Prosperous Journeys

I was watching Ryan Holiday’s videos again and he told the story of Zeno – the proper one – and his process in founding the stoic school of thought. It got me thinking about my own journey and perhaps perspective on the collective journeys of us all. It reaffirmed to me the purpose of the philosophy, one that has become almost a reflexive action: a innate moral code much that I can’t break from like a kind of happy programming. I’m sure Jordan Peterson would have something to say about that but I’ve always been more of a fan of Obi-wan Kenobi when it comes to worldview.

So, the story of Zeno starts in Greece two thousand or so years ago. He was from a wealthy merchant family that moved between the island city states. It was decided – by him or circumstance – that the business would be moved to Athens which required putting all of the stock and money on board the one ship. I’m sure they could have done it in a few trips but why bother when one would manage just fine? In a sudden storm, Zeno was shipwrecked and lost everything aside from his own skin. Yet years later, looking back on this devastating loss, he described this as a ‘prosperous journey‘.

Well, not all of us can be so fucking glib, you may say. Well, I’ll tell you another story – warning: some grossness.

During my GCSE year at school, I was not doing well at all in Maths. I was put in a intervention class to secure a C Grade. As it turns out, pretending to know what’s going on can only get you so far so, of course, discovering that I couldn’t really tell the time from an analogue clock at 16 was an interesting experience. In this class, a girl sat in front of me and one day she lifted her hair up from the back of her neck and started scratching at a nasty looking case of psoriasis. She scratched a wad of dead skin into her hands and with a cheeky grin, turned around and decided to blow it all into my face. Never in my life have I worked so hard to pass anything to get out of that class.

So then, my experience of classroom biological warfare was prosperous.

Obviously a different catalyst to pass my Maths GCSE would have been kinder but as Jagger said, you can’t always get what you want.

Now, in my life, I am coming to an end of a rut. A year of headaches and constriction has only eleven weeks left to it before I am off to start a new chapter. Without this year, I don’t think I would have come to the same conclusions, learned the same lessons or be the same person. I am even grateful for a failed attempt at romance that lasted for half of that time.

I keep coming back to the same lessons: the Code of Jagger, the Law of Rolling Stones, etc. I don’t mind repeating myself. I hope whoever reading this doesn’t mind either. Alas:

You can’t always get what you want, but if you try sometimes you might find, you get what you need.

Obviously, that’s easier said than done. Or is it?

… yes it is, but you’ve got this.

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