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

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

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