The news likes to boost our egos by saying how big our brains are. Huffpost Science reports, “Humans have an advantage in the animal kingdom because our brains are bigger and more wrinkled than those of other animals” (7 Cool New Findings About the Brain).
Big wrinkly brains. Amazing. Good to know. Hallelujah. But if big wrinkly brains make us smarter than other animals, how come we make such a mess of things?
We only see what we want to see and are as happy as we want to be. Each of us is like a flock of geese inside a biological car.
We think we create our own reality but we can’t control what other people do or environmental forces. That doesn’t mean we’re victims. We participate in creating our reality through attitude and how we deal with things (Amodeo, 2014).
To master the joy of living takes grit, spit and a whole lotta duct tape. It takes a conscious effort (and a nonconscious one too).
What isn’t widely known is that the human brain has a well-being filter (Wilson, 2002). Just as our bodies have an immune system to protect us from disease, we have a psychological immune system to protect us from unease. We look at the world in a way that maintains our sense of well-being. We’re spin doctors who rationalize threatening information to make us feel better.
In Strangers To Ourselves (the book, not the album) social psychologist Tim Wilson writes, “What makes us feel good depends on our culture and personalities and our level of self-esteem, but the desire to feel good, and the ability to meet this desire with nonconscious thought, are probably universal” (p. 39).
We apply fight-or-flight reflexes to information by pushing threatening information away and pulling friendly information up close for a kiss.
Reasoning is bathed in emotion. Anger let’s us dominate. Love let’s us harmonize and vanity let’s us feel better about ourselves. People without normal emotional processing display irrational behaviour (Damasio, 1994).
What we feel is based on the value we place on something. Positive or negative feelings occur fast enough for an EEG device to detect but too fast for conscious awareness. We can reason but that works slower.
The challenge posed by a Philosophy of Enjoyment is to enjoy life, but living on a planet without forests, song birds, tigers and water might not be as enjoyable as it sounds.
If something is too painful or disturbing our unconscious protects our sense well-being (McLeod, 2009). We enjoy fictional wars on stars and imagine life on Mars. As appealing as Mars is – with its average temperature of minus 60 Celsius, planetary dust storms and radiation equivalent to a whole-body CT scan every five days (Castro, 2015) – there’s just something special about Earth.
Maybe it’s the flamingos.
There’s a cartoon called “MAN” by Steve Cutts that illustrates human impact. It’s funny, sad and if you don’t unconsciously hate it immediately, it might make you wonder: What’s a big wrinkly brained fella’ ‘sposed to do?
In “The Lie We Live” Spencer Cathcart says, “Each of us shares a common goal: Happiness. We tear the world apart looking for joy without ever looking within ourselves. Many of the happiest people are those who own the least but are we really so happy with our iPhones, our big houses, our fancy cars? We’ve become disconnected… We have mastered the act of killing. Now let’s master the joy of living.”
But how does one master the joy of living?
Are the happiest people those who own the least? Researchers say no. They say that wealthy people aren’t happier they’re just less sad daily (Kushlev, Dunn, & Lucas, 2015) .
Forbes magazine reports: “One day I’ll be able to afford a spacious loft in the city with outdoor space and huge windows overlooking the park…The first step in getting what you want in life is to envision yourself already there… what is behind this process is believing… you can will the life you want into being and make it a reality” (How To Create The Exact Life You Want).
Forbes is a money man magazine with a bad ass financial plan. Its advice to create the exact life we want assumes we want the fool’s gold of a spacious loft in the city with a view of the park.
But here in our philosophy we put on those glasses that help us see unconscious messages. Here we focus on that inward eye which is the bliss of solitude. We don’t believe in money gods, spacious lofts and cars, but in the inner wealth of character.
We keep our eyes wide open all the time and gaze – and gaze – at the wealth and pleasure of daffodil shows.
A philosopher of enjoyment sings with Johnny Cash, “I keep a close watch on this heart of mine. I keep my eyes wide open all the time. I keep the ends out for the tie that binds. Because you’re mine, I walk the line…As sure as night is dark and day is light, I keep you on my mind both day and night. And happiness I’ve known proves that it’s right. Because you’re mine, I walk the line” (I Walk the Line).
And who are you? You are the line. Enjoy it. You walk the line between life and death, and love and hate. The trick to it is to walk that line one step at a time with a kind heart valuing wisdom, reason, nature, beauty, harmony, humour, friendship and love – you know: the good stuff.
Any time, day or night, is the right time to walk the line.
Amodeo, J. (2014). Do We Create Our Own Reality? Not So Fast. Psych Central.
Brooks, D. (2011). The Social Animal: The Hidden Sources of Love, Character, and Achievement. Random House.
Castro, J. (2015). What would it be like to live on Mars? Space.com.
Damasio, A. R. (1994). Descartes’ Error and the Future of Human Life. Scientific American.
Heath, I. (2002). Unconscious Ideas and Emotions. Psychologist World.
Krueger, A. (2014). How To Create the Exact Life You Want. Forbes Lifestyle.
Kushlev, K., Dunn, E. & Lucas, R. (2015). Higher Income Is Associated With Less Daily Sadness but not More Daily Happiness. Social Psychological & Personality Science.
McLeod, S. (2009). Simply Psychology.
Whiteman, L. (2014, Sept. 1). 7 Cool New Findings About the Brain. Huffpost Science.
Wilson, T. D. (2004). Strangers to ourselves. Harvard University Press.