The Art of Love And Enjoyment Incarnate

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“Spirit of Love,” by Paul Horton (source).

Most people would probably say that love is something you “fall into.” It’s like a butterfly landing on your finger. You can’t make it happen. People say the same of enjoyment. It too is thought of as something that happens to you (if you’re lucky) like a butterfly landing, but such notions are perpetuated by a misunderstandingLove and enjoyment are not things you fall into (if you’re lucky) like uncovered manholes. There’s an art to it.

origami swanHappy feelings that make life worth living don’t just hit unbidden. You cultivate them. Love and enjoyment are nurtured with attention, authenticity and self-understanding. You can learn how to love and enjoy. They are capacities. You are the soil prepared for good feelings to grow.

Enjoyment is like an origami swan you learn how to fold. It’s an art that takes honesty, humour and heart.

dude probably notTo capitalize on our craving, love and enjoyment are used in product branding. Advertisers use the words “love” and “enjoy” interchangeably. To say, “I’m loving it!” is another way of saying, “I enjoy!

Ask yourself: Is it possible to love without enjoying or enjoy without loving?

Probably not.

To enjoy without love is to sully our yearning. Cue music: “Enjoy Yourself (It’s later than you think”).

People are starved for love and enjoyment. They knock themselves out to feel glorious. Entire religions and new consciousness movements revolve around dissolving one’s ego so as to feel a beautiful oneness like a fetus back inside mother before birth created the problem of identity.

i_love_enjoymentLook at how people spend money each year: online dating in the U.S.: two billion dollars (source); illegal drugs worldwide: 360 billion dollars (source); entertainment industry in the U.S.: 720.38 billion dollars (source); global travel and tourism: 7.6 trillion dollars (source). People think they can buy their way into a feeling no product or service can provide.

People see the problem of love as being loved (as opposed to being loving) and the problem of enjoyment as about finding something fun to do (as opposed to being life’s enjoyment incarnated with awareness).

incarnation
Gherardo delle Notti o Gheritt van Hontorst – Adorazione del Bambino, January 1620 (source).

To be lovable, men try to appear successful primarily through money, status and sex appeal. Women do likewise, but their focus is on appearances – bodies, clothes and accessories.

Popular stand-up comedians often say what people keep hidden and people laugh because they know it’s true. Comedian Chris Rock said (between expletives), “If you haven’t contemplated murder, you ain’t been in love.” Why? “Because,” Rock says, “Try your best to make her happy, but here’s what nobody tells you: You can’t make a woman happy. It’s impossible!”

ugly_blind_date-290x300
Ugly Date, Linda Causey, 2005 (source)

People assume the problem of love and enjoyment is one of an object. They don’t see it as a problem of knowledge and ability. They think love and enjoyment is simple. The problem isn’t with one’s self but with finding the right object to love and enjoy. This attitude is rooted in our society’s idea of buying and mutually agreeable exchanges (Fromm, 1956).

Two people fall in love when they think they’ve found the best object available on the market given exchange limitations. They were strangers (as all of us are) until they let the wall between down and then they feel a miraculous oneness. Neither person feels alone, but those feelings of intimacy fade as antagonism, mutual boredom and disappointment kill the initial feelings of excitement.

butterflies
Painted by blind artist John Bramblitt (2015).

The only way to overcome this failure is to understand the meaning of love and enjoyment. The first step is to be aware of how love and enjoyment are art forms.

When we’re born, we’re thrown from a situation that’s definite into one that’s uncertain.

We’re born with the gift of reason. We’re life aware of itself. We’re aware of our self, of our fellows, of our past and possible future.

vampire
Not insane. Just misunderstood.

Awareness of your self as a separate entity can feel like a prison. You know life is short. You know that you will die against your will before those you love or they before you. People who can’t escape their aloneness by uniting with others and the world tend to go insane. The panic of absolute isolation can be overcome only by a radical withdrawal from the outside world so the feeling of isolation disappears as the world disappears.

Then again, as Kurt Vonnegut (1922-2007) said, “A sane person to an insane society must appear insane” (Welcome to the Monkey House, 1968).

kurt vonnegut
“I urge you to please notice when you are happy, and exclaim or murmur or think at some point, ‘If this isn’t nice, I don’t know what is'” (15 Vonnegut quotes).

The feeling of being separate is the source of all anxiety. Love is the only answer. With love comes enjoyment. Feeling separate cuts us off from human powers. Feeling separate is to be helpless. Our separation is represented in the story of Adam and Eve.

After they ate of the “tree of knowledge of good and evil,” they became human. They were emancipated from an animal harmony with nature. They became strangers to each other as is shown by how Adam blames Eve instead of defending her.

tree of knowledgeOur deepest need is to overcome separateness. It’s why we conform. It’s why we cling to cults, clans and nations. It’s why we participate in the herd activities of sports, politics and drug-fuelled electronic dancing.

We enjoy connection over isolation. We love to belong to something bigger than our self. We used to be God’s children. We shared a divine substance that made us one and yet separate like a flowered cosmos, but equality has changed. Equality is becoming “sameness” between genders and people instead of “oneness.”

The greatest enjoyment is found in transcending one’s self in a moment of feeling at one with everything, but only a true non-conformist can overcome today’s spirit of a production oriented, materialistic society run by a managers, professional politicians and billionaires.

garry shandlingGarry Shandling (1949-2016) – another great comic with heart – said, “All my journey is, is to be authentically who I am – not trying to be somebody else…. The whole world is confused because they’re trying to be somebody else! To be your true self, it takes enormous work… Ego drives the problems so you have to work in an egoless way” (source).

Like the Kinks said, “I’m not like anybody else” but that doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy unity. Reach out. Love and enjoyment are what this philosophy is about! We’ll always be the child we were. It’s behind the eyes of another when you look at the world with love.

Enjoy. Practice the art of love and enjoyment.

References

Fromm, E. (1956). The Art of Loving. Harper & Row, Publishers.

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Beautiful Enjoyable Virtue With More Cowbell

autumn-trees

Jonathan Edwards (1703-1758) was a hell-fire preacher and philosopher. His book, The Nature of True Virtue (1765), is a hard book to read (without falling asleep), but what he said in his wordy way is that virtue, a.k.a. moral excellence, decency, and courage is a kind of sixth sense like Spider-Man’s spidey sense except instead of sensing imminent danger, one senses a beautiful feeling of virtue.

Virtue is “founded in sentiment and not in reason,” said Edwards meaning: virtue is a beautiful feeling. If you enjoy strolling a tree-lined path, you don’t need reason to explain beauty to you. You know its beautiful because you feel it! Virtue is like that. It’s something “immediately pleasant to the mind.”

jonathan_edwards
“…virtue most essentially consists in love…”  Jonathan Edwards

Edwards may have been indecisive about what to wear, “Should I wear the black jacket or the black jacket?” but when it came to virtue, he was never conflicted because virtue is not relative to culture. Virtue is universal. It may not come to everyone (even though it could), but with genuine concern for what is good, virtue has already come.

Edwards (a.k.a Mr. Bluesky) called true virtue the “benevolence of being” or “beauty of the heart.” The heart being symbolic home to emotions of love, affection, and courage and where people say they feel a heartwarming sensation (as opposed indigestion).

If you are touched by an insurance commercial and “believe in good,” that is true virtue. It isn’t beautiful like a flower, house or body. It isn’t a thing. Virtue is feeling beauty in good doings.

flowers-sidewalk-crack

Taking an opposite stance to “feelings, nothing more than feelings,” (not the Offspring version) is Ayn Rand (1905-1982). To her, reality is exclusively perceived by the physical senses and only REASON can take sensory data and arrive at objectively valid conclusions (source). Her philosophy, Objectivism, is based on reason, egoism, individualism and capitalism.

aynrandreason
“Money is the barometer of a society’s virtue,” Ayn Rand.

With Rand, prickly analytical type people are either critical (Was Ayn Rand Evil?) or evangelical (The Atlas Society).

Rand argued that morality is a code of values that guide the choices we make which determine the course of our lives (source), but we’ve been offered two false alternatives: be moral – sacrifice yourself to others, or be selfish – sacrifice others to yourself (source). Which did she choose?

Be selfish. 

Edwards probably wouldn’t buy Rand’s “The Virtue of Selfishness.” He believed in feeling beyond reasoning, but he did say that some virtue comes from self-love (even if it isn’t true virtue).

The Golden Rule for example (treat others as you wish to be treated) treats virtue as an exchange for mutual benefit (reciprocity), but when treated poorly, do people say, “That’s OK,” (true virtue) or do they say, “How dare you treat me this way?” and demand retribution?

goldenwizard10

Cue music. Edwards said that “self-love” is to feel “one with one’s self” and true love (like parent for child), is to feel a union of the heart with others: a kind of enlargement of the mind, whereby it so extends itself as to take others into a man’s self.”

In eastern traditions, feeling separated from the earth and each other is a trick. Our brains put things into intellectual boxes that we label, but we are all a self and an other to each other and everything goes together: back with front, sound with hearing, inside with outside.

cardboard-box-head.jpg

Edwards probably believed in a higher self (good) and a lower self (bad), but in Zen there’s no such thing. There’s just you as far as the eye can see! Poetically speaking, “We’re rays of the same sun,” or as Oliver sang it in ’69, “Good Morning StarshineThe earth says hello. You twinkle above us. We twinkle below.

shadowAnd yet, feeling at one with everything sounds like a fantasy because it feels like there’s a self “in here” (with your name on it!) and a world “out there,” (that’s scary sometimes) but this is a trick we play on ourselves (source).

Reality is a feeling of colour, sound and sensation. We receive this as an entirety, but tell ourselves that some of it is “me” and some of it is “you.”

Pristine enjoyment is total acceptance: acceptance of yourself, of this universe as it is in this instant without any feeling of separation between self within (yes you!) and world without (look around!).

True virtue is to enjoy walking 500 miles in comfortable shoes like the Proclaimers claimed they’d do for no good reason but love.

Martial artist, Morihei (“abundant peace”) Ueshiba (1883-1969), said in The Art of Peace, “Foster peace in your own life then apply the Art to all that you encounter” (p. 13), but how do you do that?

Watching simulated horror in The Walking Dead show is popular, but in such places as ISIS territory, in flooding refugees, in crowded slums and extinction of species from inharmonious activity, a leaden-hearted brain-dead zombie apocalypse of a kind is happening now.

That a terrifying show about death feeding on life should provide advice about love and peace just goes to show, “You never know.”

In the non-horrible video below we meet Mr. Eastman who shows a man how to live a peaceful philosophy of nonresistance: redirect, evade, accept, care, protect, move forward and remember: All life is precious (and carry a big stick).

Enjoy living in the beauty of virtue. In the words of the band Blue Oyster Cult, “Don’t fear the reaper,” but if you do, amuse yourself with a little more cowbell!

And remember: Living in peace is better than resting!

Enjoy Knowing In the Rain.

rain-falling-on-bench

It is raining. The question is: Why?

It isn’t what is rain or where is rain or when is rain. We know all that. The question is: Why is rain? Why today? Not that it matters. A philosopher can enjoy a rainy day as well as any other. Rainy day or sunny day. It doesn’t matter. It’s all good, even when it isn’t.

As The Verve said, “it’s a bitter sweet symphony, this life.”

rubber-bootsEnjoyment is an attitude. It isn’t weather dependent. It’s immaterial because it doesn’t depend on anything. It comes by way of you. You take a rainy day and enjoy it anyway.

Rubber boots, a puddle, the patter of rain, possibly a hot drink and book later. Doesn’t take much. Jump into a puddle, say, “Here I am!” and there you are.

Gone.

black-umbrellaEnjoyment is strapping on life like you’d strap on a baby bonnet – on a baby! It’s gentle, giving and warm, free and innocent and does no harm. You don’t have to be in a beer commercial to be happy or deny that you cry on occasion, “My eyes are just a little sweaty today” (Flight of the Conchords). Resistance to feelings is futile.

baby-bonnetAs Lynn Anderson sang it, “Along with the sunshine, there’s gotta be a little rain sometime” (“Rose Garden“). Feel self pity and fear all you want but when you get tired of it, raise your eyes to the skies and go outside. Forget about it. Forget self-esteem! Forget self-importance! Forget yourself. Heartache fades when you focus outward.

Rain isn’t scientific. It isn’t for the purpose of survival. Rain is Beauty. Rain is Truth. That is the why of rain.

rain-in-garden

The poet John Keats (1795-1821) taught that, “human sorrow may be vanquished forever in the conquest of the infinite certitude that eternal Beauty and eternal Truth are one” (Thorpe, 1926, p. 10). But what is beautiful? What is true?

That’s up to you.

To see the beauty of a person or object is to recognize its beauty and see beyond the superficial. “Beauty is truth, truth beauty,—that is all ye know on earth, and all ye need to know” (Ode on a Grecian Urn, Keats, 1819). It’s an easy message to follow: cast off your social facade and display yourself naked before the judgmental scrutiny of all humankind (then run like hell!).

That’s all.

this-is-me
“Well, this is  me.”

Let your brainiac intellect go quiet and remember the advice Paul McCartney received in a dream from his mum.

paul-mccartney
Paul, left, with his mother Mary and brother Michael

Said Paul, “I remember quite clearly her saying ‘Let it be,’ and ‘It’s going to be OK. Don’t worry. You know, ‘Let it be'” (source).

john-lennon-and-flower
Nowhere you can be that isn’t where you’re meant to be. It’s Easy.

To which John Lennon said, “I don’t know what he’s thinking when he writes “Let It Be.” I think it was inspired by “Bridge Over Troubled Water” (source).

To which Paul Simon said after writing, “Where did that come from? It doesn’t seem like me” (source).

That’s the mystery.

pug
It’s an eclipse.

When you whisper words of wisdom, “let it be,” when you lay yourself down like a bridge over troubled water for a friend, that’s when you get it. Like the melancholy man said, “A beam of light will fill your head. And you’ll remember what’s been said. By all the good men this world’s ever known” (Moody Blues, “Melancholy Man”). 

As a poet said, “Save me a place. I’ll come running if you love me today” (Fleetwood Mac, “Save Me A Place”).

breathing

The poet Thomas Traherne (1637-1674) taught that when people get tangled in words, ideas and discriminations they lose sight of the one amazing reality all around.

thomastraherne
Traherne in stained glass window, Hereford Cathedral, England.

Traherne wrote, “we should be as very Strangers to the Thoughts, Customs, and Opinions of men in this World as if we were but little children” (Centuries, III, 5).

Today we forget self pity. We set our luggage down. We breathe easy. Instead of focusing straight ahead with laser beam eyes, we use flood lights to see the sides.

Today we walk in slow motion without swinging our arms. Chin up, shoulders back. We have a peripheral vision. We love a lost cat in the rain while Mantovani plays “Moon River” in our brain.

rain-cat-gifThe proof that people don’t understand what they do is in their doing. If they could do better, they would. But they can’t. So they don’t. Those who are cruel have broken from beauty.

People think themselves reasonable as they do something horrible. We are visible manifestations of our inner thoughts and feelings. A terrorist to one person is a freedom fighter to another. We lose self-respect. Those who hit get admired. The trouble is, we can’t stop what we do as we’re doing it (because we’re doing it).

Awareness is the key to self-mastery. Watch what you watch and then watch yourself watching yourself watching what you watch and then, when you get tired of all that, go for a walk and hear sounds without comment. Look for beauty like you’re in a movie.

Imagine you’re on a bridge in Paris. A bell strikes midnight.

paris-bridgeYou see a man named Gil greet a woman named Gabrielle. You hear Gabrielle mention Cole Porter and you see Gil smile.

You see Gil offer to buy Gabrielle coffee just as it begins to rain and Gabrielle smiles. “I don’t mind getting wet,” she says. “Actually, Paris is at its most beautiful in the rain.”

Gil couldn’t agree more.

And a jazz song from Sidney Bechet begins to play. In the rain. Such is the magic and beauty of enjoyment realized simply in the love of a moment. Content.

It’s the final scene in the movie Midnight in Paris (2011). It’s fiction. There is no Gil or Gabrielle. There is no going back in time, but Beauty and Truth are not fictional. Prove it to yourself by enjoying.

With love and amazement at what is.

 

Enjoy An Insight


Ever have one of those days? Everybody does. It’s a real bummer of a day (bummer is hippie speak for misfortune). It’s one of those days when you say to yourself, “Why me?” or “Why now?”

that's a bummerYou’re up before the sun “working in a coal mine, going down down,” and someone says, “Lord! I am soooo tired. How long can this go on?” Not that you actually work in a coal mine (unless you do). We’re talking metaphor. We all work in a coal mine of one kind or another. Even those who don’t work, work in a coal mine of a kind.

It’s on a “one of those days” day that you look for a sign that there’s more to life. Not that you’re superstitious. It’s just that when life is boring, pointless and terrible, most of us look for a sign that there’s more to it. Even those who don’t believe in miracles look for them.

coal miner's helmet2But few people see signs these days and those who do are maligned. We might crave a vision but all we have is TV. It’s not because the signs aren’t there that we don’t see them.

We don’t see them because we’re either not paying attention or we lack imagination. It takes a special kind of sensitivity to subtlety for a person to see signs and put it together.

In 1989 two math professors wrote “Methods for Studying Coincidences” in which they outlined four sources for most coincidences: 1) a hidden cause, 2) the psychology of a person, including memory and perception, 3) multiplicity of endpoints, including the counting of “close” or nearly alike events as if they were identical, and 4) the law of truly large numbers – given enough events, almost any coincidence is bound to occur.

They found that most puzzling coincidences arise in the mind of the observer. Therein is the magic! That’s the answer! You alone see the sign! You create magic by tuning into it!

coincidence
Coincidence?

If you pay attention and if you lighten up and if you go for silly walks now and then you will become familiar with wonderful oddities (for complete instructions see: Ministry of Silly Walks) .

Call it coincidence. Call it ironic, moronic or divine. Call it just one of those things. Beyond rationalization, confabulation and logical explanation, there are times when weird things happen and you are in a perfect position to see them (see earlier post: “Enjoy What Is And Take What Comes“).

strange
The Slant.

Let’s say you’re on your way to get your blood tested. As you peddle past a pretty storybook house with a fountain, you’re reminded of fairy-land pictures you’ve seen. The thought occurs to you that you and everyone you know will soon be dead.

It sounds gloomy, but at this moment it isn’t. Knowing that everything you know and have ever known will soon be gone has a way of putting things in perspective (see earlier post “Enjoy A Bad Day“).

chickendeathhome

What’s the worse case scenario in any situation? You could die. But you know that’s going to happen anyway so, as Dire Straits put it, “Why worry?

street-sign-spinnerNo sooner do you have this realization when you see a sign. But it isn’t the sign that catches your attention. It’s the sign spinner. Stopped at a streetlight, you watch the sign spinner. Suddenly life doesn’t seem so bad.

And you hear music coming from somewhere. It’s Tommy James and the Shondells singing Draggin’ the Line which goes, “Makin’ a livin’ the old, hard way.

art_purpleflowers_2Takin’ and givin’ my day by day.
I dig snow and rain and the bright sunshine…
My dog Sam eats purple flowers.
Ain’t got much, but what we got’s ours…
I feel fine!
I’m talkin’ ’bout peace of mind.
I’m gonna take my time.
I’m gettin’ the good sign…”

fountain-05What you thought was going to be “one of those days” changes into something beautiful when you open yourself to connection and possibility.

Jump forward: now you’re in a lab cubicle waiting for a nurse to take your blood. You’re listening to the Moody Blues sing “Tuesday Afternoon” and you think, “That’s funny. It is a Tuesday afternoon!”

The nurse comes in and prepares the syringe. You avert your eyes and on the wall you see a picture of a fountain. It looks like the fountain you saw earlier by the storybook house that reminded you of pictures that you once saw of a fairyland of love. They say that fountains symbolize joy and peace and water is the sign of calmness. All you know is that you like water fountains.

You may look back on your life like a Dickens’ novel. Life seems planned but little accidental meetings and experiences turn out to be main features of the plot. At this minute, looking around at the world as you do, you suddenly have an insight.

You marvel at the wonder of life and in so doing, enjoy it.

 

The Light of Enjoyment

candle in rose bowl
Here ideas grow like leaves – not added one to another, but naturally calling forth one to another, like one candle-light enkindles another candle which kindles yet another to form a beautiful pattern to enjoy.

Cue music: Weapon of Choice. And… begin.

“How is a person like a candle?” Sounds like a set up to a joke: “My love for you is like a candle, if you forget about me, I’ll burn your house down!” It’s funny (and scary) because candles symbolize romance and burning love and actually do burn houses down – 9,300 in the US between 2009-13 according to the National Fire Protection Association.

candle brideCandlelight represents the sun, spiritual illumination, goodness, joy. Light symbolizes intelligence and darkness is death and destruction. Candles at weddings symbolize unity. On birthday cakes they symbolize the light of life and the old belief that smoke from candles carries wishes and prayers to gods who live in the skies.

blueskiesDiarist and Holocaust victim Anne Frank (1929-1945) wrote, “Look at how a single candle can defy and define the darkness.” She knew about darkness and yet, despite her terror, she wrote like a philosopher of enjoyment: “As long as this exists, this sunshine and this cloudless sky, and as long as I can enjoy it, how can I be sad?”

light in the dark 2Poet Mehmet Murat ildan said, “If your mind is misty, your life will be misty; if your mind is sunny, your life will be sunny! Your life will be the reflection of your mind, of your thoughts! If there is a candle in your mind, your life will not know what utter darkness is!” (Mehmet Murat ildan).

lighting-a-cigarette-off-a-100-candle-funny-oldAncient Greeks (and not Athenian octogenarians) burned candles as an offering to their gods, but symbolism aside, a candle burning is similar to the life-functioning of a person. Not that we’re on fire (except for Jerry Lee Lewis and his Great Balls of Fire), but we do burn food (chemicals) and turn it into life-energy and waste (not necessarily of the smoky and romantic kind).

how a candle worksAccording to the National Candle Association when you light a candle, heat from the flame melts the wax made of hydrocarbons and draws it up the wick to burn. A hydrocarbon is made of hydrogen and carbon atoms. Scientists say humans are 96% carbon, hydrogen, oxygen, nitrogen and 4% other elements (Live Science).

According to the Encyclopedia of Human Thermodynamics, Human Chemistry, and Human Physics each human is: “a large atomic structure, or single abstract molecule which has been synthesized over millions and billions of years… if a large chemist was looking down on earth, as though the surface of the earth were a test-tube for his studies, the chemist would view humans to be little molecules reacting together forming products” (Human Chemistry).

humans as chemicalsTo science humans are factories, machines, chemically constructed bags of skin with in-puts and out-puts and parts that can be replaced or repaired. The point is to survive, learn and reproduce.

The question is: “So? What has any of this to do with enjoyment?” Nothing, really. Except, maybe… everything.how a person is like a candleThis goes towards understanding common assumptions. We feel like we’re behind the eyes – a spot of awareness, alone in the universe – and our bodies are like cars and we’re drivers within. We think there is a separation between ourselves and our surroundings, but think of a candle: Would it burn in outer space? We say, “This is me,” and look around pointing, “Not me. Not me. Not me!” (Sometimes we’re shrill.)

WhereAmIIf you’re scientific, you say we’re made of stuff and things run automatically: cause and effect, natural selection. Big visible things are products of tiny, invisible things. Living things come out of dead chemicals. If we go in smaller and smaller, stuff disappears and becomes mostly space. If we look at stars, they go farther away.

And if we’re religious, we think much the same except instead of being made by self-perpetuating processes we believe in a creator.

candleBoth are great views – fantastic! – but this isn’t serious. It’s play. A person (Latin: persona) is a mask. Tag! You’re it! Experience. The amazing thing about the world is that you can walk into it – one foot in front of the other. The trick is to pay attention to its three-dimensionality. We don’t appreciate the softness of air or notice how it parts before us without needing a shovel (unless we’re in Beijing).

beijing
Sunday in Beijing.

We’re airy nothings dependent on the world we’re in. Toys aren’t us: Nature is.

In ’69 Jimmy Cliff sang, “You can get it if you really want. But you must try – try and try – try and try. You’ll succeed at last, mmh, yeah.” A cheerful ditty – repetitive maybe – but fun to lip-sync like David Morrissey.

A philosopher can enjoy the song and get it – not as success – but it as enjoyment. It’s a choice: “I will enjoy.” It perpetuates itself in you as self-conscious feelings of yourself as you disappear.

Try this:

escalatorNext time you’re in a department store and you find yourself alone in your brain, far away in thought and the world is out there, just before stepping onto an escalator whisper, “I will enjoy.” Step on. Let enjoyment (and the escalator) take you on. Merge with a world that’s in and of you.

Leave language. Leave analysis. Live as music. Face forward. Let scenery move in the periphery.

A goofy smile is…. optional.

Enjoy A Bad Day

country dance
The Country Dance by Jean-Antoine Watteau (1684 – 1721). Bring it on.

Bad days come and go. That is all there is to know. Life is up and down, ebb and flow. In the mashed potato dance of life you know it’s not all good, but do you know how to enjoy a bad day? Do you know how to make a bad day bearable?

bearable2
A bad day made bearable.

First, picture good and bad days as positive and negative polarities in a single process like a magnet. If you cut off the negative polarity on a magnet, a new negative polarity appears. You can’t get rid of a bad day. If you expect only good, you’ll be disappointed.

The trick is to enjoy all the nuances of life (bad days too) and put your philosophical pedal to the metal.

pedal
Rock on. Bang a gong (get it on).

In The Way of Myth Joe Campbell refers to a saying, “Joyful participation in the sorrows of the world.” Life isn’t meant to be happy. That’s not what it’s about. It isn’t about lifestyle choices, convenience and a good golf score. Sorrow is the essence of life. Get into it. That’s what myths are about. A myth asks, “Are you affirmative enough with your relationship to say, Yes! – no matter what?”

Life’s a killer. It’s true. Your body will die. Enjoyment is the ability to absorb the horror of that truth. The question is, “Will your love absorb it?

Go spiritual. Thoughts immaterial. Soul Man. Rock on.

Chaplin
Chaplin on a bad day in 1916. Bring it on.

Charlie Chaplin said, “Life is a tragedy when seen close-up, but a comedy in long shot.” Unhappy people want the world to be other than it is. Let a bad day be, smile, slam your heart on the table and say, Bring it on.  You can say, This too shall pass! Condition temporary. The world isn’t a problem. Turn your gaze inward and look where you’re looking from. Enjoy your vantage point.

The you that’s looking is the same as it’s been since day one. A 100 year old man feels the same as he did at 15. Forget age. Forget knowledge. Get to the source of it all.

Go graceful. You can dance if you want to.

Forget criticism. Expect nothing. Go blank. Be an idiot. That should be easy. Forget that you’re a third person thing called I, me, and mine. With awareness, imagine reversing your gaze. Look at the looker looking. Look from the source. Give your face away. You don’t own it anyway.

floats your boat
Enjoy a bad day at sea.

Dance to the art of noise. Walk a beat without swinging your arms. Look out the sides of your eyes. What you see is relative to where you are.

Dualists  say that it’s mind over matter. If you don’t mind, it doesn’t matter. They say the mind is a non-physical thing so put on a sweater and let intellectual powers override threats, problems and difficulties.

dualismMonists say that a whole variety of things could be explained as a single substance or a single thing that we call “the universe.”

Scientists say that every living thing is made of cells which are protein based robots too small to feel anything. Cells have the properties of life but no part of them is alive.

In the short video What is life? a narrator asks, “If everything in the universe is made of the same stuff, does this mean that everything in the universe is dead or that everything in the universe is alive? That it’s just a question of complexity? Does this mean we can never die because we were never alive in the fist place? Is life and death an irrelevant question and we haven’t noticed it yet? Are we much more a part of the universe than we thought?” (kurzgesagt).

bad dats

The Flaming Lips (the band that is) made a free-wheeling song about escaping into dreams on bad days. The chorus goes, “And all your bad days will end. You have to sleep late when you can. And all your bad days will end” (Bad Days). In the video they enjoy an old motel, summer, watermelons and a couple of kids enjoy riding their bikes.

And there it is. It’s as simple as that. Look at the world like a kid. Have no idea. Enjoy.

consciousness
17th century consciousness.

Enjoyment isn’t about money or achievement. You don’t need to be smart, strong or even slightly good looking. To enjoy reality, all of it – bad days too! – cleaning teeth and toilets, waiting in lines, getting cancer, losing everything, giving, taking, the whole damn thing! – through it all, whatever happens, let it. Do what you can. Be just and live in heartfelt awareness. Tune your senses to the frequency of the moment like a Nacho Libre Religious man singing, “I am I am!”

Unfettered by fury or despair, open to experience, where death is nothing, the future a concept and compassion a reality, therein find sublime enjoyment. There, like a non-violent pirate say, “Arr! Man, she be good!” You say without fear like a llama going over the falls,Bring it on.

nacho libreYou don’t have to be successful. Just be behind your eyes. Look outward and inward at the same time. Measure success by awareness and an ability to enjoy what comes along – no matter what!

References

Boa, F. (1994). The Way of Myth: Talking With Joseph Campbell. Shambhala Pocket Classics.

Harding, D. E. (2000). Face to No-Face: Rediscovering Our Original Nature. D. Lang (Ed.). Carlsbad, CA.

Enjoyment Without a Head

winter-forest-sunset.jpg

Imagine walking into a forest. It’s winter. There’s snow but you’re not cold. It’s silent and still and magical. As you stroll you notice how thoughts come and go, until gradually, as you pay attention to the graceful world, thinking subsides and a gentle feeling arises.

This is a path you’ve walked before. You can picture the former you walking here. And it’s a funny thing: You’ve lurched between wanting and not wanting throughout your life, but in a moment of attention like this, you don’t do either.

breathYou see your breath in the air and ask: “Who are you?” Who but you would know? Why not look into what it’s like being you – first person, singular, present tense? “Would you want to live and die without looking at the one doing that?” asked Douglas Harding.

You see yourself as a kid looking in a mirror. Your mom said, “That’s you!” and you believed her. Again and again you see the person under glass and think, “That’s me!” You think you are as you appear in the mirror, but that’s not how you actually see. When you look out of yourself, you don’t see a head.

mirror

You see hands, feet and knees. You see objects. You see trees and rabbit droppings and pine cones. You see far and near, but try as you might, you can’t see the one seeing. Your self is like that. Your self is a concept like a reflection in a mirror.

The ancients spoke of beauty, goodness and truthImmersed in a world of snow, grass, trees and colour, you put one foot in front of the other and care not for images, politics and economies. You see beauty. You see goodness. You know a simple truth: You’re here and glad of it.

snowy landscape

The poet William Blake (1757-1827) wrote, “Every Eye sees differently. As the Eye, Such the Object” (Fearful Symmetry: A Study of William Blake, p. 19). Everyone may see the same tree, but experience it differently. Blake said, “a fool sees not the same tree that a wise man sees” (The Marriage of Heaven and Hell). The fool is less aware. He sees, “trees” like a million others. Meaningless. Insignificant. But a wise person lives in gusto and pays attention. A wise person’s tree is more real.

winter tree.jpg

You are the space between. Before a thought comes, there is a thinker. You are the one thinking. You are consciousness itself.

self-portrait of Ernst Mach

Writer Douglas Harding saw philosopher Ernst Mach’s 1885 self-portrait where he closed his right eye and drew himself. While walking Harding had an insight and wrote, “What actually happened was something absurdly simple and unspectacular: I stopped thinking. A peculiar quiet, and odd kind of alert limpness or numbness, came over me.”

Harding looked at himself and realized that he couldn’t see his head. “It took me no time at all to notice this nothing, this hole where a head should have been, was no ordinary vacancy, no mere nothing. On the contrary, it was a nothing that found room for everything—room for grass, trees, shadowy distant hills, and far beyond them snow-peaks like a row of angular clouds riding the blue sky. I had lost a head and gained a world”  (On Having No Head).

In the 1960s Mike Heron of the Incredible String Band saw a similarity between poet Thomas Traherne (1636-1674) and Douglas Harding. Heron wrote a song about headlessness that begins, “When I was born I had no head. My eye was single and my body was filled with light. And the light that I was, was the light that I saw by. And the light that I saw by, was the light that I was” (song: Douglas Traherne Harding). 

traherneIn the 1600’s Traherne wrote, “You never enjoy the world aright, till the Sea itself floweth in your veins, till you are clothed with the heavens, and crowned with the stars.” Traherne was a philosopher of enjoyment. He wrote, “Your enjoyment of the World is never right till every morning you awake in Heaven” (Centuries of Meditation). Wade (1944) writes of Traherne, “In the middle of the seventeenth century, there walked the muddy lanes of Herefordshire and the cobbled streets of London, a man who had found the secret of happiness… He became the most radiantly, most infectiously happy mortal this earth has known” (p. 2). This is the secret: It is in paying attention without thinking. Don’t be fooled by personality.

You are like the surprised squirrel silently watching you watch him.

squirrel-posing-in-snow

If this squirrel were a person, you would feel self-conscious and probably look away, but when you’re headless, you don’t worry. Both you and the face you see, don’t see their own face. It’s just a you looking back at another you. 

tightrope walker

You are a tightrope walker. The path you walk (in or out of forests) is the rope you’re on. You walk between thought and attention. The trick is to enjoy both. You are the world seeing. You are not a thing. You are not your appearance. You are seeing itself. You are capacity. This year is dedicated to paying attention without distracted thinking. Wherever you go, there you are. You are the world to yourself. You are the one experiencing.

Trust experience and enjoy it.

References

Wade, G. (1944). Thomas Traherne: A Critical Biography. Princeton University Press/Oxford University Press.

 

So This Is Christmas

christmasChristmas. It’s a time to enjoy being a kid again. ‘It’s time to be nice to the people you can’t stand all year’ (Blink 182, Won’t Be Home For Christmas). It’s time to lighten up like a string of lights and not be so serious. Serious people lose their sense of humour. They lose perspective, get mad, start wars (or self-destruct).

Let go of expectations. Lower the bar! It’s time to take stock, have a good cry and then: move on – refreshed – ready for a new year.

where is mindIt’s time to pay attention to matters of love and friendship and textured vests. It’s a time to want what you get and be thankful for it. It’s a time to enjoy being mild and to smile for no apparent reason. It’s time to relax your face muscles completely, to not be critical of the idiot next door or find fault with yourself and all the others out there.

It’s like Ebenezer Scrooge said in A Christmas Carol after his nightmare and metanoia (change of heart), “It is a fair, even-handed, noble adjustment of things, that while there is infection in disease and sorrow, there is nothing in the world so irresistibly contagious as laughter and good humour.” And then, later a new and improved Mr. Scrooge said, “I will honour Christmas in my heart, and try to keep it all the year. I will live in the Past, the Present, and the Future. The Spirits of all Three shall strive within me. I will not shut out the lessons that they teach!”

scrooge

It’s time to hear a Medieval Christmas Carol and imagine. Christmas is a perfect time for a philosopher of enjoyment because isn’t enjoyment what it’s all about? Isn’t that why we’re here? Don’t all mothers and fathers want their children to be happy?

With or without a religious affiliation, everyone believes in love. Everyone believes in happiness. Christmas is a time for traditions, for remembering good times and the lessons learned in bad. It’s a time to stop competing, to get off the rat race and enjoy being alive.

being in the momentChristmas is a time to enjoy seeing, hearing, smelling, tasting, touching, imagining (and caroling). It’s a time to be in time (not on time).

It is time to take a simple approach: When looking, look. When hearing, hear. Look without judgement. Hear what is there. Let thoughts come and go like the trace of a line left by a fly.

This Christmas be introspective with a difference: Pay attention to sights and sounds and let thoughts move along like marching bands in a Santa Claus parade.

santa-clause-paradeIf you get sucked into the vortex of thinking, take a deep breath and start again. Gaze at Christmas ornaments unabashedly wide-eyed. Listen to music of love like it’s as essential as the air that you breath. Watch thought bubbles come and go and you will feel lighthearted love for all.

bubblesNot that thinking is bad (unless it is bad thinking). It’s just that being perpetually absorbed takes you into a mental world that isn’t real. Before his transformation Scrooge was in a mental world where only money mattered. He was blind to the world outside his mind. But you don’t need ghosts to tell you what is.

christmas ballsLook at Christmas tree balls. No sorrow. No lamenting. No coveting. No grief. Feel a passion for what is real in every moment, undistracted and accepting.

Christmas is a be-in-the moment thing.

christmas treats

Christmas is a time for bitter-sweet tears of loss and heartache (in a good way!), but try not to let emotions of love get mixed with pain. Love hurts. That’s what it does. Too often people have unrealistic expectations and engage in too much self-reflection. As a result, there’s an increase in depression and suicide attempts (Psychology Today).

christmas3The trick to all this is to ignore how the media presents Christmas perfection. Christmas is not perfect. Be with what is and remember the kid that you were.

expectationsAs much as we may ponder the past and worry about the future, Christmas is time to focus on now.

This is it. This is it. This is it.

If you want to be happy in the world, there is nothing more important than to understand this. The trouble is that we spend our lives forgetting and overlooking the truth. We flee from it and manage to avoid being happy while we struggle to become happy by fulfilling desire.

Listen to that old song called Stewball that goes, “Oh Stewball was a racehorse, and I wish he were mine. He never drank water, he always drank wine,” and remember how Stewball became something else.

Stewball’s melody was turned into a new Christmas song about love, “So this is Christmas and what have you done? Another year over and a new one’s just begun. And so this is Christmas, I hope you have fun, the near and the dear ones, the old and the young…” (John Lennon, So this is Christmas).

Now is the time that is. Now is the time for your transformation. Now is the time to enjoy what Christmas is. Go forth and enjoy all the love that you can.

christmas 4.jpg

How to Master the Joy of Living

lovely nature

The news likes to boost our egos by saying how big our brains are. Huffpost Science reports, “Humans have an advantage in the animal kingdom because our brains are bigger and more wrinkled than those of other animals” (7 Cool New Findings About the Brain).

bigbrainBig wrinkly brains. Amazing. Good to know. Hallelujah. But if big wrinkly brains make us smarter than other animals, how come we make such a mess of things?

We only see what we want to see and are as happy as we want to be. Each of us is like a flock of geese inside a biological car.

We think we create our own reality but we can’t control what other people do or environmental forces. That doesn’t mean we’re victims. We participate in creating our reality through attitude and how we deal with things (Amodeo, 2014).

skipperTo master the joy of living takes grit, spit and a whole lotta duct tape. It takes a conscious effort (and a nonconscious one too).

What isn’t widely known is that the human brain has a well-being filter (Wilson, 2002). Just as our bodies have an immune system to protect us from disease, we have a psychological immune system to protect us from unease. We look at the world in a way that maintains our sense of well-being. We’re spin doctors who rationalize threatening information to make us feel better.

modest mouseIn Strangers To Ourselves (the book, not the album) social psychologist Tim Wilson writes, “What makes us feel good depends on our culture and personalities and our level of self-esteem, but the desire to feel good, and the ability to meet this desire with nonconscious thought, are probably universal” (p. 39).

We apply fight-or-flight reflexes to information by pushing threatening information away and pulling friendly information up close for a kiss.

oblivious of danger

Reasoning is bathed in emotion. Anger let’s us dominate. Love let’s us harmonize and vanity let’s us feel better about ourselves. People without normal emotional processing display irrational behaviour (Damasio, 1994).

What we feel is based on the value we place on something. Positive or negative feelings occur fast enough for an EEG device to detect but too fast for conscious awareness. We can reason but that works slower.

unconsciousThe challenge posed by a Philosophy of Enjoyment is to enjoy life, but living on a planet without forests, song birds, tigers and water might not be as enjoyable as it sounds.

oil field
Not Mars.

If something is too painful or disturbing our unconscious protects our sense well-being (McLeod, 2009). We enjoy fictional wars on stars and imagine life on Mars. As appealing as Mars is – with its average temperature of minus 60 Celsius, planetary dust storms and radiation equivalent to a whole-body CT scan every five days (Castro, 2015) – there’s just something special about Earth.

flamingoMaybe it’s the flamingos.

There’s a cartoon called “MAN” by Steve Cutts that illustrates human impact. It’s funny, sad and if you don’t unconsciously hate it immediately, it might make you wonder: What’s a big wrinkly brained fella’ ‘sposed to do?

manIn “The Lie We Live” Spencer Cathcart says, “Each of us shares a common goal: Happiness. We tear the world apart looking for joy without ever looking within ourselves. Many of the happiest people are those who own the least but are we really so happy with our iPhones, our big houses, our fancy cars? We’ve become disconnected… We have mastered the act of killing. Now let’s master the joy of living.

But how does one master the joy of living?

the lie we live

Are the happiest people those who own the least? Researchers say no. They say that wealthy people aren’t happier they’re just less sad daily (Kushlev, Dunn, & Lucas, 2015) .

funny-capitalism-cartoon-rich-poor

Forbes magazine reports: “One day I’ll be able to afford a spacious loft in the city with outdoor space and huge windows overlooking the park…The first step in getting what you want in life is to envision yourself already there… what is behind this process is believing… you can will the life you want into being and make it a reality” (How To Create The Exact Life You Want).

readerForbes is a money man magazine with a bad ass financial plan. Its advice to create the exact life we want assumes we want the fool’s gold of a spacious loft in the city with a view of the park.

But here in our philosophy we put on those glasses that help us see unconscious messages. Here we focus on that inward eye which is the bliss of solitude. We don’t believe in money gods, spacious lofts and cars, but in the inner wealth of character.

We keep our eyes wide open all the time and gaze – and gaze – at the wealth and pleasure of daffodil shows.

daffodils3

A philosopher of enjoyment sings with Johnny Cash, “I keep a close watch on this heart of mine. I keep my eyes wide open all the time. I keep the ends out for the tie that binds. Because you’re mine, I walk the line…As sure as night is dark and day is light, I keep you on my mind both day and night. And happiness I’ve known proves that it’s right. Because you’re mine, I walk the line” (I Walk the Line).

Johnny CashAnd who are you? You are the line. Enjoy it. You walk the line between life and death, and love and hate. The trick to it is to walk that line one step at a time with a kind heart valuing wisdom, reason, nature, beauty, harmony, humour, friendship and love – you know: the good stuff.

Any time, day or night, is the right time to walk the line.

 

References

Amodeo, J. (2014). Do We Create Our Own Reality? Not So Fast. Psych Central.

Brooks, D. (2011). The Social Animal: The Hidden Sources of Love, Character, and Achievement. Random House.

Castro, J. (2015). What would it be like to live on Mars? Space.com.

Damasio, A. R. (1994). Descartes’ Error and the Future of Human Life. Scientific American.

Heath, I. (2002). Unconscious Ideas and Emotions. Psychologist World.

Krueger, A. (2014). How To Create the Exact Life You Want. Forbes Lifestyle.

Kushlev, K., Dunn, E. & Lucas, R. (2015). Higher Income Is Associated With Less Daily Sadness but not More Daily Happiness. Social Psychological & Personality Science.

McLeod, S. (2009). Simply Psychology.

Whiteman, L. (2014, Sept. 1). 7 Cool New Findings About the Brain. Huffpost Science.

Wilson, T. D. (2004). Strangers to ourselves. Harvard University Press.

 

A New Way of Looking

keys
Here’s the thing: If someone says, “The secret to life is...,” that person is unknowingly (or knowingly) misleading. Why?

Because.

It isn’t a secret. If it was a secret, everyone’s secret would be different.

It’s like looking for keys and not finding them even—though they’re under your nose. You’re in a hurry but waste time running around looking for keys and not finding them because you’re in a hurry. You look repeatedly on the table—where they should be (and are)—but don’t see them. Why? In desperation you start looking in weird places. So too do people look for enjoyment in weird place when they don’t have to. Enjoyment is right under your nose.

When you finally do find find your keys, you feel extra extra-annoyed because they were there all along, and you wonder: “How could I not see them? Am I blind? (No.) Am I an idiot? (Only partly).”

The power is in the focus. It’s a matter of attention. It’s all a matter of awareness.

pug

In the hurry to find what you’re looking for you see with eyeballs but not with brain. Hurry causes stress. Stress causes the release of cortisol in the brain. Cortisol can kill brain cells in the area responsible for memory (Your Amazing Brain). If you add multi-tasking to a frantic searching, you have zero attention (Brain Rules…).

what a view

Searching for keys in all the wrong places is like searching for enjoyment. We don’t see what’s in front of us. Enjoyment is simple. It’s so simple that we don’t get it until we do and then we doubt it because we might be expecting something that isn’t so subtle.

If you’re reading this—wherever you are in this world—you’re probably alive. If you’re alive, you’re halfway there, but the other half isn’t easy. Nature isn’t on your side. Nature isn’t on anyone’s side. Nature is cause and effect.

The trouble is that happiness gets tied to desire and expectations. We define happiness as, Wanting what we want and getting what we get and hoping the two coincide.

overthinking2You see, it’s because of our brains. We either over-think and make it complicated, we under-think and act on insane urges or we multi-task and miss everything.

We think, “If I have this (or that), I’ll be happy,” but not only do we think that something outside ourselves will make us happy, we’re drawn to things that actually hurt us.

pawnsOur brains send messages. Sometimes these messages are destructive—ask anyone in therapy, rehab, prison or who is about to blow himself up. Not only do we deceive ourselves, other people trick us with their deceptions and w can become like pawns in the game of life, sacrificed for someone else’s idea of enjoyment.

So, what’s the answer?

Fred FlintstonePicture brain messages symbolically like they do in cartoons with a devil-you and an angel-you on each shoulder arguing their case for you to decide (see Internal Multitudes and Enjoyment Decisions). The devil-you often wins and when he does, he gets harder to stop.

Pleasure and habit are linked. Cells that fire together, wire together. In other words: Habits are hard to break (see: It’s not me. It’s my brain.)

It’s like a battle between, on one side, the Rolling Stones at 120 decibels singing “Sympathy For The Devil”, “Please allow me to introduce myself, I’m a man of wealth and taste,” and on the other side, a string quartet playing “Hallelujah” in your living room.! Who do you think will win?

innocenseOn one side are symbols of light, innocence and wholesomeness (sappy?) and on the other, just the opposite (exciting?). In the battle between it comes down to focus. What do you choose to enjoy?

Enjoyment of life and of healthy beauty is decided by awareness of what “you” choose to pay attention to.

daffodils2Do you take the gentle path of life as represented in Wordsworth’s poem, “I wandered lonely as a cloud; That floats on high o’er vales and hills; When all at once I saw a crowd; A host, of golden daffodils“? Or is that boring? “Daffodils? You’re kidding!”

zobie3Do you prefer your entertainment on the excitingly evil side? How about delightful depravity and edgy cruelty that’s funny too? What’s your pleasure? Do you choose a quiet read, a walk in the park, a pint with a friend, or ‘gorified’ death in a Zombie Apocalypse?

It’s a tough decision for most people.

Subtlety is missed by mobs fed on chatter, drugs, violence, convenience and bread and circuses. A butterfly caught in a web is easily killed by the spider. It takes heart and courage and a focus on what is wholesome to overcome dark greed.

butterfly.jpgWholesome isn’t a word used much these days. It alludes to marketing all-natural breakfast cereals and family values but back in the year 1200 wholesome meant “of benefit to the soul.” It comes from the word “whole” meaning “healthy” (undamaged, entire, safe) and “-some” meaning “tending to” (Etymology Dictionary).

Wholesome relates to “Hallow!” as in Hello! Health! Holy! It’s a greeting and a call to health and Hallelujah! (Word Origins).

Imagine: You go to a concert in a high school auditorium but your brain is messed up with problems. You miss the first part before your spirit gets caught up in the music and then… and then

A switch to whole.

seating

You see where you are. Your face relaxes. Totally still you breathe and your eyes… your eyes! they widen and go slack. You see as if you were life itself.

What was a disheveled auditorium with flickering light bulbs about to die and chattering nuisance people becomes… beautiful. You enter the stream. You are empty absolutely. You know that life runs along like a runaway train as you float in your body behind a face.

life is beautiful
A scene.

You look out of yourself self-aware. This moment is captured in the very being of yourself – not as an ego, but as… a spirit.

The purest illuminations come unsought.

You are transfigured but no one knows. How could they? You are alone in yourself but through the eyes of another you see the importance of all this. It’s in relationships and immersion. You’ve put your will to the side and thrown yourself out.

Such is enjoyment seeing.

Cease demanding that life conform to desire. See daffodils and ignore zombies (they aren’t real).