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

Painful Perspectives

So I’ve discovered or rather rediscovered my complicated relationship with gluten. It causes stomach cramps, constipation and a lot of pain in the lower abdomen and back that made me double over. In fact it was so bad that I spent the first hour of my working day itching for my next toilet break like a secret crack addict. On my way out I explained my symptoms to a colleague who made the connection that my experience sounded a lot like period pain.

“How do women do this every month? It’s just not realistic?” – Z

“Ok so think, whenever you speak to a woman or someone who is biologically female, think that any of them could be going through what you’re going through now and have been for years.” – X

Amazing isn’t it, the little things that we seem to forget to be grateful for, even down to our own biology. I wasn’t ignorant of the problem before yet this painful perspective was something that I needed to hear to quit my literal bellyaching and shut up.

It was my physical pain of the day followed by a test of emotional pain. With truths being revealed that not was all perfect as I had envisioned – my own failing. A relationship on hold or not at all existing to begin with has me asking where was the purpose? All things have purpose and all things come from the Whole so to this end where is the purpose of such tests? For the other party, a lesson in what could be and for me a test on what could be with neither thing coming to fruition for perhaps the point of this connection was just that and nothing more.

Of course, I wasn’t so gracious about it and needed a nap and a few glasses of Fireball to contemplate the purpose of Fate’s plan. Fate asking: do you love me? Of course, but also fuck you – there was a nicer way to do that. But obviously, what does Fate care? It conspires to protect us all as a friend once told me but it teaches painful lessons most efficiently with a ruthlessness that tests each of our convictions and philosophies. It’s a thing that brings us perspective after the fact and leads to such conclusions so unsatisfactory at the time – much like the season finale of Loki – yet only in reflection can be appreciated for what it was. I’m not sure if I’m there yet with the acceptance and smile to give to Fate. I mean, yes of course, thank you so much for the medicine but it tasted like shit so I’m still a little salty.

I think that’s fair for us all to be like that in our philosophy. One day I will look back on this and ask why I wasn’t more accepting immediately and stoic immediately like the Stoics on Reddit would love to see. Yet I don’t think it’s about that. Are we to be as harsh with our own growth as Fate is?

There are some key stoic lessons to take from my day at least, some key quotes of reminder and reflection to take into tomorrow, at least with a begrudging smile.

“It is ridiculous not to escape from one’s own vices, which is possible, while trying to escape the vices of others, which is impossible.” – Meditations 7.71

“Mere things stand isolated outside our doors, with no knowledge or report of themselves. What then reports on them? Our directing mind.” – 9.15

“That all is as thinking makes it so. – and you control your thinking. So remove your judgements whenever you wish an there is calm – as the sailor rounding the cape finds smooth water and the welcome of a waveless bay.” – 12.22

Needless to say, the copy of Meditations on my bed side table is battered and covered in scribbles by this point.

Z3N0