Despise all the gifts of chance

The old Stoic writer Seneca was very concerned with making sure noble young men (well it was men in that society) understood that the best thing you could do was accept whatever happens. He also pointed out that everything comes to an end, and if you were to die before the end of everything, well so what? You’ve only stolen a march on the inevitable death of everything by a small measure.

Your privilege and power, such as it is, comes from chance. You may have been awake enough to grasp opportunities, or work to get entrance to places where there were such opportunities, but a slightly different fall of the dice could have changed things a great deal. This is one of the reasons the massively rich were so keen to pretend they’d earned their wealth. The internet billionaire who had the funds to create something obvious right at the beginning of buying and selling sold his company and became fabulously rich. But what was special about him? There could have been, indeed there were, several companies doing the same thing. It just happened that his organisation was picked to be bought by the people with deep pockets because of the series of accidents that led to it being in the right place at the right time.

Being in the right place at the right time is pure luck. You might have worked extremely hard to create something that was viable, but being at the forefront of whatever zeitgeist was compelling is luck. You might be clever, but lots of people are clever, you might have built something that was really effective, but lots of people have done that and failed to catch the wave and been wiped out by change. The truly grounded person understands this and shares what they can whenever they can. A truly compassionate person knows how little they have was under their control. The idea of a grand narrative that is tied to some quasi-religious destiny is so much horse shit. As one of the more humble billionaires said, there’s only a story when you look backwards.

The person in the wheelchair that can’t get up the stairs. The person who needs state assistance just to have any kind of a decent life. The person with the mental health problem that stops them doing as much as they could. You are all these people, and they are you. These are the other gifts of chance, conditions that blind you with pain and put you in need of care and love. Without compassion, without this understanding, we are all lost.

There is no they, there is only us.

A walk in the park

About 2 months ago I went paddling in my kayak. It’s a tight fit, designed so you can cartwheel. It also has a flat bottom which means it surfs really well but isn’t very fast.

I’m overweight and often find it a little hard to get in and out of the yak, but it’s not that much of a problem. Thing is, I spent a good chunk of January fighting with that cold that lasted for weeks that everyone had. It meant I’d done no physical exercise since December, if not longer ago.

I put all my kit on, the waterproof trousers, the new dry cagoule and so on. I found that the several Kg heavier I was meant that I was being constantly pressed on the diaphragam and couldn’t breathe properly.

I went out with my son onto the water and did the things I always did. I lasted about half an hour and things got worse if anything.

Frankly, I was terrified, I became afraid that I was doing things (or rather not doing things) that meant I was gonna die sooner rather than later.

A friend suggested that I go for a long walk every morning. So I started getting up an hour earlier and doing just that for about three weeks now. Also been listening to useful stuff from Audible while I wander, which helps me think and focus.

I’ve lost about 10Kg and I have energy during the day.

I’m also having a dry month because I was getting to the end of the 9-5 and saying fuck this, let’s have a gin and then not getting anything done.

Been good so far.