Enjoyment is a kind of longing. We long to enjoy but life gets in the way; yet life – at least, the bits we like – is the enjoyment we crave. We want to feel the freedom of enjoyment, but there’s stuff to do and not enough time. We feel the need to win the lottery but that’s a fool’s game or as Seneca (Stoic philosopher, 54 BC – 39 AD) put it, “A fortune is great slavery.” He also said, “A happy life is one which is in accordance with its own nature,” but… anyway…
Our longing grows until enjoyment becomes a fantasy unrealisable. We see the rich seemingly enjoying themselves and want to be one of them. We forget how real enjoyment – like the kind we felt as kids – feels. A kid doesn’t need millions of dollars. She enjoy listening to seashells. She doesn’t know the waves she hears is ambient noise coupled with imagination.
Enjoyment is like that. It’s in ourselves. We get confused and try to fill the enjoyment void with things unwise.
We think, “If only I had some time to just sit, outside, comfortably, with a cup of coffee and a book,” or, “if only I wasn’t so bored,” or, “if only I could go for a walk and feel peaceful and not bugged by the things I have to do.”
It’s like that song chugging along with the words, “Don’t know why I have to work. Don’t know why I can’t play. Turn me off. Turn me out. But don’t turn me away. Save Me a Place” (Lindsey Buckingham, Fleetwood Mac, 1979).
How does a person who longs for enjoyment (and love, peace, contentment, kindness, humour, ecstasy and all the other happy emotions wrapped into one) ever experience enjoyment when the world seems bent towards making us feel the opposite?
The daily grind of work, boredom and problems makes enjoyment incidental or non-existent. If you long for enjoyment, how can you get it when there’s all this other @#$%… stuff to deal with?
One word: Discipline.
Things are rarely the way you want them to be. Enjoyment takes will-power and courage. It takes initiative and imagination. As Jean-Jacques Rousseau said, “Man is born free, and everywhere he is in chains. One man thinks himself the master of others, but remains more of a slave than they are” (The Social Contract, 1762).
Say out loud to yourself, “Let go,” and then, “Enjoy!” Let “Relax!” be your battle cry! Who cares if people think you’re crazy?
Enjoyment is in your eyes. Fling open your senses. If you can do that, you are a philosopher of enjoyment. You are an intellectual yokel. You can gape freely at this weird and wonderful world as sensible people take it all for granted.
Here we are, living on a ball of rock spinning around an immense sphere of fire as organisms go through creature rearrangement, mutual slaughter and flourish by chewing each other up.
We struggle to find our way. Think about wisdom. It nudges you closer to it. Consider your life: your decisions. your values, your shortcomings. Wisdom understands the context of who you are, where you are and what is prudent to do. Enjoyment enjoys. It’s a matter of wise choices. Think big picture and notice little things.
Wise choices combine facts about reality and human nature with awareness of culture, history and the context of your life span. Wisdom understands values and priorities. It projects insight, good judgement and emotional regulation.
A philosopher of enjoyment memorizes wise sayings like: “Ageing can be fun if you lay back and enjoy it” (Clint Eastwood); “neither abstinence nor excess ever renders man happy” (Voltaire); “one should eat to live, not live to eat” (Cicero); “Don’t sweat the petty things, and don’t pet the sweaty things” (Small). Ultimately, wisdom is to enjoyment what red is to a tomato.
Put a light bulb in your pocket. Pull it out. Hold it over your head and say, “I have an idea!”
Enjoy yourself. What have you got to lose?