Identity

I was in an art class a few weeks ago discussing the topic of identity. This particular little thing took me a lot longer than everyone else it seemed and seemed to consume my thoughts at home with a need for just the right felt tip pens to finish it off. It was a breathe of fresh air after being confronted with weeks of writer’s block and a near total lack of creative and philosophical inspiration. Perhaps it’s true what my old friend from university said that I miss the visual creativity and my subconscious is crying out for a return to the media. Or perhaps it was a precursor to a conversation I had days after beginning this project with someone I care about very much. This person, following a mental break, reflects and makes art from what they were feeling at the time, finding it near impossible to verbalize feeling like a ‘snail mushroom’.

Strange how an oversized doodle is the only thing that has brought me any real creative interest over the past fortnight as the days become shorter and the nights become a little more restless each day. What then, can I learn from my own expression of identity aside from being a big nerd with a thing for sci-fi?

I ask myself this, in the stoic sense: what purpose does my action serve? Or perhaps, when it comes to writing on philosophy or creativity, what does my inaction serve? My mind moving from one little project to the next, drifting through thought processes in a fever dream of obscure fleeting ideas. I am comforted, however, as should you be, that everything in a rut has been experienced before and will continue to be experienced by the human nature. Which is almost ingrained in our identity as Star Wars references are ingrained in mine. I tell people all the time who claim to be feeling alone that they are not truly alone in what they are feeling as otherwise words would not exist for it in the first place. Obviously, feeling like a ‘mushroom snail’ is a little more niche which requires some other advice for that one but you get my point.

We drift through this existence always, as I have been drifting in my own. I think back to the advice from a friend: where is your action. I ask myself this, but then I ask, what is in my nature to act for and what does that mean for who I am? It’s something we all need to ask ourselves, isn’t it? Who we are before we act. Or perhaps alternatively, it is what we chose to act upon and how we act that defines our identity more than our innate being itself.

I was reading a few weeks ago that events and personality traits formed from events leave markers on DNA and can be passed through to offspring. So if a person is identifiably callous, the child shall have traits of callousness. It seemed a bit questionable and sparked another internal debate about condition versus nature. Going back to my own pseudo-theory that:

Biology + Condition = Person

So I look to my doodle, one that I seemed to spend so much time on when I could have been mind mapping ideas for short stories, full length novels and screenplays. I see perhaps only 2 things within it that relate to biological function rather than condition. Those being: the representation of sexual identity and the constellation of Taurus, showing my birthdate (vaguely). Or perhaps, I am being cynical of my own development, claiming to be a being entirely made of other people’s creations and influence. Perhaps the stack of books under my coffee of the philosophers and spiritual leaders are a biological factor. Perhaps human nature is instinctively driven to search for meaning, for the divine path, for the harmony with The Way and all of its manifestations. Perhaps that’s the point of this very minor exercise, to reflect on that fundamental truth that all things we experience as human beings are in our nature to experience and come together as ultimately the collective human identity as well as the identity of the individual. Each element representing a deeper complexity from the strange fascination with the unknown represented by Cthulu to the desire to explore and find purpose in the stars with the U.S.S Voyager.

Or perhaps, it’s really not that deep and doodling at work to stop me from counting the ceiling tiles over and over again is just that. Who knows, give it a try for yourself, let me know what you find. If anything to save you from counting ceiling tiles.

The Tao: Chapter VIII

The Tao Te Ching has inspired me to realise some core truths about what matters and what does not in the spiritual sense more so than the rational philosophical. Yet perhaps that’s a bit of a fluff announcement in itself considering how the two were never mutually exclusive. There is a sense of great foundation in the 8th chapter, clearer perhaps to a layman than the other musings that have come before – some interesting things about the universe being inherently female is one but that’s another discussion in itself.

“In a home it is the site that matters; In quality of mind it is depth that matters; In an ally it is benevolence that matters; In speech it is good faith that matters; In government it is order that matters; In affairs it is ability that matters; In action it is timeliness that matters.” – Tao Te Ching, VIII

It’s rather to the point and as someone who has been criticised (or envied, depending on who you ask) for their pragmatism and bluntness, I rather appreciate its straightforwardness. It’s wholly beautiful, a code that requires few words and few interpretations to be understood.

In regards to the home, in my interpretation, the “site” refers to the foundations and environment. Homes are not houses and such, here we can say either this is in regards to a physical place or the family. Foundations of equality, balance, harmony and truth are the sticking posts of this structure, its confines filled with love stronger than concrete.

The depth of mind for me is comparable to the epithet from the Jedi friends: there is no ignorance, there is knowledge. A shallow mind is a stagnant one like a puddle. Quality is found in the growth and endless vastness; the ability to learn and expand beyond its own perceived horizons with infinite potential – a potential every human has access to if we just dare to see ourselves.

When it comes to allies, I’ve spoken about the stoic discussions of friendship before, specifically from Seneca. The same rings true here, in benevolence we find an ally and friend. That is the only motivation of a companionship: benevolence outwards and inwards, any relationship made to serve or fulfil a need other than the sake of friendship itself is fickle and flawed.

Now we come to the part that is less relevant perhaps to those not in office: government. I suppose it’s true though to an extent, anyone who watched the scenes coming out of Washington DC on January 6th would agree that chaos breeds chaos. An ordered mind, an ordered government is the only way to properly govern. Sure, the separation of church and state is important to ensuring the priorities of the people but so should there be a separation of self and state, because its not a career for the individual but a vocation of the communal – a shared responsibility that’s one for the greater good of everyone not just the few or fickle.

When we speak about affairs we speak about what we chose to do in our lives. For example, in my own affairs, it would be quite dim to decide to become a maths tutor when I’m not really good at maths nor do I like doing it. Ability and affairs are what we speak about when we talk about our natures in stoicism and what is true to our individual nature and what are we doing to enable we can live according to our greatest good in alignment with the greatest good of the collective humanity.

Finally, this line reminds me of the quote of Marcus Aurelius about never acting in a way that would be cause for regret. Action, while we can be actively passive, is required and necessary. If you a believer in divine timing and Providence, no action happens outside of when it is meant to, even your own. Living every day as it is your last, without some mad panic that the terrible “live, love, laugh” wall signs would have you believe is a good start. Even perhaps today you say, not today and you stay in bed, you are choosing to take that action and that’s fair enough. But if you decide to rush out of bed to get on a plane to take yourself off into the unknown chasing love and life, no time is the wrong time.

Z3N0

Remember Who You Are

Being in the rut that I’ve been in has led me to forget a number of things and to discount a number of things. While this feeling of stagnation has clearly had its triggers and root causes that I can see clearly, in those times I have forgotten the core things that make me me – the me of the now, not before.

“Concentrate on the subject or act in question, on principle or meaning. You deserve what you’re going through. You would rather become good tomorrow than be good today.” – Meditations, 8.22

Or perhaps, we should turn to a modern philosopher, Jagger, with his words arranged by the incomparable Violet Orlandi:

Make sure to subscribe for more of her work and check her Spotify, linked at the end of this post.

In the moments of a grey fuzziness, ask that question: who are you? Set yourself that task. Break down each part. Who am I? I’ve been wallowing trying to find those answers since Saturday, and tonight, I got to bed early around 8pm. Now, its nearly 11 and I’m wide awake writing as a necessity to my own peace of mind. In my head there is a new sense of clarity and when I reflect on this I have no idea this sudden burst of energy comes from or injection of, in the words of Jagger, getting what I need.

Who am I?

I’m the armchair stoic – quite literally as of this moment, in an armchair -, sat in my kimono with a coffee and a wry smile. A Taoist of sorts in the school of Shangqing, my faith in Universe affirmed with a generous splash of Jedi philosophy. The observer of my own vastness, and observer rather than follower of existence – not disconnected or above from society yet positioned rather nicely in my own headspace rather than within another. Happiness is my destination, and it’s something that I work on myself, never being a thing tangible for longer than fleeting moments. I have no scars on my body – save a few minor cat scratches – the tissue cerebral only, each mark a lesson and imprint on my DNA. I have a fashion sense of a vaguely forgotten timelord and one of those energies that people seem to need to rely on, rather inexplicably. I have my flaws and marks, a confusing relationship with my own gender and a hyper-attention to detail battling with a desire to see the bigger picture. Yin and yang, working overtime in their conflict as I work to find a balance if I’ve not already found it without realizing.

Who are you?

Remove your trappings and purple dyes and look at yourself, honestly. Be generous yet be true because often is the case where we find ourselves being our own worst critic, using judgements that are not truly our own to assess ourselves. This judgement, creating more stress and anxiety for whose benefit?

“Look within: do not allow the special quality or worth of any things to pass you by.” – Meditations, 6.3

So here I am, oddly energized at 23:20, with a level of strange catharsis coursing through me like it was some trapped animal escaping from captivity back into the wild. I recommend it, in the words of Jeremy Jahns, it’s a good time with no alcohol required.

Step into your own existence, mine looking vaguely like a less artistic Dean McCoppin from Iron Giant if not exactly – my beard is better. What does yours look like? Remember who you are in those moments; those moments where sleep is the only enjoyable activity of the day and it calls at all waking moments. If you need help, seek it. Find what works for you whether that be medications or therapies or meditations to help you along your way, your journey is your own and you will strike a deal between the internal and external remedies. Of course, anything harmful masquerading as a remedy is just another layer to the crushing weight of blankets forcing you and trapping you into an existence of sleepy stagnation where this waking world is nothing more than a meaningless, headachy dreamscape.

We’ve all been there have we not? I know I have and I still have friends who can attest to the 6 months or so of my life which to me is just a blur of poor decision making – not mistakes, as of course there is no such thing.

With that being said, with there being no mistakes, where’s the harm in digging deep? Digging deep within to find an honest mirror of the self and see all the good you are and who you are at your core with purpose and diligence. The only thing preventing any of us is fear of the unknown and fear of what we might see and fear that we have not grown in philosophy as much as we have in years.

“Only thing we have to fear is fear itself” – Franklin D. Roosevelt, Inaugural Address, 1933

Z3N0

P.S. As promised, a link to Violet Orlandi’s Spotify:

Command of the Self

So I started reading The Art of War by the Chinese master tactician Sun Tzu. While the first few pages have been an enjoyable and interesting read so far, something keenly caught my attention.

“Command is

Wisdom,

Integrity,

Compassion,

Courage,

Severity.” – The Art of War, Chapter One

So far, I’ve seen that Sun Tzu’s philosophy, despite being on war, is primarily Taoist in nature (unless I’ve missed the point), something that’s highlighted by Jia Lin in the follow extract:

“An excess of wisdom can lead to rebellion; untempered compassion can cause weakness; absolute integrity can cause folly; brute courage can produce violence; excessive severity can be cruel. All five virtues must be present together in a general; each must play its role.”

For the rest of my readings, I shall be interchanging the term “general” with “sage” as the Taoist sense or “junzi” in the Confucian sense or simply “stoic“. Of course the commentary and the intended meaning applies on the surface to warfare, something those terms to do not go hand in hand with but no one ever said that Marcus Aurelius was one to shy from wars.

Here, I find the principles related directly to the self rather than blanket qualities of a military commander. For example wisdom is a necessity of life and a part of philosophical growth, and like Jia Lin says, too much can cause rebellion. In this sense, the rebellion will come from the alienation of the world around you if you retreat too far into the centre of you. Integrity is a key concept of stoicism and humanity yet a inflexible position will make your soul brittle to change – a natural part of the Whole. Compassion is a necessity for unity and wholeness yet like Seneca said, and in agreement with Jia Lin, the person who trusts everyone and opens their heart to everyone is just as vulnerable and at risk than someone who trusts no one and opens their heart to no one. Courage to do what is right and be confident in self is an essential part of becoming a fully developed person both generally and philosophically but there is a fine line easily crossed that turns courage into recklessness and confidence into arrogance. When it comes to severity, it is true we should be severe with ourselves and hold ourselves to a high standard but also temper that with understanding and empathy, similarly with others. In fact I would argue, that severity walks hand in hand with conviction and when they let go of each other, either can be flimsy or toxic.

As I progress through The Art of War I hope further my understanding of tactical applications to the self. In the 21st Century, I suppose unless you are actually on the battlefield there is little to worry about in way of command and conflict. Then again, what was it that Marcus Aurelius said?

“The art of living is more like wrestling than dancing, in that it stands ready for what comes and is not thrown by the unforeseen.” – Meditations 7.61

Z3N0

Concepts of Self

I’ve found myself increasingly attached to concept over reality when it comes to things I become passionate over and for things that irritate me to my core. Such things like story ideas, frameworks of how things should be and could be, development of philosophical thought and reflection. Ironic, how the real world bothers me less than the fantastical and in comparison never scratches that depth that the fantastical does. It’s almost as if that I have created a disconnect within myself and those around me to establish myself as a calm presence yet my own internal world in a warzone of its self.

I know for a fact that for the past few days and weeks, my own growth within has been tangible to my own observations and from others yet for the life of me, I cannot seem to shake this conflict between yin and yang and the passions of my own imposed impressions of vague thoughts. This is most experienced when playing Star Wars The Old Republic and roleplaying imaginary aliens fighting imaginary creatures. I spend hours on these concepts and developing plans and perfecting the tiny corner of the tiny corner of the tiny corner of my own imaginary landscape. Not just for myself but for others to enjoy and have a proper and enjoyable escapism. Yet isn’t it amusing, how escapism itself is so anti-stoic. How can one live in the moment by not living in this moment but literally another, in a galaxy far far away? So I play a character who is my aspiration, my goal for development of the self, the higher mind as it were and my philosophical, spiritual and intellectual superior – with minor quirks of course, for some separation to not be entirely lost in my second life like Dwight from The Office. It’s a helpful concept, like looking at art in motion and a concept in motion with a continual free forming journey. Yet these concepts, these minor obtuse details irritate me more than the thought of my own death.

Strange is it not? That such things can have a hold on us. As someone who roleplays as being a Jedi without attachment, it becomes rather laughably ironic that I hold an attachment to something so intangible. Yet I have gained friends from this experience and learned lessons about the self along the way with this art being my own guiding light.

Tonight for example, I was irritated and came into conflict with someone I consider a close friend over the specific decorations of a specific room that’s not even real. What was the purpose of the conflict? What did either of us gain other than hurting each other’s feelings – another failing of my philosophy but at least one I can recognize.

In the end, I ask myself, can I call myself a stoic? Can I call myself a philosopher of the school or at least follower if I cannot seem to confront this very simple thing? I lean on a crutch here, what crutches do you need? I’m perfectly capable of living up to my own aspirations without the need of an amphibian Jedi avatar yet I find it comforting, I find solace and peace method acting. If Stanislavski would see me employ his technique of theatre, I suppose he would be impressed with my dedication of playing the stoic man. I play the part, I become the part, that is the goal, it’s what always has been the goal, has it not for all those walking the Path?

You play the part and you keep nudging yourself and returning to the reflection and the texts until it becomes a part of you. Like muscle memory or just you. It’s like learning times tables, we will stumble and fall and trip and bitch and moan. Eventually though we can say that four times six is twenty-four without a second’s thought or even that. It is a skill in the end not a talent. I see myself failing everyday in lots of different ways but I see myself growing too. I see myself identifying the mistakes and I see myself trying to move on from them. Perhaps from this minor thing, mine and my friends relationship is irreparably damaged, I don’t know but I’ll accept consequences of that as my failing to learn from.

“Waste no more time arguing what a good man should be. Be one.” – Meditations 10.16

Z3N0

Tending to a Garden

I was talking today again with a friend regarding dysphoria and my own views of gender identity within myself. It was a discussion that I am accepting of my presentation and express femininity how I like, reaching a balance within the soul, of yin and yang being my constant duty of care to myself. It’s not troubling, this feeling yet it is disquieting to think it took me nearly a quarter of a century to notice my own reflection. With a genderless soul and comfortable presentation, in this life I am to be contented with how things are and accepting of change in the next. I’ve had conversations like this before, its the curse of constant self reflection that everything is under scrutiny even the most fundamental building blocks of my own identity. Is it not the duty of a stoic to look within, reflecting on the impressions of their own life?

In this conversation, I likened this progress and growth akin to gardening:

“From wasteland to Greco-Roman perfectionism, it takes time and maintenance and effort and I’m happy with that.” – Z

I shared my thoughts with another confidant, who provided another perspective on things:

“You cant water your plants everyday for a year but if you take a break for a month or so they’ll start to die. It’s not a process that’ll ever be finished but one you’ve got to keep on working at (and let’s be honest tending to an established, flourishing garden you check on everyday is easier than one you’ve neglected where you’re having to revive each plant every few months when you pick up that motivation to care for them again). But also you’re going to have a few plants that die off regardless of how much time and care you put into it. Concentrating on those losses which are essentially irrelevant to the bigger picture of what you’ve achieved just distracts you from how much of a beautiful garden you build from the ground up.

… If you have a row of plant pots each filled with different seed; some beautiful flowers, some plants toxic to humans and some useful for life such as food and herbs. It doesn’t matter how perfect those pretty flowers are if you’re using your time and resources to water the seeds in the the toxic plant pot, the only fully established plant with the most deep seated roots you’re going to get it in that of the toxic plant. Because, by giving it your time and resources, you’ve allowed it to grow and and in doing so you’ve not allowed the others to flourish because it’s taken all of those resources from you and you have nothing else to share with the others. … Not all toxic plants are awful to look at, a lot are the most ethereal flowers you’ve ever seen or the most colourful berries but they will still harm you regardless of how desirable they are to us.” – X

Aside from being in awe and overjoyed with the privilege of seeing this new perspective, I was also reflective on the words. It’s true, we can tend our gardens all day long but craft a garden of death, of nightshade if not careful enough to see what we sow. It’s also another indictment that truest wisdom is not just from the books of the ancients but within conversations with each other. True, not every conversation will bear such rich fruit but once in a while we find ourselves a golden apple tree in this murky wood. My advice to you, gardener, is to take a seed and plant it in your own psychic grove. Or at the very least, hug the tree and hold on with all you have, awaiting the fruit to fall and nourish you. For a diverse garden, at least, of healthy flora, of sage and lavender smells.

Sit in your garden now. Observe how your progress and sip some sangria in the sunlit with a warm contented smile.

Z3N0

Strange Dreaming

My dreams have been strange for the past week or so, perhaps down to the heat. They’ve been the kind of dreams that could realistically happen and often involve a text conversation with someone or a phone call of sorts. In these conversations I say all I want and need to say, all the truths of my soul laid bare and depending on the day it either goes well or badly. When it goes well it fades quickly like a fleeting thought or unimportant musing. Yet when it goes badly, I wake with a deep sense of dread. Each time I’ve quickly checked my phone to see if what happened was real or not to find no such conversations or evidence that it ever happened. By the third day I should have really understood what was happening yet it affected my mood nonetheless.

Today in this muggy heat, I felt very pensive and reflective following a bad reaction to a fictitious conversation in a dream. In which, I made a few confessions, made a few demands, made a few mysteries see the light and they were replied with an apathic emoji. For the rest of this day, I have been stern with my contemporaries and cutting with what I consider to be fuckery. Rudeness instead of washing over me like pointless hot air has been swatted with a fly-swatter, smearing stains all over the white walls of my mind. Now, I’m sat here, with further example of how the impressions of the immaterial have left gross markings on me.

Yet perhaps there is another message here, to not be callous with my time and be open and honest with what needs to be said and done before such feelings and emotions become controlling and consuming like a plague. It’s incredible to me that despite my own knowledge of what I need to do for this, I hesitate and question and allow for false narratives and anxieties to cloud my judgement into silence. Alternatively, as seen today, it goes in the other direction turning the calm waters into an efficient yet brutal frenzy of barracudas.

Once again, more proof in my mind of the necessity of balance between the forces of yin and yang. In that equality we find peace and serenity of the self like a waking constant meditation. Realistically that’s what stoicism is: a reflexive meditative state of constant being. It enables us to walk in line with our true nature that is, one with The Whole which is to say The Tao.

Dreams like these have double meaning: to both understand what we need to do and not fear the what-ifs within what we need to do. Our brains are wired to keep us safe not keep us from achieving our true way in life which is no fault of its own, its a biological imperative. Yet our perceptions of safety will differ from actual safety. From the primitive examples of fitting in with a tribe to the final fear which is death and the point after death. Yet, for my dreams at least, the fears are social not physical.

Ironic, in a world where everything is to be understood not feared, where we do not even fear the gods anymore or the mysteries of the universe that what we do end up fearing is each other. Or worse: the meaningless noise created in the throats of each other or pixels on a screen.

I’m guilty of that myself, I’ve spoken about it at length yet to defend my own failings, I can say that I am a product of condition and biology. Yet to question that further, am I not more than preprograming? While destiny has a prepared route for us all – whether you believe in a tangible destiny or providence brought on by a web of cause and effect – are we not still free thinking beings? Or perhaps we are truly all living in a simulation as a Daily Mail headline claimed to be the thoughts of Prof. Brian Cox just last week. I didn’t investigate further but consider the possibility for a moment. If it truly is all a simulation from our heartbeats to our deepest love for another – why are we so scared of it all?

Z3N0

Hades

I wanted to talk a little about the demonization of the Greek God, Hades. It’s incredible to me that the protector of the dead has become the ultimate Hollywood villain just because of his name and relation to death. It’s so fitting that the fear of such a natural thing creates villains out of the one who watches over us as we pass into the next reality or unreality.

He’s depicted as such a violent, petty character full of schemes to overthrow Zeus and the Olympians when in actual fact, he did nothing of the sought. He stayed well clear of the squabbles and fights and in actual fact, it was Poseidon who sought to dethrone the God of Thunder. On the subject of violence, it was Apollo who skinned alive those who lost against him in music competitions, it was Hades who was called the Invisible due to his passivity. We fear his darkness why? Why do we fear the dark yet embrace the sun as if the two are inseparable forces of nature rather than integral to our existence?

Even in the case of Persephone, in some recounting of the tale, he did not kidnap her as some would say but asked Zeus for her hand as tradition in Ancient Greek custom. The following drama was in fact caused by the scorn of Demeter, his mother-in-law who demanded that her daughter return home rather than spend her days in the Underworld. Hades, to arranged with Persephone to eat a pomegranate seed, binding her to both worlds. Perhaps an unpopular retelling, far less villainous. Yet he was famous for a foul mood being always distracted by his duty and bound often to never leave his Obsidian Palace.

The demonization of Hades is tied to our fear of dark, the yin.

“The yin-yang elements or energies are constantly moving and influencing each other.
The maximum effect of one quality will be followed by the transition toward the opposing quality.
The yin-yang aspects are in dynamic equilibrium. As one aspect declines, the other increases to an equal degree.
All forces in the universe can be classified as yin or yang.

Yin characteristics: passive, negative, darkness, earth, north slope, cloudy, water, softness, female, moisture, night-time, downward seeking, slowness, consuming, cold, odd numbers, and docile aspects of things.

Yang characteristics: active, positive, brightness, heaven, south slope, sunshine, fire, hardness, male, dryness, day-time, upward seeking, restless, producing, hot, even numbers, and dominant aspects of things.”https://www.nationsonline.org/oneworld/Chinese_Customs/yin-yang.htm

We cannot exist without the balance of both strength and passivity; life or death; masculine or feminine – like all things: fluid and transient.

It’s fear that makes monsters out of our own nature and natural expressions of the universe – there is no ignorance, there is knowledge. When a thing is understood, we remove our conceptions of fear. We fear the dark of ourselves, clinging to the light and the strength we think makes us strong. Yet, it is the facing of all facets of our own existence that makes us strong – the acceptance of the Hades and Apollo within us all.

Admitting your own weakness is a strength all to itself. Expose the light to the dark and the dark to the light, bring yourself the love you deserve wholly. Only then can you see others for who they are and not what you perceive them to be through the lens of balance. You will see all things in alignment with The Tao and you will be find yourself enriched.

I said to a friend today about that sometimes, the darkness, the yin, people would rather run away than face it. Finding themselves frightened by the weakness within or rather perceived weakness. Personally, I think if you can allow yourself to cry and to experience the catharsis that’s pretty fucking brave.

We are beings of love and light, true but also of the shadow. When we demonize and fear the shadow within, we make villains of ourselves from dastardly blue-flamed haired Disney villains to rigid modern warriors shattering at the sight of their own teardrops. Bask in the light and take solace within your Obsidian Palace.

This is The Way.

Z3N0

Never Let Me Go

Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro is a novel I’ve started reading, gifted to me by my workplace’s book club. I’m 35 pages in and so far I can say with almost certainty that I’m not going to enjoy it. Now, that’s not a criticism, far from it. It’s a masterpiece and is written with such precision, I can only aspire to be able to craft such atmosphere and feeling in a reader. The feeling from the first page evoked in the reader can only be described as vemod. I’ve spoken about that before, probably horrendously misspelt as vermod not vemod. To recap: vemod is a Scandinavian word that describes a poignant and lingering sad nostalgia.

The book about loss and times gone by – so far at least – put me in a reflective mood. I left my school at 18, being there from age 11 and stuck to the same friendship group for the entirety of that period. Yet, barely five years on, I’ve lost contact with every one of them. I look back now and think why that was and how I ended up where I am now, with the friends I do have either hundreds of miles away or entirely online. What a lonely feeling it is to realize ones own singularity. All that history, all of those stories gone like, to quote the 11th Doctor, “breath on a mirror“.

I’ve seen things you people wouldn’t believe. Attack ships on fire off the shoulder of Orion. I watched C-beams glitter in the dark near the Tannhäuser Gate. All those moments will be lost in time, like… tears in rain.” – Roy Batty, Blade Runner

Even the name of the book, Never Let Me Go, is so human. It’s a clinging on to the dreams and loves of the past as they slip from our fingers into the mists of eternity. All of us, one day become a few faded lines of text on a stone tablet in a field of stone tables and bones. It’s a tearful smile of an existence, all of us existing between each tear. It’s beautiful like a Bob Ross painting and as soothing as his voice as we are lulled into a casual sleep.

The thing I always noticed about Bob Ross’ paintings was that they always felt lonely to me. Like we, as the observers of his landscapes were alone in this wonderous vista, Adams and Eves, entirely alone. Perhaps that’s the unspoken beauty of the art and the art of life. In the end, we all have to let go – of the past, of our loves, of ourselves. We cling on as long as we can but in the end, not even the wind blows forever. And when we do leave, we leave by ourselves.

“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 forever, much less can man. That is why one follows the way.” – Tao Te Ching XXVII

So now, in knowing that all things are in a state of fading into eternity, why do we forego the moment? Why do we fret about the others that we have no control over rather than living in pure contentment with the moment that we exist in? Life is a series of moments so love each one and embrace each one. With each thing, ask of yourself, am I to regret this? Am I making the best purpose of my time? From being actively passive with some meditation or a well deserved nap to climbing to the tops of Kilimanjaro for a little perspective that you cannot find in the mirror, find purpose in it all. Ask yourself what benefits you and the greater good. Ask yourself what do you cherish?

Reflect on your life perhaps and see what you should let go, despite the things protest. What are you holding on to that hurts you and pricks at your soul? Which habit? Which condition? Which person? If we can’t hold on forever to our own flesh, we can’t hold on forever for someone else. What feeling are you holding on to? What detrimental responsibility long overdue to be let go of? Remember in these cases the tale of the scorpion and the frog. The scorpion rode on the frog’s back across the river with the promise that it would not sting, alas it did. When the frog asked why kill them both as they were drowning, the scorpion asked why the frog would even ask. It was the insect’s nature to sting.

So, as I continue to read Never Let Me Go, I’m sure Kazuo Ishiguro will treat me to further bluer shades of melancholy and opportunity for reflection. I welcome it, and recommend it.

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