“Gatsby believed in the green light, the orgastic future that year by year recedes before us. It eluded us then, but that’s no matter—tomorrow we will run faster, stretch out our arms farther. And then one fine morning— So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past” (F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby, p. 180)
The “single green light” on Daisy’s dock that Gatsby gazed at from his house across the water represents an “unattainable dream.” It is the dream that seems close but can’t be grasped. It represents the hazy future, forever elusive. The green light is Gatsby’s dream of Daisy in the past, but then, if it is of her in the past, how does it represent the future too? Is the future tied to our dreams of the past?
We wander as we wonder, “What is that green glow?”
A philosophy of enjoyment is about enjoying life through a special kind of awareness but if enjoyment is the purpose of life, doesn’t this philosophy give a green light to selfish behaviour?
In a word: Not at all.
What interests people most? Themselves. Centuries of navel gazing prove it. A starting point for enjoyment is your self – not self as it is normally thought: a brain encased in skin like a car in a garage, but a self imagined (like air).
When asked, “What is the self illusion?” writer Sam Harris observed that the self is not what it seems. “The self illusion explains so many aspects of human behavior as well as our attitudes toward others. When we judge others, we consider them responsible for their actions. But was Mary Bale, the bank worker from Coventry who was caught on video dropping a cat into a garbage can, being true to her self? Or was Mel Gibson’s drunken anti-Semitic rant being himself or under the influence of someone else?” (Psychology Today, 2012).
Harris isn’t saying we should throw out our rule books, but to understand psychological factors that control behaviours.
We often think of ourselves as our car, our clothes, our job, our house, our country, our uniform, our gender, our age… our body. This has always been the case throughout history. We get caught up in material things.
But when you are lost in gazing at the moon, who are you? Who is the real you – the you who was a child – the secret you – the true you? Who are you when you’re asleep? As Suzanne Little sang in You, “There’s something about you’s not too bad.”
There’s just one thing to do. Look at your self and in mental stillness ask, “Who is my ‘I’?” When angry ask, “Who is angry?” When sad, ask, “Who is sad?”
Instead of ‘self-ish‘ in the dictionary sense of: “lacking consideration for others; concerned chiefly with one’s own personal profit or pleasure” and instead of ‘self-ish’ in the sense of adding an “ish” suffix to say that something is somewhat x (largish, rockish, selfish), this philosophy encourages stepping into natural places to ask, “Who am I?” until the last “I” thought vanishes. And when it does, something beautiful happens.
The world changes. You free yourself from problems and woe can’t touch you.
Chatty professors Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari stretch the idea of animal-human boundary not to encourage a metamorphosis like in that scene in American Werewolf in London (1981) but to achieve a “non-identity” which to them is a condition of freedom.
Most people think rocks are inanimate, but writer David Abram (Becoming Animal An Earthly Cosmology, 2010) says that to a person alive to her animal senses, a rock is “first and foremost another body engaged in the world.” Abram writes:
“You are silent, puzzling. I see you gaze back at the rock face now, questioning it, feeling the looming sweep of its bulk within your torso, listening with your muscles and the quiet composition of your bones for what this old, sculpted presence might wish to add to the conversation… The stillness, the quietude of this rock is its very activity, the steady gesture by which it enters and alters your life.”
Imagine coming upon a rock on the road. You see it. You smell mud and exhaust. You hear two-leggeds and feel the patter of rain. You have a conscious experience from a first-person point of view that isn’t limited to your senses – thought, emotion and imagination are part of it too because you are “part of what it is for the experience to be experienced and part of what it is for the experience to be“ (Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy: Phenomenology).
Plato once said, “At the touch of love, everyone becomes a poet.” This is not a reasonable philosophy. It’s a love philosophy.
To most people, most of the time, love is selective. It’s personal. It’s based on contact with people and things that please us, but if you go mentally quiet, there’s an all encompassing and unconditional love that can hit you in unexpected moments.
It’s like seeing the world as a basket of baby bunnies. You go unreasonable and love everything. You see the baby in everyone’s eye. It’s a great love that comes from knowing that everyone is worthy. It’s like that opening scene in Love Actually (2003) where the narrator, Hugh Grant, says, “Whenever I get gloomy with the state of the world, I think about the arrivals gate at Heathrow airport…. Seems to me that love is everywhere” (opening scene Heathrow airport).
And it is.