This Time (and space-time) to Enjoy

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A dream (cue dreamy music):

“I was walking down a path in a misty forest and I came to a gate. A man at the gate said, ‘Correct, go in. Incorrect, stay out.’ I nodded agreement and the man said, ‘What is greater than God, more evil than the devil, the poor have it, the rich need it and if you eat it, you’ll die?’

I didn’t know. I said nothing. 

And the man said, ‘What is between Earth and moon?’

‘Nothing?’ I said—as if it were a question.

And the man said, ‘In our universe even a dark void of empty space absent of particles is still something,’ and in a blink, ten years passed—which seemed long (as far as blinks go).

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And the man said, ‘All matter is made of atoms and sub-atomic particles ruled by probability—not certainty. You consist of particlesParticles hover in a state of uncertainty, but you don’t. You remain solid. Why is that?’

‘Your experience of the world is constructed by sensory and cognitive capacities. Your understanding of reality is a mental representation—not reality itself—but you can experience reality directly and enjoy it immensely with a shift in perspective.’

‘Instead of thinking of yourself as a being in a world ‘out there’—as in, ‘me in a world outside me’—assume a more universal less egocentric perspective. Let your feeling of self extend.’

(The man was clearly insane.)

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‘The universe is defined as, “the totality of existing things…. everybody, all people, the whole world… all together, all in one, whole, entire, relating to all… turned into one…. One.”

And the man gave instructions for cosmic reflection:

‘Step One: let your senses fall victim to being here and now as it is. Be here as here being here. Feel the feeling of here. Be here like any other creature self-aware.’

Step Two: look at the space between things as connective. An invisible nothing connects everything into one big thing. We are as nothing—like spirits here and gone but we have one thing the universe needs to exist: Conscious awareness. Without conscious awareness, there is no reality. Reality rests on whether or not there are eyes open.’

And suddenly reality is the dream and the dream is reality.

And the man said, ‘You might wonder what’s going on in someone’s mind, but what is mind?’

And I said, ‘Your brain is a physical substance. It contains billions of neurons relaying electrical signals. Your mind is a product of signals fed by energy from the sun consumed in the form of plants and animals (aka food). Everything is entangled. Like Oliver Swofford said, “Glibby gloop gloopy. Nibby Nabby Noopy, La La La Lo Lo.”‘

And the man said, ‘How do you define a shoreline? Is it water or sand?’

It is both. (Duh.) 

And the man ignored my belligerence and said, ‘The inner working of your mind wash over the shore. You shape and mix yourself with the world.’

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‘We forget that our experience of self interconnects with the world. One’s inner world is relational to outer world as experienced. We think of our mind as a brain inside a skull as it is defined in space and time. As such, we are each like a peanut in a shell. We each feel separate. We might even think we don’t belong, but the peanut cannot be separated from its immediate world. We are part of each others’ lives. If you see your mind and the world as relational, there’s a shift in a sense of belonging.’

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‘The subjective world comes from one’s mind interacting with the outside world. One can’t disentangle one’s subjective view of the world from its interactions.’

‘One’s mind is not simply the perception of experiences but those experiences themselves.’

To sociologists, anthropologists and psychologists, our minds are extended by the effects we have upon others and others upon ourselves.

Thoughts are ethereal. Cloud-like. Invisible. Spiritual? Thoughts are gaseous abstractions floating free. We feel separate in conscious awareness but our mind is not just brain activity. Perceiving one’s mind as a product of brain functioning can make one feel alone. To appreciate the benefits of interrelations with the world, all one need do is open one’s mind to receive it as is without ambition or criticism.

That’s what this is about.

Einstein perceived space and time as interwoven into a single continuum known as space-time. In space-time events occurring at the same time for one observer could occur at different times for another (source).

If life is a full-bodied movie involving five senses, memories are flashbacks. Time itself is an emotional fourth dimension one moves around in.

(Or not.)

Bottom line?

Enjoy it.

 

Resources:

Quantum Theory – Full Documentary

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This

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Quick. There isn’t much time. Canadian researchers say human attention spans have dropped from 12 seconds in 2000 to 8 seconds in 2015—note: goldfish have 9 (source).

Cue happy music: George Harrison “What is life?”.

The point is… everyone—including you—is a character in a story. Your story has settings, plots and themes (the big ideas). You narrate your story to yourself. Your story begins and ends but of that ending you don’t know. According to science, when this is over you won’t know you don’t know (see scientific analysis: “What is life? Is death real?”).

From a first-person perspective this is itRight here and now—that’s all she wrote. But what if this first person perspective is not all there is?

If we are organic machines who seek meaning and/or diversion, does that make us each a one-man band self-contained like a water-balloon with big ideas in a world of sharp objects?

(Probably.)onemanband.gifYou can look at someone and see their story. You can tell what a person is thinking, feeling and intending. Science says it’s because we have mirror neurons in the brain, but in our hearts we know it’s because we “Walk the Line”.

penguinOn the one hand we have a strong sense of freedom—we believe we have free will—but on the other hand, we have a funny feeling that we could be mistaken.

Byron Reese, author of The Fourth Age, says it’s hard to account for free will given our two sets of natural laws: Newtonian physics—every cause has an effect—and Quantum theory—certain things are truly random (video source).

A scene in No Country for Old Men with a coin toss, a gas station clerk and a killer named Chigurh illustrates the paradox between random chance and a universe built on cause and effect.

Chigurh took a twenty-five cent piece from his pocket and flipped it spinning into the bluish glare of the fluorescent lights over head… Call it. Call it? Yes. For what? Just call it….I didn’t put nothin’ up. Yes you did. You’ve been putting it up your whole life. You just didn’t know it” (p. 56).

That’s what this is about.

The coin toss could symbolize fate—there’s a deeper meaning—or it could symbolize chance—there is no meaning. We think we have free will but isn’t every event the result of previous events and circumstances together with the laws of nature?

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Reality could be nothing but chance and circumstance or it could be following a path determined by previous events. The occurrence of things depends upon choices and actions but choices and actions could be determined just like everything else.

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Right here and now is what this is about. Relationships, responsibilities, stresses, distractions, habits and such like are fantastic—they make us who we are—but a first person perspective like you’d find in a novel or a movie separates us into a head-game that removes us from a happy feeling where there are no divisions.

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But with a click you can shift perspective from your self as the centre experiencing here, to here as the centre experiencing you.

You can see your story and yourself in it. You are the writer, actor and director. You are like a disembodied voice looking and seeing all that is there to be seen and seen in. And with this awareness comes a wonderful feeling of oneness—“Hapa he-eia”!

(See also “Step Into Enjoyment (take one)“.)

An explanation.

mindblownThe heart is made of heart cells. Heart cells on their own don’t have the property of pumping blood. Heart pumping is an emergent property of the whole heart. So too with consciousness.

It’s the sum of neurons that generates complex emotions. No single neuron holds complex information like self-awareness. It’s the sum of everything that makes the world. Like the keynote speaker in Fargo (season 2) said, “Try it. Try simply being.”  

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The whole is greater than the sum of the parts. You are the world aware. Now is experiencing you. Claiming that an individual heart cell can pump blood because the heart can or that a single neuron in the nervous system generates self-awareness is a fallacy of division.

As scholar Beth Dempster said, “process is interactive: “causes” generate behaviours, behaviours generate “causes”” (Smith 1993, p. 21) (source). Everything looks like it’s outside your body but things interconnect like a fourth dimension of space-time.

Figure 3.1 Human psyche as self-organizing system

If everyone is a story, you are a story but what happens when you see your story as a story? What happens when you interrupt the narration?

When you see everything as interconnected and experience the world with your senses without story-telling and ambition you can feel the ultimate enjoyment of oneness and simply enjoy “being.” That’s when you see humour and feel happy as a lark without fear.

You can tell by a person’s conduct whether or not that person has shifted perspective but it really comes down to feeling love for everything. That’s when you know your perspective has shifted. When you love everything, that’s when you say, “Wow! This really is quite awesome, thank you.”

That’s what this is about.

(Groovy.)

A Way of Seeing (Part 2)

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Must we discuss heavy topics such as truth, reality and the best way to live? Isn’t it enough to spend time doing interesting and pleasant things? Shouldn’t we be like young children, free of heavy thoughts and therefore lighthearted?

Isn’t it better to not know certain things? Like, isn’t it better to not know the feeling of cancer?

When we’re young,  death is something that happens to others—the old and infirm and/or unlucky—but then, one day (if it hasn’t happened already), a simple truth suddenly hits: Death happens to everyone—including you.

Put that in your pipe and smoke it.

cheat deathAs hard as it is to imagine, one day, there won’t be another. One day, nothing will happen and you won’t know what happened. You will be gone like those who have gone before you.

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You will join the non-existent and leave only remains but this reality need not cause anguish. There’s nothing you can do. Fuhgeddaboudit. Some people see death as an opportunity to “live every moment.” To them we say, “What! Are you crazy!”

“Just look!
Even the blossoms that are destined to fall tomorrow
Are blooming now in their life’s glory.” ~Takeko Kujo

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“Where does your face go after death? I do not know. Only the peach blossoms blow in the spring wind, This year just as last” ~ an  āgama sutra.

Maybe when you die it will be like before your parents were born. Maybe there’s a trick to this death truth.

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The difference between reality and truth is: “Reality has been existent ever since the beginning of the universe. On the other hand truth is something that you have proved ” (source). Reality is multidimensional. Things appear as they do to you based upon from ‘where’ you are looking. 

The “world” is a felt experience but like Wittgenstein said, “The world of the happy man is a different one from that of the unhappy man” (Tractatus Logico-philosophicus).

In answer to “What is the meaning of life?” Eckhart von Hochheim—aka Meister Eckhart (1260-1328)— said, “Whoever were to ask life for a thousand years: ‘Why do you live?’—if life could answer, it would say nothing but: ‘I live in order that I live’” (source).

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Caspar David Friedrich, Moonrise Over the Sea, 1822.

People have versions of reality that conceal certain aspects but to make the world a better place, it takes acceptance of all of reality and not just the bits we accept.

How a person responds to ethical principles determines that person’s character. For billions of people life means surviving. Life means eating, sleeping and eventually dying.

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The problem seems to be one of money: how to get, spend and save. It’s economics—oil prices, real estate, stocks, debt, GDP, jobs etc.. The purpose of life for billions of people is to get money.

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Then again, some people don’t care too much for money.

Some people see being creative as their life purpose but regardless of what you think your purpose is (if you have one), you probably don’t mind feeling happy.

As Kurt Vonnegut wrote in A Man Without a Country, “And I urge you to please notice when you are happy, and exclaim or murmur or think at some point, ‘If this isn’t nice, I don’t know what is.’”
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Positive psychologists Seligman and Royzman (2003) identified three types of theories of happiness: Hedonism, Desire, Objective List and Authentic Happiness. Which theory you subscribe to (knowingly or not) has implications for how you live your life.

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Hedonism theory mantra: “Go for it! What the hell!”

Hedonism theory is about maximizing pleasure and minimizing pain. It’s a popular theory. It’s all the rage. Seligman and Royzman (2003) object to it however. They say it can’t handle someone like philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein who lived in misery but died saying, “Tell them it was wonderful!” (source).

Desire theory counters Hedonism by saying that it isn’t about pleasure: it’s about the fulfilment of desire that makes us happy. But again Seligman and Royzman object, saying, if one’s desire is to collect dolls, no matter how satisfying it is to have a big little doll collection, it doesn’t add up to a happy life.

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Desire theory mantra: “I want that!” Image: Celebrity collections.

Countering Hedonism and Desire theories is the Objective List theory. It focuses on “happiness outside of feeling and onto a list of “truly valuable” things in the real world” such as career, relationships, service to community etc., but again Seligman and Royzman object, saying, a happy life must take feelings and desires into account.

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Oxford philosopher Derek Parfit’s “Objective List” Lecture

Seligman and Royzman point to Authentic Happiness theory saying, “there are three distinct kinds of happiness: the Pleasant Life (pleasures), the Good Life (engagement), and the Meaningful Life”  (Authentic Happiness). It’s positive psychology. It’s all the rage. But even if Authentic Happiness covers all bases theoretically, there’s a more deeply rooted problem.

Cross section of soil showing a tree with its roots.

Any quest for happiness through positive psychology is one-sided and self-centred. It’s essentially an unrewarding vision of a full human life because it’s still about another “me” feeling better.

Cue music: Primal Scream “Loaded”.

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Sorry! And the Nature of Suffering,” Existential Comics.

Look at a candle burning. It gives light and heat as long as it burns wax. It lives on wax. It dies as wax wanes. Humans are like candles. We are chemicals. We die as our time wanes and each generation carries our species one step further in time.

how a person is like a candle
A person is like a candle.

sunflowerEach moment must pass away for us to live another. Death is a continuous process.

Living things die as they live but we prefer not to notice.

We’d rather not focus on those who die before us but on the days and nights left to us (see: The Light of Enjoyment and/or Death Clock). But then, maybe being greedy for the pleasure of living isn’t good either.

In Human Minds Margaret Donaldson writes of a man who could put one hundred rattlesnakes into a bag in twenty-eight seconds. The act illustrates something fundamental about humans: We form unique purposes that we pursue with tenacity. If strong feelings are attached, we’ll even die or kill or perhaps maim in pursuit of our purpose.

We share with other animals certain urges—hunger, sexual desire and musicality—but as Margaret Donaldson writes in Human Minds, “it is characteristic of us that we are capable of transcending these urges, though not easily” (p. 8).

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When something that was interesting suddenly isn’t, people get bored. People get angry and argue with others and themselves. The trouble with arguments of self-wanting is that, not only are they self-centred, they’re self-sustaining.

Donaldson says that coming up with a purpose for our lives is easy “because we have brains that are good at thinking of possible future states,” (p. 9) but it is in self-focused single-mindedness that we’re apt to misinterpret reality.

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We feel satisfied when we dispel an illusion but if the illusion serves a purpose, we don’t  want it dispelled. Consider the world of Walter White in the TV show Breaking Bad.

walterwhitesaymyname.gifAt the prospect of death Walter corrupts his morals for money. He thinks ‘ends justify means,’ and finds himself enjoying money and power. Money and power become his purpose.

He becomes poster child for materialism and ego. The Double Whammo. “Say my name.”

Materialism is either a preoccupation with the material world—as opposed to intellectual and/or spiritual—or it’s the theory that everything in the universe is matter. We’re surrounded by matter so it seems only natural that we should be distracted from spiritual and/or intellectual pursuits, but what if problems are caused by materialism and/or ego?

What then?

 

A Way of Seeing To Enjoy (Part 1)

Knowing is equated with seeing. If you see the light, it could mean that you see a light blinking on a radio tower or it could mean that you know something that makes you see everything different. It could mean both.

Philosophy is equated with thinking. Religion is equated with feeling. Today, like the physicist David Bohm, “we hold several points of view, in a sort of active suspension” (Dialogue). Like poet William Blake, (“To see a World in a Grain of Sand, And a Heaven in a Wild Flower“) and philosophers Søren Kierkegaard—we see the ‘eternal in the temporal’—and Ludwig Wittgenstein we say, “how extraordinary that anything should exist” (Lecture on Ethics).

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Bertrand Russell and Ludwig Wittgenstein; from Logicomix (2008) by Apostolos Doxiadis, illustrated by Alecos Papadatos

Today we feel stoic acceptance of what the world throws at us. We say like Wittgenstein, “I am safe, nothing can injure me whatever happens” (Lecture on Ethics). With a “Click!” we connect to an awareness that leaves us feeling strangely lighthearted—for no apparent reason.

This feeling could best be described as “Self Actualization” (à la psychologist Abraham Maslow) or as an “oceanic feeling” of limitlessness and oneness with the entire human race and universe (à la mystic Romain Rolland) or it could be just one of those things. “What’s for supper?”

Today we go from a narrow self-centred perspective to a wider view of the world in its totality. We are ‘disturbed by joy’ like William Wordsworth a few miles above Tintern Abbey:

“…I have felt a presence that disturbs me with joy
Of elevated thoughts; a sense sublime
Of something far more deeply interfused,
Whose dwelling is the light of suns,
and the round ocean and the living air,
and the blue sky, and in the mind of man:…” (source)

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1804. Tintern Abbey by William Havell (source).

Religious belief and the lack thereof could be understood not as rival theories but as different ways of seeing. If a believer and an atheist look at a picture and one says it’s hideous and the other says it’s lovely, who’s right? who’s wrong?

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Ludwig Wittgenstein (1889-1951)

Wittgenstein saw religion not as theoretical but as a ‘collection of pictures’ reinforcing rules of life in the form of morality and a way of living that is itself what is eternal (Culture and Value, 1980). If someone taps into that eternal by living it’s ideal, one is living and being the eternal for a time like a leaf on a tree that is seasonal.

The world is factual. Facts are identifiable by science but facts can’t answer why you are here.

Like Wittgenstein said, “We feel that even if all possible scientific questions be answered, the problems of life have still not been touched” (Lecture on Ethics).

The philosopher Jean-Paul Sarte concluded in The Transcendence of the Ego that, “The World has not created the me: the me has not created the World” (p.105) but these two things are connected in a consciousness that is spontaneous. Sarte wrote, “Consciousness is always ‘of something‘, and therefore defined in relation to something else. It has no nature beyond this and is thus completely translucent” (source).

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Some people picture a soul as translucent—as a kind of a ‘thing’—but not Wittgenstein. He said that if you look at soul language in religion, soul is not pictured as a thing but as integrity (which is equally invisible). So if someone says, “He sold his soul for money” or “He sold his soul to the devil” it really means that he’s become materialistic. He has no deep moral sense and moral sense, as we know, is not visible and immaterial.

A man may have everything but feel horribly afraid of what’s coming. A good man, however, enjoying a good way—tried, true and eternal through himself and those who live after—why, he has nothing to fear. Ever.

No matter what.

He can be light as a feather. He is not chained by anything material. He can never be judged as having lived a futile life even if he dies poor and unknown and didn’t do very much. After all, what does a sparrow do? What are flamingos for?

flamingo

According to Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, a person can’t get to the highest level of “self-actualization” without making it by lower level needs such as food, sex and security.

Please note: some people can blast up to their highest potential without need of basics, but they are rare like hen’s teeth.  

To be self-actualized is to be unafraid of the unknown, untroubled by ambiguity and triviality, Self-aware, Accepting weaknesses while developing strengths, living a “meaningful life” by having a purpose that goes above and beyond one’s self to a greater good (see: Self Actual).

maslow-pyramid

If you were asked, “Do you understand the difference between thinking and being?” what would you say?

Understanding the difference between thinking and being is like when police catch someone in the act of a crime and say, “What do you think you’re doing!” which is another way of saying, “How stupid are you?

This is the exact moment when the cop and the criminal give their collective heads a shake. Most people (most of the time) see the world from inside a self-enclosed bubble of preoccupied thoughts that shape how the world is perceived. But this way of seeing is limiting because it sees a world perceived through language and opinion.

When a person with soul (and a clear conscience, if possible) wakes up, looks around and says full of happiness, “This is a miracle!” he isn’t just describing an event. It’s really his reaction to something significant that he is being, enjoying and becoming.

The Point of Enjoyment

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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?

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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.

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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.”

 

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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 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.

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.

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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).

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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”.

slipping and falling.gif

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.