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”.)

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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 too 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. We know it ’tis! Suffering is part of the game to be enjoyed without masochism. Allow suffering to be there without trying to forget or escape. It moves to the periphery and you feel bliss filled in the centre because you’re 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 the opposite? It is funny, light and playful!

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”). What if you could see finite games for what they are?

wascana-park

The truth is, most of what we think of as important actually 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 trying to change it. Let your day rock and roll as it will. Recognize what you can and can’t do. 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. 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 be a catch phrase just for homicidal maniacs.

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Enjoy a Funny Feeling

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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.

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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).

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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.

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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.

Stop Looking And Enjoy Seeing

Sky2Millions of people have provided millions of words of advice about how to live a better life to millions of people who consume that advice then ignore it completely. Nobody really wants to hear what they “should” be doing. It insults the ego. Advice can feel like criticism and advisers can look like self-serving know-it-alls (and they usually are).

As John Steinbeck said in The Winter of Our Discontent (1961), “Nobody wants advice, only corroboration.” This could be cynical—people want cherry-picked evidence to support their behaviour (see also: The Enjoyment Argument)—or it could be practical—people want facts, not opinion.

factsandopinion

Advisers in fashion, lifestyle and spiritual enlightenment industries disguise opinion in palatable platitudes like: “it is what it is”, “nobody’s perfect”, “just be yourself” and “strength is something you choose,” but such generic truisms are meaningless thought-terminators.

Rhonda Byrne made millions telling people how their thoughts create reality through the law of attraction (LOA). It’s ironic that with big money Byrne attracted big lawsuits from colleagues who said she was greedy (source). As Lily Tomlin said, “No matter how cynical you become, it’s never enough to keep up.”

pants on fire

LOA takes “mind over matter” and “the power of positive thinking” and turns it magical. Think positive, good things happen—think Lamborghini and get one—think negative thoughts, bad things happen.

quantumworld

But LOA is slippery. A child gets cancer. She thinks positive but still dies young. Is it because she didn’t think positive enough? Or is it, “Just one of those things?”

In Psychology Today (May 2016)  Neil Farber said that LOA doesn’t exist. It’s a blame the victim game but to question its validity is blasphemy to believers.

When spiritual author Eckhart Tolle (aka Ulrich Leonard Tölle) talks about a sense of presence or “beingness” that watches and about the peace of being a no self watching, 35 million subscribers to Eckhart Tolle TV paid to see his no self talking.

youthinkitseasy

When Tolle says, “the present moment is all you really have,” and, “life is the dancer and you are the dance,” it puts the pressure on. Not only might you not enjoy the present moment but you don’t feel like dancing.

When asked, “How can we drop negativity, as you suggest?” Tolle replied, “By dropping it.” 

It’s just that easy!” as they say. Strolling with Tolle is like singing “Trololo” with Eduard Anatolyevich Khil (1934-2012).

When a motivational speaker like Tony Robbins says, “We can do, have, and be exactly what we wish,” you might be disappointed if your wish to be like Tony is thwarted. If you have debts, no money and no job, what then? If your brain tumor is growing, now what?

“It is what it is,” as they say.  “Just be yourself.”

Are you a man living in a van dreaming you’re a millionaire like Tony Robbins or are you a millionaire like Tony Robbins dreaming you’re a man living in a van? (Cue: Twilight Zone Theme).

People want reality to match their wanting but reality is…reality. Like a sparrow that is regarded, “There’s a sparrow,” so too does a man get labelled as the group he’s in. He becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy from a link between belief and behaviour. Behaviour influenced by expectations causes those expectations to come true.

respect for reality

In “Grid and Group Cultural Theory” anthropologist Mary Douglas (1921-2007) put “group” (the type of group) and “regulation” (how much a group affects your life) into a chart and came up with four incompatible types of social control that mix and mingle. Look at the chart and ask yourself where you fit in.

grid and cultural theory

–Upper left is “Isolate”. Isolates attract no attention. No one asks their opinion. These are the culturally isolated—prisoners, servants, soldiers, those who are supervised, the very poor, hermits and monks.

–Upper right is “Positional”. This is a society biased towards tradition and order in which one’s role and behaviour is governed by position within a hierarchy.

–Bottom right is “Enclave”. Includes religious and cultural sects outside main society. Sects have no ranking or grading rules between members. Leaders say outsiders are evil.

–Bottom left is the “Individualist”. Extreme individualists have no group controls or regulation except for market competition. Individuals are only concerned with private benefit.

This sketch of a theory can help a person to understand and enjoy one’s species and the social and psychological manipulations of humans. When the next person speaks, see if you can hear a group talking. Within each group we conform ourselves to match other members.

Words are symbols. They’re like the brain’s “filter” for comprehending reality. Imagine standing somewhere and looking up at stars. In words you stand “here,” somewhere in the “universe,” and you look “out there,” but every time you think, “What’s beyond that?” you come up with…more words.

pendulumEach of us swings like “Bob” on a pendulum born at a point of suspension.

The amplitude (distance of a swing from the not moving equilibrium) depends on the length of your string (years lived) and energy exerted.

The trick is to let a bad time pass like unpleasant gas as you focus on a good time that was and wait for the next pendulum swing.

Geneticist Juan Enriquez said that an apple is like a computer application—it receives energy from the sun and when the input is sufficient, it executes DNA code and falls from the tree (Life Code Will Reshape Future). Imagine that you know the code and then go outside and look around. Forget politics, theories and worries and in stillness, silence and love, see “life” as purposeful, interconnected and intelligent.

Imagine that, “Only human,” doesn’t apply to you.

switch.gifInstead of seeing yourself as a “true man” with self and group affiliation who will drop bombs when deemed necessary, see the big picture and rise above human. Like the sociologist Max Weber look at what’s in your head as the way to a better life. Instead of looking for what you want, see what’s really there.

With practice you can “Click” a mental switch from feeling life is horrific to beatific. Like a time traveler in a body that remembers and predicts, you are as Manfred Mann put it, “You are the sign between the high road and the low road. You are – you are [fading]” (“You Are – I am”).

If you think of what truly is, it goes beyond reason. What truly “is” clenches you in the gut without explanation. Imagine two people living similar lives in different places. One is happy, the other isn’t and the only thing at variance is their attitude. It isn’t much, but in case you haven’t heard, “Attitude is everything.”

Summer Triangle Thru Trees

References

Taylor, K. (2006). Brainwashing: The Science of Thought Control. OUP Oxford.

 

Step Into Enjoyment (take one)

elevator door
The old joke goes, “A salesman tells an American that he has a new invention that will do half his work for him. The American replies, ‘Great. Give me two.‘”

Suppose a person named Emerson, of whom you’re familiar (and avoid), is in an elevator that you enter. “Oh great,” you think without pleasure. This is the last person you want to meet, but it’s too late to turn around. Emerson smiles brightly. You do likewise, but dimly. In Emerson’s eyes you see the sting of your dislike which makes you dislike even more. It’s not that Emerson is a bad person—just boring, an innocent, a nerd.

Stepping into the elevator, you assume the position: facing the door watching floor numbers count down—14…12…11…. And you think, “Why is this elevator so slow?”

Hawaiian music comes from a speaker in the ceiling. “That’s Gabby Pahinui singing “Hi`ilawe”,” says Emerson. “Oh, really?” you feign interest, roll your eyes and then, something remarkable happens.

In a beautiful voice Emerson sings “Hi`ilawe” in English,

waterfall3

All eyes are on Hi`ilawe
In the sparkling lowlands of Maukele
I escape all the birds
Chattering everywhere in Waipio.
I am not caught
For I am the mist of the mountains.
Waterfall,
Nothing can harm me at all.
My world is so very small
With my waterfall I can see
My rainbow calling me
Through the misty breeze
Of my waterfall.”

The song ends and you are hit by silence and stillness. Time is suspended between now and later, like the elevator that is suspended between up and down.

A fog of indifference lifts. Emerson’s lack of guile disarms social defenses. In an instant you know yourself and forget yourself. You see and hear—not as “you” seeing, but as “seeing” itself—as a body-and-mind seeing, you grasp things directly (see also Enjoy a Perfect World).

slothhappy

You feel giddy and silly as you and Emerson laugh. You wake up to the moment. You feel the space around you as if it’s a ghostly solid connecting everything together. You feel yourself inside a body that has an outside appearance that’s inside an elevator that’s inside a building that’s outside on a street and inside a biosphere.

And you wonder: “If everything has an inside with an outside that’s inside something else, where does it begin? where does it end? The experience of experiencing yourself experiencing feels like an awakening! 

In school Emerson was voted least likely to succeed. Like the Invisible Boy in the movie Mystery Men (1999), Emerson is invisible because no one is looking. It’s a power developed after years of being ignored.

mai tai2
“A drunk man’s words are a sober man’s thoughts.”

And a new thought occurs: Why not be nice to Emerson? It won’t hurt. Maybe it’s from the music or the wine you had with dinner (or the Mai Tai before), but right now you feel a loving warm glow for all the Emersons in the world.

So you smile. It is your gift. You give generously with your teeth.

You realize that you are not a mind attached to a body and neither is Emerson.

You are just two human beings in a world dancing without moving as you fall through space in Hawaiian time.

You once saw Emerson try to talk to people. Emerson quoted the philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer who said, “The ox does not butt because it happens to have horns; it has horns because it intends to butt” (A Perplexed Philosopher, p. 154). People looked at one another as if Emerson were a talking houseplant.

Unfazed, Emerson held up a pen saying, “I don’t write because I have a pen. I have a pen because I intend to write! It’s a matter of will that I am what I do! I don’t enjoy being Emerson because life is enjoyable. I enjoy being Emerson because it is my intention that life be enjoyable! All that we are and will ever be is an intention. We fly in jets because people contributed intelligent effort towards that intention. With intention and will, we devise ways to make our want happen.”

Someone said something stupid (and it wasn’t “I love you” like Frank and Nancy Sinatra) and everyone wandered away talking about their day. Emerson stood like a statue listening to a song no one could hear and then went invisible.

On the ground floor as the doors are opening, Emerson says, “Do you mind if I ask you a question?” and then, without being given permission asks, “Do you enjoy being you?” 

Of course you do! (Don’t you?) What a stupid question! You have to enjoy being yourself! If you don’t enjoy being you, you can’t enjoy! (Can you?) It’s like what the great Sammy Davis Jr said in song, “Whether I’m right or whether I’m wrong. Whether I find a place in this world or never belongI gotta be me! I’ve gotta be me! What else can I be but what I am?”

In this world increasingly crowded, where people become traffic and virtual reality is deemed more desirable than the physical, in anonymity we assimilate into social functions like machines in a hurry as we crush nature and lose a sense of being in the world.

As William Barrett, author of Irrational Man (1958) observed, it is from one’s being in the world in the most mundane, factual and ordinary sense that we feel aware (William Barrett Interview, 1978).

existential GPSThat we split reality between observer and observed isn’t obvious. We’re often on auto-pilot, thinking thoughts that may or may not be stupid, but sometimes—on vacation, while washing dishes or doing nothing, in a relaxed moment—we emerge from being babies in a baby world to feeling aware of our self being here in this world!

Much of life’s unfolding is beyond our controlling. One thing happens, then another, and another, in an interconnected chain of consequences like a Rube Goldberg (1883-1970) machine, until one day, without awareness, nothing happens and you stop waking up.

Today we plant donut seeds in the form of Cheerios. We do what our Mamas and Pappas told us when they sang, “Do what you want to do. Go where you want to go” (“Go Where You Wanna Go”).

listen to a sea shellToday we celebrate you! We celebrate you, not to be egotistical, narcissistic, solipsistic or to show you how equally equal you are with 7.5 billion other people (according to a Worldometer).

We celebrate you “being in the world” so that you can feel as happy as Tommy (aka Roger Daltrey in The Who musical) singing “I’m Free” after he’s healed from not seeing, feeling and hearing.

keystokingdom
Knock, knock. Who’s there? ‘Doris.’ Doris who? ‘Doris locked, that’s why I knocked.’

Sensory awareness is a key. Sensory awareness isn’t about holding something like a key as a means to the instrumental task of opening a door. Sensory awareness is to be drawn to a particular aspect, like a key’s shiny metal, its cool texture, or lovely “Click” when it opens a door.

Sensory awareness is when you take a call from nature and hear yourself hearing. Everyone has sensory awareness, but not everyone engages in sensations thousands of times a day, but such is the intention of a lover of wisdom. Sometimes all it takes is an absence of hurry.

Enjoyment, World Peace… and Something Else—Guaranteed!

candle smokeLet’s mash it. Let’s smash it. Let’s get creative! The meaning of life is in what you make it. Let’s juxtapose a few things. See what happens. Incongruecies can be funny. To smile, to laugh, per chance to enjoy.

Lester Burnham, played by Kevin Spacey in the movie American Beauty (1999), said, “Remember those posters that said, ‘Today is the first day of the rest of your life‘? Well, that’s true of every day but one—the day you die.” In his closing narration, Lester describes meaningful experiences in his life. Despite his death, Lester is happy because there’s “so much beauty” in the world.

americanbeauty1
Lester watching stars (final scene.)

The phrase ‘Today is the first day of the rest of your life‘ comes from 1960’s wisdom. It now appears in The Walking Dead as, “To our newest undead recruits. Good moaning. Today is the first day of the rest of your afterlife.” 

Kinda funny (not really).

The blogger Craig McKee lists 57 zombie and doomsday movies that came out from 2000 to 2015 (source). To McKee these movies tell us that “living in peace, co-operation, and connectedness with others on this planet is an illusion, a luxury we can’t afford when survival is on the line. In the end, it’s eat or be eaten. The message is that we must be suspicious of each other, mistrustful of each other, isolated from each other, and when it comes down to it, we have to struggle against each other to survive.”

the walking dead.jpg

McKee refers to “predictive programming.” It’s a theory about the use of entertainment to “introduce planned societal changes.” Regardless of the theory’s validity, a steady diet of mistrust, fear and violence might not be good. As Kurt Vonnegut said, “We are what we pretend to be, so we must be careful about what we pretend to be” (Mother Night).

Science tells us is that violence is transmitted like a disease (source). Violence begets violence but you can create a world where violence is rare by not being violent. Picture a beautifully interconnected world of trees, birds and flowers, “Tweet, tweet.” Now make a wish and blow out the candle. Wish for world peace, then make it happen.

Don’t look for problems or make complications. Be a wish fulfilled by your actions. Life is a celebration (see also: Enjoy an Interlude). Life is a religious experience. Death isn’t. The only thing we know about death is that it stinks.

walking dead2

When you know that the feeling of consciousness within you is the same as in all you’s including non-human animals, you won’t be bullied or bamboozled into hurting another “you” (like you) and world peace is guaranteed!

People will argue that it’s a crazy idea. Of course, it’s overly simplistic. Enjoying not harming is ridiculous because the world is complicated and people are too self-interested and won’t do it, but therein is the key! Not doing and self-interest are integral! Not doing is easy! World peace is as easy as watching grass grow! Now curl your toes in fun and enjoy it!

Nature happens gloriously as we occupy ourselves in fantasy, mechanized, digital, virtual or otherwise.

groucho
“The problem with doing nothing is you never know when you’re finished” Groucho.

Wide-eyed awareness of one’s mind expanded is the answer. If the past was about groups, mobs, gangs, religions and nations clashing for control, the future belongs to the individual.

It is as the Three Musketeers said, “All for one and one for all on this ecologically interconnected ball we men with big hats and flouncy pants call the world!”

Cue music.

Through enjoyment we make the world better for everyone by not hurting anyone. Life is rare. Our forays into space have said as much.

frank cannon
“I can’t help that. I’ve been chubby all my life” – Frank Cannon, Private Eye.

Like a giddy child, happy in a world of fun, let’s proceed with our Philosophy of Enjoyment investigation. Is there anyone who wouldn’t want to live a happy and enjoyable life—free and healthy, having fun, finding love, doing exciting things, having friends, eating, sleeping, procreating?

Let’s ask: Why are people baffled and baffling? Why is happiness elusive? Why is self-awareness lacking and ignorance in surplus?

keaton3.gif
“Silence is of the gods; only monkeys chatter… Life is too serious to do farce comedy” – Buster.

To explain why the world is as it is, the political philosopher Slavoj Žižek (1949- )—a fun Slovenian if ever there was one—takes the idea that individuals are always “split” between what we consciously know and can say about stuff, and the unconscious beliefs we hold of “the big Other” (authority figures and the regime we’re under).

Slavoy zigzags between knowledge and belief saying that we don’t know what “the essence” of “their people” is but our beliefs are decisive (source).

zizek-lowcard
Rub-A-Dub-Dub, Slavoj pontificates in a tub: “The one measure of true love is: you can insult the other… If you have reasons to love someone, you don’t love them.”

Knowledge is objective truth. Belief is subjective truth. Knowledge is thought true because it’s independent of circumstances. Belief is an idea held as true to the individual who holds it but not necessarily to everyone (see also: The Enjoyment Argument).

If you know something is true then you must believe it, but just because you believe it does not make it true! We think in terms of self and other (one or the other) but we’re one togetherlike one cell in the 37 trillion that make up a human, so you are to the world (source).

The existence of another (a not-self) allows us each to recognize our own self, as in: “Yoo-hoo, I see you! I don’t control your body or hear your thoughts. You are separate. You are not me. Therefore, I am me” (Schalk, 2011).

self and other

The self/other (one or the other) division is how a modern person understands who she, he, they is by recognizing what s/he/they is not! But what happens when you identify yourself with another or when you behave differently than you typically act causing you to appear as other to yourself?

Reality is not a matter of consensus. As the author Johann von Goethe (1749-1832) said, “Behaviour is the mirror in which everyone shows their image.”

The Good Humor Man
Enjoy good humor and Jonathan’s wisdom.

Sociologist Niklas Luhmann (1927-1998) said that there is no reality without the colour of our wishes and fear. “Reality is what one does not perceive when one perceives it” (source).

Your mission, should you choose to accept it (hear that music!), is to start a nuclear fusion of enjoyment worldwide (with or without ice cream). You can perceive reality differently by consciousness-raising right here.

Right now.

It’s a gentle click of understanding when you enjoy reality imagined.

Rainbows, Religious Experience and Nerf Warfare

rainbow
“In the desert, you can remember your name” (“A Horse With No Name”)

In the 1915 novel, The Rainbow, writer D. H. (don’t call be David—call me “Herb”) Lawrence  (1885-1930) tells of a young man named Tom Brangwen who has a shift in consciousness during a moment of irritation with a child.

Lydia Brangwen, Tom’s wife, is in labour and her four-year old daughter, Anna, gets upset. Tom and Tilly, a cross-eyed housekeeper, can’t stop Anna from crying for her mother. When Tom lifts the girl’s body, “Its stiff blindness made a flash of rage go through him. He would like to break it” (p. 79).

rage.jpgAnna is “a little, mechanical thing of fixed will,” and Tom is “blind, and intent, irritated into mechanical action” (p. 78). They are blind and mechanized. Cut off. Disconnected. Tom is angry and Anna won’t stop crying. Each is alone to the other. Hostility evaporates their empathy. Tom doesn’t care what she wants and Anna doesn’t care what he wants.

We’ve all been there. Emotions veto reason. Anger kills happiness like car sickness kills enjoyment of scenery. They call it a loss of self-control but it’s more like a self trying to control what it can’t!

tom
Tom rages.

Lawrence describes a loss of self-control as feeling bewitched by moods, drowning in floods and being possessed by demons (Sanders, 1974). Popular culture stemming from religious images uses devils and angels to symbolize a good self who puts others first and a bad self who puts himself first.

devil HomerJoe Campbell said that, “Every god, every mythology, every religion, is true in this sense: it is true as metaphorical of the human and cosmic mystery. He who thinks he knows doesn’t know. He who knows that he doesn’t know, knows” (“Masks of Eternity”).

It’s simple, really: get what you want—enjoy; don’t get what you want—don’t enjoy. The real trick is in the “what” that is wanted. It’s in the wanting/satisfying dichotomy that people go off kilter. 

Tom wanted Anna to stop crying but she couldn’t. He wanted something he couldn’t provide because Anna controls her crying. Tom was alone in his wanting and a wall went up between himself and reality.

What happens when you want something you simply can’t provide?

NerfBownArrowBox

BONK!” Like a Nerf arrow falling from the sky, a thought hits Tom square in the head:

What did it all matter? What did it matter if the mother talked Polish and cried in labour, if this child were stiff with resistance, and crying? Why take it to heart? Let the mother cry in labour, let the child cry in resistance, since they would do so. Let them be as they were, if they insisted. Why should he fight against it, why resist? Let it be, if it were so” (p. 79).

With this thought, Tom is freed. He’s released from wanting/getting. He accepts what is. No expectations. No disappointment. He sees Anna’s sad face as if for the first time. She is herself and not an object of his vexation. He feels life creating and has a “let it be” feeling way before Paul McCartney’s dreaming (see: Enjoy Knowing in the Rain).

Tom carries Anna outside, through the rain, and into the barn. He cradles her with one arm and feeds the cows with the other. Anna grows quiet. They sit listening to animals eating and Tom enjoys a “timeless silence”.

The lantern shed a soft, steady light from one wall. All outside was still in the rain. He looked down at the silky folds of the paisley shawl. It reminded him of his mother. She used to go to church in it. He was back again in the old irresponsibility and security, a boy at home” (p. 116).

Later that night he steps outside, lifts his face to the rain and feels, “the darkness striking unseen and steadily upon him… and he was overcome. He turned away indoors, humbly. There was the infinite world, eternal, unchanging, as well as the world of life” (p. 118).

rain on windowReligion and philosophy are guides. Where religion has rituals, philosophy doesn’t. Where religion has supernatural beliefs and a concept of faith (a belief in something without evidence), philosophy doesn’t.

Philosophy will only believe in something if it’s proven to be true by way of reason, but what is proven by way of reason in Tom’s experience with irritation, cows, a mother, sad child, and silence?

Nothing. Everything. Tom straddles a line between philosophy and religion. He enters a zone of enjoyment where practicalities give way to feelings of “stillness and rain” that are not easy to grasp.

science_and_religion_900x506

Tom’s shift in consciousness is significantly ordinary and superlatively natural. He breathes as a boy and feels those old violins play “Try To Remember”. It could be described as a religious experience simply because it’s profound.

But religion is tricky. People are funny when they get serious.

God cartoon

Evangelical theologian Michael Dowd thinks, “God is a personification, not a person” (source). In Faces in the Clouds (1993) Stewart Guthrie says that religion is best understood as anthropomorphism and all images and concepts of God are interpretations and personifications. To personify is to see inanimate objects and living things as having human traits, intentions and feelings, but the thing about reality is that it’s real regardless of perception.

thought and emotionScience fiction writer Philip K. Dick (1928-1982) said, “Reality is that which, when you stop believing in it, doesn’t go away” (1978).

Between self and other and thought and feeling, we interrelate, interconnect and go round and round each other within our blip of time.

Birth and death, cycles of nature, forces of the universe—they’re real. We can’t always predict what will happen but reality freed of expectation is a revelation.

Poet Omar Khayyám (1048-1131) wrote: “We are no other than a moving row, Of Magic Shadow-shapes that come and go”…

Omar Khayyám
Illustration by Adelaide Hanscom.

“Ah, make the most of what we yet may spend, Before we too into the Dust descend; Dust into Dust, and under Dust, to lie, Sans Wine, sans Song, sangs Singer, andsans End!…

Oh, threats of Hell and Hopes of Paradise! One thing at least is certain—This Life flies”… 

My rule of life is to drink and be merry. To be free from belief and unbelief is my religion” (Ruba’iyat).

In this life we are, on the one hand, a self-creation, and on the other, an affiliation. One’s secret self, unique and separate from all others, is a self directed chemical reaction like “La Vie En Rose”. When everything is rosy and cheerful to you, a state of bliss from everything around you is a source of joy.

To Lawrence, a lack of “natural awe” and “natural balance” is a sign of the breakdown of modern life. Problems start at a subconscious level so we need to explore a new world of lovenot to dictate imperativesbut to feel.

“The final aim of every living thing, creature, or being is the full achievement of itself…[So] the day is richer for a poppy, the flame of another phoenix is filled in to the universe, something is which was not… And I wish it were true of us. I wish we were all like kindled bonfires on the edge of space, marking out advance-posts.” (“Study of Hardy”, Phoenix, p. 403).

poppy

You are the one who sees blackness behind closed eyes. You are a secret other to another and another is a secret other to you.  Your self is like a nut within a shell that is the universe universing.

russian dollA shift in consciousness towards acceptance, contentment and awareness like Tom Brangwen’s could happen to anyone, anywhere, anytime—even you, even here, even right this second!

BONK!

 

References

Guthrie, S. (1993). Faces in the Clouds A New Theory of Religion. Oxford University Press. Available online: as a pdf.

Lawrence, D.H. (1915). The Rainbow. Penguin Books. Available online: The Project Guttenberg Ebook of The Rainbow.

Panichas, G.A. (1964). Adventures in Consciousness: The meaning of D.H. Lawrence’s Religious Quest. Mouton & Co.

Sanders, S. (1974). D.H. Lawrence: the world of the five major novels. Viking Press.

The Treasure of Life to Enjoy

treasureWhat does it mean to enjoy? Let’s get right to it. Is it just a matter of having a “Good Time”? Is that what this about? Have fun? Take it easy. It’s a no brainer. Enjoy yourself. End of story. Why make it complicated?

keep it simple2Most people would probably recommend that you relax, take a deep breath and enjoy doing whatever you do. Enjoy a show. Enjoy theme parks. Enjoy eroticism and angry comedy. Enjoy texting, surfing, skiing and skipping. Lift weights. Get religious. Eat protein supplements. Water slide. Run on or off treadmills. Get a dog—carry a bag for poo.

Shop.

bucket of wine2Adopt a highway. Go Buddhist. Do yoga. Go churchy. Take classes in mindfulness and meditation. Play video games. Fight death. Enjoy the pure satisfaction of a lush green lawn from fertilizer. Doesn’t matter what you enjoy as long as you keep busy—so goes society’s mass mentality.

Jump from airplanes (with parachute and/or helmet). Climb mountains. “Follow your dreams.” Doesn’t matter what you do—as long as you do something.

Industries are dedicated to providing the highest quality products and services for you to enjoy. If you work hard enjoyment’s, “Easy peasey!” as they say—whoever they are.

Green-peas-in-wooden-bowl.jpg
Peas be with you.

Put on a Life is Good® t-shirt and jiggle as you walk to “I Love to Boogie” by T-Rex. (Note: Life is Good® is a registered trademark). Doesn’t matter if people find you irritating. Who cares? Smile to spite them. Stay positive. Ignore negativity.

life is goodMaybe all you need is a six-pack of Pabst Blue ribbon, a fishing rod and a beautiful day. Or, if you’re a real man’s man, all you need is an outlet mall and a blow-out sale on fashion and accessories. Wear humour like a life preserver. Be quick with a smile and say, “Have a stupendous day! Wipe those tears away!

“Keep it simple,” as they say—whoever they are.

If you’re a woman, maybe all you need is a mythically comfortable bra and to dance with abandon with Mr Right.

not J. Peterman
Mr Right?

Or, if you’re not of a stereotypical gender or race, maybe all you need is a big screen TV, some snacks and the latest episode of the Big Bang Theory or The Walking Dead.

There are any number of enjoyable things to do on (or off) this planet. But if enjoyment is easy, why are so many people unhappy? Is it political, geological, psychological, situational or economic? Even people who say they’re happy might just be busy.

Busy is often mistaken for happy.

On TV in his Unnatural Act (1991), comedian Jim Carey wondered, “Imagine if you could just be that happy? That would be powerful manPeople would be tunnelling under the street to avoid you.”

Life is bitter sweet. It’s a truth. “Trying to make ends meet, you’re a slave to money and then you die—” so sang The Verve. Maybe that’s why, as Chris Rock observed, “People love to get high!” (“Getting High”).

richard pryor
Richard Pryor by Devonne Amos.

Transcending is a craving. Look at the fun such greats as Lenny Bruce, Mitch Hedberg, River Phoenix, and Philip Seymour Hoffman had on their way to the pleasure dome  of “Kubla Khan”.

But it’s all fun and games until someone starts on fire (or dies). Drugs are slippery. What goes up must come down—sometimes hard.

Thomas Hobbes (1588-1679), the philosopher (not the tiger) said that life is, “nasty, brutish and short” (Leviathan, 1610). He had a low opinion of humans. To him we’re all selfish and driven by a fear of death and a desire for personal gain. Only the rule of law keeps us in check” (source).

calvin and hobbes
Calvin and Hobbes by Bill Watterson.

A biologist might say that life is an arrangement of molecules of self-sustenance and self-replication. Life is self-organising chemistry reproducing and passing characteristics via DNA, but this definition puts humans in with the amoeba.

Science bases life on externals but knowing life means knowing it from within. Life is either a meaningless accident operating in a meaningless universe, or it’s a planned experiment with future unknown. If the universe has any purpose, it is to explore what will happen.

Many physicists believe that the universe is only information and life is a process of energy being transformed—so is non-life, but the difference is that life is linked to the story it contains. Non-life is indifferent to stories imposed.

In Human Givens (2003) Ivan Tyrrell and Joe Griffin said that we are born with needs that seek satisfaction. When enough physical and emotional needs are met, an individual will enjoy life.

But a meaningful life becomes impossible if physical and emotional needs are insufficient and unfortunately, modern society seeks meaning through materialism which leaves us dissatisfied because of our biology. We can’t seem to find meaning. The result us mental ill-health on a societal level.

richard pryor meme

Many people will never experience the satisfaction of a meaningful life. So, what’s the answer?

Look to nature.

Life is an unbroken flow of rippling simultaneous events. The sheer Scale of the Universe is as mind boggling as human ignorance. This world is beautiful. Animal life and the life of vegetation shows us that life is a matter of being. By means of a modest routine of eating, sleeping and reproducing, animals and vegetation balance their days doing what their bodies ask of them.

Life is simply a beautiful and harmonious borrowing of energy.

pandaHumans lose the power to simply be happy eating, sleeping and reproducing because we believe we need a reason to be alive—a purpose and a goal to reach. On our deathbeds (something we have been made to fear) we want to be able to look back and tell ourselves that we have done something.

Life loses its purpose when we try to give it one. We are each no more significant than the sand by the sea or the clouds in the sky.

No more significant. But as significant.

Whatever your race, religion or gender, when you step outside your door in the morning and feel the morning sun on your face and the fresh air in your lungs, close your eyes and smile. In that moment you feel life as it should be. No defining. No understanding. No thinking. Just that feeling of pure bliss.

City_LightsHear violins in birds singing. Sing Chaplin’s, “This Is My Song” in your heart to yourself in the voice of Petula Clark. Let tears of unbridled love and enjoyment flow from you as you feel the significance of your own existence and everyone else’s.

This is you! This is you! This is you! Ignore advertising and look around! This is what life is.

Enjoy it.