Enjoyment And Enlightenment: Side By Side

modern-times

Lee Morse2In 1927 a small woman with a big heart named Lee Morse sang, “Oh, we ain’t got a barrel of money. Maybe we’re ragged and funny, but we’ll travel along, singing a song – side by side…” It’s a song about enjoying good times and bad together but it could be about enjoyment and enlightenment. They go together.

One might even say they’re one and the same.

Kant 2In 1784 a small man with a big head named Immanuel Kant wrote “What Is Enlightenment?” In it he called people cowards. He said that except for a few men (and no women), most people are too lazy, immature and afraid to think for themselves. Kant believed that mature thought and reason is enlightenment.

He said, “Dare to know!” is the motto of enlightenment.

Spiritual types say otherwise. They say it’s not about thought. It’s about heart and love and letting go of what you think you know. A teacher in the Zen koan tradition, Joan Sutherland, said that enlightenment is “more true than our ordinary self-oriented ways of experiencing life… Enlightenment is our true nature and our home… it’s not about being a better self but about discovering our true self” (Lion’s Roar). But most people wouldn’t know their true self from a hole in the ground.

We can’t help it.

true-self-seeking-enlightenment-cartoon

Neuroscientist Dr. Jeffrey Schwartz said, “The brain puts things into our consciousness, but it is the active mind that makes choices about whether to listen and how to listen.” He said that our brains trick us with deceptive brain messages that come to us as mental chatter.

Schwartz said, “Deceptive brain messages are any false or inaccurate thought or any unhelpful or distracting impulse, urge or desire that takes you away from your true goals and intentions: your true self” (“It’s not me. It’s my brain”…).

bootstrapsWhen we try to improve ourselves, we can’t seem to because the one that needs improvement is the one trying to improve! Spiritual entertainer Allan Watts said that it’s the equivalent of trying to pull yourself up by your own bootstraps and it can’t be done.

Thinkers think enlightenment is thought, feelers feel enlightenment is felt and scientists say it’s a matter of re-programming. Enlightenment sounds hard if not impossible, but it isn’t! It’s like enjoyment. It’s easy. The word enlightenment has light in it. Lighten up!

It’s like that scene in the show Breaking Bad where a tough guy who broke the law and lost everything sits watching a river and waiting to die.

scene from breaking bad

Everything he tried to do was for naught. He’ll never see his beloved granddaughter again but just before dying, he finds peace. He simply enjoys watching the river and is enlightened (the Breaking Bad river scene).

herman hesseIt’s not just that the river is tranquil, soothing, and the best place to chill beer. Rivers are wellsprings of ancient wisdom (in a good way). In Siddhartha, Herman Hesse uses a river to represent existence and time. Through a river Siddhartha is enlightened: “You’ve heard it laugh,” he said. “But you haven’t heard everything. Let’s listen, you’ll hear more.” 

They listened. Softly sounded the river, singing in many voices. Siddhartha looked into the water, and images appeared to him in the moving water: his father appeared, lonely, mourning for his son; he himself appeared, lonely, he also being tied with the bondage of yearning to his distant son; his son appeared, lonely as well, the boy, greedily rushing along the burning course of his young wishes, each one heading for his goal, each one obsessed by the goal, each one suffering. The river sang with a voice of suffering, longingly it sang, longingly, it flowed towards its goal, lamentingly its voice sang. 

“Do you hear?” Vasudeva’s mute gaze asked.

Siddhartha nodded (chapter 11).

Rational thinking may be necessary for day-to-day responsibilities, but sometimes, in an odd moment of awareness, when you realize that doing something won’t help you and not doing something will also not help you (like the old man in the Breaking Bad scene), you are in the zone of enlightenment. You step out of “the quicksand of time” (Moody Blues). You watch. You listen.

squeegy enlightenmentWhen we listen to what others have to say about enlightenment, it’s like trying to see through a dirty window.

We get caught in the middle like that Stealers Wheel song that goes, “Trying to make some sense of it all. But I can see that it makes no sense at all… Clowns to the left of me, jokers to the right, here I am. Stuck in the middle with you…” (Rafferty & Egan).

Who is the clown? Who is the joker? How do you know? You Kant. It’s all opinion. But when it comes to enjoyment and enlightenment it isn’t a matter of opinion. It’s direct experience. A feeling of peace and tranquility is not a matter of opinion. It is enjoyed. Like music.

In 1969 the Moody Blues sang “Watching and Waiting” with the words: “But don’t be alarmed by my fields and my forests / They’re here for only you to share / ‘Cause here there’s lots of room for doing / The things you’ve always been denied / So look and gather all you want to / There’s no one here to stop you trying.”

And there it is. No harm trying. Watch and wait. That’s all it takes. Enjoyment is enlightenment enjoying.

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Published by

Darrel

A Philosopher of Enjoyment.

6 thoughts on “Enjoyment And Enlightenment: Side By Side”

  1. So much to think about concerning this great post and it was worth the wait for the absolutely perfect sentences – “But when it comes to enjoyment and enlightenment it isn’t a matter of opinion. It’s direct experience. A feeling of peace and tranquility is not a matter of opinion. It is enjoyed. Like music.” The links you included were very interesting and I loved the Chris Madden cartoon and the scene from Breaking Bad, which is a favorite show and Mike is the reason I continue to watch Better Call Saul. A special thank you for the pull yourself up by your bootstraps paragraph and illustration since it is a phrase my mother has been telling me since childhood.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Lovely to see you again my friend! Thanks for this! My mom used to said the bootstrap thing too. I struggled with this one because when I was done, it struck me that it might come across as downer (too heavy) but that was the opposite of my intention. Anyway, have a wonderful day! Walk along with me to the next bend.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. This definitely did not strike me as a downer. It is your combination of music, serious critical studies, humor, movies and photos that bring an enjoyment to philosophy, which is a topic I have always been fascinated by but at times have struggled with. I recently read Every Time I Find the Meaning of Life They Change It by Daniel Klein and I thought it was very interesting reading his reactions to his thoughts on philosophy from both the perspective of youth and old age. Now that I think about it, maybe your philosophy joke (You Kant) and the fact I have often wondered about the clown and joker and who actually was in the middle distracted from the more serious tone of your post and I’ll have to read it again.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Reading this an idea that occurred to me is that over inflating the value of rational thought is a little like focusing on floaters in your eye. Yes they are there but you cant focus on them without losing the big picture.

    https://goo.gl/photos/CndEWFZvi7WNqVgd6

    I suppose it would be the same the other way where focusing on the spiritual is just as limiting.

    Perhaps being stuck in the middle isn’t such a bad thing, just don’t worry about it, let the guy on the right wonder who the clown is and carry on singing your song.

    Liked by 1 person

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