Every philosophy has a central reference point. The central reference point here is that life is to be enjoyed. What could be simpler? Enjoy life. But then: Is all enjoyment equal? Does anything go?
Much has been said of sensual awareness in the natural environment, of beauty, of peace, of simple pleasures, of self-control, of kindness, of humility, of humour in all things and so on – all good stuff albeit not what a seeker of excitement would envision; nevertheless, in all this, it’s clear: Not all enjoyment is equal and not everything that can be done should be.
It’s a matter of wisdom.
Between thinking expressed here and your interpretation of this thinking, a wise heart is nurtured.
It was said: “The days of our life are seventy years, or perhaps eighty if we are strong; even then their span is only toil and trouble; they are soon gone, and we fly away…So teach us to count our days that we may gain a wise heart” (Psalm 90, King James Bible). To gain a wise heart, count your days and enjoy them, for they are numbered.
Hesiod, 8th Century BC Greek poet and farmer, wrote: “… man is best who sees the truth himself. Good too is he who listens to wise counsel. But who is neither wise himself nor willing to ponder wisdom is not worth a straw” (source: Goodreads). Do you listen to wise counsel or do you think you know it all? Are you worth a straw?
Philosophy is a critical reflection. It is the love of wisdom. It is human. You can analyse the world you’re in and question what passes for common sense (Critchley, 2001) but is it wise to get worked up about it? Wisdom is a way of seeing the big picture. Enjoy wisely.
Real enjoyment isn’t what ant-like machine-people say it is. Dismiss nihilism as nothing and find something in the meaning of enjoying a flower. It’s meaning is that it lives and is beautiful. It’s a matter of attention: Attention. Attention. Attention.
Real enjoyment is wise. It is not crude or puerile. It is not a paved landscape. It is not computer devices or money. It’s not booze, drugs and giggles. Go Bach to a time when you felt divine. Walk. Live beauty in the mind. Enjoyment is not a gregarious mob. It’s a peach and things small.
Enjoyment is a Gestalt. It’s outside in nature and inside a cosy Howard’s End corner of your own where you can keep the aspidistra flying like Wolf Solent or Siddhartha and eat grapes of wrath far from the madding crowd.
Enjoyment is contemplative. It’s subtle. It’s sublime. To any decision the central question to ask is: Is it wise?
For example: Developers build sub-divisions, a carpet of roads, endless house-boxes, box stores and parking lots. It may be enjoyable, but: Is it wise? The developers enjoy getting rich. Workers enjoy working. People enjoy flooring, cars, packaged food and drink. This is progress! This is success and economics, but, again: Is it wise?
Middle-aged children enjoy beer and mean-spirited jokes. He-men enjoy loud trucks and testosterone. Women enjoy buying what isn’t needed. Commuters enjoy express-ways lined by animal splatters, but: Is it wise?
A philosopher can only smile and do what can be done with a sense of humour. The highest happiness is a reflective life and an examined life, but an unlived life marked by frustration is not worth examining. One must live and in living, enjoy what is good.
Religion put faces to good and evil. Such faces were made real by imagination. To some people the supernatural is more real than a planet under siege – they hardly notice the droughts, endangered animals, floods and chaos – but good and evil come in the guise of ordinary people like ourselves doing what they do without being wise.
Good is kind. Evil is not. In any situation one may behave well or reprehensibly. We slip, but we get up and try to enjoy ourselves gently. We say stupid things on occasion. Personality and a personal philosophy (or lack thereof) say more than we realize. Look at yourself. Are you good? Are you bad? Are you both? What are your ideals?
Do the right thing. Look at the big picture and enjoy wisely.