Sunday 26 December 2021

Amor Fati - Luxury is weakness

Sunday afternoon, December, 31C. Lovely, doubt I'll ever tire of tropical winters. Cocooned in a windowless bed-n-bog - insulated from the traffic - both the horns (aaahh) and the filth, though the air quality is treating our lungs to a rare day in the green.


The low-level alarm on the creativity tank is sounding. Inspiration waning. Is it the suffocating (and seemingly endless) travel restrictions? Contemplating impaired freedom does not satiate the anxiety monkey residing in our consciousness. On the contrary - it provokes him into late night acrobatics. Are we pursuing the optimal course of action? At work? With investments? With lifestyle choices? With visas? On and on.

What even is anxiety? Why did it evolve? A quick google yields:

An emotional response to unknown or anticipated threats. A possible evolutionary advantage could be that worrying about danger forces humans to take fewer risks and seek safety.

So, a survival strategy eh? A basic evolutionary goal along with reproduction. Is it hardwired into our DNA? Our very being? Can it be overcome? Conquered?

Daily 9km walks in HCMC. Contemplating Amor Fati
Daily 9km walks in HCMC.
Contemplating Neitzsche's
Amor Fati.
I've been thinking about how anxiety distorts human perception, and in my case, how it may have caused the world to lose its luster - a loss amplified through the grimy lens of HoChiMing. Groundhog Day on steroids. How to deal with the monotony? The search for meaning leads, inexorably, to Neitzsche:

My formula for greatness in a human being is amor fati: that one wants nothing to be different, not forward, not backward, not in all eternity. Not merely bear what is necessary, still less conceal it - all idealism is mendacity in the face of what is necessary - but love it.

So there you have it. Amor fati. Easy to grasp. Easy to agree. Challenging to embody. As a side note I read a rather chilling youtube comment pertaining to this:

There's nothing as unnerving as the man who smiles as he's beaten.



Fate eh? Was this mine? To teach sixth-form physics in a Vietnamese mega-city at the age of 48? Teetotal and celibate? Reveling in asceticism? Weird man. Not anything I would've predicted. And ...... you know what? It's fine. Everything's fine. Except living here, I don't like that part and I'm struggling to Amor Fati the fvck out of it, but in the grand scheme of things I'm doing OK. I've lived a hell of a life thus far and if I died tonight it would be with a big cheesy grin on me boat.

Perhaps all this navel gazing is a function of age? I've been writing this drivel for 16 years - a third of my life. Einstein told us time is relative - i.e. it dilates (slows) as you increase (relative) velocity or approach a massive object. However, he neglected to explain how human time dilates over the course of a lifespan.


There's no doubt that age has warped my temporal perception. Submarine patrols lasted forever in the 90s whereas the weeks tick by like hours today. It's unintuitive that time accelerates as one approaches the end of the ride - weird.

Perhaps it's all pre-ordained - already woven into the cosmic fabric. A final twist of the life-ain't-fair-son knife as we slide off our mortal coils. Does it mean anything? Does it even matter? Probably not.

STFU lad - what have you been up to?


Birthday Bollicks
Well, like I said, I turned 48 and found myself in a beer hall with half-a-dozen other 40-somethings. Pedestrian conversations about greying pubes, tax brackets and vaccines. Two of us weren't even drinking. Turns out it was a double birthday bash since Blackpool Michael turned 41 the same day.

As previously stated, living in a large chaotic conurbation is a real struggle. Therefore, it was with unbridled glee that I boarded a bus to Mui Ne for Christmas. And it's been nothing short of blissful.

No traffic, no concrete tower blocks, no pod-dwellers, actual trees, greenery, fresh air and most importantly space. Space to breathe. In HCMC millions of people squabble over every inch.

This was never more apparent as when I joined Andy in a District 1 bar for after-work free-flow-piss-n-pizza. To park, I had to literally squeeze the Mary (my bike - aka Mary Poppins) between 50 jam-packed scooters. Next you ascend a two foot wide rickety staircase akin to a fun-fair haunted-house. You then enter the bar which feels like it's been shoehorned into someone's living room. And to top it off .... the view's a fvcking building site - I shit you not. And this is where trendy expats hang out. Absolute dogshit.

Mui Ne

So, to enjoy seafood here each night is pleasurable beyond words. Simply not being in HCMC is enough for the aforementioned anxiety to evaporate.

How much like? Well, a room for 9 nights: 2.5M. Return bus tickets: 0.5M. Spending money around 300k/day. So for around 6M vnd ($250 usd) you too can enjoy daily 10km tropical beach walks and sunset seafood.

However, there's always a fly in the ointment. It was heartbreaking to see this monstrosity being built. I mean look at it. Being generous I'd call it aesthetically dubious. You really have to wonder what they're playing at. Will they name it The Sore Thumb? The Eye Sore? The Mui Nee-Way?

Meanwhile I'm sat here feeling pleased with reaching three years alcohol and nicotine free. And being happily single. I remember girls at school in the 80s deploying the "you'll die old and lonely" trope. It dawned on me today that I've arrived - I've finally reached old and lonely - and it's everything I'd hoped it would be. Stress free and at liberty to work/not work and/or live anywhere one chooses. Bring it on.

PS. We all die alone.


  1. A lot to unpack there. Good read. A deep dive needed to really scratch out some of the deeper philosophical ideas. Phu Quoc is better :D

  2. Write more often please. Great stuff.

  3. Pls write a blog about the best books you've read in these 16 years of travel. Your recommendations would be taken up by many reading this.
    And, just curious if you're not tempted to jump bail and run off to Cambodia now that your finances are good to go and cambo is open.

  4. Great. Alone and lonely not the same. But than again what's the point of your stash if you got no one to leave it to?

  5. Fantastic blog. Always interesting. Props for taking crypto profits and investing some of it in the "conventional economy" so it can never be taken away from you. More freedom to you.

  6. Freedom is always present, the fact you’re brain actives anxiety instead of freedom is programming!

  7. One of the nurses here is with a 'Foden' who invented the submarine escape hatch system.
    It's a small world.

  8. Hi again. I go the 'Gate' (where the Co-op was) in Newcastle, play pool, play golf, there's nothing wrong with our lifestyles anymore. (I noted your comments on the BBC site). Do you want some salad cream sent your way? I can't offer you Sunday dinners like your Mam's though, btw my mam cooked a good one too). Mam passed away in 2018. Happy to the end though..

    1. Send your email again (I won't publish it).

  9. Matey an update is due please. Thanks.

  10. Great blog, would love to know how things are changing with Vietnam reopening now.