Chemical Buddha | Soul | Stoicism

Tags: [chuck palahniuk, taoism, buddhism, stoicism, boredom, anxiety, zen, fanaticism, practical psychology, practical philosophy, psychoanalysis

, arthur schopenhauer, sharing, kindness, writing, depression, therapy] Chemical Buddha I used to be able to actually write things. Things I could believe in. I once laid bare my soul on paper. That was before I realized I don't actually have any soul worth baring. It's bad quality soul I have. It's low-quality at the least. I believe I got one of those reject souls that Plato was talking about somewhere I can't remember now. A soul is just something about you that continues even after you have died. Since it continues, does this nullify somewhat the idea of death? What is death anyway when you have a soul? Isn't the concept of a soul merely the continuation of the concept of life? Anyway, I used to be able to write things. Now what do I write about? I guess I still write the same things. Things that I think really matter at the moment. I still subscribe to the mantra of simplicity. To the mantra of clarity. To the mantra of Chuck Palahniuk, the one and only true God. But most of all, I still write because of psychological reasons. It is an outlet for frustrations, for all those pent-up bullshit accumulated in that space in my skull just behind my eyes before the back of my head. In that space is where all of these happens. I am addicted to that exhilarating feeling of building something. Of building something that works and runs around and does tricks inside people's heads. It's something of a mental golem, a personal creation that does whatever I program it to do. I like that image. That very egoistic and bullshitty and yet at the same time somewhat romantic image. In one sense you see the totally self-absorbed individual imposing himself over other people. I mean, what makes his opinions better than yours? He's just some person writing stuff. Anyone can do shit like that. In another sense, we have the trapped individual. That old image of the individual's brain trapped in a titanium egg for all eternity. An eternal atom, a monad. A true island in itself. Supreme isolation, dreaming an entire universe just to stave away the devouring boredom. Anxiety probably is the best reason for writing. It is real. It is raw. It is immediate in the same way that an apex predator is staring at you wanting to devour you is an immediate experience. I imagine it as some sort of ancient breed of monster human beings once bred because it served some useful purpose, but then it turned against us, its original master. We now live constantly in fear of this monster. It ambushes us whenever we are inconstant or waiver a little in our vigilance. We have to constantly guard against it. For that we need unity. But we no longer have unity. At least I think we no longer have that old-school type of unity you see romanticized in movies. Camaraderie. That kind where you'd gladly die for your country or something. Some days, staring at the window, having nothing else to think about, I think about this. What it

feels like to actually want to die for your fatherland. I am enchanted somewhat by the idea. It's very quaint. We, human beings unite against this monster called anxiety, because we are shit at dealing with this monster alone. It will devour an individual when he is alone. This is why you need other people. This is why I am writing this, so you beloved reader can share my anxieties, and conversely maybe you can share yours with me. Just think really hard and think about me while thinking about your problems. My sub-conscious paranormal self which when not connected online is connected to the magnetic fields surrounding our earth, is on constant standby to listen to your problems. I am anxious because nothing is happening. On the other hand, I am anxious because something is happening. To be more precise, I am anxious because something is happening that I don't want to happen. Maybe I don't want it to happen just yet. Maybe I don't want it to happen at all. Stoic philosophy tells us not to concern ourselves with things we cannot change. If it's beyond your control, you are ruining your health – mental and physical – trying to change it. Don't even try, bro. Just let things be. Wei, wu-wei, as the ancient Taoists tell us. I tried reading Marcus Aurelius' Meditations once. Internet people always point at it whenever you mention Stoic philosophy. I can't remember much, all I have is a feeling. It's a calm feeling. It's sort of like that feeling I had reading about Boethius' Consolations. It's the same feeling I had after reading the Dhammapada. I'm not religious or anything, I just pick and choose whatever works for the moment. What I like about these philosophies is that they actually honestly try to grapple with the ideas of boredom and anxiety. These are perennial human concerns. We live all our lives under the shadow of both. Buddhism is systematic in its approach. I believe it's actually called 'phenomenological.' What I understand about this word is that it relies on the personal physical senses of the individual to describe the world. Maybe the Buddhist system turns that into the self, turning inwards, a sort of mental phenomenology. A lot of Buddhist texts are mystical. By this I mean, it's hard shit to understand. I am always wary of mystical stuff. Sure, it sounds great and poetic. But it should be understood at that level. It is poetry, not practical stuff. That is the beauty of poetry. You don't apply that stuff on what you do everyday. Maybe you can take your everyday experiences as inspiration, but when it goes the other way around, I think there's something wrong. Practical stuff. Because we live in the daily world. Zen I like because it is funny. Zen Buddhism is a standup comedian. I imagine it telling all sorts of jokes, which at the surface just looks a bit stupid. But it is always benevolent in both intent and execution. It is never hurtful or malicious. At least that is one level of it that I choose to look at. But what about the history of violence of Zen Buddhism? There is the book Buddhist Warfare which is a collection of articles centered on the them of the allowance of the use of violence in Buddhist states – old states such as those ones found in ancient India and mainland Southeast Asia, and the modern industrial-technological

state of 1930s Japan. Zen, in conjunction with Shinto, was used to justify the use of violence against lower types of people. The annihilation of the self through the Emperor. There is only the Emperor, nothing else. Complete and total obedience to the emperor is to be one with the Spirit of Japan. This is the mystical-poetic stuff I am talking about earlier. I guess I am making the argument here that applying this poetic-mystical stuff, unless it has an explicit and strict pacifist line, to everyday life, is dangerous and destructive. It creates mindless drones. Robots. Zombies. Fanatics. Where is the suffering? Where is the anxiety? To someone like that, total devotion has crowded out the anxiety and the suffering, in short the human, in the individual. But is not fanaticism a human trait? Sure, I guess. But you can't be a fanatic all the time, even most of the time. You've got to be at some less extreme mental state at some point. Only those who are mentally and physically abnormal can totally be a fanatic all the time. Psychopaths, for example. What is more constant though are feelings of anxiety. Therefore a useful philosophy should address this issue mostly. The anxiety remains. The boredom remains. You can't read your way out of misery. Maybe you can, but I've been miserable and bored most of my life, and I've been reading in the hope of finding a way out of it, but it still hasn't happened. Conclusion: the Buddha was right up to a point. Modern psychology is right. You need chemicals in your brain, bro. The legal medical institution kind and the kind you buy in non-legal/semi-legal channels. I can understand someone taking drugs because of boredom. The marijuana advocates would say for example that it's just a plant and that it grows and you smoke it and you feel good. So why should this be illegal? In much the same way the argument over what constitutes 'natural' and 'artificial' goes, this argument about drugs goes too. Ultimately, what we have in our brain are chemicals. This chemicals make us feel good. They make us feel bad. Maybe those ancient Buddhist monks have managed to train themselves to create feel-good chemicals at will, which is a powerful thing and somewhat interesting plot for a sci-fi sort of short story. (Chemicals. Chemical Buddha. That article about the meth crystal chunk carved in the shape of a buddha statuette. Interesting article.) But if you don't have access to these things, you have to cope. Again, the Stoics are rife with useful quotations. The kind you can post on facebook. And I'm not saying/writing this in an ironic sort of way. I've been ironic for too long. The word has somewhat lost its meaning for me. You post these kinds of quotes and maybe someone somewhere copes a bit better that day. It's best to imagine other human beings as fellow-sufferers, as the German philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer would say. Again, given the limits of time and technology and drugs and mental energies, the best we can do is share our anxieties online. We share our troubles and aches in a non-judgmental space/circle. We bare our souls, no matter how low-quality these souls we may have. It's the only soul we have, after all. So let's be kind to ourselves and each other, and as the ancient Stoics said, don't trouble

your head with things you can't change. (But make sure that you can't really change the situation. For all we know you can actually change that situation. A useful philosophy in life then would be something that would help you differentiate between things you can change and things you can't.) ### 4 AUG 2013

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