In The Ring – 3rd January 2023

Why suffer to win a meaningless victory?
The search for glory, the greater goal?
Do we strive just because we can
And winning fills the heart and soul?

inspired and plagiarised from Existential Comics


Poverty is not necessary. It is a social, economic and political failure, usually caused by a history of injustice.

Chris Tomlinson

This ends a year of finding quotes every day. I wrote them all in a book that I will gift to Hayden. I’m going to fill up the book with some choice lyrics that also inspired me.

The Curse – 5th March 2022

My body is a time machine
My brain, its brain, it’s enemy
Fighting against itself
Today is another step in time
A footprint in the snow
Disappeared in its melt
Yesterday or nineteen seventy-nine
A heartbeat never remembered
A breath never recalled
The curse of conscious man


A thinker sees his own actions as experiments and questions – as attempts to find out something. Success and failure are for him answers above all.

Friedrich Nietzsche

The Poems of a Ridiculous Man – 7th August 2021

So here’s the last of my Dostoevsky cool quotes for now, this time from the fantastic The Dream of a Ridiculous Man. Despite being quite dark and moody I feel like my poems came out a little more on the positive side – perhaps a reflection on how I was feeling when I wrote the poems compared with when I was inspired by the quotes as I was reading the story.

Acknowledgement to Husker Du and Rob Crow/Heavy Vegetable for some relevant phrases and ideas and, as before, the poems borrow heavily from the text.

Searching for a picture for this post also lead me to finding this hand painted animation of the story.

Ah, it’s so hard to be the only one to know the truth! But they won’t understand it. No, they won’t.

No Truth

Only I know the truth
They sure won’t understand
I carry this burden
It is just as I planned
Truth is in the saying
The truth will set you free
But I will never share
The truth is just for me

Maybe it was the result of the conviction that dawned upon me quite independently of my will that nothing made any difference in this world.

Conviction

I tried and tried and tried and tried
To make a difference before I died
Close to the end a sudden dawning
Independently and without warning
Your time is pointless, meaning, none
A pinprick in millions more to come
So make the best and start believing
Despite the sentence we’re all receiving

…eternally dear to the hearts of her most ungrateful children.

Realm

This earthly realm
Where it all starts
Never ending, eternally
Dear to the hearts
….of her most ungrateful children

We can truly love only with suffering and through suffering. We don’t know how to love otherwise; we don’t know any other love. I want to suffer so that I may love.

Love and Suffering

I wanted it all, wanted it so badly
Staring out of misted windows like a fool
To love this love is to suffer it gladly
Our twisted hearts make us look so cruel
This love, true love, it knows no other way
Crushed and broken hearts not spoken thereof
Life lived without it, not for another day
I must, I want to suffer so that I may love

My hatred for the people of our earth had always contained a feeling of despair – why couldn’t I hate them without loving them?

World of Masochism

My hatred for the people of our earth
Has always contained a feeling of despair
Why couldn’t I hate them without loving them?
Why did I have to care?
Some days I’m just in KEN Mode
A rage of pure hate and seething
Other days I wish for utopia
A paradise full of our dreaming
Which way will it go today?
Which side of the bed did I wake?
Every thought is masochism
No matter which path I take

They grew to appreciate the beauty of untruth…the germ of the lie penetrated their hearts, and they took a fancy to it.

A Good Lie

Sometimes a lie is like a lover
A beauty to be believed
The untruth penetrates the heart
Willingly deceived

…they experienced suffering, and came to love it; they declared that suffering was the only way to Truth. Then science spread among them.

To Suffer

He felt he’d suffered enough
So the Buddhist jumped from the roof
Science says ‘he’s dead’
He thought it the way to truth

Each became so jealous of his individuality that he had to do his best to belittle and humble the individuality of others….

Tall Poppy

You’ve reached the greatest height
Like it’s some crowning achievement
Society brings you down to earth
Where everyone is in agreement

Voluntary slavery in which the weak submitted to the strong of their own free will, if only in order to gain their support to oppress those who were even weaker than themselves.

Shit Trickles Down

Submit to the strong by your own free will
Eat the shit until you’ve had your fill
So you may enslave those below you
Pass on the shit your master throw you
The human centipede, a fitting analogy
A voluntary agreement to this economy
A vicious circle made of 7 billion pieces
The pyramid scheme of human faeces

We’re striving for the same things; we’re all, from the sage to the worst criminal, making our way toward the same objective. Only we’re trying to get there by different roads.

Different Roads

You take the high, I’ll take the low
It’s the same whichever way you go
You take the low, I’ll take the high
Arriving together, just in time to die

Let’s say paradise will never come about! I know myself it won’t – yet I’ll still go on preaching.

Right Turn

Never stop believing
Counter negative traits
Never stop the search
Paradise awaits
It will never come
In your lifetime’s fight
You know what is right
Be doing what is right

Afterword:

Man’s desires are not reasonable and often make him act against his own interest and common sense, but they are what makes him human.

Contradictions

I am respectable, yet not reasonable
My flaws are the things that make me
My desires maybe contradictions
This human interest will not break me

When you wore a crown of thorns and you left a trail of crumbs – 6th May 2020

I’ve never really been one for nostalgia but being stuck at home for 8 weeks has seen me sorting out boxes of memories that I thought needed some revision and organising.

Unfortunately, lots of great memories have been triggered, special times, wild events and even the mundane. This has brought forth a great sadness. Most of my physical documentation seems to stop about 10-15 years ago as social media pushed all life into the digital environment.

How often do you scroll back through your own timelines – let alone those of your friends? A pile of photos in a box is a tangible reference to a life that is missing in the opening and closing of a URL.

I’ve started putting more thoughts and ideas into this blog in an effort to move away from Facebook. Facebook is a great tool for many things in my life but connection isn’t one of them. I’m looking back through that timeline (and Amy’s too) and tracking down pictures that I will print and probably once again store in a box. The proverbial box in the attic.

Finding some of my mother’s photos that she kept has brought into perspective the question of why do we keep these mementoes? I found a picture of my grandfather when he was a little boy. That’s nice, it’s meaningful to me. I’ll keep it. In a box, in the attic.

I can pass all this onto my son and he can choose what to do with it. The box that gets passed from attic to attic. And in 500 years? Then what? Will our physical and digital histories be available through some new technology, beamed directly into our brains.

But who will care? We have limited access to historical accounts from more than 500 years ago. Those that we do may be random, some of those important enough to have things written about or by them and deemed worth keeping. What others have been lost? Now we are in this age of mass information what will be decided as relevant? Will the rantings of a mad president be worth a discussion in a thousand years time? Will the ponderings of a youthful adult going through life changes be held up as a fine example of our era?

My sadness is through a frustration of feeling stuck right now. I feel like I have done so much, the evidence being right in front of me, I’m no longer particularly excited at the thought of new adventures. My body is getting shaky, along with my brain. It feels like my time is over, or waiting for something to come and fill it again.

It could be the post honeymoon period of having planned so long to make this move to Thailand, that now things have settled down a calm reality is setting in. I would like to embrace this. My plan was to come here and not stress about work and the rat race any longer. It hasn’t quite ended up like that.

Looking back again I’ve realised just how serious I am when starting a new project. Starting new jobs, I worked so hard to make an impression. At varying points the energy ran out, possibly from realising that my hard work was not particularly appreciated, and over time that energy has seemed to run out more quickly.

Again, when I started my teaching career here in Thailand, I worked so damn hard – too damn hard – to make a difference. My bright flashes were quickly extinguished by the cultural politics of the education system. I see other teacher’s different responses to this and consider that they have a better way of dealing with things. I set myself too high a standard sometimes, I need to be more relaxed in my own expectations.

I go back to school tomorrow. I have no enthusiasm today but a vague feeling that everything will be ok and I will slip back into things easily enough. It is somewhat a relief to have some forced discipline again, the discipline of being required at a certain place at a certain time. I feel I need and appreciate that despite being philosophically opposed to the idea of it!

I can happily fill up my time either way. But what is it for? It’s just for myself. So, what am I for? This is a question I still have difficulty in answering. I’m going to go read a book.

“But you live your wisdom,” said I; “why do you not write your memoirs? Or simply,” I added, seeing him smile, “recollections of your travels?”

“Because I do not want to recollect,” he replied. “I should be afraid of preventing the future and of allowing the past to encroach on me. It is out of the utter forgetfulness of yesterday that I create every new hour’s freshness. It is never enough for me to have been happy. I do not believe in dead things and cannot distinguish between being no more and never having been.”

– from ‘The Immoralist’ by Andre Gide

Gratitude Journal

I am so happy and grateful to be going to school tomorrow. It will be good to have a reason to get out of my house.

New day rising – 29th December 2019

This morning I am filled with a quiet happiness. Determined to get up early on a Sunday and to do something, whether it be a walk, a meditation, writing or studying, I rolled out of bed, fed the cats and opted to walk to my favourite local coffee shop, Utopia.

As I prepared food for the cats a light rain appeared. Unusual for this time of year but accurately predicted by our weather apps for once. Undeterred, I set out. The temperature still cool but the minimal exertion keeping me warmed I chose to listen to a reading of a Chekhov short story. The relative quiet around made for clear listening to the beautiful words of the story as I walked through small fields of wet grass and aspiring mud. Was I still in Thailand or transported to that Armenian village?

Before I knew it I had arrived at the shop but it was too early and as I waited on the porch I listened to a primer on Nietzsche and then an imagined conversation between Fred and Jane Austen where, despite their differences they arrived at a philosophical agreement and appreciation for each others works. Inspired by this I contemplated how everyone is different but we must be able to find some common ground.

The Nietzsche primer mentioned his text’s difficult reading but also highlighted his humour. Something which I had not been previously aware of. Friends have told me they preferred to read works about Nietzsche rather than his own. I will try this approach sometime. Sometime when I can add those books to my ever growing library.

The shop opened and I lazily drank through 3 coffees which produced a wonderful buzzing awareness of all the subtleties around me. Soon an acquaintance of Amy’s arrived, a Thai lady who runs her own English school. As this was our first meeting we talked about our shared experiences with teaching here in Chiang Rai.

Coffee and conversation

I lead the conversation for a while before realising it was time to let her speak and so I asked questions about her school and so the conversation flowed. I set myself a small challenge to try to talk to a stranger every day and thought to myself that I can cross this off today’s challenge list and it’s not even 10am.

Later though, as I was walking home, the rain a little heavier than before, I realised that I had failed in another of my personal challenges. Inspired by a Tim Ferriss article I read this week I have challenged myself to not complain about anything for 21 days. To remind myself about this challenge I have started wearing a bracelet, the purpose being that every time you complain you have to swap the bracelet to the other wrist. I have made this doubly difficult for myself by choosing a bracelet that is awkward to attach to oneself with one hand.

As the bracelet effect kicked in I thought back to the conversation in the coffee shop and asked myself if I had been complaining. Despite my mind’s protestations and justifications I sadly realised I had, indeed, been complaining. Perhaps only mildly but there is a fine line between stating the facts as they are and infusing a negative into the narrative.

In fact, the hardest part of this challenge is actually recognising that you are complaining. So long as it pushes to the forefront of my mind more and more it will help me become more aware of my own words and to try to understand how someone might feel whilst listening to me.

The walk home was still wonderous as I contemplated all this and listened to the description of beautiful Masha and the joy and sadness the narrator felt. This description was thought-provoking as I also was feeling so happy with life, despite the fact I was getting cold and wet in the rain. The walk crowned by the view of the feathery grass that spikes alongside our driveway, suddenly weighed down by the heavy drops of water, pointing towards the path home.

Gratitude Journal

I am so happy and grateful to be inquisitive. To want to constantly learn and understand myself. This morning I listened to a primer on Nietzsche which was interesting as an introduction because I don’t know enough about his philosophy. I then listened to an imagined conversation between Nietzsche and Jane Austen where there two apparent so different writers end up agreeing on many things. I walked to Utopia this morning too. A nice gentle walk and gave me chance to listen to these articles.


On Friday I kept my challenge of playing with the kids so that I would get some exercise. However, after a while, they asked me to calm down. I was a bit rough and too competitive. I felt slightly aggrieved at that moment but did calm down some. When I thought about it afterwards I realised they were right. It probably wasn’t as much fun for them as it should have been. I need to learn about the consequences of my actions – even the small ones.

You do it once and you don’t like it and you do it twice and then you’re insulted – 20th November 2019

4th June 2022 – I was making these notes as I was studying in my classroom, as classes were going on and 10-year-olds were jumping around, screaming and playing. It looks like I was doing some free online course from Donald Robertson’s website and Laurie Santos’ course at Coursera. Writing this out again now is a good reminder. Things I know but forget to practice or implement. How to bring these reminders into my thinking more often? I must find a way.

ataraxia – a state of serenity that comes with always acting properly in the world
pathé – negative, disruptive emotions
eupatheiai – positive, constructive emotions

pathé
Negative emotions/bad judgements
Good/present – pleasure (hēdonē)
– an impulse toward something present now that is considered good but isn’t
Good/future – appetite (epithumia)
– an impulse toward something in the future that is considered good but isn’t
Bad/present – distress (lupé)
– an impulse away from something present now that is considered bad but isn’t
Bad/future – fear (phobos)
– an impulse away from something in the future that is considered bad but isn’t

4th June 2022 – curious about the origins of the word pathé and its connection to Pathé News, which is where I first knew the word, I see that the Greek is actually pathē. It looks like the origin of the news name is from the surname of Charles Pathé so I wonder where his name came from and if it got bastardised over time for this minor change.

eupatheiai
Positive emotions
Good/present – joy (khara)
– an impulse toward something present now that is considered good and is, in fact, good
Good/future – reasonable wishing (boulēsis)
– an impulse toward some future thing regarded as good which is, in fact, good
Bad/present – n/a
Bad/future – caution(eulabeia)
– an impulse away from some future thing regarded as bad which is, in fact, bad

joy is opposite pleasure
reasonable wishing opposite appetite
caution opposite fear

within our power:
opinion
motivation
desire
aversion


not within our power:
our body
our property
our reputation
our workplace

impressions (phantasiai)
– judgements from previous experiences or subconscious thinking (cats are nice or cats are selfish)

assent(sunkatathesis)
– confirmation of the initial impression (cats are indeed selfish)

impulse (orgē)
– a movement of the will toward action that we feel because of having assented to a given impression
all emotions are impulses

4th June 2022 – it’s a kind of historical reassurance to see roots of English words such as fantasy and orgy and that their meanings have perservered. The meanings have persevered but us humans are still struggling to put these things into action.

impressions > assent > impulse
– impression is involuntary
– assent is the result of reflection
– impulse is voluntary

Provoked by the sight of a beautiful woman, you will discover the contrary power of self-restraint.
Faced with pain, you will discover the power of endurance.
If you are insulted, you discover patience.
In time, you will grow to be confident that there is not a single impression that you will not have the moral means to tolerate. (Enchiridion 10)

incorrect analysis:
impression – someone is insulting me
assent – it is awful to be insulted
impulse – I experience distress (lupē)

Don’t be angry. it’s pointless.

correct analysis:
impression – someone is opening their mouth and moving air
deny assent – movement of air cannot hurt me
impulse – none, just walk away

If you didn’t learn these things in order to demonstrate them in practice, what did you learn them for? (Discourses 1, 29.35)

Social connection
People with close social ties
– less vulnerable to early death
– more likely to survive fatal illness
– less likely to fall prey to stressful events
– appear to be happier

Trying to connect with strangers will make you happier and we mispredict this fact.
Shared experiences make us happier
– eye contact
– smiling
simple ways to practice

Time affluence vs $$
using time for something fulfilling is more important than spending that time to make $$
Wanting better stuff that we don’t want yet
– are there things that we should be wanting that we don’t realise?
– seek out opportunities for doing kind things
– random
– do extra/more

Mind wandering
The objective conditions of our lives have improved dramatically yet we haven’t gotten any happier.
Mind wandering appears to decrease happiness.
Practice moment-to-moment experiences.
As we’ve said for the last 30 years ‘Live in the now!’
Meditation should assist. Be more aware. Practice more.

Flow
You are in such an ecstatic state to such a point that you feel as though you almost don’t exist.
You have to enjoy what you are doing. You won’t be very good at it if you don’t.
You also have to feel you are contributing something worthwhile.
High skill + high challenge
Control Arousal
Flow

Mind control
Why do our minds wander?
Our default network is fast – it thinks outside the here and now
Meditation – turn your attention away from distracting thoughts and focus on a single point

Event + response = experience
“The last of human freedoms – to choose one’s attitude in any given circumstance” – Victor Krankl
How?
– Realise you have the power
– Practice the responses
Mindfulness:
Attention – present moment
Attitude – acceptance

Meditate
1. Notice your breath
2. Mind wanders
– memories
– planning
– judging
3. Notice and accept
4. Go to 1

Attend to and accept any sensation you experience in response to the event, without making any judgement of the goodness/badness of the event.
Ask yourself – can I be ok with this feeling?

Stratagies for creating better habits
Put yourself in situations that benefit those habits (situation support)
– fix bad environments
– promote healthy environments and connect with people doing the same things
Set goals
– be specific – how to achieve your goal (who what why when where)
– good visualisation – especially the obstacles
– mental contrast against the acheivement
– if-then plan can lead to better goal attainment, implementation, intention

WOOP
Wish – think about your wish (goal)
Outcome – the best outcome
Obstacles – things that may stop you
Plan – if-then plan

Wish – to better control my emotions
Outcome – to be able to better deal with stressful and difficult situations without reacting to my initial emotions
Obstacles – I still want to be right. I still want to be better than everyone else. My ego gets in the way.
Plan – If I start to feel out of control then recognise this and pause, try to pause the conversation and make a decision later.

4th June 2022 – I think I have gotten better at this but not really sure if it is through practice. I feel like my attitude has developed, a little into a ‘ah, whatever’ apathy. I suppose each time I haven’t reacted I’ve been learning and then those situations just don’t arise in the first place. Am I trying to deny myself credit here? Ah, whatever!

Resistance never sleeps. It never slackens. It never goes away. The dragon must be slain anew every morning.

Steven Pressfield

virtue – bahviour showing high moral standard
moral – principles of right and wrong behaviour, the code of behaviour that is considered right and acceptable in a particular society
ethics – moral principles that govern a person’s behaviour
principles – a fundamental truth or proposition that serves as the foundation for a system of belief
truth/true – in accordance with fact or reality
wisdom – the quality of having experience, knowledge and good judgement
values – one’s judgment of what is important in life

It is the privilege of the gods to want nothing and of godlike men to want little.

Diogenes

The forging of human love and human work is the labour of life.

Charles Tart (?)

Death is neither a good nor an evil; it delivers no category of fortune.

Seneca

What are the pros and cons of holding these beliefs?

  1. Dying doesn’t frighten me much
  2. It’s more important to have lived a good life than a long life
  3. Life and death are not intrinsically good or bad; it depends how we use them

Death
Perhaps you think it superfluous to learn something that can only be implemented once – this is the very reason we have to practice.
Picture your own death several times a day. Think of it in slightly different ways, at different times.
Going to bed be grateful for our lives so far.
Plan your day as if it were last chance to really live.
Contemplate the transience of all living things.

Death comes knocking at the poor man’s shack and the king’s palace alike.

Horace

Contemplate a good death.
Read Trial and Death of Socrates, Plato’s Apology or Crito or any short story about a Stoic death
1. Imagine you are in their shoes
2. What would you do? How would you feel?
3. Compare your actions to theirs.
What lessons can you draw from this exercise?

Tell yourself that death is inevitable and necessary.
Contemplate objectively, consider your death from a scientific perspective, a natural event.
Imagine what is under your control and exercise wisdom and virtue in the face of death.
How would a Stoic respond to the death I imagine facing?
Imagine your own funeral.

Golden pins are stuck into people out of boredom. The golden pins will be welcomed.

Dostoevsky

4th June 2022 – These exercises about death I haven’t gotten around to though my impending decline is often thought about in various abstract ways. I don’t feel like my life is over but that I have probably lived the best parts of it already. That’s not a sad or bad thing. The remaining years are more content and happy. I don’t feel the need to fight for things as I used to.

Gratitude Journal

I am so happy and grateful for my cousin Sharon who took care of my mum so well before she passed away. Sharon did everything she could for her and went to great lengths to make sure my mum was as happy as she could be. I miss my mum a lot.