Welcome to the Fediverse

December 16 of 31 December-ish posts

I think it’s fair to say that for anyone who has been online this year, 2022 has revealed itself as another parade of madness in the growing poli-cultural mishmash that we call modern society.

I’ve decided to take a year long break from corporate social media for my forty-sixth year on this planet. Understanding that (a) blogs are social media and (b) I write a blog, it becomes obvious pretty quick to most readers that I’m not taking a break from ALL social, just the big, morally-terrible ones.

Y’know. Instagram. Twitter. Reddit.

I was active on all of them before and into most of 2022, but then…

Describe your 2022 in politics, culture, and the universe?

This is supposed to be a blog about uncomplicated things, right?

Last year I wrote on this topic about my massively inconsequential place in the universe and how that shaped most of my purpose-seeking mentality in 2021.

This year, here I am again ranting about social media.

Tho, I be ranting because it’s worth being ranty about.

And the cray-cray for the nay-slay, as my teen daughter would put it, has me thinking more and more about how I can use this space over the next year to focus in on the stuff that brings joy and meaning to my days, and not focus on the absurdity of politics, culture, and the universe.

To that end, I’ve been dabbling in other ways to connect with people out there in that universe through platforms that are not owned and operated by lunatic billionaires. And I’ve been thinking a lot about what the content I put here is going to look like in 2023.

I may have started all this to write about running and cooking, but those are foundation stones for a life that has a lot of interesting stories to tell… I think so, anyhow.

While I should have spent the last ten days or so doing what I promised, which was, y’know, reflective writing and posting here, I’ve actually spent that little bit of free time doing something a bit more promising. I’ve written some software, I’ve built some networks, and I’ve drafted a script for a weekly comic strip that I’ll be launching here in 2023.

(I even have two weeks off work, starting tonight, to start drawing!)

I’ve also plugged this blog itself into that great big interconnected not-twitter network called the fediverse, so you should be able to search for @bardo on your favourite platform, for example, Mastodon, and you’ll get updates from me right there in your feed.

Politics and culture might be crazy right now, but I think my newly-remeasured reaction has been to start adding my less-crazy contributions to the mix, to attempt to balance things as much as I can help do that.

A million rational voices whispering wonders about the amazing universe in which we live might just drown out the thousands screaming madness.

Wisdom, Courage, Justice, Temperance

December 6 of 31 December-ish posts

I’ve been reading Marcus Aurelius.

Specifically, I’ve been reading the Meditations of Marcus Aurelius, Roman emperor circa 161 -180 AD and noted Stoic philosopher.

What do you want to learn in 2023?

Wisdom is acting on knowledge, experience and understanding.

Courage is willingness to confront pain, danger or uncertainty.

Justice is seeking equitable treatment for all and for all what they deserve.

Temperance is voluntary restraint, patience and forgiveness.

These are four principles of a philosophical mindset and system of personal ethics that form the basis of what is modernly known as formal stoicism. I’ve always been cautious about pigeonholing myself into belief systems or rigidly categorized frameworks of ideology, but I’ve taken a liking to the tone of this particular way of thinking over the past year and adopted some of it’s practices as a way to tune and manage my own approach to the world.

For one, I’ve been journaling more. Arguably, blogging is a form of public journaling, but I’ve taken to recording more personal notes on paper with ink, and making a habit of self-reflection and adaptive growth around the notion of philosophical-based meditations.

Writing words on paper and noting the moments of success, gratitude, error, or struggle through your day, even through something as simple as a bullet-point journal, this is a moment of personal reflection that has helped me find a bit of center in the swirling chaos of my otherwise hectic days.

It is part of the way I have found a new kind of balance in my participation online, and my goal is not to suddenly start blogging about all this on the regular. It’s part of the reason I took a few months off. It’s part of the reason I’ve come back with a bit more focus of mid-life perspectives and my personal balance stemming out of these things that I write about, and not as some kind of social media influencer trying to get likes and shares and ad revenue from the words I post.

This next year is not at all going to be me jumping in and preaching any of this or really even writing about it (much), simply that as I reflect on the close of this year I’ve been contemplative on the benefits brought to my life so far from mindful practice and thinking about these principles and virtues. That will likely reflect more in what I write about, but only tangentially.

That said, I really do think that there is some clear parallels between all this stoicism thinking and the little blurb I’ve had for forever in the about section of this blog, that Cast Iron Guy is ”a journal of uncomplicated things, life lived, and a mindset that reflects the philosophical practicality of well-seasoned cast iron frying pan: enduring, simple, down-to-earth & extremely useful.”

Thinking about and acting through wisdom, courage, justice and temperance are all wrapped up in many of the kinds of folk who seek out simplicity, nature, healthy lifestyles, and positive contribution to the world, all things that I’ve written about here over the last two years.

All this is what I want to learn how to do better in 2023.

I’m aware that there are some fairly high profile folks out there marketing this philosophy as a way to sell videos, courses, and books, and perhaps it is all in good faith but the skeptic in me just needs to put that out there as what you may find if you were to do a web search for any of this.

I’ve watched some of it.

But so far I’ve just let these ideas flow through me, tried to frame my own interpretation of it all, and in doing so have though about them loosely and lightly framed around my everyday life. Now as we enter into a new year it seems like not that I’ll try to make a study or rigorous convent with this stuff, but simply that I want to learn to be a bit more mindful about how my own personal approaches to food, outdoors, and participation in the universe can benefit from a formalized philosophical approach.

Or, maybe that’s pretty deep for a Tuesday morning.

Monday Zen: Simplification & Leaving Spaces

Cultivating a less-complicated life and living the cast iron philosophy shouldn’t need to be an active, busy pursuit towards simplification. How would that even make sense, after all?

I opened up my email inbox this morning to a corporate reminder that I had excess vacation to use up. Somewhere in a human resources database I not only have a number that represents a full year’s worth of unused vacation days but there is a second number that is reminding me of the days I neglected to spend last year.

That second number represents nearly three weeks of time off.

Combined with the first number, I could theoretically take the entire summer off.

I say “theoretically” because realistically my work schedule and project due list is not so forgiving as to let me vanish for two whole months without consequence.

I write this if only to note that as much as I evangelise here about that aforementioned less-complicated life and living the cast iron philosophy, it is a daily effort even for me to draw a clear line between the professional self that I so often am and my personal self whom I aspire to be.

Working from home has blurred that line even more, eroding the old barrier between being at work and at home, on and off.

How then does one seek to cultivate that philosophy, pushing against the momentum of a work-a-day lifestyle that comes with being a modern suburbanite and needing to pay the bills and save for retirement?

It is like attempting to stop a boulder already rolling down the hill, and instead just following the routine and letting it roll.

Apart from scheduling breaks, the existential mindset that seems to be necessitated by a carefree approach to simplification doesn’t jive with daily video chats at exactly 9am and thirty minute lunch breaks and commuting through jostling traffic.

And as much as I have nearly two months of overdue vacation hours pending some confluence of opportunity and action and approval from a higher authority (in other words my boss) even setting aside larger chunks of time to be less “at work” doesn’t really shift anyone into a permanently new mindset.

Actively thinking about it helps.

As does planning to unplan. Preparing your world and your space and your mind to be ready when a bit of clear space opens up, for when an opportunity arises.  True spontaneity is rare, and almost impossible in the type of structured life that is required to hold down a forty hour office job.

But a plan that leaves unfilled gaps is ready to help cultivate adventure.

A simple analogy might be to think about the choices made when doing something as simple as parking your car or riding the bus. 

Often we’re inclined to reduce the gap and park close or hop off transit as near as possible to our destination. Choosing a parking spot or a bus stop with a larger gap to where you need to be leaves a space, a space that might be filled by a meandering walk through a trail, neighbourhood or a park, and through where you never really planned to go.

Cultivating a less-complicated life and living the cast iron philosophy comes from the same kind of planned lack of a plan “gap” and in leaving spaces between those more structured moments.

I look at my weeks of unspent vacation and ponder how I can best make use of it.  Sure, I should travel (and I will) and sure I could take off a big chunk of time and do something useful.  

On the other hand, those hundreds of hours of unplanned time could make for dozens of meaningful gaps in my life, gaps to be filled with spontaneity and simplification.

Cooking. Campfires. Hikes. Runs. Or even just sitting somewhere and sketching a while. 

Who can say? And that’s the point.

Snow Spotting

It’s hard to say whether dogs are philosophical observers of the universe around them, wondering at the world as it flits past their existential mindset … or if they are simply easily distracted.

I think I’d like to think it’s the former.

My dog and I go on three walks a day lately. This time last year, just as the snow was starting to fall, she was a two-month-old puppy and was limited to exploring the world on a short leash in the containment of our backyard.

A year later, and we’re touring the neighbourhood by foot with regularity, often meeting new people and new dogs, stopping to sniff virtually anything … well, she does most of the sniffing.

I’m not oblivious to the world around me, but after forty-five years something as mundane as a patch of grass sticking from the snow or a blue jay sitting on the branch of a tree is ordinary enough that I think my brain just naturally tunes it all out.

But not her.

Everything is a curiosity. Everything is worth stopping and savouring. If that’s not the definition of existential delight at the world … and if we can’t learn a even just little bit from that .. I don’t know what else there is to say.