You’re in line at a buffet. A woman in a lab coat holding a clip-board beside you asks, “What do you enjoy?” “Chicken,” you say. “No. No,” says the woman. “I mean: In life. What do you enjoy in life?” Unfazed, you look squarely at the woman and repeat: “Chicken.” The woman frowns and asks someone else.
What appears as a glib response to an impertinent question has truth in it. A chicken – either eaten or observed happily pecking in a yard – can be enjoyed. Anything can be enjoyed. Enjoyment is an attitude. It is not dependent on externals. People have an inner life of worry and an inner life of enjoyment. The trick is to seal the inner sanctuary of enjoyment from the other.
Enjoyment in the form of peace, ecstasy and calm is inside you. It is independent of achievement and activity. If you’re alive, you’re enjoying (you just don’t know it).
A thrill can be found in the tiniest of things – a seashell, a breeze, a seed. There’s no need to do. It’s receptivity. It’s sensual awareness. Even the absence of pain can be enjoyable.
When enjoyment is equated with verbs (action, excitement: a vacation, a concert, a sporting event) or nouns (people, places, houses, cars and shoes), dissatisfaction arises. Externals are not enjoyable unto themselves. You can have it all and still not be happy. You can have nothing and feel resentful or happily unencumbered.
There’s an industry selling happiness expertise. People buy slogans on designer pillows and sign up for certificates in happiness (for a fee). No longer in the domain of religion, happiness is a science now.
Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, scientific expert in happiness has said, “The best moments usually occur if a person’s body or mind is stretched to its limits in a voluntary effort to accomplish something difficult and worthwhile” (1990, p. 3). As a result of this notion (achievement = enjoyment) thousands climb Mount Everests and run marathons. For a philosopher of enjoyment, it’s just the opposite.
A philosopher questions societal assumptions. People think that if things were just so, they could be happy, but things are rarely just so. Do happy children, squirrels and simpletons stretch themselves to accomplish something difficult when they play at doing nothing all day? Must you stretch your body to its limits to enjoy hearing the birds or having that first sip of morning coffee? Little things, little effort, big enjoy.
Imagine strolling in a forest. Do you force yourself to accomplish something difficult as you wander? Must you race through as fast as you can or can you walk without intent, lost in moments of being in beauty? Can you feel the bliss of not needing?
People make lists of things to enjoy. They number enjoyments in order of preference and evaluate them from minimal – just above boredom – to maximum – excessive. They tie enjoyment to buckets and pressurize themselves. If an item of enjoyment is not done before death, failure is felt.
People become enjoyment yo-yos. They get desperate to create enjoyment at any expense. Unhappiness is the dry-rot of activity junkies (see: Knee Deep In Flowers We’ll Stray).
When enjoyment is tied to achievements, it is felt as fleeting. When it is not so tied, it’s easy. Enjoyment is to live in tune with nature. Bigger thrills are not more enjoyable than the thrill of being in the world.
What you enjoy is driven by what you think and what you think is driven by what you enjoy. Change the thinking, change the enjoyment. Enjoyment is within your control regardless of what befalls you.
Isolate those lucky moments of calm and peace. Treasure serene feelings of ecstasy over frantic striving. Enjoy those moments when your lonely-soul gives itself up to good feelings.
Imagine feeling enjoyment right now as you are, where you are, maybe even reading this, not because you’re dining in a fine restaurant or riding in a fine car but because you are here, living, feeling and contemplating being. Go for a walk (if you can). That is all. Conjure the trick of feeling enjoyment out of nothing but yourself and your surroundings whatever they are.