Two guys are sitting in the Ye Olde Trip to Jerusalem pub, Nottingham, England. The time is 8:44 PM on a rainy Wednesday, May 4th, 1774. One man, named Humphrey, is wearing a dandy hat and holding a quizzing glass to his eye. Humphrey is rich, clever and bored. Beside Humphrey is Marcus. Marcus has no hat or quizzing glass. They call Marcus a fool but praise and blame don’t worry him. Marcus is not rich, clever or bored. Unlike Humphrey who has everything but contentment, Marcus has nothing but contentment.
“Why are we here, Marcus?” asks Humphrey. “I’ve studied religion, philosophy, science. I’ve tried and I’ve tried but I can’t get no satisfaction! Are we here to enjoy (occasionally) and suffer (primarily) and then die?”
“Yes,” says Marcus. “Isn’t it great?”
No, thinks Humphrey. People are right. You are a fool.
“We are here, my dear Humphrey,” says Marcus smiling (almost exactly like a fool), “to enjoy the last of Brother Lionel’s winter ale.”
There are men at the next table yelling. Humphrey leans close. “Look at them,” he says. (Marcus complies.) “As long as they are busy and entertained, they will be good but tonight these men will drink and look for a fight. Why? Boredom! And why? Because life has no meaning.”
Marcus looks long at Humphrey. (Someone drops a plate. Smash!) “You my friend,” says Marcus, “are in a muddle.” A muddle? thinks Humphrey. “Yes. A muddle,” says Marcus. “You want to do something but you think there’s nothing to do so you think, ‘What’s the point?’ and conclude: there isn’t one. But what you don’t see is that the point of life (Marcus points) is always arrived at in the immediate moment.”
Humphrey doesn’t move.
Marcus holds up a flower. Men at the next table mimic. “What is this?” asks Marcus. A flower, thinks Humphrey. “Is this flower a thing?” Yes. It is a thing (weed actually). “What is a thing?” A thing is an object. “Am I a thing?” No. You are a man. “Why am I not a thing and this flower is?”
Humphrey isn’t sure (maybe Marcus is a thing).
“What is the meaning of this thing?” asks Marcus of the flower. It has no meaning. “Would you agree that the purpose of this flower is to flower?” Possibly. “Could the meaning of a bird be that it birds?” Birds bird. Flowers flower. You, you. I get it. “Does not a blue sky mean what it is?” Humphrey isn’t sure. “The trouble is that we word the world. We think ourselves separate. We thing it, or, ‘thing-K’ it.” Marcus emphasizes the hard K sound.
Humphrey rolls his eyes.
“When we were children, the world was what I’d call spiritual. We didn’t name. We didn’t categorize. We didn’t analyze. We enjoyed. One star was not better than another. We ran around without thinking, ‘Why are we running around?’ It’s like we were in Eden – not the Biblical place – but the feeling of delight, contentment, happiness and bliss.”
“We were happy running around naked until we started to notice how we appeared to other selves who might judge. We felt self-conscious. Afraid. Anxious. As we got older we were no longer in the moment. We took ourselves out of time and place and located ourselves behind the eyes. We think of ourselves as within the brain and become like islands, separate and alone. We think there’s a thinker in there and the thinker is separate from the thought and the feeler is separate from the feeling.”
BAM! Two tankards of ale are slammed onto the table by a beautiful barmaid. They pick up their drinks and enjoy as a musician plays chant tunes on a bass wind instrument called a serpent. “To enjoy or not to enjoy, that is the question,” says Marcus. “Enjoyment is a matter of coming to your senses, literally.”
“Interesting. We thing the world, so what do I do? Stop thing-ing?” asks Humphrey.
“No. Don’t do anything. Do nothing! Absolutely nothing – don’t even analyse. There’s nothing you can do that you’re not doing already. That’s the point. The world can’t stop what it’s doing. It is what it’s doing. Same as you.”
“The trick,” says Marcus, “is to pay attention like a child who is experiencing the world for the first time. To enter the kingdom of heaven on earth become like a child again. The world is not complicated. There are no problems. If you don’t believe me, try it. Nothing is stopping you from being vividly aware. You’re already having a direct experience, why not make it visionary? Start by not doing anything….: Go!”
Humphrey looks at Marcus. Marcus looks at Humphrey. They sit perfectly still for a long time and then, ever so slowly, in unison, they turn their heads in opposite directions. They pan the room with their eyes and take it all in.
The feeling within Humphrey switches from boredom to…. a feeling of music 200 years in the future -a feeling of openness to what is. He noticed little things – like the way the ceiling reflected in a puddle on the table, the way the barmaid moved and the men at the next table. Everyone’s face was angelic. He felt no separation between himself and the world.
Humphrey and Marcus finished their ale and parted. Humphrey said he’d never forget being intensely aware. He thanked Marcus for pointing out the obvious and for showing him how to enjoy. A few days later, Humphrey died of an abscessed tooth.
They say he died happy.