The Point of Enjoyment

humanity_hands_by_luuqas

As John Steinbeck said in The Winter of Our Discontent, “You know how advice is. You only want it if it agrees with what you wanted to do anyway.” Good one John.

So true.

We might not appreciate advice but we’re free to give it. It’s like everyone is saying, “I want what I want! Is that so wrong?” but the world says, “Sorry. You can’t have that—but… you-can-have-this.” 

And we make do (or we make don’t).

mistakes

Contrary to what we might think, “If you want to avoid repeating history, it’s best not to try to learn from it” (Science Behind Repeating Mistakes).

When a mistake happens, say, “Forget about it” like Donnie Brasco. Sing “Walk On By” with Dionne Warwick and move on. Like the weeping philosopher Heraclitus said in 469 BC, “Everything flows.” Nothing lasts. We’re all a little disappointed.

We all dance a tango with the world. In moments of dissatisfaction and/or lamentation it’s not surprising that we ask, “What’s the point?” and find the point lacking and/or nonexistent.

figure 1 figure 2The psychologist Tim Carey wrote, “It’s a funny thing about the point… we rarely think about the point except in those situations when we question if there is one. Most people… meander through their days… getting on with the business of living by making their lives be the way they want them to be” (What’s the Point?…).

Carey concludes: “We have no objective, irrefutable, immutable point that drives us all except, perhaps, the point of keeping our worlds in the states we are satisfied with” (…life is the point).

birth and in between stuff

Cue music: Les Baxter “Blue Tango” (1952).

The propensity to keep one’s self satisfied reinforces the Perceptual Control Theory (PCT) which states, “Behaviour is the control of perception,” which means: “we do things to get what we want” (PCT).

Seems like a no-brainer.

coffee

As it says on the PCT website, “When things are working normally, the person gets to experience what they want to experience. It is just right—like the perfect cup of coffee or tea… the person compares a ‘standard’—what they want—with what they are experiencing right now—their perception” (PCT).

Our brains measure the difference between what we want—a beautiful day—with what we get—mud slides.

just right2The bigger the discrepancy between what we want and what we get, the more effort we put into reducing that discrepancy.

Rather than change our behaviour, we vary our behaviour to control sensory inputs. We do this to feel what we want to feel. We adjust our behaviour until everything is just right.

We think we should be able to control our careers, relationships, health, finances and so on. It’s a surprise when we’re told we can’t.

Effort does not guarantee success. Understand the difference between thinking and being.

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It’s like you’re driving a car. Your purpose is to get where you’re going so you avoid potholes. It’s a negative feedback loop. You turn your steering wheel to cancel the negative effects of potholes to your purpose.

You want things “just right.” If the music is too loud or in some way not just right, you change the music, turn it off, suffer or seek escape.

Carey asks, “What is the point of saying “Good morning”? What is the point of a butterfly bursting from its constricting cocoon and fluttering off to find a flower? What is the point of going to school, of turning up to work on time, of going on holidays, of being kind, of asking for skim instead of full cream milk...” What’s the point of anything, really?

kicks

The point is there is no point, but that is the point! Everything has a point but if you don’t see it, it is indeed pointless.

bird and pointing

The point is what you make because you’re the one pointing!

We are meaning makers and pointers. We see patterns and make connections. It’s apophenia: the “universal human tendency to attribute meaning to perceived connections or patterns and to seek patterns in random information” (source).

The pointillism of a day in the park might be to relax and enjoy, but if you don’t see the point, you won’t.

pointillism

We want things we don’t have. We don’t have things we want. When we have things we want, they don’t last. We have expectations and attachments that bind us to how we want things to be.

Like good old Siddhartha Gautama said, suffering is caused by our wish for things to be other than the way they are.

busters car

Nobody but you feels your “you” feeling (see Here’s the Thing). Scientific instruments can show brain activity, but it can’t point to your awareness of “you-ness” and say, “There it is!” Nor can you prove that you are conscious other than to say you are. Your brain may fire and wire together a sandcastle of self but your mind controls the firing lines.

As Dr. J. Schwartz said, “The brain puts out the call. The mind decides whether to listen” (see slide presentation)The brain is the only organ that you can change (rewire) with conscious attention.

the 4 steps

You decide what is and isn’t important. One person loves old cars, another doesn’t. What’s the point of old cars? Nothing. But to the one who enjoys them there is.

What’s the point of a flower? a tree? a you? Nothing.

stigma

The point of a flower is to flower. The point of a tree is to tree. The point of you is to you. There’s no point other than to be and do whatever it is and does.

Flowering is for reproduction but to sensory perceptions of a sensitive person there’s more to flowers than anatomy. There is beauty but not everybody gets it (if they did, they would).

Points are individual.

If swimming has a point, swim. If laughing has a point, laugh (if it doesn’t, don’t). We have expectations and preferences that we continually compare to the current state of our world. When they match, we’re content. When they don’t, we do something to make it “just right.”

 

Rayleigh-2016

Thoughts are like seeds. A seed (thought) contains a plant (new thought) which gives birth to more seeds containing more plants (thoughts) in a cycle. It’s all very useful but it can remove a person from the real world.

plant-cycle

What’s pulling your strings has been fashioned by memories, dreams and conditioning (see: “It’s Not Me…). You need an ego identity but the trouble with our big brain is that we put ourselves into psychological prisons. Reality is not what we think it is. Reality with a capital R is something else entirely.

sunset palm trees

Prove it to yourself. When you’re done reading, go outside and experience the world with your senses. It’s like cleaning a window of thought grime. Thoughts come and go as you enjoy a timeless dimension that’s always there but is obscured by preoccupations.

dance-steps

Just dance.

Don’t overthink it.

All insides have outsides inside something else. Where does it begin? Where does it end? It doesn’t. It’s all you.

Wherever you go, there you are.

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Enjoy A Good Laugh

Now, too, on melancholy’s idle dreams 
Musing, the lone spot with my soul agrees
(“Sweet Was the Walk” Wordsworth).

To understand humans, just watch them. See what they do. Fascinating creatures. Watch their facial expressions and actions. Listen to their words and intonations.

Watch a man drive aggressively. He tailgates. He cuts in and out. He races. He honks. He stops only when he must. Can you tell by his driving what he’s thinking? Probably.

angry driver

Hurry puts people in bad humour. Look at the face of an aggressive driver—narrowed eyes, angled eyebrows, gritted teeth—unless he’s a constipated criminal or Paul Anka singing, “Having my baby”, this is not the face of peace. This is the demon face of frustration and anger—not to mention arrogance and thrill-seeking behaviour.

Poor selfish lout, so stressed out. One might feel pity if he weren’t scary. Here is machine man surrounded by machine people who have become as gods to themselves. He might prefer to relax and enjoy a nice ride, but he’s too busy listening to reptilian brain chatter.

reptilebrain
Blocking My Reptile” by Stuart McMillen

We’ve all been there. The good old basal ganglia (aka reptilian or primal brain). It’s the part controlling automatic self-preserving behavior and the four Fs: Feeding, Fighting, Fleeing, and…. Reproduction (source). It’s the part that defends self, family and personal property and performs socially acceptable actions like handshakes and head nods.

The doer is revealed by the deed but it could be argued that everyone does the best they can—even if it is terrible (see  related post: “World Views, Weird Edges & Higher States of Consciousness”). If people could do better, they would, wouldn’t they? If we don’t pay attention, it is only in yesterday that we realize what happened.

As an individual, you live a life that no one else will live. Knowing yourself will only come from an intensely personal and passionate pursuit of what gives meaning to your life. Consider what brings you joy and focus on that.

Beyond the emptiness of perpetual pleasure-seeking and bad tidings of your disappearance in the wake of time and a society that’ll suck you dry…… there is another way.

society and individual

The trick is to become aware of your true self subjectively. This is the psychology of religion. To feel yourself as your true self is to have a profound feeling of yourself not in an egotistical sense—not in sadness, anger, fear, envy, jealousy, despair or some negative feeling—but by a silent awareness, a perception that, this is me. I am here. Look at this world. Isn’t it amazing? These people are like me.

put-that-away-your-moneys-no-good-here-danny-shanaha

If good old Aristotle with wine on breath, asked you point blank—BAM: “How should we live?” Dear reader: What is your answer?

Is the  focus on yourself or on society and its rules? As your mind races for words to answer Aristotle (how’d he get in here anyway?), you think about how life feels accidental. In flashes of memory you see your past and like a Talking Head ask, “Where does that highway go to? And you may ask yourself: Am I right?…Am I wrong? And you may say to yourself: My God!…What have I done?!” (“Once in a Lifetime”).

highway.gifLife stretches ahead as the past falls away (see: “Enjoy A Perfect World”). You enjoy yourself when you can and work hard as you must. You enjoy the cake you get and sing with defiance, “I will survive. Yeah, as long as I know how to love, I know I’ll be alive” (“I Will Survive”).

“How should we live?” Good question. Decisions made thoughtfully when young feel arbitrary when old. We have pleasures and aversions and find love where we can. When young we sing, “I hope I die before I get old” (“My Generation“) and when old, we sing a different tune.

simpsons_yells_at_cloud.jpgThings happen. Like Sid Vicious, Sinatra and Elvis, we too sing, “Regrets, I’ve had a few;  but then again, too few to mention. I did what I had to do. And saw it through without exemption” (“My Way”). We have reasons for what we’ve done but we might wonder at times, “Is it me, or is life meaningless? Where’s the fairness in this?”

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One person has a fantastic life and another is subjected to misery. Why is that? If God is randomness, then you are a believer.

Maybe philosopher Albert Camus (1913-1960) was onto something when he said that existence is absurd.

Man stands face to face with the irrational. He feels within him his longing for happiness and for reason. The absurd is born of this confrontation between the human need and the unreasonable silence of the world” (The Myth of Sisyphus and Other Essays).

camus car
In 1960 Albert Camus (aged 46) died when the Facel Vega he was riding in crashed.

How should we live? Why should? Who says should? Is this about ethical living? In the dictionary should is a verb indicating “obligation, duty or correctness, typically when criticizing someone’s actions.”

looking under the hoodWe know we should give more weight to promoting social welfare than to achieving personal gain but what’s more important, you or society? Here we come to the crux of the matter. A body with a brain is a person, but is there more to a self?

The trick is to enjoy yourself without causing harm in this perfect life that is all your own. Think of a person trying to decide whether to play video games, watch TV, go to work or go for a walk. The different “yous”—aspects of your personality—are conflicting, but the conflict itself is part of what makes you you.

Old wise Epicurus (341-270 BC) said in a letter, “It is impossible to live a pleasant life without living wisely and honorably and justly, and it is impossible to live wisely and honorably without living pleasantly.” Dance to your song and let the wheels of time turn as they will anyway.

Enjoy.

Magical Thinking, Enjoyment and the 8 Ball

make a wish
“If wishes were horses, beggars would ride. All dreams and desires would ride along side. Worries and troubles would fall off behind…” (Sweeny Todd).

It’s safe to say that most people don’t enjoy unpleasant surprises. Unpleasant surprises are so… unpleasant. Most people enjoy feeling in control. Control feels sane somehow. Even those who enjoy losing control on drugs, alcohol and/or pimentos may want to return to control—at least, on occasion.

There is comfort in control (less messy too). For most people feeling in control is better than feeling like a victim of chance and circumstance. Most people would probably agree with the guy in those commercials who says, “Control suits me.”

Incidentally, the guy in those commercials is actor Patrick Warburton. He played David Puddy on the show Seinfeld. In the reverse peephole episode he gets a new jacket and says, “Check it out. 8 Ball. You got a question, you ask the 8 Ball!” (Puddy’s 8 Ball Jacket).

8ball

People enjoy assurances. That could explain why billions of perfectly normal people obsess over zodiac signs, consult 8 Balls, crystal balls, Ouija boards and tarot cards—not to mention religion, superstition, voodoo and the honesty of politicians. To the scientifically-minded it can seem crazy what perfectly normal people will believe.

It’s common for people to think that nothing in life is truly coincidental. People might try to be intellectual, clinical and cynical like in the “Logical Song”, but irrational beliefs at an unconscious level seem hardwired into our psyches (“Why Everyone Believes in Magic…)”.

If you put a picture of a baby on the wall and tell people to throw darts at it, why is it that people feel uncomfortable at a gut-level? Maybe it’s because gut-level intuition is when you understand something immediately and people equate images with reality.

lucky charms

Faulty causality is when people assume that because one thing follows another, it was caused by the other (Common Fallacies…). Faulty causality, hasty and sweeping generalizations, confirmation bias (interpreting information that confirms preexisting beliefs), illusory correlation (perceiving a relationship between something when no relationship exists) along with faulty assumptions, comparisons and so on can cause problems (6 Mental Traps That Ruin Your Life).

false cause

The National Science Foundation found that 58% of 18-24-year-old Americans believe astrology is scientific (source) and it’s fashionable to blame “Mercury in Retrograde.” As Taylor Swift explained, “When Mercury is in retrograde, basically that means everything is going to be completely wrong, messed up and miscommunicated… so you can’t blame yourself” (source).

And therein is a key to enjoyment: It isn’t always your fault.

All planets rotate around the sun in the same direction, but our position relative to Mercury and observed movement gives the illusion of planets (not just Mercury) changing direction (source) but that doesn’t matter. It’s not that a rock 48 million miles away is causing miscommunication, it’s Mercury, the god of communication in Roman mythology, who is to blame!

fortunaBlaming forces beyond one’s control is comforting. We’re off the hook. In Roman times, if you had good fortune or misfortune, it wasn’t you who did it, it was the goddess Fortuna—the personification of luck—who smiled or frowned upon you. People enjoy feeling connected to the cosmos, to nature or to something beyond one’s self.

We are meaning-makers (see also: Enjoy Happiness from the Periphery). Our brains look for patterns even when none exist to give us a sense of self-control—think: “Knock on wood” (Big Think). Habits of mind that lead us to think that luck and supernatural forces are real, that we have souls and a destiny is not necessarily a bad thing. Magical thinking might be a subtle obstacle to making good decisions, but it can make for happier people.

The two most common mental disorders are depressive disorders and anxiety disorders. These disorders impact the mood of people. In 2015 the Who (not the band but the World Health Organization) said that about 300 million people in the world have a depressive disorder and about the same number have an anxiety disorder (source). One in ten Americans is affected by depression and that number grows by 20% per year (source).

overthinking2

Thinking is a double-edged sword. Thoughts of past events that repeat can leave a person depressed and repetitive thoughts about what lies ahead can leave a person paralyzed and anxious. When your brain’s limited capacity for attention is compromised by overthinking, mental well-being is compromised and when that happens, it’s hard to enjoy the life you’re in.

When something terrible almost happens or does happen (but could have been worse), we have an emotional experience. This experience draws us to magical-meaning making. We see causality in coincidence. Our subjective reality is created by perceptions that can be distorted by emotions. Even skeptics and atheists who think new age thinking, religious belief and superstition is stupid can have a predisposition to magical thinking.

Psychologist Ellen Langer calls the tendency of people to overestimate their ability to control events the “illusion of control.” It’s one of the positive illusions that also includes: “illusory superiority”—when you overestimate your qualities and abilities compared to others—and “optimism bias”—when you think you have less chance of experiencing something negative compared to others (source).

everything you look for

Cognitive bias—when you think in a way that deviates from a standard of rationality—can lead to illogical inferences that distort perceptions but that isn’t necessarily a bad thing. You might think having accurate perceptions of yourself and the future are essential to mental health, but research shows otherwise.

Overly positive self-evaluations, exaggerated perceptions of control and unrealistic optimism helps people to feel more contentment and happiness; moreover, distorting information in a positive direction and isolating negative information as nonthreatening helps people to be more caring of others, creative and productive (“Illusion and Well-Being…”).

There’s nothing a little music can’t help. Lighten up and follow your gut. Enjoy a happy new year all year but watch out for seagulls.

Cheers!

Knowledge, Wisdom, Insight and Enjoyment

Knowledge, wisdom, insight and enjoyment relate to the mind but differ in kind. Knowledge is information, wisdom is the application of knowledge, insight is awareness of an essential truth, and enjoyment is, as writer Paul Goodman (1911-1972) observed,  “not a goal, it is a feeling that accompanies important ongoing activity.” 

Knowledge is, “Nothing but the facts ma’am.” If you’re a carpenter, you have knowledge of carpentry. If you play guitar, you have knowledge of guitars. If you’re an astronomer, you have knowledge of stars. Knowledge requires research, study and experience.

knowledge is power

Knowledge is the foundation for wisdom. Wisdom is knowing why something is. Wisdom is the application of knowledge for making sound decisions because one can’t act wisely without knowing the potential consequences of a choice.

Wisdom requires reflection and contemplation of what you know and don’t know so as to understand and use that knowledge in an intelligent way.

knowledgeinfocartoon

Wisdom is necessary if you are to have insight. Insight is a personal realization. Insight is an experience. It is the deepest level of knowing. It is understanding a specific cause and effect within a specific context.

Insight is a clearer perception of knowledge and wisdom as it pertains to your life. Whereas knowledge and wisdom are based on rationality, insight is based on intuitive understanding. calvin and hobbes i have to do this

The application of wisdom enables a person to gain insight into the essence of an underlying truth. To enjoy insight you not only need to acquire knowledge and take that knowledge and contemplate it—look at all sides with care and attention—and deliberate it—weigh facts and arguments with a view to a choice and consequences—so as to gain wisdom, but you need to make an intuitive connection which is hard to explainlet alone impart to another person.

If you have insight, explanations are meaningless to another person. Like enjoyment, insight is an individual experience that can be described and analyzed but not transmitted or shared. When discussing knowledge, wisdom, insight and enjoyment, we are digging into two incompatible types of thought: rational and intuitive.

change

Rationality employs language, logic and reason. Think of rationality as a machine. Rationality can be taught but intuition cannot. Think of intuition as a flower. Intuition is embedded in your consciousness but it is often repressed by self-consiousness.

rational-emotional.jpgRational knowledge is knowing what people, things, practices and pleasures make you happy, but wisdom is knowing that things you enjoy do not actually make you happy; happiness comes from within. Insight is feeling that whether or not you believe something isn’t the right question because the answer is what you know through experience.

chicken of depression

Intuition is beyond words. You can’t manipulate intuitive consciousness with rational thinking. Rational thinking is a veil through which we think we see reality, but we’re really only perceiving a shallow portion filtered through our constructed perspective.

To see reality directly as reality is to be in reality with acceptance as it is (see also: The Art of Love And Enjoyment Incarnate).

Rationality constrains one’s mind and intuition releases it.

Intuition is a key to what might be called, “higher consciousness” which is, “the part of the human being that is capable of transcending animal instincts” (Wikipedia). Higher consciousness has been described as a feeling of oneness where the world is seen directly and not analytically. The world feels like an extension of your consciousness and there is a sudden sense of freedom from a bondage to the way you think about things.

An insight of higher consciousness is a highly enjoyable direct experience with reality in the present. It is knowing that the happiness you feel is a temporary emotion just like any other temporary emotion that you experience. Happiness is one emotion in a spectrum. If you give yourself permission and relax with acceptance, if you let your face go slack and see from the sides, if you hear without hearing, if you do all this without trying, you will enjoy the intuitive realization or insight that there’s nothing to realize.

The world is there. It is unchanged regardless of how you perceive it. Now is the time to give birth to an awareness of all the love and care you have in your body for everything that is, was, and shall be.

This is not a matter of believing or not believing. That’s the wrong way to look at it. This is about knowing from direct experience. It’s when a feeling of awareness dawns in you. It’s when you stop interpreting what you see, hear, smell and feel. That’s when you realize that you and the world around you are one and the same. Like a cell in a body you are. But wait, before you make a decision as to whether or not this is nonsense, try it yourself—then you’ll know. The trick is to try and not try without effort.

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The Enjoyment of A Just Being Just being

moon and trees

Reality isn’t a theory. It isn’t a concept. It isn’t opinion. Reality doesn’t exist to teach lessons. Reality isn’t fair or not fair. It isn’t right nor is it wrong. Reality just is. If it isn’t reality, it’s fiction. How you think about what’s there separates you from what is.

Cue music:  Lara’s Theme” or Midnight Rambler”.

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If you slip and fall and people laugh, don’t take it personal. Reality isn’t out to get you. It’s the dance of chance and circumstance. It’s slippery. It’s poor shoes, ice and lack of attention. Reality is the wind blowing and the hard, icy sidewalk upon which you’re falling. Reality is like Lauryn Hill said, “Everything is everything”.

Before you appeared, reality was there. After you appeared, reality was there. After you pass, reality will be there. Where does everything begin? Where does it end? It doesn’t end or begin, such divisions are like chapters in a book.

When you arrive at a state of being there, there is nothing the matter. As you go through your day taking care of business like Elvis, can you say there is nothing the matter? Only those who can, know that it is so.

Look at yourself looking. If you say, “I know my mind,” who is the one knowing? When you argue with yourself, who’s arguing? You started from your mother’s egg and your father’s seed neither of which is you. When did you become you? Are you a link or the chain?

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Reality is the wind that blows. Reality is the cold. Your reality cannot be shared. When the wind blows your house away, reality doesn’t know, nor does it care. It can’t. It won’t. We create reality for ourselves and opinions obscure what is.

Reality is not what you hear. Reality is the sound.

Reality is not what you see. Reality is what’s there.

windy.gif

In The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy Douglas Adams wrote, “The Guide is definitive. Reality is frequently inaccurate.” It’s a joke because reality can’t be inaccurate, but we can—especially if we’re emotional (Psychology Today). Once we believe we are right based on what we see, hear, and remember, it’s hard to be dissuaded. It’s hard to change a perception once we have one.

thug lifeThe rapper Tupac Shakur defied reality saying, “Reality is wrong. Dreams are for real.” He tattooed “F-✴# the World,” on his back and “Thug Life” on his front. He was gunned down at 25. Was reality wrong or could his murder have been anticipated based on the times and the dangerous game he was playing?

steve jobsThe entrepreneur Steve Jobs said, “Reality is flexible.” He thought he could bend reality to his will. He died regretting nine months of treating his cancer with acupuncture and fruit juice (The Telegraph).

The science fiction writer, Philip K. Dick (Blade Runner, Minority Report) nailed it when he wrote, “Reality is that which when you stop believing, doesn’t go away.

eye from blade runner

Herein is the human conundrum. Reality, as in, “the state of things as they actually exist…,” is objective (“not influenced by personal feelings or opinions…”) and enjoyment, as in, “the state or process of taking pleasure in something,” is subjective (“based on or influenced by personal feelings, tastes, or opinions”) (Google).

objectivity-vs-subjectivity

But what you want can run counter to what you get. That’s reality. When that happens, you can feel self-pity or anger because the truth about the way things are can be hard to handle.

The trouble is in our interpretations. We’re vulnerable. Our senses and interpretations can trick us. We’re like a guy in a car who thinks he’s moving  (but he isn’t) because the car next to him is moving. We misinterpret situations until we realize that perceptions are slippery like ice on a sidewalk.

Our subjective reality is “subject” to filters that modify perceptions. Rods and cones in our eyes, sensory processing in our visual cortex, higher-level brain functions, psychological factors and expectations, can trick us into thinking that what we’re seeing is real.

Everything is moving, changing and spinning. One spin of the Earth carries it 24,000 miles as it moves about 30 kilometers per second around the Sun which is also moving around the centre of the galaxy at about 230 kilometers per second (Ask an Astronomer). All of this is happening right now without your awareness.

earth spinning
A model of how the planets orbit the Sun as it moves (Source: Rhys Taylor).

We’re like Whirling Dervishes in a universe spinning, changing and moving and here is the key: The world is right when you are right. You could be in a beautiful place, but not see anything if you’re thinking and feeling annoyed, disappointed, nauseous or angry. A just person is guided by truth, reason and fairness. You can paint the world ugly or become aware of what you’re doing.

The trick is to not believe everything you tell yourself. You could list everything wrong with reality, but why? You could let complaints buzz in your brain like flies on a carcass. You could believe that what you’re telling yourself is factual, or, you can see the truth and realize that mental machinations are like the whisper of falling snowflakes.

snow falling2

To say that reality is like something is to miss it. If you’re not self-aware, thoughts gain momentum. Thoughts can take you out of reality into a head game of self-inflicted brainwashing but you can train your attention to let thoughts come and go. Open your own eyes. Stand on your own two feet (if you have them). See directly without delusion and act on truth without confusion.

Enjoy being a just being just being there (wherever there is).

Is it serious? Up Enjoyment to Bliss Filled Without Trying

autumn trees

While walking in a park one calm and cool autumn, from out of the enjoyment of a ten minute moment, with trees bathed in fall colours, with birds—black-eyed juncos, chickadees and sparrows—pecking among leaves and squirrels running around like maniacs, from out of the overcast white sky comes a question.

Is it serious?  

“It depends,” you say. “What is “it”? Is a mouse serious? A mouse thinks so. That’s why he runs. Owls think mice are serious. Survival is serious to survivors. Owl and mouse do owl and mouse things to survive just as humans do human things to survive (except with TVs, toilets and machines). The difference is, whereas a mouse and owl won’t understand what “serious” is, a human might.

Think of it as a game. (Cue music: “Get off of my cloud”.)

barn-owl-sunset.jpg

In the first chapter of Finite and Infinite Games, James P. Carse lays out a theory in two sentences, “There are at least two kinds of games. One could be called finite, the other infinite. A finite game is played for the purpose of winning, an infinite game for the purpose of continuing the play” (James P. Carse).

Mouse vs. owl is a finite game. A mouse named Jimmy can escape (win) or be eaten (lose). An owl named Janice can eat (win) or starve (lose). The dead are losers. Death is the triumph of past over future, but if life is the prize for winning, finite players aren’t living. 

mouse vs owl

What is won in finite games is a title (p. 19). In death, titles replace life. When you die, attempts to win titles stop. We take finite games serious, but in seriousness and certainty we lose awareness of wonder and the infinite game we’re playing.

Beyond the immediate owl and mouse competition (little picture), there is an infinite game (big picture) where owl and mouse play “live and let die” so others can continue.

In an infinite game players play (and die) to keep the game going. Finite games have boundaries, infinite games don’t. You can’t tell how long an infinite game has been playing (Philosophical Explorations).

clouds

Is the universe serious? Is air travel, brain surgery and regular maintenance serious? Something is serious or it isn’t unless, of course, what is serious actually isn’t.

Are birds in trees serious? Are fish in seas and people in parks, serious? Is a goose standing on one foot stretching his wings among other geese, serious? Is a woman standing on one foot stretching among other women stretching, serious? Is a man selling drugs to another man, serious? Is a cat pouncing on a sparrow, serious?

dog meditatingLife and death feel serious. Ask any cancer survivor, terrorist or soldier. But like the comedian Louis C.K. we too can feel that life is “OK” but we don’t need it. “Make a list of every shitty thing ever. That’s in life… You know how much I like life? I have never killed myself” (Louis C.K. 2017).

People who kill themselves and/or others take it serious. It isn’t a question of whether it “‘tis nobler in the mind to suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune,” as Hamlet asked because we know it ’tis! Suffering is part of the game to be enjoyed without masochism. Let suffering to be there without resistance. Don’t try to forget or escape and suffering moves to the periphery and when that happens, you feel bliss filled in the centre because you are free!

For millions (billions?) of people, a lot of the time (most of the time?), life does not feel blissful as in perfectly happy, but then again, as it is written, “You Can’t Always Get What You Want” but if you try sometimes, you’ll find, you get what’s agreed.

you can't always get what you want

It’s like the joke Woody Allen told the gist of which goes, “The food in this place is terrible!” “Yeah, I know; and such small portions.” To Woody, life is “full of loneliness, and misery, and suffering, and unhappiness, and it’s all over much too quickly.”

Something “serious” is important, grave, sombre, heavy, weighty, critical, sincere, in earnest and not trifling (Dictionary.com). Is that how “it” is? Is life grave sombre, heavy, and weighty?

squirrel-512

The  Power Thesaurus lists 509 words that are the opposite of “serious,” including: funny, playful, light, unimportant, silly, trivial, lighthearted, ridiculous, happy, laughable, merry, easy,  trippy, unwise and priceless.

How would it feel if instead of thinking it is serious!, you thought just the opposite?

What if you could see finite games for what they are? How would you feel, “to be on your own, with no direction home, a complete unknown, just like a rolling stone?” (“Like a Rolling Stone”).

wascana-park

The truth is, most of what we think of as important probably isn’t. On and off. On and off. Now you see it. Now you don’t. Here and gone as if what was there never wasn’t. That is the infinite game we play so others can continue.

A test for what you see as true is to look at your day without effort to change it. Let your day rock and roll as it will anyway. Recognize what you can and can’t do and alter what you think is true. With a rock and roll mindset, you are free to swagger. Nothing can hurt you.

You don’t get what you want? So what. Someone slights you? Big deal. People don’t know what they’re doing, if they did, there wouldn’t be problems. It is and/isn’t serious. Instead of swimming upstream, enjoy flowing (see also The Art of Enjoying).

Live without worry and strain. Why not? The less you strain, the more free you are. There is only so much you can do. Beyond that, you’re helpless. Enjoy it. With this realization, comes freedom to enjoy an infinite game. Look on the light side and give a whistle.

“Why so serious?” shouldn’t just be a catch phrase reserved for homicidal maniacs.

Enjoy a Funny Feeling

boardwalk-empire-intro

In The Divine Comedya medieval vision of the afterlife completed in 1320—Dante (c. 1265-1321) wrote, “Tonight we fly over the chimney tops, skylights and slates. Looking into all your lives and wondering why happiness is so hard to find.” 

Seven hundred years later we do the same, except with a drone—still wondering why happiness is hard to find (even with indoor plumbing). Like a peeping Peter Pan we fly over “all the  lonely people” living in “quiet desperation.”

The quietly desperate are resigned to fate. They won’t speak up. They won’t cry out. They simply exist. Nothing means anything. And when nothing means anything, pleasure is everything. Pleasure initiates a process that learning sustains.

brainrewardcenter

Pleasure releases dopamine into nerve cells underneath the cerebral cortex—the area for planning and executing tasks in the brain. Liking it becomes wanting it and then we’re driven to get it.  It’s in the Human Brain Owners Manual. We might think we run our own show, but it’s really just chemistry.

How addicted we get to a drug or activity depends on the quickness, intensity and reliability of dopamine release (Harvard Medical School). Without self-understanding, the default is to become a non-self-aware robot-person following a program.

hook

The comedian Mitch Hedberg (1968-2005) used to joke, “I used to do drugs. I still do, but I used to, too.” People used to laugh. They still do, but they used to too. Mitch joked about addiction until it killed him. But he was onto something when he said, “I like to play blackjack. I’m not addicted to gambling. I’m addicted to sitting in a semi-circle,” because it doesn’t matter if it’s sex, drugs, or Cocoa Puffs, human brains register all pleasures the same (Harvard Medical School).

cuckooforcocoapuffs.gif

But it’s funny (maybe it isn’t), the more we get what we want, the less we enjoy it. Psychologist Wendy Wood from the University of Southern California said, “With repetition, action tendencies become stronger. Feelings, however, become weaker with repetition. So, the more often you eat ice cream, the less pleasure you get from eating it” (“If you enjoy something, don’t make it a habit”).

The greatest single barrier to finding what you seek is the secret assumption that you already know. Thinking you know lends itself to barking up wrong trees.

barking up the wrong tree

Living quietly desperate means never knowing satisfaction and feeling happiness only rarely (possibly while dancing).

Thoreau’s quote about leading a life of quiet desperation is used as a reason to follow your passion and achieve a life that isn’t small and mediocre but big and successful but to Thoreau, “success” isn’t big: it’s small.

coffee2Success is in the small and ordinarywatching ducks, feeling cozy, wearing plaid.

“If the day and the night are such that you greet them with joy,” writes Thoreau, “and life emits a fragrance like flowers and sweet-scented herbs, is more elastic, more starry, more immortal—that is your success” (Walden).

Seeing is beautiful when the “I” of criticism is gone.

When the comedian Steve Martin said,  “Let’s get small,” he was practically Thoreauvian! To get small is to shift from a self-perspective to a kind of disappearing where you get smaller and smaller until at last you are free of fault-finding and a happy feeling of love for “Both Sides, Now” hits you in the face like a pillow.

henry thoreau cartoonIt’s practically mystical—or is it mystically practical? Either way, it is beautiful. Take a break. Stop seeing the world through conditioned opinion as a programmed person and feel aware of reality and yourself in it.

daffy duck3

Happiness happens. It’s happening right now but you might not see it because happiness is like finding money on the road. You look at the money but don’t see it. Your mind is elsewhere. The hypnosis of regularity obscures the profound.

If everybody really felt what it is to be alive in this minute counting up as we count down, it would be too much! Daily living puts us in an emotional coma. It’s easier to deaden our senses, but it isn’t better. If you don’t believe it, try this exercise in awareness:

daffy duck2

Look up. Look around. Give your head a shake. Don’t just notice where you are, notice yourself in where you are. See yourself as if from above. Notice how as you were reading, you did not exist to yourself? Notice how you can listen to thoughts in a detached way? Watch your thoughts come and go like floats in a parade. Wave hello and good bye to trolling thoughts and your mind will start to relax. 

daffy fights darkness

It’s like there’s an annoying duck-person blathering inside. Who is this annoying self-centred duck-person? How’d he get in here? Make him leave. Listen without reaction. Eventually he’ll get tired and you’ll feel peace.

In the 1911 song “Life’s a funny proposition after all” George M. Cohan (1878-1942) sang-spoke, “Hurried and worried until we’re buried; there’s no curtain call.” Cohen puts it all together and shows us the pickle of our problem. Life may be funny but not everyone is laughing. People don’t necessarily live the way they do because they like it. They live the way they do because they don’t know what else to do!

this-chair-looks-pretty-depressed-226290If you sat on a beach and yelled at the ocean, “Stop waving!” It wouldn’t stop. It couldn’t stop. Oceans aren’t independent. There are natural processes beyond our control. There are two worlds: the living and not living. Neither knows the other.

Reality plays itself out from first to last. If you don’t believe it, ask Bo Diddley to “Bring it to Jerome”. Everything connects back to front. The back of you is the front of what’s behind. What’s inside has an outside inside something else and space holds it together.

negative spaceThere is but one answer to every question that’s ever been asked by every single man, woman or combination thereof. The question is: What is that one answer?

And there it is.

“There is what?” 

There is what that one answer is.

“What is that one answer? I don’t get it.” 

That’s because ‘what-is-that-one-answer’ is the answer. 

“What?” 

Precisely.

magritte2
The Pilgrim (Le Pelerin) 1966 by René Magritte (1898-1967).

To every question there is one answer but that doesn’t mean there aren’t many answers. It just means that the answer you give is your answer. It’s like on a test: The answer you put on the test is your answer. It might not be right. It might not be wrong. Either way: It’s your answer.

If the question is, “What path did I take?” The answer is the path taken. The path is where you are as you’re going. Your path is what’s done as you do it. Life is a warring of opposites. Understanding the pleasure-centre dopamine release game frees you from chemical bondage. To cry until you laugh and laugh until you cry is to enjoy a ripple in time, self-aware in happy awe and filled with love.

yugen

Enjoy Perfect Understanding

true detective tree 2

And rise with me forever, across the silent sand. And the stars will be your eyes, and the wind will be my hands” (“Far From Any Road”). Sometimes it feels like we’re puppets at the mercy of wider forces and hypocrisy is the norm. Most people wonder on occasion whether or not they’re making the most of their time. If we had it to do it over, would we do it again? Should we be doing something different with our time?

We put pressure on ourselves to enjoy every minute as bucket lists items pile upIn the time it takes to read, “Right this second,” you might ask, “Am I wasting my time?” but herein is the question: What is time for?

sword of damoclesTime can feel like a Sword of Damocles hanging above your head. Anybody who enjoys wealth, luxury and power lives under threat and anybody who has nothing envies those who have what they want. Gated communities imprison the pampered as poverty imprisons the poor. Questions about whether or not you’re making the most of your time happen when you’d rather be doing something else. In moments of boredom, irritation and/or annoyance, that’s when the present turns into the past like the end of a toilet paper roll running out fast.

As you watch a truck commercial you’ve seen a thousand times, scrub a stain that won’t come out or do anything you don’t like, you might wonder, “Am I missing something?” 

Time is fleeting. It’s cliché. Time flows regardless of wanting. Is time ever really wasted? Soon you and everyone you know will be dead. You’ve seen old films. You know the score. We can’t help but do what we don’t like and all good times end. We’re between the proverbial rock and a hard place.

As the astronomer Arthur Eddington observed in 1927, there’s an asymmetry to time. We experience its flow in a one-way direction: forward, like an arrow. You can remember the past but not the future. You can turn an egg into an omelette, but you can’t turn an omelette into an egg. You can put cream in your coffee, but you can’t take it out.

Days pass like words in a sentence—here and gone, here and gone. You were a baby, now you look different. You’ll change again before you’re finished. You might want to hold time in a bottle and make days last forever like Jim Croce (1943-1973), but unless you’re an X-man, that’s probably not going to happen.

Our trouble is that we divide things into “either/or” opposites—nature~nurture, individual~collective, self~other—but that obscures the in-between dynamic of life. Truth is between. Fortunately our brains are capable of showing two contradictory and mutually exclusive behaviors at the same time (The Complementary Nature).

coffee out of time

When time no longer feels like it’s on your side, when you’ve spent your day doing what you don’t like and your night vicariously living someone else’s fictional life, you might think of “Nights In White Satin” and the line, “Another day’s useless energy spent.”

When there’s a job that needs doin’, but you don’t do it: time is a wastin’. When you’d rather be doin’ somethin’ different: time is a wastin’. Like June and Johnny said, “A cake’s no good if you don’t mix the batter and bake it. And love’s just a bubble if you don’t take the trouble to make it”  (Time Is A Wastin'”).

You might think that you’re wasting the time you have, but that’s the thing about time. You don’t have it: It has you. You are time passing and resistance is futile”.

piece of cakeYou’re like a candle burning itself out. Time for you to lighten up. Remember what Mary Poppins said, “In every job that must be done, there is an element of fun. You find the fun and, ‘Snap!’ The jobs a game. And every task you undertake becomes a piece of cake, a lark, a spree, it’s very clear to see” (“Just a Spoonful of Sugar”).

Suppose you’re angry. You think, “I’m angry!” You elaborate the feeling with stories of justification but the more you think in “stories,” the more distracted you are from the present. Saying “I” and “mine” started the process so if you watch the story you tell without identifying with “I” and “my,” you blow out the “story” and disturbing emotion like a candle.

Happy Birthday. You are free.

eleutheromaniaWhen you drop labeling things as “I” and “mine,” you feel the world directly. Disturbing emotions are empty of identify and so is everything else. Look at the one who feels. Look without distraction and anger turns to nothing. Nothing stands alone. Everything is taken together. You see the world through a window where what’s outside is seen through your own reflection. We divide between self and everything else but everything else is one seamless landscape.

window reflection

In the Mind Of A Rampage Killer scientists talk about how the emotion centre of the brain (amygdala), “goes into overdrive when a threat is perceived.” If the threat isn’t real, higher level thinking (prefrontal cortex) sends “a message to the amygdala to calm down, but if the wiring is faulty, the message may not get through.” A boy who flies into rages says, “It’s kind of like a werewolf. When a werewolf turns into a werewolf, it doesn’t know who he is, it doesn’t know where he is, it just wants to hurt and fight people.”

i'm turning into my mother

To enjoy without needing anything, go into an equilibrium and watch. Watch the present with your senses. Watch the stories you tell yourself without identification and gain perfect understanding.

To be free of duress and drama, forget stories and assumptions and your mind will be empty of greed, anger and delusions of grandeur.

Whether or not you think you’re wasting time is subjective. As the Western fiction writer Louis L’amour said, “The only thing that never changes is that everything changes.” If you don’t believe it, look in the mirror.

Like George Costanza on Seinfeld said to Kramer, “What you call wasting, I call living. I’m living my life!”

What if getting the daily news really is enough?

 

The Content of Contentment: Press Play

tightrope walkerThere’s a war going on. It’s been going on for a couple of thousand years. It’s happening right now. It’s on TV, in the news and in books and movies. It’s on the Internet and on billboards but it isn’t an obvious war. It’s subtle. There are no bombs as a rule.

jesus billboardLike The Troggs said, “It’s written on the wind. It’s everywhere I go” (“Love Is All Around”), but it isn’t love that’s all around: it’s thought.

From thought love flows or shuts off (“Real Love Is a Choice”). You can’t see thought of course—it’s more or less invisible, ergo: “spiritual”—but you can see evidence of thought (or lack thereof) in brain scans, behaviour and city planning.

Cue music: “Peacock Tail” or “Calcutta”.

willy wonka memeThe philosopher Michel Onfray—resident hedonist, atheist, and anarchist—says that it’s a war between materialists and idealists (source). It’s a war that focuses on the big question: “What is reality?”

How you answer determines how you relate to the world.

No biggie.

matrixImagine holding a spoon. You see it. You feel its weight and cool metal in your hand. These perceptions happen within your brain where data from sensory organs comes together and forms an “image” of the spoon in your brain, but apart from your perceptions and awareness of the spoon, is there really something outside and separate from your mind? Do you regard the spoon as real or not?

Materialism says yes.

Idealism says no.

Which one are you?

To a materialist everything is matter because everything, including mental activity and consciousness, is physical. It’s matter acting upon matter. Reality is independent of perceptions.

materialist

As the philosopher Alexander Spirkin (1918-2004) put it in “Matter as the Substance of Everything That Exists”, “Consciousness belongs not to any transcendental world but to the material world.”

The word “materialist” also refers to someone who displays conspicuous consumption of material goods or who pursues wealth and luxury.

If materialism had a theme song it would be Let’s get physical” with Olivia Newton John or “Material Girl” with Madonna.

Now, the opposite of materialism (everything is “matter”) is idealism. To an idealist everything is mental (not matter) and therefore immaterial because the mind, as in, thoughts and ideas, make reality for you (source).

In the movie The Matrix, a boy bends a spoon without touching it and says, “There is no spoon.” To an idealist this means that you can’t manipulate reality, you can only manipulate yourself. Only when you change yourself can you change reality.

perceiver and perception

Idealists can be dualists or nondualists. Dualists (“being two”) think the world is made of divisionsgood/bad, here/there, self/other, past/future; whereas, nondualists (“not two”) think these divisions don’t exist and that we don’t really experience them at all because everything is interconnected and not separated.

Nondualists in Eastern and Western traditions say that a dual, divided experience leaves us feeling finite and vulnerable because we think we’re separate from everything else but if we really understand the nondual unbroken-experience, feelings of separation and suffering end completely (Science & Nonduality).

duality and nonduality

Idealism says, “I am Consciousness. All objects of my awareness are really Awareness in disguise”  (source). If idealism had a theme song, it would be “Life Is But a Dream” with the Harptones, “Spirit In the Sky” with Norman Greenbaum, or “Hurdy Gurdy Man” with Donovan.

The word “idealist” also describes a person with high ideals or qualities of perfection and excellence.

when I was young

In this war the lines are drawn in phrases of persuasion. When Onfray says, “Religion is like magic. It’s all about tricks,” he expresses a materialist’s position. When British physicist James Jeans (1877-1946) says, “the Universe begins to look more like a great thought than like a great machine,” he expresses an idealist’s position. But why must we choose between one or the other? Why not be both together?

bubble

Whether materialist or idealist, we each live in our own little bubble of awareness. The bubble is our self—a universe of one. Some bubble-people float alone. Some bubble-people stick together like suds. Inside our bubbles we think we’re awake and aware of our surroundings. Consciousness seems to come from the operations of our brain but consciousness is tricky that way.

It’s like there’s a locked box inside our head and the key to open it is inside! Thinking about thought is like that. As the Platters said, “Only you can make this world seem right” (“Only You”). The best we can do is to make educated guesses about what others are thinking (source).

lady in a bubble
Photograph by Alex Kisilevich.

The philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche (1844-1900) wrote, “There are no facts, only interpretation” (source) meaning, truth and reality are concoctions of someone interpreting reality and therefore creating it. It’s an idea verified by science. In “What hallucination reveals about our mind” neurologist Oliver Sacks said that we see with the brain but the brain can be fooled by hallucinations that mimic perceptions.

brain is outside inIn “Your brain hallucinates your conscious reality”, neuroscientist Anil Seth said, “What we consciously see is based on the brain’s best guess of what’s out there. Our experienced world comes from the inside out, not just the outside in.”

You could be a materialist who isn’t materialistic or an idealist without ideals, but not likely. Materialism’s determination that everything is “matter” goes with a materialistic desire to buy and idealism’s realization that reality is mental goes with caring more for ideals of excellence and goodness than for anything purchased.

materialism3In the article “If You Shop on Thanksgiving, You Are Part of the Problem” Matt Walsh writes of  the materialist’s credo for happiness: “Everybody buy. It doesn’t matter what you buy. Just buy. It doesn’t matter if you don’t have money. Just buy.”

To which George Monbiot adds, “The more we consume, the less we feel. The richer we are and the more we consume, the more self-centred and careless of the lives of others we appear to become” (“Why we couldn’t care less about the natural world”).

A materialistic bid for happiness confirms research that shows, “Those who pursue wealth and material possessions tend to be less satisfied and experience fewer positive emotions each day… Life satisfaction—surprise, surprise—is correlated with having less materialistic values” (“The Psychology Of Materialism, And Why It’s Making You Unhappy”).

idealist cartoon

Psychologist Felicitas Heyne writes, “If you are an Idealist, life represents one continuous search for a deeper meaning: Who am I? Where am I going? What is my destiny? This already describes the most important pillar of your personal concept of happiness: The meaning of life!” (“How Idealists can find Meaning in their Lives”).

To be awake means to be fully conscious in the present moment. To be “unconscious” is to be not conscious. It is to be “without awareness, or cognition” (Dictionary.com). 

In the film, You, the Living, a psychiatrist delivers a bleak assessment of the human condition: “People demand to be happy at the same time as they are egocentric, selfish and ungenerous. I’d like to be honest and say they are quite simply mean, most of them. I’ve stopped trying to make a mean person happy. I just prescribe pills, the stronger the better.

So, is the answer in a pill?

red pill or blue pill

When Bob Dylan said, “The answer, my friendis blowin’ in the wind,” he said a slurring mouthful (“Blowing In The Wind”).

Peace_and_Contentment_Eduard-Grützner
Peace and contentment by Eduard von Grützner, 1897.

As an idealist, you interpret the world as if it were a person and then, as a materialist, you enjoy it. Two sides. Same coin.

Contentment is simply seeing and enjoying what is seen and enjoyed simply.

In a state of satisfaction with absolute acceptance of yourself and your situation, perfect gratitude hits you with perfect ease and contentment.

And there you are.

Here.

Enjoying.

you-are-here_2.png

Enjoy A “You-day-mon-I-am!” Inspiration

the worldThis is the world. The world is as it is. It is not as it isn’t. The world is an interconnected balancing act. Some people say humans came from the hand of God. Some say they came from aliens or from rocks, water and sunshine, but any way you slice it, it’s really quite amazing.

Cue music: Ravel, “Bolero”.

pendulum-ballsLike alternating current (AC) and direct current (dc), the world is positive and negative. Clickety-clack. Clickety-clack. One thing leads to another on the train of days we call life. We hope something incredible will happen—if we’re lucky, if we’re blessed, if a genie grants our wish—but magic doesn’t come from outside.

It is an interaction.

As Sir Isaac Newton observed, “Every action has an equal and opposite reaction,” which means, “The bigger the push, the bigger the push back” (Propulsion). It’s like ping pong.

table tennis

Everything is put into place and goes from there. There are good people. There are bad people. Sometimes good people are bad. Sometimes bad people are good. They’re inconsistent and situational even when they think they’re being spiritual (and/or reasonable).

The world is beautiful and horrible at intervals. We oscillate between positive and negative emotions every minute on our way to enjoying. Throughout history it hasn’t just been girls who wanna have fun. It’s everyone.

Everything humans do revolves around surviving and enjoying. They go together like bread and butter. It’s hard to enjoy if you’re not surviving and if you’re surviving without enjoying, what’s the point?

party hard
High-income countries have the highest prevalence of heavy episodic drinking (source).

That could explain why suicide is the tenth leading cause of death in the world. Globally, one million people commit suicide each year (source). 44,193 Americans commit suicide each year and of those, many are drug and alcohol related (source). 

Party on, Dude.

The trick is to enjoy, but not all enjoyment is equal. Behind the eyes of another is a consciousness that is as you are. The workings of another’s mind is reflected in words and actions. If you’re not enjoying, you could do some rewiring. Neurons that “fire together, wire together” (source). Everyone’s brain is capable of physical change.

Neurons firing at the same time develop a physical connection. Through self-awareness and mindful practice you can structure yourself sane, sensible, and not prone to weeping.

willow-tree

We all want to experience as many joy filled experiences as we can. Las Vegas and Disneyland were built on that desire. It’s why we love eating doughnuts (as opposed to just looking at them).

Let’s get started.

krispy-kremeIn this age of entertainment, where people are immersed in computer generated fantasy or escape through drugs and alcohol, it’s interesting to see that people are still singing, “I can’t get no satisfaction. ‘Cause I try and I try and I try,” like Mick Jagger (“Satisfaction”).

Why is there no satisfaction?

Everyone is searching for something but what that “something” is is sometimes uncertain. Watch reality TV and you’ll see how messed up people can be. It’s as if everyone should be assigned a psychologist at birth to guide them through life.

dogtherapist

The ancient Greeks proposed two opposing philosophical traditions for how to find happiness. Aristotle (384-322 BC) called them: (1) eudaimonia (you-day-monia)—right action leading to “well-being” and the “good life,” and (2) hedonic enjoyment—the pursuit of pleasure from sensual self-indulgence.

Eudiamonia combines “eumeaning “good” and “daimon” meaning “spirit” (“god” or “godlike”). Eudiamonia literally means “having a good guardian spirit”.

Socrate_daimon
Socrates’ daimon.

In psychology daimonic refers to one’s drive towards individuation—the things that distinguish you from everybody else.

Eudiamonia asks you to live in accordance with your daimon or “true self” and hedonism asks you to enjoy an experience where you believe you’re getting what you want and feel the pleasant affects of that belief (source).

But ideas change over time. Daemonic is now associated with a fiend motivated by a spiritual force that is evil, but daimonia is really about a feeling of unrest that forces you into an unknown that leads you to “self-destruction and/or self-discovery” (source).

the-impossibleIn “Two Conceptions of Happiness…” psychologist Alan S. Waterman writes, “The daimon is an ideal in the sense of being an excellence, a perfection toward which one strives and, hence, it can give meaning and direction to one’s life” (p. 678).

Socrates and Plato thought human beings wanted eudaimonia more than anything and Aristotle—that eudimoniac!—rejected hedonism saying, “The many, the most vulgar, seemingly conceive the good and happiness as pleasure… they appear completely slavish, since the life they decide on is a life for grazing animals” (Aristotle, 1985, p. 7).

But Epicurus—the hedonist who was like Jesus (Christians and Epicureans shared social practices)—put the two opposites together. He didn’t advocate pursuing any and every pleasure. He identified eudaimonia (the flourishing life) with the life of pleasure and freedom from distress (Eudaimonia).

To shape a state of mind that is eudaimonic, here’s what to do:

Mungo-Jerry-1970-In-The-Summertime

First, cultivate virtue through: (1) apatheia (literally “being without passions” like a stoic) and (2) ataraxia (literally being “without trouble” or “tranquillity” like a hedonist). Second, stop thinking like a critic. Third, sing, “Chh chh-chh, uh, chh chh-chh, uh. In the summertime, when the weather is hot. You can stretch right up and touch the sky” (“In the Summertime”).

The world—Reality—is a hand in your face waving, “Hey Dude! Wake up Dude! (Reality sounds a lot like Keanu Reeves). “See that sky? That’s me! See those trees? That’s me too, Dude! If you see the world, you’re in the world. You’re the world seeing itself! WHOA! That’s heavy, Dude.”

keanu

Reality answers every question. It speaks every minute. Even when you’re sleeping, reality sleeps with you. The wheels are in motion—spinning, spinning.

party on

Reality says,Feel the grass under your feet. Incredible, right? The reality of your feet and grass feeling is reality happening. You don’t have to believe there are flowers. There are flowers! There are hummingbirds, rhinoceros, butterflies and robins fluffing feathers under sprinklers.” 

But like in dream where all the roads are congested as you choke on exhaust feeling “stuck in the middle” on this “eve of destruction”, is there anything you can do? Of course there is!

Do nothing.

truck

It’s an effortless Chinese wu wei non-doing in harmony kind of thing. Practice not doing and enjoy yourself in not so doing. It doesn’t mean you’re a slug. It  means to sing, “Don’t worry about a thing because everything’s gonna be all right” (“Don’t Worry About A Thing”). Let muscular tension go. Relax and let time pass (see also: Enjoyment and Enlightenment and A New Way of Looking).

Just duck it. Duck it all anyway. Like a duck in a pond, float without purpose or boredom. Let your face go slack like an idiot and enjoy it. Float with euphoria and swim in living. The whole environment is the duck that’s in it.

“Quack. Quack.”

ducksFeel aware of yourself feeling aware in the world you’re in and like Daniel Boone sing, “Hey, hey, hey, it’s a beautiful day” (“Beautiful Sunday”).

Enjoy! Enjoy! Enjoy.

References

Aristotle. (1985). Nicomachean ethics. (T. Irwin, Trans.). Indianapolis,
IN: Hackett.

Waterman, A. S. (1990). Personal expressiveness: Philosophical and
psychological foundations. Journal of Mind and Behavior, 11,47-74.