To Each Their Own

I’m tired. However, and I realize this, I’m tired of all of which I know to be of my control, of my choice.

I’m tired of the comparison. Of comparing myself with others; their wants, their needs, their dreams and pursuits, their current lot and the futures they speak of, and so on. It’s not me, not at all, but its easy to. It’s also easy not to, if of course I choose against it. Similarities, they can exist, but the same? No, not at all. Remember, to each their own.

I’m tired of the doubt. Of doubting myself, my worth, my place, my acts, my thoughts. It’s old, it’s tiresome, it’s cruel, self imposed I know, but cruel the same. It’s not me, its my choice and I can stop this at any moment. To allow it to remain, to persist, how much of a fool can you be? Stop your pity, instead choose to try, choose to do, and then you will know. Remember, to each their own.

I’m tired of the confusion. Of confusing myself, of being confused by others, or rather, allowing myself to be confused by the pair; the words they say, the actions they take, and the same of mine; my words, my actions. Choose, choose now, then choose again, not to be confused and you won’t be. Confusion from curiosity, let it live, that’s fun, but confusion from your own allowance of both the internal and the ex-, let it pass you by — give it no mind. Remember, to each their own.

I’m tired of the hatred. Of the kind from others, but even more so of the self-loathing of my own partake. Do you enjoy the act of self-defeat? Of self-betrayal? The tearing down of your own being? Or the destruction of your own peace? No. Than enough, no more. Allow these thoughts to again pass you by, for they carry with them no real anchor, only the hope that you may offer harbor for their taking. Don’t. And of others hatred directed your way? Also, don’t the same. Choose, then choose again. Remember, to each their own.

Okay, enough of this. Who cares if I’m tired of anything, anyways? Typically not many, sometimes not a one. Maybe I’d be better off by simply not caring myself, not of just anything, but of what I perceive to be worth the time.  Again, not that of just anything, but of things of this nature; harmful. Let it go, move on, simply stop. It can be that easy. It is that easy, if you want it to be. If you choose it to be. Maybe easy isn’t the word. But, if not easy, able; always able. Let it be difficult if you must, “If it’s endurable, then endure it”; accept its confront, but remember, you’re able; always able.

Choose not to be compared — and you won’t feel compared. Don’t feel compared — and you haven’t been…

Choose not to be doubted — and you won’t feel doubted. Don’t feel doubted — and you haven’t been…

Choose not to be confused — and you won’t feel confused. Don’t feel confused — and you haven’t been…

Choose not to be hated — and you won’t feel hated. Don’t feel hated — and you haven’t been…

“Choose not to be harmed — and you won’t feel harmed. Don’t feel harmed — and you haven’t been.” – Marcus Aurelius

But I do — than you will. And if I don’t? — than you won’t. Choice always remains. You’re able; always able.

And in closing, all I want to do in this life, and I assume for many the same, is love. Love what I do, love who I am with, love where I am, and love where I am going — than you will — if you choose to. And this choice? Remember, to each their own.

Remember, you must die.

Death; oh, how it has flooded my mind lately. More appropriately, the thought alone has consumed my attention, stood defiantly in place against my hesitant rebuttal, and toiled with my attempted understanding of its ominous position. However, with this, and with recent encounter of its inevitability and its swiftness, death’s ever lingering presence has also brought about a sense of compartmentalization, towards how I divide the allotment of my time, who I decide to allow my being, and what I deem as worthy within and of my life.

Death has a funny, and yet a not so comical way of bringing back to the moment reality. We all will die, yes, there is no changing this. Despite our various efforts towards a guaranteed life of longevity, no matter how cautious or how tame we live out our days, they are numbered, and they remain, with unyielding persistence, in tally; destination and departure unknown. With this… memento mori.

Derived from Latin origin, memento mori, when translated to our modern form of the English language, reminds us bluntly, ‘Remember you must die’. In reference to the piece pictured above, from a perspective more poetically crafted, ‘Vanité’, master pieced by 17th Century French painter Philippe de Champaigne, displays through detailed expression the thin line of existence in which we abide. The tulip (life), the skull (death), and the hourglass (time); life, our current experience, remaining in constant shadow of death, which we may encounter at any moment. The only guarantee between the triad conveyed at median; death.

There is no guarantee of a life, even less, if possible, no assurance of time. We aren’t promised a single breath, no law of nature ensuring us an abundance, or even a presence, of either element. So why are we so wasteful of it? Why do we engage with such petty occurrences and tasks? Why do we allow our lives to be consumed with such oblivion, with negligence towards its fragility? There remains a thin line between our existence and our demise, yet, we act as if the former is forever. Again… memento mori.

As mentioned, I recently encountered death, not my life, but a loved one, and as I write this, with mind lost in consumption of its very nature, I find it, with slight grief, irresponsible and selfish of myself to only be aware of it now, in light only because of our latest confront. A loved one, so dear and close to my heart, to my being, to my life, almost taken away, by a true evil of this world, one which affects us all, directly and indirectly; addiction. Stolen it felt, robbed, if even only for a moment, with monstrous lack of care or of concern for all involved, for death does not carry with it a sense of compassion or refrain, only a duty, a duty to take, always too soon it feels, for death doesn’t, it only does.

How arrogant it feels though, how wrong and self-loathed it seems to allow the tribulation of another the right to provide you with any sense of pain, or for that matter, of thanks; he experienced this inevitably, you merely observed, for now. You have no mind even to what it truly entails, to what he truly experienced. Is there pain? Perhaps a release? How intense the struggle? Do we succumb with ease? Or, maybe, just nothing.

Enough, these thoughts, they’re needed, these feelings too, and it’s okay, life tends to provide the test first and the lesson later, death staying true to this form. Meditate on this however, understand what this is, this feeling, this experience, this will happen again, to you even, to another so dear, sooner or later, but no matter, for it will happen again, no matter.

But oh how it hurts when you are so near it, how odd and unsure the moment it provides, how abrupt it impedes everything, stops us on our path and challenges us to accept, for with death there is no other way, no alternative route, so accept. Death ceases life, but life itself does not cease, and that is the hardest truth to accept. Beyond you is more, beyond our loved ones, beyond this moment, the same, but no matter, nor you or I will be a part of that, we are only a part of this, right now, so the future, no matter, only now.

So than, what to take from this? Death is always there, here rather, around you and I, always, right now. You are already dead, your life already destined to end, finale inscripted, you just don’t know it yet, you don’t truly know it, and by the time you’re allowed to, you’re gone, too late.

So than, what to take from this? Live, live now, before it is too late, do not fear death, rather accept it, embrace its forthcoming with repose, for… ”nobody dies before his time comes, so I am calm. I know I am going to die, I just don’t know when.”

Thankfully, with deep gratefulness of fate and of circumstance, he is still here with us, still able to converse, still given time to express ideas and to share perspectives, to create and to learn, still capable of life and of love and of all that comes with it. We all are, remember this, you the same if you are reading this now.

However, this experience, as gratuitous its perceived purpose at the time, excavated from within me, from depths of inactive essence, from thoughts of idle action, an awakening and a forging of a practice, one towards understanding and of gratuity, towards acceptance and of regard, for this life, for death to come, and for the sustain of this moment… “thankful, for it is not ours to own, only to borrow. Death will come, know this, use this.”

You may be sitting there, reading this, believing it to be a rather pessimistic piece, but I would argue against this innate impulse of thought. Allow this idea, or truth rather, to bring about a vigor for this life, for this moment. Again we all will die, yes, but now, right now, truly be grateful to be alive, I beg you.

Wherever you are, right now, reading this, look up from your screen, now around you, and find the beauty of this moment, better yet, bring beauty to this moment. Take a deep breath, come back to your being, feel the world and its nature around you, understand the best you can with acquiescence the common fate of us all, and be grateful and amazed to be a part of it. You will die, yes, no matter, but for now you must live.

From this moment on, in our constant face with death, to reference the always pertinent Stoic philosophy, to quote Marcus Aurelius, “…think of what a precious privilege it is to be alive – to breatheto thinkto enjoy,to love.”

And with this, memento mori.

Reality’s Delusion: How Sure Are We?

“Reflect often on the speed with which all things in being, or coming into being, are carried past and swept away.”

Recently, in conversation with a new acquaintance, a perspective was shared with me, or rather towards me, depicting the substance of a situation in context of our exchange; “There is reality and there is delusion of situation, and this is an example of the latter”. It didn’t hit me then, but as I pondered his statement later on, a thought stirred about in my mind indicating error in his chosen insight, not in accordance with his intent but rather with the concepts entirety. Be it ignorance or ambition on my part, nonetheless, this narrow inclination is one far too often shared, justified, believed and cast onto others as definitive truth that the self-appointed arbitrator has deemed reality; be aware of this, but ignore it. However, for sake of digression, pressing on, though not spoken aloud for auditory consumption, thoughts of internal reserve contain the ability to produce a noise much louder, within the individual at first and potential for the greater good second, if expressed effectively and with collective intent. Now, in this text, I hope to give opportunity for its communicable understanding.

“Existence is like a river in ceaseless flow, its actions a constant succession of change, its causes innumerable  in their variety”

– Marcus Aurelius

This reality so often spoken about, one thrown around with such strong and confident conviction, remains in a constant state of change, for the concept of reality itself understands the weakness of its own stable and the dubious fluidity of its mere arguable grasp. This is not a new understanding, for it is truthfully the product of many great minds of before, and of our worlds observatory nature; thought of, understood and communicated through the ages by virtue of mediums of both presenter’s choice and of the times expressible permit. However, for sake of skeptics needed assurance of example, one relevant to our current moment of existence, ponder on the following:

Reality is negotiable. Scarcely anything stands still, even what is most immediate. - Tim Ferriss Click To Tweet

Far too often we are fed to belief against this, having been taught by others who have been fed the same. I am not ignorant enough to fail to realize that this is not the case with all, as there are numerous examples to look upon, expressing themselves no matter the field nor their pursuit. Artists, creators, musicians, innovators of business, trade, architecture, industry, fashion, scientists of all studies, writers, poets, inventors, and so on; the list remains unending. What do they have in common? What sets them apart apart from the rest? What grabs our attention of their pursuits fruition? They question one thing; reality! Then, they make the choice to ignore the commotion, to make their own noise in this world, to follow their own unique beat in line with their visions rhythm.

“We should not, like sheep, follow the herd of creatures in front of us, making our way where others go, not where we ought to go.”

– Seneca

Reality in this context represents a paradigm of nature; the two are the same, both in mystery and in question. But, for the majority conditioned to leave nature, and in accordance reality, left alone, how do we begin the revealing? In these moments, we shall turn to others, towards their examples and towards their work, and in this moment, as I struggle with this myself, I turn to none other than Hans Selye, MD, otherwise known as the Father of Stress. Without now taking the exploratory dive into his life’s impressive and profoundly progressive work, I instead want to share with you what lead him down his own road of unknown, towards the unraveling of his own questioning, shared in an excerpt from his famous classic ‘The Stress of Life’, a book about stress in the applicable sense and of our unique ability and innate quality to adapt. Though the language is relevant in regard to his particular question, the concept shared and practiced is appropriate no matter your contemplate:

How to Question Nature

What is disease – not one disease, just disease in general? This question lingered on in my mind, as it undoubtedly has in the minds of most physicians of all nations throughout history. But there was no hope for an early answer, for Nature – the source of all knowledge – rarely replies to questions unless they are put to her in the form of experiments to which she can say “yes” or “no.” She is not loquacious ; she merely nods in the affirmative or in the negative…

Occasionally, if we ask, “What would you do in these circumstances?” or, “What is in such and such a place?” she will silently show us a picture. But, she never explains. You have to work things out yourself first, aided only by instinct and the feeble powers of the human brain, until you can ask precise questions, to which Nature can answer in her precise but silent sign language of nods and pictures. Understanding grows out of a mosaic of such answers. It is up to the scientist to draw a blueprint of the questions he has to ask before the mosaic makes sense. It is curious how few laymen, or even physicians, understand this…

Only those blessed with the understanding that comes from a sincere and profound love of Nature will, by an intuitive feeling for her ways, succeed in constructing a blue print of the many questions that need to be asked to get even an approximate answer to such a question. Only those cursed with a consuming, uncontrollable curiosity for Nature’s secrets will be able to – because they will have to – spend their lives working out patiently, one by one, the innumerable technical problems involved in performing each of the countless experiments required.

What is disease? – What is stress?

I did not know how to ask the first of these questions; I did not even think of asking the second.

In closing, do not be afraid to question reality nor apprehensive in your questionings implement. Reality is largely, by its own nature, negotiable and plastic, and we as humans were meant to explore every facet of our enigmatic undergo. If you do not know where to start, in form with the ones who have found their paths continued questioning, start with an interest, and if that one doesn’t work, start again with another. You do not need to know much to begin, other than to begin is the only way. And, to keep equipped in mind, parallel with what’s to come:

Remember that all is opinion. - Marcus Aurelius Click To Tweet

Ticking Away

Awoken, laying in bed the other morning, every breath released I heard a ticking noise, like that of a clock. Honestly, it kind of scared me then, but I laid there listening for it all the more so. Whether real or imaginative, I realized truth in the moment. Every breath brought in and released from is one breath closer towards death. Typically, our natural response to such a thought stirs about momentary existential worry and anxiety about something which we cannot control. However, while engaged in the experience I reflected back to a quote I had come across just days before:

You are afraid of dying. But, come now, how is this life of yours anything but death? - Seneca Click To Tweet

Death surrounds us during every moment of our lives, and we experience it daily whether we are attuned to this truth or not. Deaths’ presence can be found in the most common and simplest acts within our days, of which take up a good amount of our time and attention; the eating of food which was once alive, the kissing of our loved ones goodbye leaving to take on the days tasks, the coming to an end of a day lived, the drifting back into sleep at night, and the act of breathing itself. All of these, though different in severity when compared to the actual loss of life, remain indifferent in nature; they all represent loss, permanent or temporary…but still loss.

Though we tend to view death as a negative part of life, one we try to avoid at all costs, it is still going to happen. Instead, we should acknowledge this truth, do our best to understand it, and come to the realization that it is out of our control. Death, no matter its mold, is a part of this world, of our experience, equal to or more so lifelike than any other truth our existence may hold. This should not scare you or bring about worry for it is simply what is; an unavoidable natural phenomenon with meaning bewildered:

Death, like birth, is a secret of nature. - Marcus Aurelius Click To Tweet

Though you may have more behind you than ahead of you, none the less, every breath inches you closer. We can view this as a reason for our despair or, rather a potent force for our claim of life.  Was I listening to the ticking away of my life at that moment? It truly does not matter, for whether I was or not, the fact remains; every breath we are getting closer to the end. So… what will you do with the remaining?

It is not that we are given a short life but we make it short, and we are not ill-supplied but wasteful of it. - Seneca Click To Tweet

Do not just tick away, for that would be wasteful of a life intended to be not. For all we know, this life is all we get. Do not fear what you cannot control. Be here now, for the entire concept of future is laid upon an ambiguous string. Again, this should not scare us for it is simply what is:

The whole future lies in uncertainty. Live immediately. - Seneca Click To Tweet

Actualize this and you are free from the burden of failing in attempt for your control of it. However, for basis of anchor, realize that you are in control of one main component of this equation; how you spend your time, how you experience it, is in your hands. Let that provide you with your sense of control. Our autonomy is found in our perspective and there simply exists far too much good and beauty for us to worry about a perceived negative. Instead:

Dwell on the beauty of life. Watch the stars, and see yourself running with them. - Marcus Aurelius Click To Tweet

Please, do not just tick away, for you are worthy of much more.

City Reads NYC

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P.S. For a healthy daily dose of this type of perspective, I highly recommend everyone to check out Ryan Holiday’s “The Daily Stoic: 366 Meditations on Wisdom, Perseverance, and the Art of Living.” It has provided me with great thought and insight into a world that tends to confuse.

Additionally, check out DailyStoic.com, which provides Stoic Wisdom for Everyday Life. Another great thought provoking resource.