How do you define enjoyment? Dictionary.com defines it as: “1. the act of enjoying. 2. the possession, use or occupancy of anything with satisfaction or pleasure… 3. a particular source of pleasure… 4. Law. the exercise of a right: the enjoyment of an estate.” Synonyms (words that mean the same or nearly the same) for enjoyment include: amusement, fun, gratification, happiness, indulgence, pleasure, recreation, relaxation, thrill…. and antonyms (word opposites) include: depression, dissatisfaction, gloom, pain, sadness, sorrow, unhappiness, woe, work…
One person enjoys rowing, another doesn’t. It’s a whatever floats your boat kind of thing. Some people feel happy when they get something to satisfy a need. Some say it’s the feeling you get when you reach a goal and some say it’s a feeling of peace or of grace. Some say its the feeling that everything is exactly as it should be.
During WWII people who were about to get bombed (literally) reported feeling that everything was exactly as it should be. They could hear the bomb falling: “This is it. I’m going to die!” and then, suddenly, they get this feeling of perfection.
Suddenly flaws are no longer flaws. A door that never shuts is perfect in its not-shutting; paint chipped is perfectly chipped. What was beautiful is made more so. When the bomb misses, they are glad and have a new sense of things. Similar feelings have been reported in near-death experiences.
Feeling that everything is exactly as it should be is a form of polar thinking. It’s a going togetherness of mutual opposites. Enjoyment (happiness) is the positive polarity and its opposite, unhappiness or despair is the negative polarity. Each reveals through the other and in terms of time, you can’t get out of now. When you get it (wisdom), you get that zing feeling. You are the wire and the current is experience. This is the electricity of life.
Electricity flows either in alternating current (AC) or in direct current (DC). The difference is in the direction of flow. In DC electrons flow forward from negative to positive and in AC electrons switch directions. Think of happiness (enjoyment) and despair holistically. You wouldn’t know right without knowing wrong. You know positive through negative and vice versa. To be wise is to know the unity of polarities. Enjoyment isn’t about pretending its opposite doesn’t exist. You know one through the other. The profound zing is to get both at once.
Polarities are like the hemispheres of the brain. If one dominates, you have a problem. In the book Master and the Emissary: The Divided Brain and the Making of the Western World, author Iain McGilchrist argues that the differing world views of right and left brain have led to a growing conflict in the modern world.
People pursue happiness but it leads to resentment, unhappiness and an explosion of mental illness. The modern world is dominated by the left hemisphere which tends towards fragmented pieces of information in isolation, it favours a machine model and is overly optimistic. The right hemisphere deals with the entity as a whole in a Gestalt (see: Introduction and Divided brain, divided world?). This is the domain of religion, myth, music and art.
One need only look around to see a mechanistic world that is fragmented and out of touch with the big picture. Most people are out of touch with nature. If you feel empty and paranoid, step away from virtual worlds and go real. Get out of your car. Enter on foot.
In The Way of Myth Joseph Campbell said, “Life isn’t meant to be happy. That’s not what it’s all about. It isn’t about lifestyle choices, convenience and a good golf score. Damage is caused by the attitude that life is meant to be happy.” He argues that life is sorrowful and myths are about that. The myths ask us, “Are you affirmative enough with your relationship with life to say, “Yes!” – no matter what?”
As a philosopher of enjoyment, tap into right hemispheric thinking. See the unity and beauty of things exactly as they are from multiple vantage points. Feel the polarities as one. Go into the natural world (when you can) and ride those downs upward. Be affirmative enough with your relationship to life to say, “Yes! No matter what.”