The Wrong We Inflict

So I was scrolling through Seneca’s Letters from A Stoic to look for something tangible to tie my day together, one marred by the random lies and misdeeds of others leading to these peoples’ own questioning of how and why they are perceived poorly, unable to understand or be at least self aware but trapped in a state of anxiety for it.

“Never do wrong to others takes one a long way towards peace of mind. People who know no self-restraint lead stormy and disordered lives, passing their time in a state of fear commensurate with the injuries they do to others, never able to relax. After every act that tremble, paralysed, their consciences continually demanding an answer, not allowing them to get on with other things. To expect punishment is to suffer it; and to earn it is to expect it. Where there is a bad conscience, some circumstance or other may provide one with impunity, but never with freedom from anxiety; for a person takes the attitude that even if he isn’t found out, there’s always the possibility of it. His sleep is troubled. Whenever he talks about someone else’s misdeeds he thinks of his own, which seems t him all too inadequately hidden, all to inadequately blotted out of people’s memories. A guilty person sometimes has the luck to escape detection, but never to feel sure of it.” – Letters from a Stoic, CVII

There’s a lot in that that feels a little directed at me for my own mistakes in the past where a machiavellian tendency and self-destructive lashing out led to finding myself in numerous vulnerable situations both physically and morally.

Yet, reflecting on this, I look at those from my day, reflecting on their actions and choices too as well as my own remembering truly that he who is without sin should cast the first stone. Yet it seems all too common in the modern climate to rush to make false apology videos for wrong doing as a confessional, as if the court of public opinion and own soul will absolve someone of their sins as quickly as their Hail Mary’s will. Actions like lying about illness or threatening others with no other reason than those self-serving seem to be common place. How far have we come that we feel so powerless in our own lives that we must pretend to be dying for a little social control? I’ve seen two cases of this in a week, not even that: three days.

Often, I believe, in 2021, it’s not our actions that follow us it’s the lies we tell to hide the truth of the action that weighs heavier not just on the self but also in people’s minds. If someone does wrong and admits to that, the situation is dealt with and often people move on, yet the cover up of an act is seen as more unforgivable than the act itself. Look above to Seneca: “never freedom from anxiety“.

So, when I say wrong in the title, in reference to inflicting wrong, we have to ask first what that means. Just punishments are teaching moments and quips and remarks sure, who hasn’t done those things in service of the greater good even with an air of emotion to them? Even telling someone to piss off is even rather blunt tool to demonstrate that now is the time for solitude but people tend not to want to hear that. When we talk about inflicting wrong here, as Seneca speaks about is the case of acting in a way that serves only vice and that exists to subvert the natural way of being, rejecting all the maxims of what it means to at least try to act in a virtuous way. The list is rather long.

So what do we do in these situations, if we inflict wrong? Other than take time to improve and to reflect on this action and take responsibility for it, not much. The gratification of forgiveness from those we wrong is self serving and unfulfilling even when our actions are exposed. So we apologise not for ourselves but for the people we have wronged as a sincere notice of reflection and implication that all efforts will be made to not do that thing again. You can’t unring a bell or unfuck your partner’s friend (or whatever), so realistically the only thing we can take responsibility for is the self and self improvement not the hurt inflicted because that is often immeasurable. It’s easier said than done, yet with all things, it’s the journey not destination that matters most as the destination for all of us is that very long sleep.

Z3N0

Are You Suffering?

I’ve had a cold for the past week or so, brought on due to working in close proximity with someone who has no concept of hand sanitizer or understanding of why smearing bogies onto desks is not exactly sanitary. Yet the issue arose for me with a single question one morning before I went to work.

“Are you suffering?” – X

“No. I’ve got a cold.” – Z

It seemed a simple answer for me because having a malady of the body is a nuisance not really suffering at all and in my own experience, suffering arises from the self, whether that be spiritual or emotional. Effectively, bodily pain, is just that. Now I’m speaking from a position of privilege, my only real experiences of pain are from anaphylaxis, asthma and burns. Perhaps my view would change with continual pain, perhaps I would be less stoic about it and my hubris would be plain for all to see. I’d like to think that my philosophy would hold true, to my way, The Way.

“Pain is an evil either to the body – so let the body give its evidence – or to the soul. But the soul can preserve its own clear sky and calm voyage by not assessing any pain as an evil. Every judgement, every impulse, desire and rejection is within the soul and nothing evil can penetrate.” – Meditations 8.28

The Buddhists believe that all life is suffering and we can escape suffering by walking the Eight Fold Path to enlightenment and subsequently Nirvana when we break this cycle. The Taoists, a philosophy I lean closer to, see it as a balance between the yin and yang and you cannot have darkness without light and vice versa. This is a far more stoic approach and one I subscribe to. If we fear the coming of suffering and coming of pain we are fearing to live, yet if we obsess about pain and suffering and see only those things, we are not living.

In the end, all suffering comes from love: either a lack of, too much, or a loss. We cannot exist without love even octopi have some concept of the chemical compounds that flush the mind and carry the soul. It’s a fact of life and I’ve spoken about this to no end that life is love and love is life. Not to be gushy or romantic only seeing the clear truth of it all. After all, in the Taoist sense, how can we be one with divinity if we do not love the manifestations of it?

Even loss. Even the most painful of experiences where we lose something that can never be replaced in our own understanding of existence. While yes, we all return to universe, you can’t hold atoms like a parent, child or friend. We carry them with us in the impressions they leave, they’re never truly gone and we carry the lessons, the love, the suffering. We are immortal in each others lives until we fade entirely. In the face of such loss to who can we turn to aside from the stoics for our comfort or the Tao for security in the balance in the face of perhaps such random chaos. But, there is no chaos there is harmony. I can’t talk like an expert on this loss, I’m sure I’ve felt it for lovers and friends and my own actions yet, one day I will be faced with this challenge to be able to say something tangible past my own shallow impressions.

“Loss is nothing more than change. Universal nature delights in change, and all that flows from nature happens for the good. Similar things have happened from time everlasting, and there will be more such to eternity. So why do you say that everything has always happened for the bad and always will, that all those gods between them have evidently never found any power to right this, so the world is condemned to the grip of perpetual misery?” – Meditations 9.35

All things are under going change. We are transient beings, as is the universe.

I have not been suffering from a cold and never will, I will and am suffering from my own impressions of love. I asked for love from the universe in my subconscious, in my desire in my action and I gave it readily. The universe provided yet there are conditions, uncontrollable conditions that everyday test my love and my soul. Or perhaps these things do not test but I allow myself to be tested by feeling this pain in my chest. I see my love and I see it for another and it’s not returned. It’s not returned in the same kind and I am left with a feeling of inadequacy, loneliness and a deep amusement. Why amusement? Because each time in my life have I properly loved another, it has ended poorly and been rather unreciprocated or poorly timed never to come to fruition. Yet, I have been loved and not loved back myself, my focus on this unrequited feeling. It’s my own conceptions and impressions that hurt me and it’s all self-harm.

Perhaps I am coming to conclusions now because I have no citalopram in my system to help regulate my internal ecosystem. Not being caffeinated doesn’t help either.

It’s love that causes us harm but also sets us free and makes us human. This pain in my chest despite how it harms me and how I let it harm me, feels me with contentment. It reminds me that I cam capable of love, it reminds me that I can and do love and I am alive. Feel alive, feel this moment, feel your pain and your joy at the same time and love it all in the experience of what it mean to be human.

Love your suffering because it makes you you and how you respond defines your impressions on the world.

I’m sat here, suffering at a situation I’ve found myself in twice before. Where I can’t decide whether or not this is going to end the same way where I allow myself to be led around like a slave to my feelings tied to another or if I’ll miss the point entirely like the latter situation. I see it with contempt yet love the experience. What else is there to do with this pain other than laugh, live – not unlike a terrible live, laugh, love sign, the bane of my life. It’s something I’m going to move pass yet this feeling has become synonymous with my nature: to be a pining philosopher in a turtleneck, sipping wine, feeling alone in others’ company. I can think of worse fates. I’m not unhappy about it, I suppose.

See your suffering. Look in the mirror and face it. If you can’t reflect on your own suffering past your physical hurt and see its root cause, then you are enabling it. You are ignorant to the directing motions of your own mind and soul and you have lost your way. Reflect and see past your eyes to what ails you and find your cure. What do you live for? Who do you live for? The answer will take you back always to the same word: love.

Z3N0