Get Out of My Sunshine

Seems typical to come across judgmental characters, or stereotypically categorized as perhaps an extremist in my own private life.

If I am capable of writing such “atrocities”, then I must somehow know some of that world first hand, after all, how can one write such filth and come out unscathed? That’s the problem, see: it depends on how you look at it. Take, for instance, violence in movies, TV, news, it abounds. In sports, in politics, in our way of life, we find the worth in putting up a fight, standing for what’s right, not being bent on winning an argument when relaxing into silence looks so much better and flat out ignoring them is far better.

Toxic people anchor you. They live off of it; misery doesn’t want just company; it beckons; it compels you. But there’s a way out.

You know, all the things you find passionate about. It’s ego you put on when spraying on some cologne; ego that opens the door for we all know how looking good is paramount. But at what cost? Little, really, and kindness is contagious.

Diogenes the Cynic, contemporary of Plato and Socrates, lived the most destitute livelihood and instead of feeling embarrassed about his situation, he used to ridicule his contemporaries. More than a modern day troll, Diogenes was beloved and granted a sort of folk hero status in his time. The greatest of all stoics, Diogenes above all wanted to show just how frivolous and devoid of meaning everything in life is. His doctrine acted out for anyone to see in full public display; never has philosophy taken such a crude and drastic theatrical approach in the flesh. Unlike Christ’s crucifixion which exposed his humanity, Diogenes’ humanity proved an ingenious though unorthodox approach to the rigid austerity, hypocrisy and anxiety-ridden life’s full of.

If it’s feces, not roses life throws at you, just how much worse would’ve been if it were rocks? Surely, things can always go awry and, inevitably, the more the wheel turns, the odder and slower it gets, the more its center of gravity shifts and give way to more absurd and unpleasant occurrences. Chaos is in the details: one may find that in untying a knot, one juxtaposed downfall unwittingly strips us in the loose end.

His extreme positions were not for show, though they did bring a lot of attention, and one day Alexander the Great, upon passing through Athens, asked to see him and found him lying in the sun. Alexander asked if there was anything he could do for him. “Yes” Diogenes answered him: “Get out of my sunshine.” When Plato defined a man as a bipestal, featherless animal, Diogenes produced a plucked chicken and claimed: “Behold, Plato’s “Man”’, it made Plato revise his statement. When accused of masturbating in public, his defense at the trial was: “If only it was so easy to end my hunger by rubbing my belly.”

While it isn’t feasible nor advisable to adopt Diogenes’ ways, I myself find more aligned with Seneca and Gracian, it is not without merit his example. When people began panicking upon hearing word that an enemy army was advancing toward their city, seeing the turmoil unfold, Diogenes picked up his small possessions uphill in a frenzy, then back down in the same manner. And, when asked why, he said his intention was to be as useful as the citizens of Corinth.

It illustrates stoicism, a school of thought that emphasized temperance, ruling over our passions, not losing our heads, and it appears easier said than done. But stoics are aware that things can and will probably go wrong, and that we should all take things with a grain of salt. Nothing shows more lack of control than losing it, and so in wanting to keep things under control the stoic must first keep his head above the water, otherwise everything else drowns.

Cynicism, of course, has a darker side. In tiny amounts, it may help to put things into perspective, keep a low profile, beware of the ego. On the other hand, it becomes an ill-fated predicament, a judgment passed on without trial, vigilantism and no justice. We may feel compelled to ridicule others’ efforts, belittle their attempts, overlook the enthusiasm and in doing so, we’re no long stoics but jerks. It’s a mistake to think that in order to show others their fault, you ought to be faulty yourself. That we may not aspire for riches does not make us content with destitution; so long as we are solvent and frugal, it is not only possible to thrive as individuals and lead fuller lives: it’s the only thing left to do.

No one’s ever happy about their misery, but there are those who are fond of tragedy; heck you could even state that misery loves company and above all its damn self. See it be so in people who always seek out drama, iron out wrinkled issues tucked away in luggage cases along with other unsung itineraries.

People claim to hate drama, they may even mean it but when someone decides to attach such a strong feeling as in “hating” drama, well, therein lies the problem. Wherever they may be, commotion follows, intrigue materializes out of thin air, resentment sinks its teeth deep, hatred shows its awkward face, rancor flourishes. Of course, not all commotion is bad; we may find the fussy hassle of life tedious at times, but it’s not like we cannot retrieve memories of things to come. The senseless spectacle of underachievers lying around aimlessly, without a care in this world or the next, seems at odds with the incessant buzz and fuzz of overachievers, but what does the disparate litany between these two opposing camps clamor?

How can one live in peace when living in a war-like state of mind? When others await to assail your self-assured composure. Oftentimes people are not only not-doing, they’d gladly go out of their way to not let others do. In tiny humans, the most immature kind, energy abounds and so not having much structure, they resort to say whatever pops in their minds, chase after the fleeting madness and catch up to nonsense, retort the unhinged failures and relive in the disenfranchised privacy of their own minds these voices of doom. Shutting the mind up, again, comes in handy: before something bad happens, and if it is avoided, you can choose to live in peace only if you pour a ton of compassion on yourself. Be kind to yourself, for if you mistreat yourself then who else is going to feel any reverence towards the marvelous being that you are. Overestimating oneself, on the other end, may be the inverse equivalent. Interestingly, witty, talented people underestimate their abilities as much as the lesser kind. It may be that genuine individuals tend to be more prudent in their assertions, cautious to their own cardiac drum beating to the march of the ego. And while we’re at it, let’s talk of the ego, that is, for lack of a better noun, mental “masturbation”. Even when we think that the ego’s not involved, look closer and in it you shall find. Say you build a sanctuary, sit day in and out deep within your cave, commute with your inner silence for long stretches at a time; say you go a few minutes farther today, someone else acknowledges your endeavour; say you quietly acquiesce. The ego is in the details, and it’s front page, it reads between lines, it concocts an effort. If we think about it, there’s no separation between the broad spectrum of voices comprised within, and that ego of ours. It may feel good, but what good does feeling it? Once its evocative cloudscape recoils and fades, a wave teeming with potentialities arise; all that’s required is to pursue one of them and follow it passionately to where it may lead. Here, I digress from stoics, in life oftentimes you gotta be most of the time closer to Seneca but hold the stout cloak of an epicurist. We can relax the posturing and reverence required to be a man of honor. Courage doesn’t require as much effort, but we can see that too much of it can be bad. Of all virtues, soundness of mind comes first, and the practices that you need to acquire such state of consciousness mean business: a healthy mind in a healthy body. It’s what we knew from the classics, perhaps the most important lesson: in order to find harmony, one must learn how the mind impacts the body and vice versa. You cannot meditate and not have an effect on your overall physique; likewise, you can’t exercise, and not have the mind reap most of its rewards. Blood flow is increased, cells regenerate, connections are made that weren’t there a moment ago. You become an enhanced version of yourself.

How could we demand of others, especially our little ones, patience and calmness, when we ourselves do not calm down and be patient? We shout “Be quiet!” and chase others around, in the hopes that they would stay still. We may feel betrayed by our loved one, but never conceive that the answer might be in understanding than loving. If a partner gives his/her all, or if, on the contrary, doesn’t give much, then you’re doing all wrong. Like feeding a pet, the amount of nourishment will vary according to the animal in question. In intimacy, we may overfeed our lover and kill the passion in the process. It has something to do with a lack of sorts, a strive to fill the void, staying hungry. You can picture a stuffed lion in a zoo cage and another roaring freely and apt for the hunt on the savannah.

Again, there may be things that foster these endeavours, a place that you can call your own, surrounding yourself with loved ones, a change of pace that will likely keep the body active as well as fortify the mind. There’s nothing that exercise cannot do, it very well may improve all mental processes, and since most of life is mental, well, then you’re covered.

The other half of the equation is nutrition. It is simple math: if you eat crappy food, you will feel crappy. Eating healthier is not an option, it’s a must. Not a “should”, or a “would”, or a “could”. It is a sovereign must. Things we eat, become us.

It’s well within our grasp to find a way forward, if only we take a glimpse inside. What is it that has been calling out to us, that we’ve denied ourselves for so long? How can we bridge the gap between the status quo and the insurmountable potentialities that lie ahead? We need not much, if anything a mere push in order to get the pendulum going. Most of the effort is mental, the decision to grab life by the hand and walk tall. You could do so much good if it weren’t for all the bad stuff happening in the vastness of your mind. So what if others disapprove, anything worth taking over will be met with a form of resistance. Reading, too, is persuasive, and as such it can be a tool. Writing, it takes a toll on you, it shifts consciousness in a way that bears a striking resemblance to magic. Do this: instead of honing your angle and conceive of an ideal tentatively, aim to come up with as many projects as possible, things you can get to within a few minutes, others that might take a little more. You’ll see that there’s just so much at your disposal, you can have a domino effect reverberate through a cascade of possibilities, all started with a slight of hand. Luck is in whether you know how to toss the dice.

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Boris Amar

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