it is the service of the universe, it does not serve us. We are a part of it similarly to how a carbon atom is a part of you or an anemone is a part of the reef. It’s a harmonious symbiotic relationship that just is. We serve the universe in its motion and in our actions in each moment that shape the course of destiny.

“For my ally is the Force, and a powerful ally it is. Life creates it, makes it grow. Its energy surrounds us and binds us. Luminous beings are we, not this crude matter.” – Yoda, The Empire Strikes Back

We exist in harmony with all things and love what fate brings us. Try as we might to wrestle destiny into a headlock, to make the energies of the universe both of light and dark serve, we exist at the pleasure of providence not the other way around.

Take heart in it, don’t fear it.

Amor fati.

Z3N0

In Practice

So today I went back to work after some extended time off and as I sat on the bus on my morning commute, I put into practice something I was forgetting. I was dreading going back, the institution representing my own stagnation in life with my career, family and development. There is nothing there for me in terms of tangible movement and aspiration other than my own progress of the self. Arguably this is the most important progress however some serotonin would be nice and future that seems tangible.

There I was on the bus – the later bus as I missed the first one thanks to an unregulated sleeping pattern – and I realized I had been forgetting to practice perhaps the most fundamental of all stoic practices and a phrase that I’ve repeated to no end.

“Today I escaped from all bothering circumstances – or rather I threw them out. They were nothing external, but inside me, just my own judgements.” – Meditations, 9.13

I took advice from another source, an unlikely source, that being Darth Kreia from Knights of the Old Republic 2, and felt the moment around me. I felt the surface of the seat against my body and the feeling of my hands in my lap and the headphones in my ears playing no music. My entire focus was inward and the external rumblings drifted away as I scanned myself and acknowledged each complaining part and released it unto itself. In the aftermath, as I was stepping off the bus at my stop, I was at peace with what was to come from the day.

It was uneventful and drama free as it was always going to be unlike my worst case scenarios. It had no real challenges or difficulties other than my body demanding sleep by three o’clock. Even the foible of the new policy of not having a coffee outside of breaks was negotiated and my addiction satiated. Everything was calm and serene or perhaps it was chaotic and it was I who was calm and serene – would I have known the difference?

It’s in these moments, in reflection of when these little occurrences take place that I enjoy my own progress of philosophy. That I’m not as Seneca said just growing in age not wisdom. To think without the practice of stoicism, I’d have been on edge all day waiting for it to go wrong as my own judgements had predicted and worn myself out more than I already was just from mentality alone.

I think back and wonder how many days slipped away from me just from lack of practice or practise – I never know which. How many hours I’ve wasted murmuring and chuntering to be entirely embarrassed only with myself and to myself about the lack of imagined scenario.

How many hours have you wasted?

Z3N0

Quick Quote Post: 14

Tonight I was apart of a roleplaying event, and a quote came up from one of the players whose character is a drunkard swashbuckling space pirate. On the topic of the character killing people for profit and being judged for it, a phrase came up:

“Isn’t it ignorant to judge another’s lifestyle?” – X

I thought about this, in reflection of a stoic sense outside of the Jedi context, and I turned to Marcus Aurelius for comment where I had none.

“Whenever you are offended by someone’s lack of shame, you should immediately ask yourself: ‘So is it possible for there to be no shameless people in the world?’ It is not possible. Do not then ask for the impossible. This person is just on of the shameless inevitably existing in the world. Have the same thought ready for the rogue, the trator, every sort of offender. The recognition that this class of people must necessarily exist will immediately make you kinder to them as individuals. Another useful thought of direct application is the particular virtue nature has given us to counter a particular wrong. Gentleness is given as the antidote to cruelty, and other qualities to meet other offences. In general, you can always re-educate one who last lost his way: and anyone who does wrong has missed his proper aim and gone astray.

And what harm have you suffered? You will find that none of these who excite your anger has done anything capable of affecting your mind for the worse: and it is only in your mind that damage or harm can be done to you – they have no other existence.

Anyway, where is the harm or surprise in the ignorant behaving as the ignorant do? Think about it. Should you rather blame yourself, for not anticipating that this man would make this error? Your reason gave you the resource to reckon this mistake likely from this man, yet you forgot and are now surprised that he went wrong.

Above all, when you complain of disloyalty or ingratitude, turn inwards on yourself. The fault is clearly your own, if you trusted that a man of that character would keep his trusts, or if your conferred a favour without making it an end in itself, your very action its own and complete reward. What more do you want, man, from a kind act? Is it not enough that you have done something consonant with your own nature – do you now put a price on it? As if the eye demanded a return for seeing, or a the feet for walking. Just as these were made for a particular purpose, and fulfil their proper nature by acting in accordance with their own constitution, so man was made to do good: and whenever he does something good or otherwise contributory to the common interest, he has done something what he was designed for and inherits his own.” – Meditations 9.42

Perhaps space piracy is not what Aurelius had in mind when he discussed this point. Yet, who knows, maybe he did or maybe applications of curing cruelty with gentleness and meeting ignorance with expectation and indifference were as relevant in the 1st Century as they are in a galaxy far, far away.

Z3N0

Undefined

I had a shower thought this morning, something that seemed to come from nowhere:

The world does not define you.

It’s not an entirely groundbreaking thought but its something that I couldn’t let go of as I was washing my hair. The world, all this stuff does not define you, it exists purely as contrast to you. Hate or love is pure contrast and the impression is leaves on us is not a thing at all just our own perception of what is and what isn’t. As human beings we make this world what it is, we define it. We define it in both our own enlightenment and ignorance. The world owes us nothing in the same sense the weather does not owe us to shine brightly when we want it to. Even the actions of other living beings, other fish in this ocean, do not define who we really are. Their actions, like all the other corporeal stuff, is simply contrast to our own being. It’s what makes us individuals, that contrast that keeps us a unique shade amongst it all.

Sure, we pick up bits of characteristics from here or there but only as far as we all allow. We are not defined by those things, are we? Are you defined by your mother’s eyes or your best friend’s temperament? No, of course not. The world has become good at making monsters, sure but the truth is more so that the world is very good at empowering darkness and drawing it to the surface. It’s like colour theory: the brightest colours makes the darkest ones pop.

We as humans shape the landscape as our collective action and attitude shapes society. Subsequently, it could be said then that has an impression on us. For example, no one is born with racial bias but it is a taught behavior and what is that but an impression that the world imprints? I say, it’s not an impression that’s forced on an individual but one accepted through adoration of the holder of the belief. A son will adopt the philosophies of the father through adoration alone, whether it be what the best football team is to the finer points of race hate.

You are not defined by anything other than yourself and what you allow yourself to be defined by, whether that be philosophy or title.

You either accept a thing such as a name or colour of your hair as defined by genetics, or you do not and you reject and take action to correct the course as best suited to your own definition of self, your own nature and highest good.

Such as bad weather does not define your day, other people do not either. There is such great freedom in knowing how free you really are from the definitions of others and the wider world if you just find the comfort in your own soul to accept that.

“Failure to read what is happening in another’s soul is not easily seen as a cause of unhappiness: but those who fail to attend to the motions of their own soul are necessarily unhappy.” – Meditations 2.8

Even when you say that you don’t want to be like someone or something – or that you do – it is not an impression that leaves you with this assertion but the contrast between you and the existence of the other thing. And, in this contrast, there is a balance of what is you and what is not you. What separates you from others, in the grand scheme, is a razor thin line of difference as we are all beings of the same biology, history, atoms and so on. What you actively embrace in those similarities and differences define you, by choice in your actions, right down to the unconscious thought.

Your past does not define you, your future does not define you. All you are and all you will ever be is what you accept yourself to be in this moment, right now as you read these words until the next moment comes.

The only opinion on definition of your own self that matters is yours. In the end, it’s the only thing we can ever truly say we own. As we exhale our last, the only thing we take is our selves. And who that is, is entirely up to you.

Z3N0

Power of 3

Recently I have gotten back into meditation and spiritual healing sessions in the form of reiki sessions through Youtube. Now while not entirely for everyone, the ASMR element of reiki is at the very least helpful enough to calm you down into a meditative or at least hypnotic relaxed state. As well as this, I have found a few tarot video channels. While my friend would say to be cautious of tarot as energy is fluid and subsequently what is being shown can be literally any possibility, et cetera et cetera.

Despite this, I have a few favourites that work for me personally in a way that helps me either feel supported in my own spiritual healing or entering to that headspace. I’ve previously posted a similar list but since it has been a long time since then, I thought an update was in order.

There will only be 3 to this list as all the best things seem to come in 3s do they not?

First of all this channel, Lotus Evolutionary, while not having regular content as others, is very useful to me for reasons unknown aside from what is being imparted. I seem to prefer these sorts of videos where the action is directional to the viewer’s point of view rather than directed at a stand-in bed. I full recommend the other healing videos on this channel and watch for further updates should they come along.

The second channel on my list is Fiadh Luna, who’s videos seem to fly by and are entirely hypnotic and becoming for me a firm favourite. There’s a pure sense of organic calmness with these videos and Fiadh seems to impart healing very naturally. Whether you are a believer or accepting of the concepts of this kind of healing (whether you call it reiki or visually guided mental pathway reprogramming of some description), there’s a spark here that feels very real to me.

Sundaisy Wellness Energy Healing is another small channel that deserves more love for the unique and calming centre that is brought to each video. I keep saying this but even if you’re not accepting of reiki or energy work, the meditative quality of this video alone is extraordinary, with the closest comparison being to say a revered practitioner such as Mooji who I have written about previously.

As someone could tell, I prefer the smaller channels because I have a personal philosophy about larger content creators. The larger the following, the more diluted the product. It’s like my love affair with The Yorkshire Roast Company when I was living in central York. A roast dinner wrap was the perfect finale to a night out yet as they became popular and trending on social media, something changed and I don’t know if it was the overall quality of product or wait times but it wasn’t the same. Then again, that phenomena is found all over the place and the law of supply and demand. But I digress.

If you enjoy any of the content I’ve shared with you today, please do make sure to support these creators with subscribes and support in comment sections. If you’ve found something healing in their content and it has helped you in some way, let them know, be braver than I.