It is 9:00 AM on October 1st, 2023. This is the start of the holiday season which is always a wonderful time. However, as I get older I find that I must make an effort as the joy doesn’t come as naturally as when I was a kid. One of the reasons may be external as we do not have any fall colors and the temperature only decreases slightly here in California. In Ohio, the colors are gorgeous and there are also Buckeye football games to look forward to. Here in the Bay Area, Halloween decorations go up but that’s really all there is to differentiate the season from any other part of the year.
Time goes incredibly fast here in middle age and the past couple of years have been a blur, especially with the lockdowns from COVID. I was just speaking with my youngest son about this on a Monday morning and that was three weeks ago. This frightens me a little because although I’m only halfway through my lifetime, perspective-wise, it might as well be 75% through if we consider that time goes by more quickly the older we get.
I wanted to get a post up to mark the beginning of the holiday season as I enjoy reading back on holidays past. This blog is such a treasure of mine; life is short and I’ve learned to appreciate everyday.
To this end, I’ve started meditating more often and trying to be as mindful as possible. Mindfulness is simply being in the moment, quieting the mind. I’m writing now and will enjoy this moment, here in my little reading nook on the 2nd floor with the morning sunbeam shining on the books. My house faces the east so this is the best place to be in the morning, while the porch is the best in the evening watching the sun set on the ocean horizon. I always like to wake up early before everyone else is up and go through my routines. I’ll make the coffee for my wife, turn on morning ambiance on YouTube which in October is a scene of fall leaves, a fireplace and Jazz music often in a bookshop. I’ll open up The Columbus Dispatch on my tablet, scan through the news and do the jumble. I’ll also try to get a 20 minute meditation session in. Sunday mornings are the best part of the weekend for me.
Speaking of mindfulness there is another aspect I’ve focused on throughout the years which has been in the news recently. On TikTok the question was asked how much men think of the Roman Empire. This is quite strange but for me, it is no more than I think about other periods in history. However, I’ve always enjoyed practicing stoicism which according to this article has gotten popular as it is a way of living that was popular in Roman times. I’m a few years ahead of the curve as I read and wrote down my highlights from the book “Meditations” by Marcus Aurelius in 2017.
Given the tumultuous past few years and with social media, we can see the trends, emotions and thoughts of society at large much easier. An idea will soon gain steam on social media and then in the mainstream news and it can be difficult to tell which is influencing which. Were men really thinking about the Roman Empire before it was suggested, or did social media create the trend? In either case a good argument is made in that men, white men in particular, do seem to be losing status. As the article reference above states, this has given rise to charlatans such as Andrew Tate where men look to a leader to latch on to and regain some of that status. A better example of this is probably Trump where men need to feel part of a pack, and an aggressive, manly one at that. Along come Trump and Tate and these demagogues gain a quick following.
Both of these people are monkeys. The real ‘man’ has already transcended all of this, his confidence comes from within. Andrew Tate says he promotes “stoicism” but with a true stoic you only need yourself, not some charlatan.
For me, I gain my confidence by working out, learning, traveling, meditating, being kind and realizing that I can control my own thoughts and emotions without letting whatever expectations of society, of others, influence me. This is not easy to do and requires constant maintenance. Societal pressures and expectations are like a constant invasion and sometimes they come right through the front gate. I’ll have to kick them out and harden the walls over and over again.
We cannot control the external factors such as COVID, Trump, or anything else. But what we can control is our own mind and how we want to experience life. We can choose to live a virtuous and peaceful life regardless of what is going on externally. This is stoicism.
I don’t read about the Roman Empire because of a perceived loss of status, or because it is now a trendy thing to do. I learn because it has always fascinated me. I do karate and workout not to impress others, but because it makes me feel good and improves my own confidence. It just so happens that I have been doing many of these ‘manly’ things that have now come into vogue. One item that made me smile a bit was that moron Andrew Tate said men should own a sword. This is so ridiculous if it is done because one wants to feel ‘manly.’ I smiled because I own three swords and one dagger already. But let me tell you why.
I studied in Toledo, Spain in 1998 and it changed my life. A ‘switch’ was flipped and I became fascinated with history and language. It just so happens Toledo was founded by the Romans and so my interest began decades ago. I own swords because Toledo is perhaps the most famous city in all of Europe for producing steel products as they were the most superior. Even a couple of Samurai came all the way from Japan for the swords which back in the 16th century was not an easy trip.
I bought my first sword as a souvenir as a student in 1998. Well, unfortunately, the Toledo forges are going extinct, replaced by machine made, shiny imports from China. Tourists want these shiny swords as they are cheaper and have things like dragons and other nonsense on them. They sell. Whereas handmade swords from the few remaining forges are not ‘shiny’ nor as pretty as the machine made, cheaper imports. So, when two decades ago there were over 200 forges in Toledo, there are now only four.
I returned to Toledo for the first time in 20 years last summer and have now been twice. Given that I now have a more money then when I was a student I was able to afford a higher priced sword, with the only restraint being my wife who gave me permission but denied me one more sword that I wanted. Last summer I purchased the Tizona sword, a hand made replica used by the legendary ‘El Cid,’ the most famous warrior in Spain. On the next trip I bought a hand made replica of the basic sword used by Roman legionaries as well as a dagger for my youngest son. The sword my wife did not allow me to buy was the ‘falcata,’ or the curved blade used by the native tribes on the Iberian peninsula that was used to fight the Romans. I have my eye on it though and doubt it will sell before I can return as almost all tourists won’t know what it is and are bedazzled by the shiny swords imported from China that gleam in the window.
Anyway, I’m short on time as we have our annual karate BBQ today. I’m considering working out beforehand with the other option using VR with my son to virtually visit some places of historical interest he is currently studying.