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

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

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.

Quick Quote Post: 13

Today saw the departure of dear colleagues and I must admit, I had to refrain from hugging anyone to stop myself from crying in front of 100 people. I know, I know, not very stoic. That being said, I am an empath, so to stop myself from succumbing to a collective despair and nostalgic melancholy, measures had to be taken. I recalled a few lines of Marcus Aurelius and became rigid in composure neither falling to ecstasy or despair. What despair is there? Three valued colleagues who have mentored and befriended me are retiring and due to spent the next few decades with a well-deserved respite from years of solid graft. What’s the tragedy? There is only celebrations surely at the closing of a chapter and welcoming of a reward.

“Somethings are hurrying into being, others are hurrying to be gone, and part of that which is being born is already extinguished. Flows and changes are constantly renewing the world, just as the ceaseless passage of time makes eternity ever young. In this river, then, where can there be no foothold, what should anyone prize of all that races past him? It is as if he were to begin ro fancy one of the little sparrows that fly past – but already it is gone from his sight. Indeed this is the nature of our very lives – as transient as the exhalation of vapour from the blood or a breath drawn from the air. No different from a single breath taken in and returned to the air, something which we do every moment, no different is the giving back of your whole power of breathing – acquired at your birth just yesterday or thereabouts – to that world from which you first drew it.” – Meditations 6.15

And another, to round off the thought:

“There is nothing to value in transpiring like plants of breathing in like cattle and wild creatures; nothing in taking the stamp of sense impressions of jerking to the puppet-strings of impulse; nothing in herding together or taking food – this last is not better than voiding the wastes of that food. What, then, is to be valued? Applause? No. Not therefore the applause of tongues either: the praise of the masses is the mere rattle of tongues. So you have jettisoned trivial glory too. What remains to be valued? To my mind, it is to act or refrain from action according to our own proper constitution, something to which skills and crafts show the way. Every craft seeks to make its product suit the purpose for which it is produced: this is the aim of the gardener, the vine-dresser, the breaker of horses, the dog-trainer. And what is the end to which the training of children and their teaching strives? So this is the true value: and if this is firmly held, you will not be set on acquiring any of the other things for yourself. Will you not then cease to value much else besides? Otherwise you will not be free or self-sufficient or devoid of passion: you will need to be envious and jealous to suspect those who have the power to deprive you of these things, and to intrigue against people who poses what you value. In short, anyone who feels the need of any of these things is necessarily sullied, and what is more je will often be driven to blame the gods too. But reverence of your own mind and the value you give to it will make you acceptable to yourself, in harmony with your fellows, and consonant with the gods – that is, praising all that they assign and have dispensed.” – 6.16

Z3N0

Quick Quote Post: 12

Today I found myself at a loss, trying to understand the motivations of other people in both my professional and personal sphere. I found myself wanting answers locked within minds that I would never be able to access. So of course, I look to my handbook and guide:

“Do not look around at the directing minds of other people, but keep looking straight ahead to where nature leading you – both universal nature, in what happens to you, and your own nature, in what you must do yourself. Every creature must do what follows from its own constitution. Every creature must do what follows from its own constitution. The rest of creation is constituted to serve rational beings (just as in everything else the lower exists for the higher), but rational beings are here to serve each other. So the main principle in man’s constitution is the social. The second is resistance to the promptings of the flesh. It is the specific property of rational beings and intelligent by the activity of the senses or impulses: both these are of the animal order, and it is the aim of intelligent activity to be sovereign over them and never yield them the mastery – and rightly so, as it is the very nature of intelligence to put all these things to its own use. The third element in a rational constitution is judgement unhurried and deceived. So let your directing mind hold fast to these principles and follow the straight road ahead: then it has what belongs to it.” – Meditations 7.55

Things are as they are and will be as they will be. Worrying about the nature of this and that is a fallacy and slows us down on the path. We can’t walk properly looking back or looking about. We look forward, fall forward and walk forward. This is The Way.

Z3N0

Tests of Strength

Today I found myself in conflict with family regarding the vaccine programme not 24-hours after finding myself at peace with the resolutions of the last conversation. I lost my shit, in simple terms before having to face the consequences of my anger like we all have to, with a level of humility and understanding. Yet the outcome of the situation was not what sticks with me for it was and is the journey that was far more important. I realized on this journey that the truest test of any stoic learning or teaching will come at the death of my grandmother.

The subject of death was something heavily involved in the conflict regarding the unknown affects of the vaccine programme, following the money back to government contractors and allusions to authoritarianism. Throughout, I realized how much I relied, rather quietly, on the counsel of my grandmother and rely on her as the voice of calm reason in the chaos whatever that may be. While I backed down in the conflict, being the empathy sponge I am, unable to cope with the overwhelming fear and sadness and disappointment, I still found comfort with her without judgement.

So then, it means a test will be coming at anytime destiny chooses to remove that support in some way or another. The cause will be irrelevant, the impact will be the true trial. Not just for my grandmother in whatever situation that may be – in fact, worrying about her seems quite futile as whether she realizes it or not, stoic is her middle name -, but for everyone around her, myself included. So then, how do I reconcile this? I know for a fact that the likely situation is that in the next two decades or, Universe willing, more, that I will face this challenge as I will have to face any loss. It’s part of nature and the ouroboros of existence. Yet despite all of my aspirational stoic goals, I know that it will hurt. I’m not sure that I fear the hurt, yet I can imagine it all the same and know it is an inevitability.

It’s the final test of strength: not some weight lifting or personal battle of ambition. It’s the loss of those around us that tests us because then finally, we are alone. I have a friend who knows of this better than me and is a reality of their life from a young age. They tell me about vemod and the feeling of true loneliness as something I cannot yet comprehend. They are most likely right.

I won’t be posting any quotes up or reflections from others as I believe this test, as recurrent and natural as it is, is something personal to us all. And, in doing so, I will keep this brief and up to you, reader, on where to take your thoughts past these words.

Yet, despite all preparations and wonderings, only fate knows and only time will tell how any of us face reality.

Z3N0

Stoic Lent

Today will be my final day as a meat eater for the foreseeable future. Maybe I’ll indulge in proteins from fish on occasion but for the rest of the time my diet will be wholly vegetarian. It’s not a massive inconvenience, the M&S veggie burgers are the best I’ve ever had, better than the beef equivalent in fact. It’s not a new experience, I was previously vegetarian for three months of last year, pushing myself to go as long as I could never attempting such a diet before. Christmas broke me of course, who can resist?

I never really thought of it as a lent as such until I was reading Seneca today on my lunch break. Beforehand, it was instead a strange need that I felt despite having no real moral stance on vegetarianism before. As someone growing up in a household with an Italian heritage, to refuse meat was seen a little like an alien request and even months into this attempt, the packs of salami in the fridge were looking very friendly.

“Still, my determination to put your moral strength of purpose to test is such that I propose to give even you the following direction found in great men’s teaching: set aside now and then a number of days during which you will be content with the plainest of food, and very little of it, and with rough, course clothing, and will ask yourself, ‘Is this what one used to dread?’ It is in times of security that the spirit should be preparing itself to deal with different times; while fortune is bestowing favours on it then is the time for it to be strengthened against her rebuffs.” – Letters from a Stoic XVIII

It’s like this summer heat, desiring the cool weather while in the winter we crave the heat. We teach ourselves to appreciate what we have, what we don’t have and that we never needed a thing to begin with. I read somewhere that some stoics have slept on the floor of the kitchen with nothing but a single pillow to appreciate the beds. Perhaps this trial of the self is similar yet also extended and not as fleeting as a night on the tiles. While a simple task for veteran vegetarians, for me this is a task each day after day reflective of the path of philosophy itself. Who knows, if it sticks as a matter of conscience and tribunal of the self, so be it.

When I think about it, I realize that I could give up plenty and still live my life wholly. Someone said to me today that they aspire to be rich. And I replied:

“To be rich you must first be prepared to be poor.” – Z

We can all afford to be poor. Being rich is not a thing of material but of self and for that you need only the items you were born with. It’s good practice at least, this little test of mine to go meat free. Test yourself, see what you can afford to lose and still remain wealthy.

Z3N0

Quick Quote Post: 9

“A bitter cucumber? Throw it away. Brambles in my path? Go round them. That is all you need, without going to ask, ‘So why are these things in the world this way?’ This question would be laughable to a student of nature, just as a carpenter or cobbler would laugh at you if you objected to the sight of shavings or cut-offs from their work on the shop floor. Yet they have somewhere to throw their rubbish, whereas the nature of the Whole has nothing outside of itself. The marvel of its craft is that is sets its own confines and recycles into itself all within them which seems to be decaying, growing old, or losing its use: then it creates afresh from this same material. This way it requires no substance other than its own, and has no need for a rubbish-dump. So it is complete in its own space, its own material and its own craftsmanship.” – Meditations 8.50

See things as this, that in regard to our ultimate reality, there is no end nor beginning from our atoms to our environment. When a thing blocks your path or creates a bump in your road, simply manoeuvre, there is no need for some panic. You will get to where you’re going like all of us in the end. From your mistakes to other’s mistakes, do away with it and carry on. In the case of Marcus Aurelius” bitter cucumber, we find a solution such as learning to wait until it ripens or find a better grocer. What panic is there? If we find our loves failing us and our hearts fatiguing with each latest drama or shadowed causation, what is there to do other than identify, do away, and move on?

It’s Todorov’s Narrative Theory making its way into my thoughts again:

  • Equilibrium
  • Disruption
  • Recognition of disruption
  • Attempt to repair
  • New Equilibrium – link back to Step 1.

Things are as they are, and we can only control our reactions to them. It is down to us to decide whether to react or overreact to stimuli – of course, the former being the only logical choice in regard to the benefit of the self and humanity entire. What does making a scene over bitter cucumbers do? What does making a scene about a friend ghosting you on social media do, or ignoring facemask regulations during a pandemic, or being stuck in traffic? Hot air does nothing but contribute to global warming, I say.

You have everything you need in life whether you realize it or not. If you have nothing, you have everything and if you have everything, you have nothing. I pity the morose billionaire in their Dubai mansion with an M&M dispensary room and three home cinemas, I really do. How discontent with their own being they must be to crave and desire more and more brick and mortar. It all returns to the earth in the end and as fleeting as a tent in a side street of London.

I digress…

Live and breathe your path and the obstacles you come across can be overcome without so much a whisper of contempt. No time machine exists to remove them before they appear so you can only accept that they do and will and that you will overcome them.

With a smile, always. It may take you a while to smile, but you will.

Z3N0

Quick Quote Post: 7

I want to take today to share two verses from the Tao Te Ching on the balance of character. A friend spoke to me last night about having relationships that are unbalanced, unequal in their respect. For as long as I’ve known this person, they have been one of the most quietly strong individuals I’ve ever known, my best friend throughout my darkest time and perhaps there may have been more had I not in my arrogance neglected them too. They feel complicit in the behaviours of others for being a passive supporter of the relationships yet I disagree with that belief. I think this present moment and this very time is when they have been able to instead reassert a balance between integrity and passiveness. Now is the time for the archers on the walls to fire back at the invaders to the kingdom, dismissing trifling perceptions and immorality before they can reach the city. Like Bukowski said about success, these kinds of revelations are like flies: let them come to you before you can swat them. Don’t try.

“To use words but rarely is to be natural. Hence a gusty wind cannot last all morning, and a sudden downpour cannot last all day. Who is it that produces these? Heaven and earth. If even heaven and earth cannot go on for ever, much less can man. That is why one follows the way! A man of the way confirms to the way; a man of virtue conforms to virtue; a man of loss conforms to loss. He who conforms to the way gladly is gladly accepted by the way; he who conforms to virtue is gladly accepted by virtue; he who conforms to loss is gladly accepted by loss. When there is not enough faith, there is a lack of good faith.” – Tao Te Ching XXIII

“He who tiptoes cannot stand; he who strides cannot walk. He who shows himself is not conspicuous; He who considers himself right is not illustrious; He who brags will have no merit; He who boasts will not endure. From the point of view of the way these are ‘excessive food and useless excrescences.’ As there are Things that detest them, he who has the way does not abide by them.” – Tao Te Ching XXIV

Find your faith in yourself, find your way, find you middle path, find your balance and you will be the happier for it. It’s a natural thing, the natural state of being to be one with your own flow, synchronised with you chi and spiritual path.

As Bukowski said: don’t try.

Z3N0

Amethyst

I’m a bit of a shameless obsessive about having amethyst around.

The crown chakra connects you to the Universe and reminds you of your eternal connection to the grander, wider web of it all. When you are connected, you are with faith that things will be fine. Of course in the rational sense, this is meaningless as things will be fine normally, yet this connection to the divine existence is far more important than we first might expect.

It’s a sense of clear headedness and absence of the material that tethers us to the earth. With this, we can see our courses more clearly in the light of the Whole. The distractions of the tawdry are meaningless to us when we can access the higher part of ourselves and hold those things that tether us in contempt. When you are able to be free of what you fear to lose, you are one with the immortal because you have no fear only trust in the existence of nature.

What has this got to do with amethyst? In the spiritual sense, it cleanses, heals and protects – guiding you to the light of Saint Germain and the violet flame within his temple. It enhances intuition, your spiritual readiness and meditation ability. It calms you, from your rational mind to irrational wandering spirit and protects from the charred and sickly energies that stick to you like tar. I never believed in it myself before I started sleeping next to a large rock of the purple stuff, each night’s dreams becoming less and less terrifying. Each visit from the man in the hat and the long legged shadow that paralysed me to the spot became rarer and rarer. I’m not saying that this naturally occurring mineral is some godly thing that can cure sleep paralysis based on my singular experience and lack of totally hard evidence; I’m saying it doesn’t hurt to reflect on it.

This is another short post.

The message is clear here, for me and it’s more of a notice, a piece of direct advice to hit up Etsy and find a local seller of minerals.

I recommend:

https://www.etsy.com/uk/shop/MoonChildCrystalss?ref=simple-shop-header-name&listing_id=999070535

Try it for yourself, no harm I suppose if it doesn’t work, right?

Z3N0