How do you describe the taste of a banana? It’s tricky. You can describe the taste up to a point, but it’s impossible to get across the actual flavour of a banana to someone else.
Taste is an individual experience. It’s subjective. You can know what a banana tastes like to yourself and you can have a general idea of what it’s like for another person, but you can’t know for sure what it tastes like to another. You can empathize and you can imagine, but that’s it. The same holds true for everything another person feels. You can understand on an intellectual level, but if someone is in pain, you can’t feel that person’s pain. The same is true for you. Only you know what a banana tastes like to you.
Someone could say, “By god! This is the best banana I ever had!” and you might or might not share this enthusiasm. It’s only a banana. What’s the big deal? You might like bananas too and on a conceptual level, you can understand someone’s enjoyment, but the trick to getting the same level of enjoyment as someone else is to embrace the sensation. Eating a banana could be all you need to enjoy feeling alive. Enjoyment is simple. Maybe you’ve been taking bananas for granted.
Real life as you are living it is probably different from what you might call the ideal life of the true and the beautiful. Life is diverse. It’s a jumble. People do their day-to-day thing, sometimes unsure if what they’re doing is what they should be doing and sometimes sure that what they’re doing is definitely not what they should be doing, but doing it anyway.
In checkers the game starts and pieces can only move forward. Pieces can either jump, get jumped, shuffle ahead or stay trapped – like you. You can plan seven moves ahead, but it doesn’t mean a thing if what you think is going to happen doesn’t. A good checker player can adapt quickly. He can lose without hostility. In the end, life is a draw.
To philosophize means to wrestle with the whole mad chaos of life as it is presented to you in daily work, in what you have to endure, and in the enjoyments that you get plunged into by chance. Instead of aiming at happiness – which comes and goes mysteriously – the thing to do is to force yourself to enjoy. Use will-power. Be brave. Be kind. Be amused and humble. Take baby steps. Look to the banana!
Baby step one: Exercise anger control.
It’s hard to enjoy yourself when you’re mad. Teach yourself a special kind of self-control. Jingle change in your pocket, count to ten, take deep breaths, sky watch, cloud hover, listen to Brigitte Bardot – whatever it takes! Will yourself to be anger-free. Feel sorry for people who lose their temper. Let someone cut you off. Feel sorry for people who think life is a competition. The world is full of jokers. They’re funny that way. You’ll all be dead eventually so why not shrug it off? If you lose your temper, forget about it and try again. Keep your spirits up: No matter what.
Baby step two: Embrace surroundings.
If you see a sunset, look at it as a total sensory experience. It’s the best sunset you’ve seen all day. Take a minute to go into a sunset trance. If you’re with people, annoy them with expressions of sensual awareness. Be an artist of enjoyment. Embrace every form and colour, every curve and substance, every animal, vegetable and mineral that’s before you.
Two baby steps. That’s enough to start you falling forward. Hear the Whippoorwill Dance in your mind. Stare into space. Enjoy this improvised life. There are no curtain calls. Why not enjoy it?