Category Archives: stoicism

Dear Mudge, Spicy or mild

Dear Mudge,

People think the Northwest is nothing but conifer trees. Around here, we’re covered with temperate trees which have recently shed their billions of leaves. Red and white oak (you recall the post about acorns from last fall), big-leaf maple, birch, elm, alder and others have dropped their coats blanketing the yards, streets and sidewalks. I walk to and from work and have had to wade through such drifts of deciduous dandruff. While suspended, the colors were vivid. But now, mixed with rain and ground to paste on the pavement, they’re as slippery as snot.

I don’t think much about god(s) for the same reason I don’t think about Leprechauns or mermaids. In my earlier decades I used to spend hours on the topic (including Leprechauns and mermaids). Now, I gravitate toward more concrete topics with my one deviation being the contemplation of the heat death of the Universe and the end of everything.

In regards to Mr. Houston’s quoted—quoted quote “When a man ceases to believe in God, he doesn’t believe in nothing. He believes in anything.” I disagree. My analysis has resulted in the opposite conclusion. My research has concluded that, given that the Universe is absurd, there is nothing to *believe* in.

However, people, in general, are programmed to believe. To believe in whatever, take your pick… Belief is a survival tactic. And surviving is Job One.

I’ve chosen to forgo belief (and I’m waffling on survival).

Those words were selected with intent. I’m convinced humanity is pre-programmed. You, me, we are pre-programmed—by DNA. In fact, we ARE the program and DNA is the code.

Why do you and I (and others no doubt), reject all meaning, yet become irritated with others for the stupidest of behaviors or transgressions? Programming. They’re behaving outside our idea of acceptable norms. Why do we create and obey the rules, protect the Commons (pick up dog shit), and generally treat each other without open hostility? Programming. DNA has made us this way.

When we reject our programming, it’s hard. Unless you’re a sociopath (or a psychopath), we are genetically predisposed to conform to certain behaviors. I’m a firm advocate of E.O.Wilson’s The Altruism Gene, else humanity would still be roving in small bands across the African plains, not giving a shit, really, about one another. But we do give a shit. And by doing so, by caring, I think we react to others when they themselves fail to care. We’re programmed to care. Society is built on caring.

Behind my eyebrows you’ll find—a program—that I’m trying to rewrite.

I propose that by rejecting theistic tendencies, you are also rewriting your own program. And, as we’ve explored, we re-programmers are a lonely lot. Most would merrily plug along with DNA choosing their future.

In my personal re-coding efforts, I’ve not performed the exhaustive analysis of the existential options as I believe you have, but, I’ve tried a few. One I’d like to explore now, since thus far I’ve found none that fit me well, is the Epicurean philosophy. We are, after all, still here, so we’re not fully divorced from our programming. And if we’re not going to fully reject DNA’s sway over our lives, we might consider some thought experiment which, if nothing else, provides us momentary happiness.

What are your thoughts on Epicurus and his buddy Titus Lucretius? I know that Seneca both adored and despised Epicurus, but I’m hoping we could dwell on, oh, good drink, fine food (spicy and mild) and mind-bending drugs for a while. (Oh, and for Duke and Phil’s sake, we could discuss SEX, too.)

Epicurus


Dear Mole, A Potato Has No Inertia

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Dear Mole,

Your missive finds me well, albeit chronically jaded.

The word jaded makes me think of mopey teenagers, but to my knowledge, there isn’t another word in the English language that more closely aligns with my current state of utter contempt for the vast majority of concerns most people consider vitally important.  Don’t even get me started on “passions”.

I share your enjoyment of good licorice, excepting those nasty, vaguely licorice-flavored, syrupy liqueurs that the Italians seem to enjoy so much.  I’m of half-Italian descent, so back in the day, if the only spirits available were Sambuca or Anisette, I’d drink it begrudgingly, enjoying the alcohol half and barely able to stomach the essence of Good N Plenty half.

It’s funny you should ask whether there are any simple pleasures that I employ to counter my debilitating ennui, because just this morning, I thought to myself: “Would life be worth living without humor, music, dogs and marijuana?”  This rhetorical question didn’t pose much of a conundrum, of course, since my answer was a resounding “No!”  Nowadays, I almost exclusively enjoy passive pursuits.  I can watch TV, listen to music and laugh at idiots without expending one iota of precious energy.  If it weren’t for the dog and his curious desire to get out for a good run every now and again, my muscles would probably have atrophied months ago.  Though I’ll only be turning 50 next year, I already feel exhausted and done with most of life’s pursuits.  Romance?  I suppose I had a good run, but those days are over.  I’m just too tired and antisocial and not particularly libidinal.   Writing?  I think I blew my wad on that pursuit – when you complete something as monumental as Notes From The Avalon, there’s really nowhere else to go from there.  But all kidding aside, my passion for the careful arrangement of words was never about the writing, but the topics about which I wanted to express myself.  There are no such topics left.  Philosophy, religion, politics, psychology and sociology no longer hold any fascination for me.  They are just fancy words for homo sapiens’ ludicrous and futile attempts to convince itself of its invented significance.  So what’s left?

Besides the aforementioned pleasurable time-wasters, there’s observation.  I still find being a passionless, impersonal spectator of humanity’s cornucopia of absurdity to be an outstanding way to pass an afternoon.  The Human Zoo.

Since I’d bet dollars to donuts that you are also an avid observer of human foibles, I’d be interested to get your thoughts about one of the most ludicrous notions mankind has yet concocted: the notion of God, with a capital G.  A personal, emotional, jealous, capricious supernatural entity responsible for the creation of all that is.  What could have given us such an idea when there is literally not one scintilla of evidence?  And is this related to our desire to pay undue fealty and adoration to human authoritarians?  Nothing is quite as odious to me as a power trip, no matter the motivation, but I seem to be a rarity among my kind for feeling thusly.  Why do people feel compelled to elevate others to positions of extreme power and authority and then clamor to publicly display their sycophantic feelings?  To me, this is the equivalent of enjoying the application of a jalapeno enema.  I know you have a pretty good grasp of the human psyche, so I hope you can shed some light on this question.

Cheers,

‘Mudge


Dear Mudge, Black Licorice

Dear Mudge,

I love black licorice. That weird multi-colored bridge-mix. Australian soft. Whips, dips, spirals and the archaic but cherished Good n’ Plenty.GoodnPlenty

One of the reasons that I enjoy this candy so much is that, for a moment, when I eat licorice I forget about how absurd and pointless the universe is. The flavor is ancient. Anise, fennel, and even the licorice root itself (which is actually bad for your heart), provides that distinct flavor and odor. I’m sure it’s been in use for millennia.

But even a mouthful of candy-coated black-colored unctuousness cannot compensate for the feeling of falling into the void of futility that gapes like a hungry maw. A mouth that hangs open for every diverting thought I send its way—The Universe is Absurd it whispers.

What simple pleasures do you find that ease this sense of emptiness?

Your friend,
‘Mole


Stewie the Stoic: In Review

For all who participated, we enjoyed thirty days of Stewie the Stoic’s take on Seneca’s philosophy of being a Stoic. Specifically, about fifty of Sececa’s letters to Lucilius, an acolyte and fellow, budding Stoic.

Death & Fortune

These were the two dominant topics that we found in nearly every writing example we analyzed. If we weren’t discussing the actual End, we were talking about our “awareness of self” along the way—to the End. That, in addition to how fortune (or misfortune) taunts us into betraying ourselves.

These will be the points with which I’ll be stumbling away, drunk on philosophy.

  1. I will die. When, matters little. How one manages the approach and final act will set the tone for one’s daily well-being.
  2. In the mean time, live in self awareness of the origin and intent of my desires: be not their slave, but neither their master.
  3. Fortune comes in many flavors: fame, riches, luck, comfort. Neither pursue its presence nor lament its absence. That which benefits, accept with humility; that which diminishes receive with fortitude.

That’s pretty much it, for now.

Thanks for tagging along.

 


Stewie the Stoic: Prosperity

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[Quote courtesy of Seneca]

[Although Seneca was a rich old bastard, we’ll have to give him the benefit of the doubt when it comes to understanding how one might separate one’s fortune from one’s pursuit of what he calls philosophy. In order to develop a “love of wisdom”, money need not influence one’s progress. Although, I’d bet that being frickin’ rich makes it one hell of a lot easier to pretend to be poor than actually being poor.

On the flip side, having disdain for the finer things in life, that is, being poor, might jade one to believe they can attain their wisdom all the more readily as they have no bright, sparkly objects to distract them.

The one thing I find curious in reading all of these pontifications is, jeeze, they sure had a lot of time to pontificate over the smallest of topics. Yeah, I’m wasting a few minutes here and there on this endeavor. But, the effort these Stoics put into just being Stoic, from what I can tell, hell, I’d like to have a life like that.]


Stewie the Stoic: Failure

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[Quotes provided by Seneca]

[Up from the ashes,
up from the ashes,
grow the roses of success.
Grow the ro, grow the ro, grow the roses…
Sing it with me now.]


Stewie the Stoic: Begin

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[Quotes courtesy of a proverb that Seneca in turn quotes]

[Seneca lays claim to Lucilius’ progress but reciprocates with the admission that merely beginning an undertaking, to become wise, good or content is far more important than one might think. Certainly, tenacity must see you through, especially in the face of adversity. But the most adverse condition we often encounter is our own reticence to get up and out the door.]