To think or not: Zen, Tolstoy, Depression and Enjoyment

morning_dew_on_grass___landscape_by_slysnakesamhardy-d4thcpa

In this world that is sometimes nice, sometimes not, and sometimes blows up in your face, you often meet people who don’t enjoy life.

You can generally tell if someone is not enjoying by their crying, taciturn nature (as in, uncommunicative) or apathetic attitude (as in, nothing  matters), but not always.

Some people who repeatedly say, “I feel depressed” (not clinically, but sad nonetheless) risk labeling themselves and initiating a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Nonstop melancholy kills happiness when brooding (as in, deep unhappiness of thought) becomes a controller of character.

coffee and depression

Source: PsychCentral

When life isn’t the way we want it to be, disappointment hits us. Reality feels like it isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. Something is missing. Something more. What it is remains beyond our reach and thwarted by the very desire to feel it.

As clinical psychologist, Leon F. Seltzer, PhD said, “Whenever you feel that something vital is missing from your life, yet lack the  drive to pursue it, you’re afflicted with this curiously “emotionless” emotion” called “apathy” which is, “essentially the feeling of not feeling” (The Curse of Apathy).

You yourself might not be enjoying at this time (or overall). Maybe that’s why you’re here.

For a lift.

aballoonreminderBut if all joy is fleeting, like the clown says, then so is “despair,” “despondency” and “apathy”! If any and all emotions—including the “bad” ones—are fleeting, then one need only let them pass fleetingly!

Some people who are not enjoying argue they can’t help themselves. If you were in their shoe, you wouldn’t enjoy life either!

terrible shoes

“Look around!” say the rightfully sad, depressed and angry. “The world is a mess and getting messier still!”

“75% of Earth’s Land Areas Are Degraded”

urbansprawl

(source: National Geographic).

With the destruction of nature—not to mention daily aggravation, physical and mental decline topped off by tragedy—depression seems only natural and inevitable for any thinking person.

bad newsJPEG

In life there is death, disease and dismemberment—not to mention poverty, loneliness and the heartache of psoriasis.

One approach to unpleasant emotion is to go stoic. Think: “Do what you can and let the rest unfold as it will anyway.

This is reality. You are not super-human. You can’t control the world, only your reaction.”

So say the philosophically stoical who endure pain and hardship without showing feeling or complaining.

Cue music: “Help I’m Alive” by Metric (2009)

Let time and distraction work their magic. Focus on ups, not downs and don’t take feelings serious. You can’t rely on externals. You can only rely on your own responses. 

earlyofshatesbury
1st Earl of Shaftesbury, Anthony Ashley-Cooper: “Indeed.”

The 1st Earl of Shaftesbury, Anthony Ashley-Cooper (not to be confused with rocker Alice Cooper) said like a stoic that it isn’t the things that happen to us that upset us, it is our judgments about them.

Pain is not good or bad, it’s indifferent and the key to it all is in one’s supreme goal (source: Stoicism and Pain Management).

And what is a supreme goal?

(Do you have one?)

If you’re emperor Marcus Aurelius, your supreme goal is to endure fear with courage and renounce desire with moderation.

Good times.

alice cooper
Alice Cooper: “I’m 18 and I like it.”

Marcus A. would tell himself that pain is just a rough sensation, nothing more.

But if that’s the case—if reasoned self-talk removes suffering—what about someone who’s circumstances are not dire, who does the reasoned stoic self-talk without effect and remains depressed in a life not enjoyed even more than ever?

What then?

if-give-you-a-straw-will-you-go-and-suck-14685228

What kills enjoyment in someone who should enjoy? self-pity? bad memories? body deformity? the cruelty of others? depravity? laziness? boredom? addiction?  what?

In War & Peace (the book) we see a supreme goal in action when, on the third day after Christmas, Nicholas Rostov, on leave for the holidays, thinks how the spirit of the house is saying to him:

“Seize the moments of happiness, love and be loved! That is the only reality in the world, all else is folly(Book 4, Chapter 11).

go to your merry place

Enjoyment is a self-creation. Emotion can lead to correction. Whereas zen says mental chatter and desire inflame suffering, Leo Tolstoy said the highest human attributes of “love, poetic feelings, tenderness and philosophical inquiry skepticism” come by way of thinking and feeling.

Whereas in zen and stoic philosophies observing thought and emotion with indifference is recommended—like watching clouds in the sky floating by—Tolstoy says thought and emotion are a means to experiencing the joy of living (see: 12 Life Lessons To Gain From Reading Leo Tolstoy).

On a cold day, should you be lucky enough to be warm in a gentle house, reclining, not hungry, not thirsty, a warm beverage in hand, no pain, no loss, no regrets (except a few), sitting clear-headed and (relatively) odor free, feeling love and friendship, problems fall away.

The heart of a philosophy of enjoyment is to sing with the band Argent, “And if it’s bad, don’t let it get you down, you can take it. And if it hurts, don’t let them see you cry. You can take it,” (“Hold Your Head Up”, 1972).

Unconcerned with age, beauty, ability, upward-mobility and intelligence (or lack thereof), not judged or criticized, but content as yourself in a body, in this world—seeing, hearing, touching, thinking, and feeling—so it is to fully experience life and enjoy it (no matter what).

Published by

Darrel

A Philosopher of Enjoyment.

One thought on “To think or not: Zen, Tolstoy, Depression and Enjoyment”

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s