Suppose a well-meaning person asks you, “What’s your philosophy of life?” What would you say? Would you draw a blank and say, “Oh, I don’t know,” and leave it at that?
Would you profess a religious or secular belief? Would you quote Salvador Dali, the Dalai Lama, Cornel West, Jesus Christ or Lady Gaga?
The Merrium-Webster Dictionary defines a philosophy of life as: “an overall vision of or attitude toward life and the purpose of life,” but the word “life” has become a symbol and symbols have become things nowadays (How we confuse symbols and things).
People think of life in terms of style or metaphor: Life is a jigsaw puzzle (and you don’t have a picture of how it should look), life is a maze (exits avoided), life is an elevator (with ups and downs and people pushing your buttons).
Life is time, but as composer Hector Berlioz said, “Time is a great teacher, but unfortunately it kills all its pupils” (November 1856).
But forget symbols. Think of life not as an idea, but as your body. You are life and in living, you are lived. Right now (unless you’re dead) you are breathing and you don’t have to think about it. Your body is breathing you.
You can focus attention on breathing – take deep breaths, slow breaths, hold your breath, but after a while, your body kicks in. Your body has a mind of its own. Maybe that explains why people think there’s a divide between body and mind (and world).
On the side of the body is Friedrich Neitzsche. He said that people don’t have bodies, they are bodies. No transcendence but his love of life encompassed dark sides and purposelessness with grit and sobriety. His credo: “Be faithful to the earth!”
On the side of mind (extended) is writer D.H. Lawrence who talked of two ways of knowing: “knowing in terms of apartness, which is mental, rational, scientific, and knowing in terms of togetherness which is religious and poetic” (Sex, Lit. and Censorship, 1959, p. 108).
Lawrence’s idea was to fuse the mind with wit and all the senses. He wrote: “There is no god apart from poppies and flying fish, men singing songs, and women brushing their hair in the sun” (The Last Poems, 1933).
The great religions (and artists) make a distinction between their self as personality, their self as body and their self transcended.
As poet Antonin Artaud (1896-1948) put it, “Admittedly or not, conscious or unconscious, the poetic state, a transcendent experience of life is what the public is fundamentally seeking through love, crime, drugs, war or insurrection.”
From the ancients to Bruce Springsteen in 2016, people tell of an enjoyable sensation where their individual sense of self is transcended and the external world feels like their body.
Philosophers Emerson and Thoreau advised us to go outside and walk in nature because hustle, bustle and ambition distract us from transcendent sensations (source).
A quick trick to enjoyment is to go through your senses one by one very… very… slowly. See the world as a child and dissolve into awareness. If you’re lucky, all of a sudden in slow motion, a filter you didn’t know was there will disappear and in vividness you’ll walk into a four dimensional picture.
This is the magic of enjoying. This is what logicians don’t see. This is overcoming anxiety and worry with a song like, “Been down one time. Been down two times. Never going back” (Fleetwood Mac, “Never Going Back Again“).
A philosophy of life is how you take care of yourself. It’s your intention. In the same way that you can walk without noticing, you can click a switch to consciousness. You can live without paying attention or switch to consciously living. A philosophy of life is your vision. It’s how you picture yourself living.
A philosophy of life is your attitude toward living (without a problem).
A philosophy of life is your purpose – your aim, intention and will (to enjoy).
A philosophy of life is how you will yourself to picture the life you imagine enjoying and living the way you envision!
Buddhists say, “Life is suffering.” They say life is impermanent and ever-changing. And it is, but isn’t that what makes it precious?
A philosopher of enjoyment says, “Life is suffering? Not necessarily. Frame it differently. Frame it: Life is enjoying! In this, life does not become death. Winter does not become spring. There is winter. There is spring.
It’s a Zen thing. A box of moonlight is not nothing.
Life is enjoying living not because it’s easy. It is to enjoy the blues like Albert King singing, “I been down since I begin to crawl. If it wasn’t for bad luck, I wouldn’t have no luck at all” (“Born Under a Bad Sign“). Enjoyment is a pessimistic loving cynic. Of course people do what they do! There’s no other way! So you may as well enjoy the rising and falling of turbulent waters and/or roller coasters.
It is said on the Internet that Miley Cyrus said, “Life is just about having a good time.” But what happens to Miley when she has a great fall (not that she will) but, what then?
Suppose someone you love dies. You cry. You feel lost. Things will never be the same. There’s pain in your heart, but the current of life in your veins is pronounced. There’s hot-chocolate for you to enjoy but its not the same without your friend by your side.
Memories of what was and imaginings of what might have been rattle your feelings in a present that hurts but you know you have to go on so when you get back from a very long walk, remember: Rock on.
In strong moments, sing like Tim and The Jim Carroll Band with all your might, “Those are people who died, died!” Breathe and be breathed. Jump and sing while you can. See the humour in all things like a Romantic. “Why do you do this?” you ask.
No reason. You just do.
For Timothy H., “This song is for you my brother!“