Alone

This particular short story was written with a specific character in mind who had lived a life of solitude and had come to see being alone as not a cursed ‘vemod’ as previously discussed but instead as a fact of life to be contented with. This writing was an exercise in character exploration with the themes of her coming through as a flavour for more extended pieces which exist across about half a dozen USB sticks and battered notebooks.

So, there I was in the violet glow of the neon bar lights, sipping casually with no one to miss to run home to. Perhaps it was always meant to be this way, I pondered, spinning the near empty cerveza bottle in my hand. The barkeep, a twenty-something in some hipster garb, glared dimly at me from his leaning post at the end; occasionally he glances at his phone before pocketing it to avoid the light catching the attention of the general manager who was prowling the neon kingdom.

Admittedly, it was a strange place to find oneself – this kind of place – but everywhere else had lost its appeal. Somehow, I was, in that moment, contented to be entirely lonely. Of course, there is a difference between being alone and lonely but lonely was what it was. A tranquil numbness in the humming sweat and noise of the room. If I were giving advice to someone in my position, I would say to them to cheer up because it could only get better from here on. From this point perched on a bar stool in some nameless strip club in Seattle on this chilly fall night, it could only get better – right?

I wasn’t facing the girls like the rest of the customers who were crowded round to watch some pornstar who had travelled up from L.A for one night only. It was a mighty fine stroke of luck to be graced with such a performance that I wouldn’t be watching. The cerveza’s were cheap and the shots of tequila were cheaper which, as far as I was concerned was the most pressing issue. Yet occasionally, I would glance down at my fading treasure in its plastic bag on the floor.

What does the world see? Some immigrant turning into her thirties with no direction just heavy pale eyes. Maybe that was the deep mystery behind the glare of the bartender. I’ve been drinking since 4pm which would suggest that unlike him, I don’t have some crippling student debt in some entirely worthless degree like media studies to lug around with me. Only the bags under my eyes weighed me down. Down to the floor where my canvas portrait rested against the sticky bottom of the bar, protected from even stickier grey linoleum by white plastic.

Loneliness is the price of that freedom. A delicious loneliness.

I roll my eyes and smile to myself; the crowd goes wild behind me as red panties fly in the air and land on the bar next. I raise the bottle to the bartender; he understands and gets another.

‘Hey are you going to keep those,’ asks a slurring voice from behind me as a sweaty finger enters my peripheral vision, pointing at the undergarment.

‘Yup.’

Z3N0

Sand on the Beach

Modern Art

When we think about our place in the universe we should reflect on our place as a grain of sand on this beach here. Each single grain one of a trillion of grains ever shifting under the pull of the ocean.

This will be a quick post, an uneventful, perhaps uninspiring musing on the divine meaninglessness of our cosmic nature and the beauty of that. It’s point being, with it all being as temporary and meaningless as it is, surely then, we should enjoy it all while it lasts and embrace whatever it brings. Because, of course, while for one grain a shift of position means nothing, when we zoom out we see modern art. Or, in this case, the word “penis” written out with my big toe, which for some infantile reason brought me great joy.

Even Dexter, the weeny mutt, seemed to enjoy the piece.

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

Quick Quote Post: 15

I was reflecting on the nature of pride today and that I’ve found most common in the 21st Century is that people are often prideful and proud of people who they do not know and never will. It’s a fan culture and cult of celebrity that creates this strange relationship and expectation. It seems to seep into the culture of sports too and politics even – perhaps much more obvious than k-pop culture – with people taking pride in a team or national spirit that realistically has nothing to do with them. It’s like when some fans say: “oh we did well last night, we beat your team” or something to that effect as if they were there themselves on the pitch.

David Mitchell and Robert Webb sum it up quite well, no millenia old wisdom required.

“No one should feel pride in anything that is not his own. We praise a vine if it loads its branches with fruit and bends its very props to the ground with the weight it carries: would anyone prefer the famous vine that had gold grapes and leaves hanging on it? Fruitfulness is the vine’s peculiar virtue. So, too, in a man praise is due only to what is his very own. Suppose he has a beautiful home and a handsome collection of servants, a lot of land under cultivation and and a lot of money out at interest; not one of these things can be said to in him – they are just things around him. Praise in him what can be neither given nor snatched away, what is peculiarly a man’s.” – Letters from a Stoic XLV

Here perhaps we can argue that Seneca was sick of sycophants praising his massive estate and riches rather than how much of a man of character he was – or wasn’t depending on who you ask.

Take pride not in glory of the sports team, your favourite singer making it to No. 1 on the charts because it’s all arbitrary. Be proud and praise the virtue and nature within the individual; not just of others but also yourself.

People always forget that last part. Don’t, it’s important.

Z3N0

Writer’s Block

Recently, those who come to my blog will have noticed my writer’s block. Every day I sit down and look over a blank word processor unable to get my thoughts to find themselves on the page. I’m not sure why, it’s not that I’ve been without content. Several times a day I find myself falling back on stoicism and the philosophy of various places from Ancient Greece to Leeds.

There’s a dizziness to the modern work week. We get home at 5pm to find ourselves in a burnout with our minds racing with all the things from the day, each thing more meaningless than the last. The minutiae will be the death of this world, and perhaps the next global conflict will arise from a misspelled email.

So I asked myself today as I sat at work in the break room, shoving Mini Cheddars into my mouth in a mad rush, is it all worth it? When we get up in the morning, is this our purpose? As individuals in our workplaces we should ask ourselves whether or not this is our purpose, should we not? I know someone who was a plumber for years but decided to change and become a full time teaching assistant. Of course this caused some stir with a comment about this being the reason why we have skilled labour shortages. But frankly, fuck those comments because if we are destined to live the life the misanthrope would have us lead for their own convenience rather than our truest callings then we are doomed to their misery.

When you wake up, are you doing so with the view that you will act with your truest purpose? In my eyes, mine has been and always will be to write yet that’s not exactly a viable vocation in this climate, especially not one where my taxes are about to shoot through the roof to 47%. A strike down from the aforementioned misanthropic or just reality? When facing reality then, how can we live to our truest purpose and our utmost happiness under the restraints and expectations of others?

The answer is we can’t. We can’t function within the confines of another’s biases and impressions functionally and properly without our own integrity and individuality eroding. It’s the balance we strike between collective responsibility and individual expressions and freedoms that erode when we allow them to erode or more likely, are in a position where they do overtime. Of course, it’s like weather erosion: even the most stalwart of cliff faces cannot stat entirely pristine against a constant tide and acid rain.

Where do we go from here?

Where do we find ourselves and the outlets for a purpose unfulfilled under the constraints of modern financial expectations?

The only place of course, is within always.

You can vote for whichever political party you like and still feel disenfranchised with the self, who has power over nation is irrelevant to your own power of the self. The people who cry: “not my President” and the like, act as this is some major revelation like the leader of collective has ever been leader of you: individual. You have the choices to live your life as you see fit, yet must expect consequence for those choices whether they be for virtue or vice of a personal nature. While we toil under the flags and purposes and expectations of our forefathers, we have control over the thing they will never have: this moment.

What we chose to do with this moment, acting as our nature instructs and in harmony with our highest and greatest good, defines not just the self but the destiny itself.

So, while I sit here and type, as my nature demands, I ask you:

What are you doing?

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

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.

Back To Work

So I decided to come back to work, not in the typical sense but in perhaps the only that matters: the work of philosophy on here. I’d taken a bit of a break, the summer and trips keeping me away from the internet or away from tangible insight.

I took myself to Leeds on a city break and indulged at two fantastic restaurants, Livin’ Italy and Little Tokyo (the address of both found in the postscript). The atmosphere of both places was fantastic, both rustic and true to their cultures and entirely authentic in cuisine. Yet it was not the lobster at Livin’ Italy that I will remember forever, nor the yaki udon of Little Tokyo but instead the words of a man on a street.

His name was Oliver and he stopped me to talk to me about Jesus. He spoke to me about first of all himself and how that he came to the very real realization that material things mean nothing in the end as we are all born the same way and die the same. He spoke about giving it all up to follow his heart and follow the fire of life, a fire you could clearly see in his eyes and cheeks. I was glued to the spot as he spoke, something telling me that I should listen.

“Have faith, be a believer but don’t be religious.”

It reminded me of the words of the Tao Te Ching and the scripture that says that the sage is both of the world and not. He invited me to his church, to experience what he called an “alive” experience as opposed to a “dead” one of human rites and traditions with no real meaning past the impressions of time and culture.

“We are all running in circles. We smoke, we drink, we go on to the next sexual partner after another to fill a void within ourselves. But we are all looking for the same thing,” he says, as he points to the grey sky of the early evening.

While the perspective was entirely Abrahamic, it seemed to light a fire in this man and seemed to leave a lasting impression on me and the wisdom of his words ring true in the most fundamental way. My own words were less convincing to a friend on the interconnectedness of the universe and that we are all expressions of the same life. Yet Oliver, with his hours in the main high street of Leeds sharing his fire and light with those who spoke to him in a world of sceptics, was something entirely inspiring to me. His words were not of hate or damnation or hellfire but instead of peace and harmony and finding serenity. The cynic inside me asks whether or not that was the next topic of conversation as he did allude to dark forces – a topic for another day – yet in that moment, it seemed like where we stood in the bustling city that there was a unique peace.

He gave me his phone number, perhaps he gave it to many people, but suggested that if I ever feel the need to talk for advice on finding my connection to the divine and my own spirit, to call him. One day I might but the most likely thing is that I won’t. Yet those 11 digits on the back of a flyer is are on the shelf next to Epictetus, Aurelius and Seneca just in case.

Z3N0

P.S.

As promised, my recommendations of places to eat in Leeds

https://littletokyoleeds.co.uk/

https://livinitaly.com/

As someone with allergies, both places were extremely accommodating as a bonus.