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

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

A Strange Dysphoria

Recently I took part in a training course investigating autism and gender identity. It was extremely comprehensive and educational. Scientifically it is a fact that around 1-3 births in a 100 have non-binary chromosomes determining biological sex which impacts gender identity later. It also means that we are inherently as a species far less black and white as we like to admit when it comes to our own identity. Who knows, perhaps people can exist with biologically female traits as a male their entire lives and never notice nor think about it. This course focussed on how to support young people with autism and their concept of identity and gender which, for a neuro-divergent individual. These people statistically, are seven times more likely to identify as transgender than neurotypicals. It was all very well and good, I thought, to educate ourselves and turn the spotlight on them. I thought instead, I would turn the spotlight inwards onto the operator to examine, in the stoic sense, a thing at its root. The thing: my own perceptions of identity.

It made me uncomfortable because it was such a new feeling. It was like going to the gym and working a muscle untouched before.

I enjoy feminine things. My perfect night is a face mask, foot rub, a Hugh Grant movie, a chat about life, and pizza and wine. I feel a strange alienation when I see same-sex romance on screen, particularly between two females that’s not some sexual need but a feeling of spiritual absence from myself. It’s a longing in my skin and feeling of something lost, something I had but longer have in this existence – a loss of something indescribable. A strange sadness, and something that I’ve never felt before and cannot put a name to. I’m lying, I’ve always felt it, but I’ve never looked at it.

The soul is genderless, the rest is just a vehicle. Why wouldn’t I feel somewhat female at my core? Yin and yang resides in all of us – the male and female. The balance of that is the source of our chi in the Taoist sense. It’s not a new concept.

It’s not a superficial surface feeling of insecurity about my hobbies nor a sexual inadequacy, it runs deeper into my marrow. I’ve just never stopped to look at it before.

I spoke to a close friend about this who is non-binary who explained to me that they have heard about similar feelings before. That it’s a specific kind of sadness. I boil down my experience of sexuality and gender into a catchphrase: “ass is ass/it’s all meat and mucus” yet as my friend said:

[They] have been comforting for you to say, because the help things feel less complicated. But I prefer to say that, for me, attraction is a science? It’s always more about chemistry than biology.” – X

Another friend was said simply that some are more in tune than the true soul than others.

“Only you know who you are and how you define yourself but, you don’t have to. You don’t owe an explanation to anyone.” – Y

Simply: I am.

It’s less about what more about who. Who we are, not what we are.

For me, I am a human being. Biologically male and with a male gender identity. Do I need to feel more to be me? I am who I am, whether I inhabit this body or another. I am still a human being, experiencing all that is allotted to me by nature to experience. Perhaps it’s my time to look in this mirror and accept what’s there within and without because my feelings of a strange dysphoria (whether this can be truly described as dysphoria) are a part of me and a part of me I can accept. I may not fit conventionally into the box of a machismo hero yet that’s ok. I look back over what I’ve done in my past, and my theatre of arrogance and all I see now is someone desperately trying to live up to a patriarchy in which I exist on the fringes of.

I accept my exterior, I accept my interior. I am a human being. This skin of mine, while my soul may feel wanting if I let it and it craves for renewal: I wouldn’t want it any other way. This mind and soul of mine, as complex and seemingly labyrinthian as they are: similarly, I wouldn’t be me without them. For others, the experience is different, and unliveable. It is theirs and not mine and that’s ok. We all walk different paths in this life and live different lives but we all born and die the same way. We are all one in our collective experience of humanity from our first breath to our last. Despite all the labels we may attribute, perhaps the truth is that we, as expressions of the divine, are far too infinitely complex to ever be tied down or put into boxes.

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

It goes without saying if we are to be nit-picky with semantics, when the Romans reference “man” I say: “human”.

Z3N0

Fear of Rest

There seems to be a pervasive fear of passiveness within stoicism and a demand for action where often non is required. I’ve spoken about this before and my disagreements with Marcus Aurelius but it seems to be a thing that permeates society entirely. There’s this stigma against just sitting, just resting, just taking a moment to passively reflect and recharge. It’s considered a thing for the retired or the dead yet what is meditation if not preparation for the state of death itself?

So you want a lay in on a Saturday after a long week? Ok – do it. Where’s the guilt in creating a balance for yourself between the needs for individual recuperation and the demands of the capitalist worker machine? It doesn’t take much of a scroll through channels to find some documentary that demonizes people for being ‘lazy’ or for living a life of harmony with themselves. When has ever, in the media, there been a positive story about a meditative retreat other than to mock it?

There’s this frenzy for activity and no time to reflect on the activity in need of doing or has been done. If we can’t take the time to reflect – just to sit or lay down – where do we find time for art, culture, growth? To pause in a place, to take in the breath and not just breath but to experience is how we experience inspiration. When we find these moments in the eyes of a loved one, taking in a panorama, sitting within the halls of a temple, we are at rest. We are experiencing a waking moment of meditation. The last time I felt this was when I held a lamb heart in my hand and the universe span around me as I was calm at the eye with this moment of inspiration and clarity.

Descartes and Seneca had this in common: both sought to retreat from society to be able to see it better before returning to it. Of course, the two philosophers couldn’t be more different yet despite my claim of being a stoic, I lean on the side of Descartes’ method of philosophy. He believed that the best ideas come to you when you are most comfortable and where he felt comfortable was in bed. It’s a balance isn’t it? We must not indulge the body to a point of poor health in this comfort but we must also not reject these comforts that nature and Providence has provided for us. What would be the point of that? Rejecting our own nature is self-defeatist.

Do not fear rest or moments to indulge in being passive. Being actively passive is a Taoist practice, to observe the yin and yang in harmony. How can we observe, if we do not pause? There’s a proverb that I’m going to paraphrase: you cannot be one with the divine if you do not appreciate it’s manifestations.

Appreciate the time you have, don’t rush through it. I’m 23 years old and I don’t want to rush my life, to achieve all there is to achieve overnight without ever stopping to ask why I’m doing it; without ever stopping to feel the moment; without ever stopping to feel the touch of linen on my skin, the pleasure in holding an equal in my eyes; the moment to enjoy the sensations of foods and warmth of the sky. It could all be over tomorrow and I appreciate and accept that. So why would I rush to the end, with no care for the journey?

“It is knowing what you want to say and never finding the words. It is a chorus, replaced with silence. Hearing teachings without meaning. It is like having a beloved pupil to whom you have shared everything, sacrificed everything, and then having them turn from you… and forget all you were.” – Kreia, Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic 2

Z3N0

The Void Within

Something is missing in my life. Maybe I’ve spoken about it before but it’s a feeling that comes and goes like the rain. It’s a feeling of emptiness. It’s a heavy vacuum within me like a black hole that pulls downward from the base of my heart to the pit of my stomach. It’s a cold feeling and it travels to my brain around where I imagine my third eye to be and sits there like a feeling of dread.

What is this dread?

It’s loneliness.

Yet I have friends?

What is this loneliness other than the gnawing broodiness coming on. A need for a deeper connection within myself like a primal directive to find a home and tribe of my own. Had I not evolved from these baser needs? Surely as a civilized man in the 21st Century, it is unnatural to have this almost biological lachrymose. So, remove the judgement. I’ve done that yet my body persists and the chemicals in my mind still demand satisfaction. It’s like a drug, a high on being loved and giving love.

I once purchased an in depth horoscope analysis to dissect my nature as a Taurus. As pathetic as that was in the rational mind, it was accurate and representative of a time before I began to grow into who I am now. Yet some things stuck. The first being that I rejected my mother emotionally but embraced my father and in doing so, vulnerability and feelings of love are seen as hostile actors. They’re seen as deep needs but also threats. Leading to, without a sense of balance, in fighting between masculine and feminine energies with both sabotaging and craving deeper human connections on an emotional and sexual level. The latter of that was something I overindulged in to try and to fill that vacuum (take that how you will) but it was never satisfied because surface isn’t enough. The surface of a still lake looks pretty but the true wonders lie within its waters.

It’s not very stoic though, is it? A lonely heart. I’ve been in love twice before. Both times being poor turnouts and I’ve been hurt before too. Yet we grow and go, don’t we?

What can we do in the face of this kind of void? A growing emptiness that only the right thing can fill. But then, would we be so distracted on the idea of perfection that we miss it entirely? That’s the curse isn’t it? With Tinder and Bumble, we look for the perfect match but sometimes miss what exists in our present moment. We forget the things that are really important, high on our own quests and desires that unbalance us to be able to find true balance, a true harmony with the yin and yang with our twin-flames.

Supposedly, when it comes to twin-flame romances, it may take lifetimes to meet each other and throughout lifetimes coming close and then missing the mark only to reunite in another meat sleeve centuries down the line, our past lives forgotten, our souls washed clean of the muck. Yet that’s not particularly encouraging is it? To be subjected to a life of mediocrity with the hopes that the next one will be better? Is it not the more stoic thing, the more rational thing, and more balanced thing, to find harmony in the present rather than wait for it to be thrust upon us through the window of death?

Yet we relapse into this void, this ache.

“It is such a quiet thing, to fall. But far more terrible is to admit it.” – Darth Kreia, Knights of the Old Republic 2

Is loving and desiring to love, against our nature? Or is it so intrinsically human that to deny the ache for meaning in the arms of another is the thing against our nature. Is this all we need? As people? Or is the answer rooted in the inadequacy of the self?

“Without stirring abroad one can know the whole world; without looking out of the window one can see the way of heaven. The further one goes the less one knows. Therefore the sage knows without having to stir, identifies without having to see, accomplishes without having to act.” – Tao Te Ching XLVII

As the harmony within settles and the balance of my chi takes hold, is there anything else but certainty in the okayness of it all? It will be okay: for me, for you, for us. Can you look in the mirror – truly look – and find your way? I’m smiling now, but I can’t tell if it’s a happy smile or one of simply amusement at the universe and my place in it. How fickle it all is, how fleeting and how much more fun it would be to share it with someone. All of us clinging to the surface of this rock, smiling at it’s irreverence. We are together in that, at least.

Z3N0

A Reading List

I thought I’d make another rather calm post, more directly informative – like my meditation guide. This one, as the name suggests is a personal reading list of mine that covers my own growth as a stoic, a Taoist, and a philosopher – if I can call myself that.

Marcus Aurelius, Roman, Emperor, Statue, Face, Beard
The author of Meditations for reference

So without further a-do:

  • Meditations, Marcus Aurelius
    • Rather infamously at this point, my go to starting point. Digestible and easy to pick up where you left off for passages.
  • How to be a Stoic, Prof Massimo Pigliucci
    • A modern exploration of stoicism and actually really funny.
  • Letters from a Stoic, Seneca
    • The next upcoming quote source – a collection of letters and correspondence from Seneca to his friend throughout his life.
  • Discourses and Selected Writings, Epictetus
    • Considered the ultimate handbook on stoicism and source of the wealth of information in How to be a Stoic.
  • The Analects, Confucius
    • While not stoicism, the analects lays out a rather structured view on vice and virtue from various narrators and writers noting the lessons and legacy of Confucius.
  • Tao Te Ching, Lao Tze
    • The primary text of Taoism formed by a collection of chapters and verses.
  • The Book of Chaung Tzu, Chuang Tzu
    • A contemporary of Confucius, this book is a collection of tales and accounts of the applications of The Way.

Now for books that I have no idea what I’m letting myself in for with. Hot of the presses arriving today via the brutal efficiency of Amazon:

  • The Cynic Philosophers from Diogenes to Julian
    • This book was picked up because of the story recounted within How to be a Stoic about Diogenes which has stuck with me since reading that book quite a while ago now. Diogenes was in his bucket-thing in the centre of Athens relaxing in the sunshine as he did. Alexander of Macedon, the great conqueror arrived in the city with his entourage followed by an adoring crowd to seek the wisdom of the philosopher. He said, “What can you say to your Emperor?”, or something to the effect – I can’t remember the exact quote. Diogenes replied: “Move you’re blocking the sun.”
  • Selected Works, Cicero.
    • What shelf of Greco-Roman philosophy would be complete without Cicero?

More works are to follow on this reading list, from Plato to Aristotle and the myriad of Buddhist texts will soon appear now doubt. Yet for now, this is a start and I recommend that you, like me, start here.

Quick Quote Post: 3

Tonight being Good Friday, I thought I’d share some words about rebirth and rejuvenation without my usual waffle, exposition and/or bollocks. While I have my own issues on Easter and what it represents that I’ll be another post. Tonight, I thought I’d share some words from Lao Tze not Marcus Aurelius, today. I, like Jesus, am coming out of my cave (and yes, I’m doing just fine, thank you) fresh as a daisy wearing my Taoist Sunday best not my stoic toga. In these days of modern excesses of chocolate and eggs, I like to think about the middle path, the way.

“Do that which consists in taking no action; pursue that which is not meddlesome; savour that which had no flavour. Make the small big and the few many; do good to him who has done you an injury. Lay plans for the accomplishment of the difficult before it becomes difficult; make something big by starting with it when small. Difficult things in the world must needs have their beginnings in the easy; big things must have their beginnings in the small. Therefore it is because the sage never attempts to be great that he succeeds in becoming great. One who promises rashly rarely keeps good faith; one who is in the habit of considering things easy meets with frequent difficulties. Therefore even the sage treats some things as difficult. That is why in the end no difficulties can get the better of him.” Tao Che Ching Chapter 63

“In the pursuit of learning one knows more every day; in the pursuit of the way one does less every day. One does less and less until one does nothing at all, and when one does nothing at all there is nothing that is undone. It is always through not meddling that the empire is won. Should you meddle, then you are not equal to the task of winning the empire.” – Tao Che Ching Chapter 48

You’re wondering: “Z, what the fuck has that got to do with Easter?“.

Easter is a fraud: you should be experiencing and celebrating change and rebirth everyday. You should be experiencing change through learning and evolution of the self to the higher self. Be actively passive in your evolution, like the natural world around you. The Neanderthal did not evolve to the rational, free and critical thinking creature reading these words now, overnight. Life and change and learning is a constant celebration of you and the world that spins around you.

Eat all the chocolate eggs, pilgrim, it’s always Easter. The day is always good.

Not for Jesus at the time, obviously, but that sort of ruins my point, doesn’t it?

Z3N0

This is the Way

I thought I’d share a chapter from the Tao Te Ching and shamelessly clickbait with the title (for those of you who know what I’m talking about). It’s a little snippet that I think more people should take on board and reflect on. I’ve been sitting alone at lunch for some weeks now and have found a profound peace in it. Yet for some, this is strange and something to have to be concerned about. Why? Is it my isolation that worries them or that there is a smaller audience for gossip that I don’t want to hear? Just a few hours ago I got a text asking if I was ok – it was a fishing expedition really, in my opinion – and the sender seemed unsatisfied by my response of (in lots of words) ‘yes’.

“To use words but rarely is to be natural. Hence the gusty wind cannot last all morning, and a sudden downpour cannot last all day. Who is it that produces these? Heaven and earth. If heaven and earth cannot go on forever, much less can man. That is why one follows the way. A man who conforms to the way; a man of virtue conforms to virtue; a man of loss conforms to loss. He who conforms to the way 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, Chapter 23

This chapter talks about lots of things, and for me it’s about being measured and reserved, so my cup may never run empty. It’s also very stoic in its message about death and loss and even more so about virtue. There’s a comfort in the stillness of it, the universe, to be had in these words. I don’t think it’s appreciated enough in the aggregate that silence is not a sign of being discontented.

If heaven and earth cannot go on forever, much less can man.

It’s true of course, this line right here. We can’t go on forever, so in our actions and exasperations: should they too go on. I can talk someone’s ear of all day and say absolutely nothing and add nothing to the universe only hot air. Does that have a point to it? Am I not just wasting my own time and others? Are you?

A man who conforms to the way; a man of virtue conforms to virtue; a man of loss conforms to loss.

When someone asks me, typically, if I am ok I say yes. Not because of any formulaic politeness that British people have and expect but because I am. When we have faith in the universe (ourselves in the rationalist stoic perception) and our own virtue, how can we not be alright? I’ve quoted to no end on this blog about Marcus Aurelius and the idea that we can never truly be harmed and I think that is true. As Lao Tze says here, the opposite is also true in our perception of loss. When I was in my worst stages of depression some three years ago, my whole life was continual loss. This wasn’t because it was, in reality, but because in my conformation to that way of being, I was making it so with my own actions. Obviously, I’m not shitting on people who are depressed and saying lighten up, that’s not my place or right nor anyone’s. Yet would anyone or could anyone argue that that’s the optimal way of being?

When there is not enough faith, there is a lack of good faith.

Can anyone argue against this? Seriously? Even in the face of pure humanistic values where the semantics mean more than the spiritual essence, this surely is a universal truth. I’ve spoken before about truth being fluid but even then, does the fluidity arise from a lack of good faith in the fact provider or observer? Look around right now and ask does this statement not ring true?

It’s funny how one message from a co-worker asking if I’m ok led me on a journey down this river. I like to think it’s given me the opportunity to learn something and share it. This is only going to be a short post compared to what this topic deserves. I’m sure I’ll revisit it when I’ve gotten myself a better understanding of the texts entire and can bring together contexts. And, I’m ok with this too. After all, as my third favourite Star Wars character says:

“This is the Way.”

Z3N0

Equalizer

Even after my little outburst on Friday, I’ve found a great equalizer and the rebalancing of my social environment. It was almost as if the great push I experienced was pushing me in a direction that led to a greater understanding of myself, the people around me and even strangers who I have become friends with. Maybe it’s not the most amazing of revelations but when it’s tangibly happening around you, it’s nice to see. Even in the most minor way possible – it’s a sense of calm through my own perspective. It’s a feeling of support from the universe that we can all experience in one way or another. This strange equalizer, crafted a situation where my own abstinence of certain habits were broken and I indulged in the company of it. Yet days before I was set on a life of pure ascetism which leads me to take notice of the will of the Tao nudging me back to balance: of both indulgence and absolution.

“He who tiptoes cannot stand; he who strides cannot walk.” Tao Te Ching, Chapter 24

In a sense is the Universe (God, Yahweh, Tao) ultimately an actor for benevolent balance? In all beings balance means different things but ultimately one who is balanced is a still lake and at peace. I was talking to a Muslim friend some time ago who told me that Islam is the way of the middle path – this of course sounds familiar to me. In both Abrahamic ideologies and the ever more ancient Asian teachings such as Buddhism and Taoism and Jainism (I’m excluding Hinduism here as I’m not educated enough to comment) balance seems to be the goal. Balance in oneself is to be in tune with The Way and a state of living nirvana.

Was it a coincidence that in his philosophies, Zeno of Citium – my moniker namesake -, founded a school of such balance? Neither overly indulgent like the Epicureans or wholly ascetic like the Cynics: a duty to the natural order of things and others and balance within the self. Perhaps I’m oversimplifying: a very real possibility.

“The Whole is either a god – then all is well: or if purposeless – some sort of random arrangement of atoms or molecules – you should not be without purpose yourself.” Meditations 9.28

The purpose I find myself working for is balance. To welcome the great equalizers and be grateful for them. While not everyone will find purpose in being a still lake in the perception of chaos, it still stands to reason that everyone should be grateful for the equalizers and opportunities all the same. I think perception plays a big part in being able to observe the things that create equality of forces in our environment. Even in the most rationalist sense, our bodies seek balance in the form of homeostasis as a biological imperative.

“Calm acceptance of what comes from a cause outside of yourself, and justice in all activity of your own causation.” Meditations 9.31

Lady Justice’s scales have to be balanced, don’t they? Balance the needs of the body, balance the needs of the mind, balance the needs of the soul: you will find the Way, the middle path, whatever that may be.

Basically: have a balanced diet of life. Too much cake or too little cake does no one any good.

Z3N0

The Tao: First Steps

“What dies does not pass out of the universe. If it remains here and is changed, then here too it is resolved into the everlasting constituents.” Meditations 8.18

One day, I will visit Taoist pagodas in person and take a pilgrimage for myself. I was planning on doing an Abrahamic Grand Tour: Vatican City, Jerusalem, Mecca and back again in an infinity loop shape, stopping back in Rome to connect with the Italian roots. I owe it to my own journey to see these places in person from the Basilica to the Kaaba to the pagoda in Cebu.

The brief introduction to Taoism in the Midnight Gospel seemed to click with me and the idea of being actively passive and an observer of balance is far more attainable than the more Buddhist ideals of total ascetism.

In a future post, I’ll show off my growing collection of Penguin Classics that range from stoic thinkers to now include Lao Tzu and Confucius. While the latter is a little rigid for my tastes, I’m rushing through my dissection of Meditations to be able to get to the Tao Te Ching. Yet perhaps, like a Taoist, I should forget the rush and go with the river. After all, is that not in accordance with Nature?

Who knows, perhaps I might be found in Goa in a few years time with a beard much like Lao Tzu, in a B.O stinking kimono and a disposition of a vacant Rick Sanchez (sans the pickle). But who does that benefit, this luxurious exile? Myself? No, where is the balance in that indulgence, who is the beneficiary?

Perhaps, that’s another quest, another pilgrimage of the self: find the balance, find The Tao.

“Virtue is the result of true balance. Virtue has no shape or form yet nothing can be without it.” – Confucius

Z3N0