Well, shit, dear reader…took another big ass nap today.  I don’t know what’s wrong with me.  It might be late-onset narcolepsy.  The inappropriately high temperatures may have something to do with it.  Just disgusting.

I didn’t get a damn thing done today.  I guess I needed to rest, but it seems wasteful.  I’ve still got a little time to write.

N.P.: “Ashes to Ashes” – Faith No More

I took a big-ass nap and now I’m fussy.  Oddly and inappropriately awake for this hour of the night.  Probably pissing the neighbors with my music, but fuck them.  I dislike the neighbors.  I wish them ill.  I’m considering dynamiting their obsessively manicured lawn.

Well, since I’m so awake, I going to write.

N.P.: “Absolution” – Ghost

I got a lot of words down today, dear reader.  You would have been proud.
I wish it was snowing.  Or at least raining.  Or at least cold.  It’s time, dammit.

N.P.: “Many Thanks” – Dope Stars Inc.

You can’t talk about stoicism without talking about Amor Fati.  This is a classic Latin phrase meaning “the love of one’s fate.”  This means, basically, accepting and even embracing whatever outcomes life gives you.  Most of us desire or expect a certain outcome from the choices we make and the actions we take in pursuit of our goals.  This is perfectly normal.  Who isn’t disappointed and discouraged when things don’t turn out the way you wanted, the way you intended, the way you worked hard to achieve?  But the wisdom of Amor Fati tells us that this is wrong.  Things quite often don’t go our way.  Things simply don’t work out.  Robert Burns (may God bless his sweet, sweet soul) reminds us that, “the best-laid plans of mice and men often go awry.”  We have free will, and there are something things that we control (at least to a degree), but the vast majority of factors and variables are well out of our control, and even our mildest influence.  So knowing that, why give a universe we know is prone to chaos such power over our emotions, over our happiness and contentment?

The Buddha tells us that such expectations of outcome not only consistently lead to disappointment, but are actually the main cause of all human suffering.  He calls it craving or desire.  We feel we deserve a happy life.  We make plans.  We plan to be happy.  But when things don’t turn out the way we wanted, we become unhappy.  We become resentful.  We feel we are somehow owed happiness or contentment from life.  And the fact that we are not getting it causes us to be discontent, to suffer.  As soon as we accept the tenet that “life is suffering,” we will accept our fate and be content with it.  Our eternal disappointment will end.

Nietzsche’s said, “My formula for greatness in a human being is Amor Fati.  That one wants nothing to be different, not forward, not backward, not in all eternity.  Not merely bear what is necessary, still less conceal it…but love it.”  He endorsed a belief called “eternal recurrence.” which is similar to the Buddhist concept of reincarnation.  Eternal recurrence was the belief that one should live one’s life in such a way that one could live the exact same life, down to the smallest details, repeatedly for all eternity.  When this concept was first explained to me in college in an evening undergrad class, I immediately gathered my things, stood up, and left.  I was told later that the professor just smiled and said, “He gets it.”  (This was the same professor who had a rather strict and vigorous policy on tardiness.  When I was 15 minutes late to one of his morning classes, he demanded an explanation.  I told him that when I’d gotten out of the shower, I’d turned the radio on, which was on the classical station, and as I was getting dressed, the 9th Symphony came on.  “I had to hear it through,” I said.  “You can’t possibly start the thing and not hear it through to the end.  What kind of person would I be if I could turn off the 9th in the middle of things, just walk out on Uncle Ludwig in his finest moment?”  My tardiness was excused.)

Some practitioners of Amor Fati ask of every major event in their lives, even the tragic ones (especially the tragic ones), “How can this be the best possible thing that could have happened to me?”  Most events you can’t control, but you can control how you react to events, and how you feel about them.  The point of Amor Fati and stoicism in general is that any event can be the best or worst thing that has ever happened to you, the disposition of the event is determined totally by your perception, reaction, and feeling about the event.

N.P.: “Sing Along” – Sturgill Simpson

Today’s lesson in stoicism comes, again, from the ancient Romans who put for the the idea of Momento Mori: “Remember you must die.”  The Romans had a tendency to elevate their generals to Ceasars whom were considered to be gods.  One conquering general was not comfortable with this idea, despite being treated as and considered a god everywhere he went.  This general assigned a slave to walk behind him the many parades being held in the general’s honor and repeat the phrase, “Respice post te.  Hominem te esse memento.  Memento mori!” (“Look behind.  Remember thou art mortal.  Remember you must die!”)  The lesson here is not at all morbid, but simple: thinking about death allows on to better appreciate being alive, and thus inspiring one to truly live.  Marcus Aurelius said, “You could leave life right now.  Let that determine what you do and say and think.”  And that quote I told you I was looking for yesterday from Hagakure?  Found it:

“Meditation on inevitable death should be performed daily.  Every day when one’s body and mind are at peace, one should meditate upon being ripped apart by arrows, rifles, spears and swords, being carried away by surging waves, being thrown into the midst of a great fire, being struck by lightning, being shaken to death by a giant earthquake, falling from thousand-foot cliffs, dying of disease or committing seppuku at the death of one’s master.  And every day without fail one should consider himself as dead.”  ~ Yamamoto Tsunetomo

If one is actually prepared for death at any moment in every day, then how upsetting can anything that isn’t death possibly be?

I deal with a lot of survivor’s guilt, which is a very irrational thing.  One angle I take when the thoughts turn to “I should have died…it should have been me,” is that maybe I did.  Maybe I did die, and am really already technically dead, but the paperwork hasn’t yet made it through the supernatural bureaucracy, so in the meantime, I’m just kind of kicking around like Lazarus.  Bonus time.  That makes me appreciate things a bit more, and it takes some of the pressure off.

There is a Nietzsche quote about suicide that kind of taps at the essence of this whole line of thinking: “The thought of suicide is a great consolation: by means of it one gets through many a dark night.”  What he’s saying is that when things are truly bad, and one is feeling trapped, it can be helpful to remind one’s self that no matter how bad things are, even if it seems like there is no escape from a situation or no solution to a problem, one can always choose to “check out.”  That thought has given me and a great many other non-suicidal people a bit of existential breathing room that has made all the difference when dealing with things that seem impossible.  Memento Mori is not at all about suicide, but I think the root notion of these two ideas is similar: when one is truly and actually prepared to die at any moment, priorities shift dramatically, and the most insurmountable and dire things suddenly because almost trivial, and in some cases, even amusing.

Stoicism is ultimately about controlling one’s emotions, and thus not giving ephemeral and irrational emotions any power over one’s self.  A key part of this is deemphasizing the importance of events that might otherwise completely derail a person’s life.  Memento Mori does this quite effectively.

N.P.: “Leave Me Alone – Remix” – Jerry Cantrell

I was looking for a particular quote recently, and to find it, I’ve been rereading Hagakure.  Which, if you’ve read it and are like me, is never quick going.  Other books I can just thumb through until I find the quote I’m looking for, and it generally doesn’t take a particularly long time.  But Hagakure is different.  Whatever random page you open to, there is almost always something that engages you right then in that very moment and you forget all about the quote you were looking for and start reading.  So of course, that’s what happened.  After the flip of maybe two pages, this jumped out at me, and it was exactly what I needed to hear at that moment.  I’ll find the quote I was looking for in the next day or two, but in the meantime, check this out:

“Even if it seems certain you will lose, retaliate.  Neither wisdom nor technique has a place in this.  A real man does not think of victory or defeat.  He plunges recklessly toward an irrational death.  By doing this, you will awaken from your dreams.”  ~ Yamamoto  Tsunetomo

Goddamn right, dear reader.  That’s beautiful.  There’s been a lot of reckless plunging lately, and it’s kind of just the way I do things sometimes, but it can be stressful.  Hagakure is, as always, comforting.

N.P.: “Tie Your Mother Down” – Lemmy & Ted Nugent

These 17-hour days are getting to be a bit much.  Perhaps things will ease up in November.  Or maybe by Christmas.

It’s not really the time or physical exhaustion that bothers me.  It’s how much disparate stuff is on my mind all the time.  All the time.  It’s like as soon as I wake up, some pressing business or decision I have to make or thing I need to deal with pounces on my brain, followed immediately by two more.  And there those things sit, all day, all week, all month…however long it takes to deal with each of them.  How the fuck can I be expected to compose beautiful verse when I’m I’m trying to remember when the property tax is due?  Dire times, dear reader, dire times.  But we shall persevere, shall we not?  Goddamn right we will.  What the hell else is there to do?

N.P.: “Scherben bringen Gluck” – Megaherz

As I mentioned before, dear reader, I’ve been trying to convert my eye-rolling cynicism into a more healthy stoicism, and it’s probably time for a progress report: things are going swimmingly.  One technique that has been proving helpful has been negative visualization.  Yeah, I know, hippies…hear me out.  If you begin every day with some bullshitty Disneyesque positive meditation about how great and fair the world is, how all of your fellow human beings are really decent people who would never intentionally hurt you or fuck you over, and how everything happens for a reason, that life is a journey, and all that other god-awful twaddle, you’ll start your day off in a terrific mood, only to have each of the above false platitudes disproven repeatedly before noon, only to end your day in a fit of jaded disappointment, depression, and defeat.  That’s a terrible idea.  Instead, follow the teachings of Marcus Aurelius:  “Begin each day by telling yourself: today I shall be met with interference, ingratitude, insolence, disloyalty, ill-will, and selfishness – all of them due to the offenders’ ignorance of what is good or evil.”  Mine goes something along the lines of: “This entire day is going to be filled with explaining the obvious to completely self-centered yet somehow totally un-self-aware idiots who aspire to learn in this lifetime a fraction of what I had already forgotten by the time I was 30, and I’m expected not only not to murder any of them, but to actually smile and maintain relationships with as many of them as possible.”  I come to truly accept this as reality (which is, alas, not particularly difficult seeing as how the day before was likely spent doing this exact that).  But then, in the middle of the day, when some point of light comes along and actually makes you laugh or teaches you something or shows you a different or new perspective, the day is suddenly great.  And at the end of such a day, when you lay your head on your pillow and wait for the propofol to hit, you can’t help but be pleased by how wrong you were in your pessimistic morning assessment.

This might not work for you, but it’s been most effective for yrs. truly recently.

N.P.: “The Undertaker – Vagina Mix” – Puscifer

If anyone ever tries to feed me a “hamburger” made out of plants, birds, or anything that didn’t used to moo and dream, I shall punch them in the mouth.

N.P.: “Take Out the Gunman” – Chevelle