Rain, rain go away…

This is one of the best graphic representation of Greek Philosophy I’ve seen.

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I would love to say I am Stoic 100% of the time (the ideal sense of self) come hell or high-water… unfortunately I think the truth is more an osculation between cynicism and… sadly, epicurean-ism. Depending on external stimuli (or lack thereof)… most notably how well I slept. Sometimes I will manage some modicum of stoic behavior. Usually by accident… wandering off piste and then getting stuck in a rosebush*…

*which has, sadly, happened to me.

Of course stoicism remains the consummate goal, the benchmark as it were. My natural skill-set however favors… well… almost anything else. Which is, as I perceived it at least, grossly unfair. When this particular rodeo ends I have a good mind to speak to the manager.

Regrets…

Bronnie Ware, an Australian nurse working in palliative care, recorded what she perceived to be the top five regrets of the dying. They were:

1. I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.

2. I wish I hadn’t worked so hard.

3. I wish I’d had the courage to express my feelings.

4. I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends.

5. I wish that I had let myself be happier.

Brown, Darren. Happy – why more or less everything is absolutely fine. Penguin Randomhouse. 2016

MJ. First off, I’d like to nominate Bronnie Ware for the most Australian name eva!

But she probably knows what she’s talking about, being there at the foamy, gurgling end for a whole bunch of us. Which is quite a tough gig in my opinion, since most of us…

Don’t want to get on the cart! (To paraphrase Monty Python)

Not to brag but I tend to rack up this precise list of regrets by the end of each day. Not through deep and serious introspection, but rather because I’m quite whiny… and have a tendency to feel sorry for myself. So I’m hoping when my time comes (covered in bed sores and crusty stuff of indeterminate origin) I’ve worked through all my regrets and general demise angst and am happy to go towards the light/infinite darkness/restaurant at the end of the universe.

We can only hope.

(That there is a restaurant at the end of the universe I mean)

Blueberry milkshake-less

All things considered my day so far has been relatively rubbish with a long dead end meeting sequenced into my morning so as to cause maximum disruption to my day. After that I had one of my warehouse staff bursting into tears in my office because he feels he can’t cope with the pressure of his job*. A forty minute exercise where I tried to be empathetic (not really my strong suite).

*just to be fair, his job today was to sit and scrape the rust off the generator and paint those sections with red-oxide.

In order to catch up I thought I’d treat myself to Uber-eats and work through lunch at my desk. Unfortunately when my Uber arrived my blueberry milkshake had tipped over and painted the inside of his carry compartment (including some other peoples food with blue foamy goodness). Damn. I was really looking forward to that milkshake.

If this had been my sales managers food she would have poked him in the eye and then tombstone pile driven his head into the curb. Like a scene from American History X. Alas I am soft (or exceptionally stoic). I said it was fine. And tipped him anyway.

Now post event I’m having the decision making angst. I can’t decide if I was just conflict adverse after a long morning of fighting with people. Or if it was a serious c’est la vie moment. I’m hoping for the latter, although maybe I’m just trying to convince myself.

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Hmm.

Housekeeping and accouterments

I cleaned out my shooting bag yesterday. I seesaw between fanatical orderliness (The Prussian trait of Ordnungsinn) and the worst kind of slovenly disregard for my gear.

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Everything is neat and tidy (again) and the empty shell casings have been transferred into… a plastic fishbowl… which now graces a position of prominence on the bookshelf in my office…

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Where I imagine that it makes an interesting feature. You may also be able to deduce from this picture that I am a Ryan Holiday fanboy. I would deny it of course…. but I think I really might be. Although I’ve stopped following him on Instagram, because his donkeys and daily workouts are boring and repetitive*. Also I am back on Instagram. (#resolution fail)

*I can be mean about a stoic. Because if he chooses not to feel slighted, he won’t be 😀

The previous resident of the fish bowl was a Brown house snake I’d caught. It had wrapped itself around the light next to my kitchen door and on leaving to go work I’d suddenly become aware of something brown and snake like in my peripheral vision.

I wearily managed to unfurl it from around the light and coaxed it into the fish bowl using my fencing épée. Being relatively juvenile in mind I had to bring it to work to show everyone my achievement. (you know, show and tell)

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I even went to the pet shop and bought it a pinkie, which it dutiful devoured. But then I felt sorry for it, so it was transferred it into a Tupperware container and gave it to one of my sales guys who released it that evening on his small holding.

In other, sadder news, I finished book three of Kings Dark Tidings on Audible this morning on my way in to work.

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I love this series. I’m generally not a big fan of the fantasy and sci-fiction genres, (because there’s so much rubbish) Nick Podehl, the reader of Kings Dark Tidings series, is phenomenally good. In fact he may be my favorite voice artist. I’m sad that I have to wait another year for the next one. My binge reading/watching mind demands immediate satisfaction!

Arbor mortis

I wake up every day at 03H59.

Which is a stupid time (I know). But it is also a very considered time. Most importantly its thirty one minutes before Jocko Willink gets up. I have a this weird competitive thing (slash mental disorder).

I don’t actually roll out of bed and attack my day (unlike Jocko) and kill my enemies. It takes me a solid ten minutes to check my feeds and then to haul my (plus-size) carcass out of bed. Then I loiter around and lollygag for a bit. This morning I was trying to figure out how to hard-reboot my fitbit (which decided to commit suicide during the night), but there’s always something. Also… I thought it might stop raining if I waited.

At zero dark thirty it was still bucketing down. Decided to swap out my backpack for a poncho instead for my 5km tour de neighborhood. On my way back and probably 700mtrs from my house I suddenly hear a thunderous crack behind me. I turn, three or four meters away this huge tree comes down across the road, directly were I was a second ago.

Holy cow! I stop and stare. Death by tree. That would have been… so incredibly… uncool!

An hour later, dry, in the car and on my way to work I drive to where the tree fell in the hope of an instragramable photo. Alas, the crazy German whose tree it is, has already, rather diligently, taken a chainsaw to it. Looking at it in the light now, it turns out to be a much bigger tree than I had initially given it credit for.

I always imagined going out in blaze of glory, something akin to Butch Cassidy and the Sundance kid (1969) or the ending from Cowboy Bebop (1998). Or even something along the lines of the Battle of Camarón,

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Δ At the battle of Camarón, having run out ammunition the last five French Foreign Legionnaires mount a bayonet charge against the enemy. Two were immediately killed but the other three were captured. When brought before the Mexican Major, surprised that there are only three men left he exclaims, ‘These are not men! They are demons’. 65 Legionnaires outnumbered 46 to 1 inflicted 190 casualties and wounded over 300. 

Being killed by a falling tree seems quite passé in comparison.

Being of a stoic disposition (in so far as I like stoicism) death is supposed to be quite a blasé event (Look at me getting my é and ó on). Still, given the option to tick a box on checking out I’d obviously prefer dying… well… ‘well’. Trundling along and suddenly the world going dark because of a rapidly descending conifer is certainly not how I imagine it going.

Not that I would care, obviously. I’d be deader than a door-nail.

George S. Patton died stupidly. After defeating the Nazi’s he was driving along musing on how wasteful war was when the staff car he was driving in had to brake suddenly to avoid an army truck. While all the other passengers were only slightly injured, Patton hit his head on the glass partition that separated the driver from the rear passengers. He suffered a neck injury and was paralyzed. He died two weeks later.

Versus

Erwin Rommel who had two SS officers visit his house. ‘You can take this vial of poison and die with dignity, or we kill your family, and potentially everyone you know and love’. Rommel puts on his uniform says goodbye to his wife and son, drives to the outskirts of town and drinks the poison.

Given the choice I would choose the latter every time.

Anyways. I’m glad I avoided at least one ignominious end. Obviously I might not be so lucky next time. The only way to choose the way in which you will die is to kill yourself. The samurai might have been on to something. Although disemboweling myself seems like a tough ask.

Momento Mori. Motherfucker.

Headgames

I suffer from depression.

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My head-doc tells me I’m genetically disposed towards this kind of chemical imbalance. I try argue with her that depression is symptomatic of something else and that anti-depressants are simply treating the manifestation of the cause. She counters that seizures are symptomatic for an epileptic and that some people are genetically disposed towards epilepsy, would I therefore argue that an epileptic forgo his medication and reduce their stress levels as a form of treatment.

I slump back down into my high back wing chair, momentarily defeated. I point out that a real psychiatrist should have a chaise longue or a settee instead of wing chairs. She says settees are for psychologists. I laugh. I tried Cognitive behavioral therapy once. It didn’t do much for me. Well… that’s not entirely true. Cognitive behavioral therapy is actually a lot like stoicism actually. You re-frame your problems, changing the way you think about them. I don’t really have any ‘real’ problems… other than I think life is pointless. (some might call that a biggie) That is to say I appreciate our complete and utter insignificance in the grand scheme of the universe. I find that annoying.

I decided (on my own volition) to go off my meds. And had a massive relapse as a result. Which is why I’m back at the head-doc. Even though I think life is generally futile I prefer to be functional while I’m acting out my futility. The drugs don’t change your subjective feelings about the world, but you don’t mind it so much.

I used to judge people who were ‘depressed’. Toughen up. Or get over it. But if you’ve never experienced the crushing lethargy your brain can inflict on you its a difficult thing to appreciate.

Interestingly whenever they change your medication they ask you if you’re having suicidal thoughts or think about death. As a stoic I find I have to answer that question carefully. Eventually I went with, ‘Academically I think about death ALL the time’. But no, I don’t think about suicide, ever.

Except for the poisoned cupcake. Which is really more about euthanasia than suicide.

You should keep a poisoned cupcake in your fridge. The day you forget that the cupcake is poisoned and eat the cupcake is indicative that dementia or Alzheimer’s is now firmly entrenched in your mind… and things are going downhill from there anyway. Might as well end it (by accident).

I obviously don’t mention my poisoned cupcake theory. Most people I mention this to tend to look at me askance. I don’t really have a poisoned cupcake in my fridge. Probably because cupcakes don’t last very long in the domicile of the Jo. Poisoned or otherwise.

I ask how long before I can try go off my meds again. ‘Two years’ she says. I stare at her unconvinced. That’s a really long time I mumble. But the alternative is just barely utilitarian life where I struggle with the most basic tasks. So for the time being I will stick with the program. Annoying.

Unspecified whine

I fumbled and dropped my Tupperware on the way to the kitchen this morning, which resulted in my chicken being distributed in a large circumference around my personage. I briefly considering eating it anyway. But the questionable hygiene of the office firma and the judgmental stares of my co-workers swayed me away from this endeavor.

This, as it turns out, has been indicative for my Monday so far – basically fubar. I’m trying to take it my stride with stoic resolve and fortitude. But I’m hungry and entering the realm of the ravenous hostility that comes from not eating for three hours.

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I’m wallowing, (mostly) in self pity but also achieving some more general type wallowing that comes from privilege. I’ve tried to infuse a modicum of imperturbability into my psyche by looking at pictures of suffering. I have a folder on Pinterest for just such occasions, aptly named, ‘Pictures to make you sad’.

Its not doing anything for me today. As an aside, Kevin Carter (who took this picture, that won the 1994 Pulitzer prizes for photography) killed himself in a park near my house. As a child I used to catch tadpoles and crabs in the river there. Unfortunately these days as an unsupervised minor undertaking such a venture you are more likely to catch Diphtheria, experience unbidden sodomy and then have your organs harvested in room lit by single flickering light bulb. Which as I understand it, is less amusing than keeping river creatures in a glass jar until they belly up and die after a few days. I’m glad I got to kill larval stage animals without compromising my sphincter integrity or losing a kidney. It doesn’t seem like a good trade off.

Speaking of creepy crawlies (after reading Caroline Paul – Fighting Fire) my wife and I have become very cognizant of not letting my twenty month old daughter develop irrational fears. Ie. We have been super careful not to unfairly demonize snakes, spiders and other hexapodal invertebrates… its cute when she says ‘hello’ to the Daddy-long-legs or the Christmas beetle. But obviously less endearing when she tries to offer salutations to a Black Widow or tries to high five hornets. My mother muses out loud that her grandchild is a Hindu. I think she means a Jain… but I don’t really want to get into it with her. To my mother all Indians are Hindu. In any event I have become this weird black-helicopter parent*. Which in invalidates 90% of the concepts I imagined about being a parent. It certainly wasn’t how I was raised…

* which is basically like a regular helicopter parent, but supposedly working in the background in stealth mode (with varying degrees of success) and only intervening under dire circumstances. Sometimes I wonder if I’m coddling her.

In other news I had this idea that I would start this week by cutting down on my caffeine intake. It hasn’t really worked out for me so far today. I’ve also taken four Tramadol (not all at once) in an effort to rid myself of this throbbing headache. So I’ve been pumping myself full stimulants and opioids since I woke up. I marking today down as a failure for cleaning living. Just thought I would mention it.

Embracing the suck

‘It is impossible for a man to learn what he thinks he already knows’ – Epictetus

One of the (many) disappointing things about getting older is realizing all the things that you used to believe are no longer true. Spoiler alert. There is no Santa Claus. I am also starting to doubt the authenticity of a mega-fauna Sylvilagus that has been perennially dispensing chocolate eggs since the dawn of time. I’m also convinced there are no real ‘adults’ either, just a lot of people playing pretend. The older I get the less I know, which makes me yearn for my youth where I knew everything. I also wish I could still hang upside down on the monkey bars without something snapping in my back.

Being a prisoner in my own life I try to use my hour of ‘free-time’ before I go to bed as efficiently as possible. In lieu of killing-stuff on PlayStation I now try and further myself by reading books that make me feel stupid. I’m desperately trying to emulate my heroes. Theodore Roosevelt’s favorite poem is the Nibelungenlied (the story of Siegfried the Dragon-slayer) which he read in the original German. Jan Smuts loved Prometheus Unbound by Shelly and read Greek Tragedies in their original format. Joey likes… Tintin. The Calculus Affair is my favorite.

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Behold my Kryptonite *hits head on the edge of his desk* If ever there was something that can tear any remnants of ego from the dark recesses of my brain this is it. This book is making me feel more stupid than I ever thought possible.

I read it line by line and think, oh that’s a nice line or cool word combination. But by the end of the page (which takes me about five minutes) I can’t remember what happened at the top of the page. Let alone the previous page. I mean I have a general sense… that God was hanging out with his Arch Angles and Mephistopheles comes to visit and that God says ‘Want to bet you can’t tempt Faust?’ And Mephistopheles says ‘Hold my beer’. But the nuances are generally lost on me.

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This book is kicking my butt. I can confidently attest to Epictetus that he shouldn’t worry, I don’t really know anything about anything.

I get the sense that I could read this entire book, spend all this time and only ever understand it from a Wikipedia summary point of view. I would never be able to have an intellectual conversation about it. I find that quite disheartening as it starkly illustrates my limitations.

‘It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.’ -Theodore Roosevelt

To be fair I am at least trying. And that’s something. Even if it does feel like an exercise in futility. I just wish I was a bit smarter.