Quarantine for the modern stoic

Whatever it is that I am is flesh and a bit of breath and the ruling centre. Put away your books, distract yourself with them no longer, that is not permissible; but rather, as though you were now on the verge of death, despise the flesh - just blood and bones and a mesh of interwoven nerves, veins, and arteries. Consider too what kind of a thing breath is: a stream of air, and not always the same, but at each moment expelled and drawn back in again. The third part of you, then, is the ruling centre. Look at the matter in this way: you are an old man, no loger allow this part of you to act as a slave, no loger allow it to be tugged this way and that, like a puppet, by each unsociable impulse, no longer allow it to be discontented with its present lot or flinch from what will fall to it in the future.

Marcus Aurelius, Meditations, Book 2.2

A few months have passed since I last laid down some thoughs into these bits and bytes. Quite a lot has happened. I think it’s been a year now since I’ve started this site, maybe a bit more. The only reason I noticed was that website renewal fee e-mail with huge URGENT letters in the subject. I half considered letting it expire.


How has this Global Pandemic influenced me? Well, I’m pretty sure I had it. Back in January when the news was coming out of Wuhan that some new airborne disease was identified and spreading there, I felt that it would be another SARS or MERS scenario. Far away problems handled by the global super organisations humanity has created to battle these kinds of things. Next thing I know, I’m suffering from the worst respiratory infection I’ve ever had. To this day, I sometimes get a tickle in the throat and I feel the heaviness of my vocal cords every time I speak. Fevers, coughing so bad I nearly passed out, it was the first time in my life I felt genuine fear for my life. And yet, I didn’t go to the hospital or bother a GP. As a young man, I shouldn’t have to resort to such things right? I was in the best shape of my life, eating healthily and sleeping well, yet whatever hit me, hit me so damn hard and there was nothing I could do.

It felt like I entered a new stage of my life. One where illnesses leave permanent scars, add a wheeze to your voice, a cough in the morning. Where the creaks in the knee become louder and the tendons inflamed. I suppose, that is wear and tear, but the repair processess are ever so lightly in behind the damage now.

Not yet guys, I’ve still got some fight in me.

Not yet guys, I’ve still got some fight in me.

Anyhow, I clearly survived. Just as I started to recover, the lockdowns began. Supressing the fear and anxiety inside, I did a little bit of hoarding. Not toilet paper, to this day I can’t figure out what caused such a rush on something like that. People who were doing the toilet paper hoarding probably couldn’t tell you that. Life really has changed so much since this time last year.

Why am I sad.

Why am I anxious.

What is it in my current situation that I am allowing to influence me so much?

I’m making progress. I’ve got a job. I can work from the safety of my home. I’ve love in my life, my family is safe and sound and I can watch the world go by from this little haven. I’ve got online shopping, time to myself. Time for my interests. Why am I sad.

Maybe because of the things that are not part of me. The world, society. How the majority of the world seems to want a better life, and maybe even not at the expense of others. Imagine that.

Democracy was meant to give voice to the people, and a population is strong. Yes great leaders are known in history for building civilizations, but it is the people of that civilization that make is so. Not the emperor or king or president. There seem to be waves of disconnect between those in power and those they are supposed to rule. I think we shouldn’t kid ourselves, in democracy, we are still being ruled by aristocracy. Few poor or middle income people have the social and professional networks necessary to run campaigns and become elected. What about money that comes with no strings attached? What groups that aim for equality and peace have more money floating around to throw at people they want to see elected? It’s for the benefit of unscrupulous actors that the current system is designed. Those that don’t see a few million in donations to a candidate as a waste of money. Why the fuck does a millionaire need millions from everyone else to run ads telling people to donate to them?

So messed up. We’re not just buying our smartwatches and clothes, we’re buying politicians. The massive profits and stocks large corporations receive from us go towards individuals masquerading as our friends, really seeking to rule over us. Selflessness should be a key trait of all politicians, they are meant to be the public servants, not us. They are meant to fight and argue for our rights, not us. What they are arguing and fighting for is who pays them. Hah, well maybe it is us who pay them. We argue how terrible Amazon and Apple are for dodging taxes, yet swarm to sales and the latest iPhones. We argue how companies don’t diversify, and time after time conduct internal investigations to conclude they didn’t sexually harass, they didn’t discriminate, they didn’t ruin another family’s life. Yet we continue to work for them. We pay our taxes. We have no time for change.

And then the pandemic hits. 40 million unemployed within three months in America, the goddess of capitalism, the Free Market titan. Free is not equally distributed it seems.

40 million unemployed, disproportionately affecting lower socio-economic classes. Affecting non-white races. Affecting disabled and sick and elderly. Affecting those that aren’t greedy, those that want to help their neighbors and not steal from them. And those in power choose to sow further dissent and anger and fear, all for this magical entity called Capitalism.

I think that it’s becoming evident, the free market is only free for those that create it. The idea that you can make yourself someone by providing something people want only works if what you can provide can’t be stolen, can’t be forced to be too expensive to bring to market. Can’t be tarnished and blocked by someone who has already made it in Capitalism.

Goddamn, I can see how easy it is to try to find a solution elsewhere. Maybe that’s how Communism got so popular back in the day. In theory Communism and Socialism sound great. In the end, it’s the people executing the system that matter.

Kingdom Empire Democracy Communist Union Federation Duchy Community

All of these things can be beautiful peaceful and great. It falls on those who are in power to execute that system in a just way. History shows that horrible tyrants can’t survive.

We have a horrible tyrant in too many places now.

There really is only so much pain you can inflict on the world to subjugate it. Time and time again, the fear of pain and death is less than the fear of a life not worth living. The fear of a life for someone else. The fear of a life not considered a life.

I fear. I cry. I’m sad. I can’t do anything.

I need to find my ruling centre. My mental fortress, it’s been weakened but it is there. I’ll need in the coming days weeks and years.

Stoicism really isn’t something to dabble in. It has to be a way of life. Commitment, marriage to this idea. Maybe it’s not the answer to life’s problems, but it’s a tool that may help solve them.

I’ll be back in a week, without a rant.

Ivan Written by:

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