A Philosophy Of Time: In stillness And Virtue.

Time. The thing with have so much of, yet so little. The finite substance of the infinite. We have attempted to master time for all of time itself, but what have we learned? We have managed to place it in a form that the masses can understand. We have produced a means to articulate and measure… but how is it best spent?

Ancient philosophies and philosophers have pondered on this question for some time. The management of our fleeting time here is a key component to our happiness, or is it? Let’s look into two philosophies that have had a thing or two to say on this subject, that we still cannot entirely fathom, and, perhaps, will never understand.

Stoicism-

“Carpe Diem.” Seize the day – or its more accurate translation, pluck the day (as it is ripe) – was penned by the poet Horace. Although not directly linked with Stoicism, it is worth mentioning first for its importance and relation to the subject. To seize the day, what must we do? Must we awaken at a certain hour? Must we search for these opportunities to seize? Must we fight to create some relevance to each hour? No, to reach for such heights would be folly. To seize is to control, but I am afraid we have little of that. We don’t control how time passes, but we do control how we use it. We don’t control when opportunity arises, but we do have control of whether we pluck it from our fate. We often forget these two vital points, because in all the chaos of life, we forget that time is finite.      

That’s where the Stoics enter with the idea of “Memento Mori,” – remember you must die.

Seneca wrote- “Let us prepare our minds as if we’d come to the very end of life. Let us postpone nothing. Let us balance life’s books each day…The one who puts the finishing touches on their life each day is never short of time.”

Morbid thoughts, at first, I know, but ones that we all should meditate on. With all you have done, could you happily leave this place tonight? With all you want to accomplish, could you exit this mortal world within the next hour? To have such a finite time here is empowering. If time were indeed infinite, how many opportunities would we let pass? How boring and mundane would the world become? How the beauty of life would begin to fade…

Death is an ideal to embrace, no matter what you believe comes after.   


But, with all this focus on mortality, we must remember to be “living in accordance with nature,” a quote from Zeno, the founder of Stoicism. By nature, the Stoics are referring to the nature of what it is to be human. Let’s consider that for a moment – why is humanity in the position that it is? It’s simple, really:

  • We can apply a great deal of logic to our instinct.
  • We can use all of this brain mass to wield tools that save time.
  • We are self-aware, able to understand the concept of time and highly adaptable to whatever may change with time.

So, to live in accordance with nature, in relation with the subject of time, we simply remember these points of our biology. Importantly, we are able to place logic upon our emotion, so therefore, we are able to live a life of virtue. If we’re angry, we can choose not to harm. If we’re hurt, we can choose not to retaliate. This is how we lessen the negative impact of our time here. This is our true nature, but unfortunately, it is this nature of us that many have forgotten.  

And so, time is limited. Time is precious. We should grasp opportunity as it comes. We are able to understand and use our time to live in virtue. If we all considered these thoughts of the Stoics, how different would the world be?

Taoism-

Lao Tzu asked, “do you have the patience to wait until your mud settles and the water is clear?” A clear quote on anger, but let’s consider its relevance with time. To wait is to use our time, and to wait for anger to subside, I think we can agree, is a virtuous use of our time. It takes, on average, ten seconds for our prefrontal cortex to begin to apply logic to our limbic system. The new brain fighting to quell that old instinct. Depending on your level of self-awareness and emotional intellect, after these ten seconds, anger, or any instinctive action, can quickly be defused. So, we should have that patience, because to wait could be the difference between causing harm or being kind, even in a situation where it might seem unjust. That small amount of time could prevent a negative impact on not only your life, but the life of another.      

“Nature does not hurry, yet everything is accomplished.” – Lao Tzu.

And in our use of time, we must remember not to rush. If we rush, we will miss everything that is beautiful about this world and being alive. If we hurry our journey, we will miss all of the scenery. If we speak quickly, people will not understand what we are saying. If we rush conversation, we will not learn anything. Life is not meant to be lived quickly. We take it day by day, hour by hour, minute by minute. Everything will be accomplished, just don’t forget to enjoy every moment of the journey.  

Lao Tzu, the founder of Taoism, penned, “if you are depressed, you are living in the past. If you are anxious, you are living in the future. If you are at peace, you are living in the present.” The relevance of this quote in the modern age is unquestionable, with anxiety disorder and clinical depression being at an all-time high. In these brilliant words of Lao Tzu, we can find a conclusion to this question of time: how is it best spent? The answer, of course, is in the present. It is the here and now that matters. Close your eyes for a moment. Feel every sense and fibre of your being. Are you okay? As you inhale and exhale, remember that you breathe. Feel that heartbeat strongly in your chest. You are alive. You are here. You have all the time you need.   

Conclusion-

The Stoics and the followers of Taoism had interlocking ideals. If we align them, and find the truths in both their teachings, we can find a way to make time a less daunting idea. We must find time to process emotion. We must make time to live by our virtue. We must make space to be still. The present is all there needs to be, so find the time to be there, and only there.

Time is fleeting, yes, but perhaps the pace at which it moves is connected to how it is perceived. Perhaps our state of mind has a direct impact on the time that we have here. Does time not seem to still when we look into the eyes of the one we love? Does the world below us not seem to stop when we are above the clouds? Time is what we make of time, and all you need to do is use it well. Infinitely, with all you have, love and be kind. Be virtuous. Perhaps, if we follow the words of our ancient teachers, our time here won’t feel so finite.    

Lee A. Vockins.

Insanely Capable.

This is my interpretation of a Jordan Peterson quote, and I feel that is needed now, more so than ever. Many of us are struggling in this time of uncertainty and sudden imposed restriction of the pandemic. Importantly, it’s very normal that we are struggling. We are creatures of habit and routine, and when taken out of those habits and routines, we can feel lost, or even pressured to find some kind of meaning in it. 

My advice is simple; find what works for you. Don’t compare yourself to how anyone else is dealing with this situation. Feel like waking up and dancing? Turn that music up loud and dance. Feel like doing nothing? Do nothing with pride… and plenty of snacks.

Have to go to work? Make sure that your employer is doing everything within their power to keep you safe. Make full use of the interactions with your colleagues, and make sure that they are okay. Place whatever focus you can muster on the tasks at hand. 

Some of us may be dealing with this by being hyper productive. That’s great, just don’t burn yourself out. Take time to rest. And, importantly, don’t discourage others that may be dealing with this in a different way.

I have personally found a balance of all things mentioned here, because that works for me. (And no… I can’t dance very well…)

Whatever you are doing, just know that you are capable. Look to all of those past experiences of being capable, because I know that there are many. Write them down. Remember them. You are capable. You are not alone. We will get through this together.

Of me and 2020.

So, I haven’t been here for a while. I hope you’re all okay and have endured the chaos of this year. It’s been challenging, hasn’t it?

I feel that this year has changed me… that’s a bold statement to make early in this piece, but let’s make that its focus. It was easy to change because I felt so lost. I was something easy to mould because my life and soul had lost its form. I think I became lost because I had lost sight of my purpose. It’s so easy to get caught up in life and see that goal and dream fade into the distance. But let’s look at this year in a different light. Let’s see through the darkness and see what it truly was.

The events of this year were time granted for myself to stop and reflect, to breathe and plan. I began to spiral at the beginning of this year… I was falling to a place so hollow and dark, cold and alone. I needed that pause of reality, to find who I was once again. I became lost in that chaos of me, but quickly found how to apply the pressures of my learning. I found love and lust, and quickly learned how to lose it. I discovered health and strength and wisdom. I found philosophy. I found purpose. I gained experience.

We are quick to dismiss the experiences that bring us down, aren’t we? I know I was. I spent years being low and self-hating. “I’ve wasted years of my life,” I told myself, repeatedly. It became a habit. A spiral. Then, I realised how much I had learned during those years. I realised how strong they made me. I realised how resilient I had become. I think I began to forget those things again before I was forced to pause and stop and look deep within myself. You see, experiences make us who we are. They are not moments to dwell upon, but ultimately to learn from. Know this. Remember it. In your darkest times, you will always find yourself. It’s inevitable… it can just take time.

But what has changed? What did I learn? How will I make sure that I am less likely to spiral?

I did find Philosophy.

After becoming thoroughly engrossed by the book Happy by Derren brown, I found within its contents something that called to me. This was a philosophy in the form of Stoicism. The Stoics focused on a life of virtue. Their teachings were that of wisdom, justice, courage, and temperance. They taught the mastery of the mind, and Amor Fati… the love and acceptance of fate. All of these elements spoke to me in a way that nothing has before, and it’s a philosophy of life that I have been falling into since going through therapy. I do wish to become more resilient to the chaos of life and learn to accept whatever falls to my path. The Stoics were masters of this. They believed in a focus of only that which is in our control; our mind and our actions. I am still learning, but I will learn. I will find my mastery.     

I became Vegan.

So, for the past two years, I have been mostly vegan. By that, I mean that only one meal a day (if that), wasn’t plant based. This was a diet that I followed in order to reach a higher fitness level and obtain a body that I was happy with. Then it occurred to me, that I may as well transition fully to a vegan diet. I’m not one to force views on anyone, and I never will, but I don’t agree with the way animals are treated for our benefit. I know that I can’t change the world by becoming vegan, but I would rather be part of the solution. Besides those views, I am finding it to be an exciting experience! I’m enjoying discovering new foods, new tastes, and new ways of cooking meals! I feel amazing, healthy and my conscience is a little less heavy. Most of all, I think, I feel that I have more control over what I am putting into my body.  

I found a new purpose and focus.

I am a writer, and I always will be… but this year has made me hungry for more. I want to make a difference. I want impact those around me. I want to be remembered (not that I’m going anywhere). I want to use everything that I have learned and experienced, the good and the bad, and turn it into something entirely positive. So, with that said, I am training to be a life coach and writing a self-help book. Along with this, I am studying introductory Philosophy and Psychology. It’s going to be a long and hard journey, I know, but I also know that it will be a rewarding one. I am hoping that, with my insight and learning, I will be able to help others out of their darkness, and aid in their discovery of purpose and meaning. I have always had a passion for people and connection… and this feels like a natural progression for myself. But do not fear, I have not stopped writing fiction! Fiction and poetry will be something that I will always write. It was my vent, and the light when everything seemed dark. You will still be getting more novels from me, they will just take slightly longer than anticipated, and I will always be posting here!    

And so, that’s me. I am a little different now… I can feel it. I feel it as I walk through crowds, with my head held high. I feel it before I sleep, with a mind that is content and at peace. I feel it when I awaken, energised and ready to face any challenge. I feel more me than I ever have, and I know that this is a new spiral… only this one isn’t a descent.

My chaotic mind- Self-care and 2020.

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I speak a lot about how well and motivated I am at the moment, but I don’t think I’ve ever truly broken down the facts of how I got to this vastly improved state of mind and general being. I will do that right here, and hope you find it useful, but first let me take you back to where I was. I’ve always struggled with my mental health, depression and anxiety being the longest remaining difficulties that I’ve had to endure. Then just over eleven years ago, an incident triggered PTSD and OCD within me. I was on and off a number of medications and therapies to help cope, but nothing really stuck… that was until two years ago. Something in me ignited, and I pushed to better myself and get help. It was then, and only then, that the therapy stuck with me and worked. I think we all have those moments though, eventually. Those moments where the universe tells us to get the fuck up and do something. Along with therapy, and enforced by therapy, I took it upon myself to make improvements to my everyday life. These made a significant difference and got me to where I am today. Here is what I practised and dedicated myself to, in order to improve;

Exercise– I cannot stress how important exercise is to your state of mind. I think it’s a common misconception that the physical cannot help the mental, but from experience, I can confirm that it can. The body is a thing that needs to be trained and exercised just as much as the mind. I began training my body with a simple set of weights (that I picked up cheaply) and have used them for about six years. This was alongside a routine set of exercises (sit ups, press-ups, air boxing) and walking everywhere possible. Getting enough exercise is easy, and the costs some people relate to it are just an excuse. You need to push yourself sometimes, but it’s worth it. Do what you can. I have never been at the fitness level I’m at now, and it feels amazing.

Be around nature– Nature has always helped me in a way that I struggle to explain. I am always drawn to it when I feel lost or unhappy. It’s the air. The beauty. The colour. The life. The mystery. The absolute magic of this world, or the closest to it we will ever perceive. Maybe a part of it is the way that humanity has come to live. We aren’t supposed to be surrounded by all of this concrete and material possession. We are just creatures, after all. We are supposed to be around nature, and that is why it calls to us sometimes. Take a walk among the trees. Stare deeply into the ocean. Look up to the stars. This world is incredible and full of inspiration, you just need to start seeing it.

Meditation– Meditation was key to my recovery. It allowed me to search deep within myself and discover the issues with my thought processes. It allowed me to come to terms with the negative and enforce the positive. It gave me direction. Many people think that meditation is just about clearing the mind, but an empty mind is the result of practiced meditation. You must first let every thought in and focus on what you want to do with that thought. We are absolutely in control of our minds and what they do, we just need to keep them in check sometimes. It takes practice, but the effort can make a huge impact.

Writing– Writing has always helped me. I’ve written things down for as long as I can remember, from thoughts and feelings, to ideas and dreams. It helps me to visualise my thoughts and put them down in a way that I can return to them when I need to. A thought, especially a negative one, can initially be daunting. So daunting that we don’t know how to deal with it when it emerges. I think it’s these moments that writing has helped me the most. I often put these thoughts down in the form of fiction, but that is the way that I have trained myself to cope. My creativity has always been my solace and sanctuary.

Reading– Reading is the ultimate distraction for many of us. By focusing on words, we can lose ourselves from reality and exercise those brilliant minds of ours. My two main passions in life have always been fiction and knowledge… through countless books, I have my ultimate escape always at hand. Through books we can lose ourselves and what’s around us, even if it’s just for a moment, but sometimes a moment to escape is all we need.

Make time for yourself– Always make time for yourself when you need it. Life is busy and we are always on the move, but realistically, we can’t keep it up. We need time to recharge and re-energise. We are beings of limited fuel and energy, remember that. Take a walk among nature. See a friend. Talk to a family member. Be alone. Do something you absolutely love more than anything. Have all of the YOU time you need.

Learn to speak up and ask for help when you’re struggling– One of my biggest flaws in life has always been bottling up my thoughts and feelings. Even with a therapy that focused on this, I’m still guilty of it now… but I’m getting better at it. I think many of us need to learn that we are not as alone as we sometimes feel. We need to learn that it’s okay to show weakness, because in learning to show and target that vulnerability, we can learn to become stronger. We need to ultimately learn that it’s okay to not be okay. It’s modern society that is to blame for this imposed suppression of feeling and the ‘keep calm and carry on’ approach. Social media loaded with false smile and fake life. Emotion turned into emoji. We all have issues, we are just now more afraid than ever to expose them. This is something we need to break out of, and we can learn to… as with everything, it just takes practice.

So, there it is; things that I practised to learn more about myself and take a step closer to becoming a happier me. That would have been the end of this written form of thought, would it have been a week ago, but alas, fate would have it be more. The beginning of my year would have my heart unexpectedly broken. I feel that this is completely relevant to this piece, so will delve more into my thoughts to add a current state of mind.

I’m okay. It was cold and sudden, but I’m okay. It wasn’t the start to the year that I had expected, but I guess it was something that had to be. Everything happens for a reason, or so everybody keeps telling me… and perhaps they are right. I have been here before… more times than I’ll care to admit, but evidence of experience tells me that everything will be okay. Maybe I’m supposed to hurt, in order to learn. Maybe I’m supposed to be alone, in order to excel. It feels weird at the moment. Different. Not ultimately bad, just different. I’m keeping myself distracted with everything that I’ve mentioned here, and it is helping immensely. My practices have helped me through much worse, and for that, and the people that have helped enforce them, I am ever grateful. From evidence, I know that I am stronger and more resilient than I feel right now. I am okay, but will be better… perhaps better than ever before.

New year, new energy

“New year. New Energy. I have never felt like this. I have never felt such an abundance of determination. I have never felt so powerful. The creature within me stirs, my wolf spirit has returned. Last year I achieved everything that I needed to. I achieved focus. I achieved fitness. I defeated my demons. I am now ready for anything this universe can throw at me. This year I thrive and revel in the chaos.”

I posted that the day before it happened. I guess the universe was giving me what I needed to endure… and strangely, the idea for this article came at exactly the right moment too. This life really is strange. It works in ways that we cannot comprehend or fathom. Everything truly does happen for a reason. Life is an ebb and flow of the good and the bad, the dark and the light, we need only go with it… there is always a reason.