Is it serious? Up Enjoyment to Bliss Filled Without Trying

autumn trees

While walking in a park one calm and cool autumn, from out of the enjoyment of a ten minute moment, with trees bathed in fall colours, with birds—black-eyed juncos, chickadees and sparrows—pecking among leaves and squirrels running around like maniacs, from out of the overcast white sky comes a question.

Is it serious?  

“It depends,” you say. “What is “it”? Is a mouse serious? A mouse thinks so. That’s why he runs. Owls think mice are serious. Survival is serious to survivors. Owl and mouse do owl and mouse things to survive just as humans do human things to survive (except with TVs, toilets and machines). The difference is, whereas a mouse and owl won’t understand what “serious” is, a human might.

Think of it as a game. (Cue music: “Get off of my cloud”.)

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In the first chapter of Finite and Infinite Games, James P. Carse lays out a theory in two sentences, “There are at least two kinds of games. One could be called finite, the other infinite. A finite game is played for the purpose of winning, an infinite game for the purpose of continuing the play” (James P. Carse).

Mouse vs. owl is a finite game. A mouse named Jimmy can escape (win) or be eaten (lose). An owl named Janice can eat (win) or starve (lose). The dead are losers. Death is the triumph of past over future, but if life is the prize for winning, finite players aren’t living. 

mouse vs owl

What is won in finite games is a title (p. 19). In death, titles replace life. When you die, attempts to win titles stop. We take finite games serious, but in seriousness and certainty we lose awareness of wonder and the infinite game we’re playing.

Beyond the immediate owl and mouse competition (little picture), there is an infinite game (big picture) where owl and mouse play “live and let die” so others can continue.

In an infinite game players play (and die) to keep the game going. Finite games have boundaries, infinite games don’t. You can’t tell how long an infinite game has been playing (Philosophical Explorations).

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Is the universe serious? Is air travel, brain surgery and regular maintenance serious? Something is serious or it isn’t unless, of course, what is serious actually isn’t.

Are birds in trees serious? Are fish in seas and people in parks, serious? Is a goose standing on one foot stretching his wings among other geese, serious? Is a woman standing on one foot stretching among other women stretching, serious? Is a man selling drugs to another man, serious? Is a cat pouncing on a sparrow, serious?

dog meditatingLife and death feel serious. Ask any cancer survivor, terrorist or soldier. But like the comedian Louis C.K., we too can feel that life is “OK” but we don’t need it. “Make a list of every shitty thing ever. That’s in life… You know how much I like life? I have never killed myself” (Louis C.K. 2017).

People who kill themselves and/or others take it too serious. It isn’t a question of whether it “‘tis nobler in the mind to suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune,” as Hamlet asked. We know it ’tis! Suffering is part of the game to be enjoyed without masochism. Allow suffering to be there without trying to forget or escape. It moves to the periphery and you feel bliss filled in the centre because you’re free.

For millions (billions?) of people, a lot of the time (most of the time?), life does not feel blissful as in perfectly happy, but then again, as it is written, “You Can’t Always Get What You Want” but if you try sometimes, you’ll find, you get what’s agreed.

you can't always get what you want

It’s like the joke Woody Allen told the gist of which goes, “The food in this place is terrible!” “Yeah, I know; and such small portions.” To Woody, life is “full of loneliness, and misery, and suffering, and unhappiness, and it’s all over much too quickly.”

Something “serious” is important, grave, somber, heavy, weighty, critical, sincere, in earnest and not trifling (Dictionary.com). Is that how “it” is? Is life grave somber, heavy, weighty and so forth?

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The  Power Thesaurus lists 509 words that are the opposite of “serious,” including: funny, playful, light, unimportant, silly, trivial, lighthearted, ridiculous, happy, laughable, merry, easy,  trippy, unwise and priceless. Now, how would you feel if instead of thinking “it” is serious, you thought of it as funny, light, playful and merry? How would it feel to be the opposite of serious?

How would you feel, “to be on your own, with no direction home, a complete unknown, just like a Rolling Stone?” (“Like a Rolling Stone”). What if you could see finite games for what they are?

wascana-park

The truth is, most of what we think is important actually isn’t. On and off. On and off. Now you see it. Now you don’t. Here and gone as if what was there never wasn’t. That is the infinite game we play so others can continue.

A test for what you see as true is to look at your day without trying to change it. Let your day rock and roll as it will. Recognize what you can and can’t do. Alter what you think is true. With a rock and roll mindset, you are free to swagger. Nothing can hurt you.

You don’t get what you want? So what. Someone slights you? Big deal. People don’t know what they’re doing, if they did, there wouldn’t be problems. It is and/isn’t serious. Instead of swimming upstream, enjoy flowing (see also The Art of Enjoying).

Live without worry and strain. The less you strain, the more free you are. There is only so much you can do. Beyond that, you’re helpless. Enjoy it. With this realization, comes freedom to enjoy an infinite game. Look on the light side and give a whistle.

“Why so serious?” shouldn’t be a catch phrase just for homicidal maniacs.

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Enjoy a Funny Feeling

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In The Divine Comedya medieval vision of the afterlife completed in 1320—Dante (c. 1265-1321) wrote, “Tonight we fly over the chimney tops, skylights and slates. Looking into all your lives and wondering why happiness is so hard to find.” 

Seven hundred years later we do the same, except with a drone—still wondering why happiness is hard to find (even with indoor plumbing). Like a peeping Peter Pan we fly over “all the  lonely people” living in “quiet desperation.”

The quietly desperate are resigned to fate. They won’t speak up. They won’t cry out. They simply exist. Nothing means anything. And when nothing means anything, pleasure is everything. Pleasure initiates a process that learning sustains.

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Pleasure releases dopamine into nerve cells underneath the cerebral cortex—the area for planning and executing tasks in the brain. Liking it becomes wanting it and then we’re driven to get it.  It’s in the Human Brain Owners Manual. We might think we run our own show, but it’s really just chemistry.

How addicted we get to a drug or activity depends on the quickness, intensity and reliability of dopamine release (Harvard Medical School). Without self-understanding, the default is to become a non-self-aware robot-person following a program.

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The comedian Mitch Hedberg (1968-2005) used to joke, “I used to do drugs. I still do, but I used to, too.” People used to laugh. They still do, but they used to too. Mitch joked about addiction until it killed him. But he was onto something when he said, “I like to play blackjack. I’m not addicted to gambling. I’m addicted to sitting in a semi-circle,” because it doesn’t matter if it’s sex, drugs, or Cocoa Puffs, human brains register all pleasures the same (Harvard Medical School).

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But it’s funny (maybe it isn’t), the more we get what we want, the less we enjoy it. Psychologist Wendy Wood from the University of Southern California said, “With repetition, action tendencies become stronger. Feelings, however, become weaker with repetition. So, the more often you eat ice cream, the less pleasure you get from eating it” (“If you enjoy something, don’t make it a habit”).

The greatest single barrier to finding what you seek is the secret assumption that you already know. Thinking you know lends itself to barking up wrong trees.

barking up the wrong tree

Living quietly desperate means never knowing satisfaction and feeling happiness only rarely (possibly while dancing).

Thoreau’s quote about leading a life of quiet desperation is used as a reason to follow your passion and achieve a life that isn’t small and mediocre but big and successful but to Thoreau, “success” isn’t big: it’s small.

coffee2Success is in the small and ordinarywatching ducks, feeling cozy, wearing plaid.

“If the day and the night are such that you greet them with joy,” writes Thoreau, “and life emits a fragrance like flowers and sweet-scented herbs, is more elastic, more starry, more immortal—that is your success” (Walden).

Seeing is beautiful when the “I” of criticism is gone.

When the comedian Steve Martin said,  “Let’s get small,” he was practically Thoreauvian! To get small is to shift from a self-perspective to a kind of disappearing where you get smaller and smaller until at last you are free of fault-finding and a happy feeling of love for “Both Sides, Now” hits you in the face like a pillow.

henry thoreau cartoonIt’s practically mystical—or is it mystically practical? Either way, it is beautiful. Take a break. Stop seeing the world through conditioned opinion as a programmed person and feel aware of reality and yourself in it.

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Happiness happens. It’s happening right now but you might not see it because happiness is like finding money on the road. You look at the money but don’t see it. Your mind is elsewhere. The hypnosis of regularity obscures the profound.

If everybody really felt what it is to be alive in this minute counting up as we count down, it would be too much! Daily living puts us in an emotional coma. It’s easier to deaden our senses, but it isn’t better. If you don’t believe it, try this exercise in awareness:

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Look up. Look around. Give your head a shake. Don’t just notice where you are, notice yourself in where you are. See yourself as if from above. Notice how as you were reading, you did not exist to yourself? Notice how you can listen to thoughts in a detached way? Watch your thoughts come and go like floats in a parade. Wave hello and good bye to trolling thoughts and your mind will start to relax. 

daffy fights darkness

It’s like there’s an annoying duck-person blathering inside. Who is this annoying self-centred duck-person? How’d he get in here? Make him leave. Listen without reaction. Eventually he’ll get tired and you’ll feel peace.

In the 1911 song “Life’s a funny proposition after all” George M. Cohan (1878-1942) sang-spoke, “Hurried and worried until we’re buried; there’s no curtain call.” Cohen puts it all together and shows us the pickle of our problem. Life may be funny but not everyone is laughing. People don’t necessarily live the way they do because they like it. They live the way they do because they don’t know what else to do!

this-chair-looks-pretty-depressed-226290If you sat on a beach and yelled at the ocean, “Stop waving!” It wouldn’t stop. It couldn’t stop. Oceans aren’t independent. There are natural processes beyond our control. There are two worlds: the living and not living. Neither knows the other.

Reality plays itself out from first to last. If you don’t believe it, ask Bo Diddley to “Bring it to Jerome”. Everything connects back to front. The back of you is the front of what’s behind. What’s inside has an outside inside something else and space holds it together.

negative spaceThere is but one answer to every question that’s ever been asked by every single man, woman or combination thereof. The question is: What is that one answer?

And there it is.

“There is what?” 

There is what that one answer is.

“What is that one answer? I don’t get it.” 

That’s because ‘what-is-that-one-answer’ is the answer. 

“What?” 

Precisely.

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The Pilgrim (Le Pelerin) 1966 by René Magritte (1898-1967).

To every question there is one answer but that doesn’t mean there aren’t many answers. It just means that the answer you give is your answer. It’s like on a test: The answer you put on the test is your answer. It might not be right. It might not be wrong. Either way: It’s your answer.

If the question is, “What path did I take?” The answer is the path taken. The path is where you are as you’re going. Your path is what’s done as you do it. Life is a warring of opposites. Understanding the pleasure-centre dopamine release game frees you from chemical bondage. To cry until you laugh and laugh until you cry is to enjoy a ripple in time, self-aware in happy awe and filled with love.

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Step Into Enjoyment (take one)

elevator door
The old joke goes, “A salesman tells an American that he has a new invention that will do half his work for him. The American replies, ‘Great. Give me two.‘”

Suppose a person named Emerson, of whom you’re familiar (and avoid), is in an elevator that you enter. “Oh great,” you think without pleasure. This is the last person you want to meet, but it’s too late to turn around. Emerson smiles brightly. You do likewise, but dimly. In Emerson’s eyes you see the sting of your dislike which makes you dislike even more. It’s not that Emerson is a bad person—just boring, an innocent, a nerd.

Stepping into the elevator, you assume the position: facing the door watching floor numbers count down—14…12…11…. And you think, “Why is this elevator so slow?”

Hawaiian music comes from a speaker in the ceiling. “That’s Gabby Pahinui singing “Hi`ilawe”,” says Emerson. “Oh, really?” you feign interest, roll your eyes and then, something remarkable happens.

In a beautiful voice Emerson sings “Hi`ilawe” in English,

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All eyes are on Hi`ilawe
In the sparkling lowlands of Maukele
I escape all the birds
Chattering everywhere in Waipio.
I am not caught
For I am the mist of the mountains.
Waterfall,
Nothing can harm me at all.
My world is so very small
With my waterfall I can see
My rainbow calling me
Through the misty breeze
Of my waterfall.”

The song ends and you are hit by silence and stillness. Time is suspended between now and later, like the elevator that is suspended between up and down.

A fog of indifference lifts. Emerson’s lack of guile disarms social defenses. In an instant you know yourself and forget yourself. You see and hear—not as “you” seeing, but as “seeing” itself—as a body-and-mind seeing, you grasp things directly (see also Enjoy a Perfect World).

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You feel giddy and silly as you and Emerson laugh. You wake up to the moment. You feel the space around you as if it’s a ghostly solid connecting everything together. You feel yourself inside a body that has an outside appearance that’s inside an elevator that’s inside a building that’s outside on a street and inside a biosphere.

And you wonder: “If everything has an inside with an outside that’s inside something else, where does it begin? where does it end? The experience of experiencing yourself experiencing feels like an awakening! 

In school Emerson was voted least likely to succeed. Like the Invisible Boy in the movie Mystery Men (1999), Emerson is invisible because no one is looking. It’s a power developed after years of being ignored.

mai tai2
“A drunk man’s words are a sober man’s thoughts.”

And a new thought occurs: Why not be nice to Emerson? It won’t hurt. Maybe it’s from the music or the wine you had with dinner (or the Mai Tai before), but right now you feel a loving warm glow for all the Emersons in the world.

So you smile. It is your gift. You give generously with your teeth.

You realize that you are not a mind attached to a body and neither is Emerson.

You are just two human beings in a world dancing without moving as you fall through space in Hawaiian time.

You once saw Emerson try to talk to people. Emerson quoted the philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer who said, “The ox does not butt because it happens to have horns; it has horns because it intends to butt” (A Perplexed Philosopher, p. 154). People looked at one another as if Emerson were a talking houseplant.

Unfazed, Emerson held up a pen saying, “I don’t write because I have a pen. I have a pen because I intend to write! It’s a matter of will that I am what I do! I don’t enjoy being Emerson because life is enjoyable. I enjoy being Emerson because it is my intention that life be enjoyable! All that we are and will ever be is an intention. We fly in jets because people contributed intelligent effort towards that intention. With intention and will, we devise ways to make our want happen.”

Someone said something stupid (and it wasn’t “I love you” like Frank and Nancy Sinatra) and everyone wandered away talking about their day. Emerson stood like a statue listening to a song no one could hear and then went invisible.

On the ground floor as the doors are opening, Emerson says, “Do you mind if I ask you a question?” and then, without being given permission asks, “Do you enjoy being you?” 

Of course you do! (Don’t you?) What a stupid question! You have to enjoy being yourself! If you don’t enjoy being you, you can’t enjoy! (Can you?) It’s like what the great Sammy Davis Jr said in song, “Whether I’m right or whether I’m wrong. Whether I find a place in this world or never belongI gotta be me! I’ve gotta be me! What else can I be but what I am?”

In this world increasingly crowded, where people become traffic and virtual reality is deemed more desirable than the physical, in anonymity we assimilate into social functions like machines in a hurry as we crush nature and lose a sense of being in the world.

As William Barrett, author of Irrational Man (1958) observed, it is from one’s being in the world in the most mundane, factual and ordinary sense that we feel aware (William Barrett Interview, 1978).

existential GPSThat we split reality between observer and observed isn’t obvious. We’re often on auto-pilot, thinking thoughts that may or may not be stupid, but sometimes—on vacation, while washing dishes or doing nothing, in a relaxed moment—we emerge from being babies in a baby world to feeling aware of our self being here in this world!

Much of life’s unfolding is beyond our controlling. One thing happens, then another, and another, in an interconnected chain of consequences like a Rube Goldberg (1883-1970) machine, until one day, without awareness, nothing happens and you stop waking up.

Today we plant donut seeds in the form of Cheerios. We do what our Mamas and Pappas told us when they sang, “Do what you want to do. Go where you want to go” (“Go Where You Wanna Go”).

listen to a sea shellToday we celebrate you! We celebrate you, not to be egotistical, narcissistic, solipsistic or to show you how equally equal you are with 7.5 billion other people (according to a Worldometer).

We celebrate you “being in the world” so that you can feel as happy as Tommy (aka Roger Daltrey in The Who musical) singing “I’m Free” after he’s healed from not seeing, feeling and hearing.

keystokingdom
Knock, knock. Who’s there? ‘Doris.’ Doris who? ‘Doris locked, that’s why I knocked.’

Sensory awareness is a key. Sensory awareness isn’t about holding something like a key as a means to the instrumental task of opening a door. Sensory awareness is to be drawn to a particular aspect, like a key’s shiny metal, its cool texture, or lovely “Click” when it opens a door.

Sensory awareness is when you take a call from nature and hear yourself hearing. Everyone has sensory awareness, but not everyone engages in sensations thousands of times a day, but such is the intention of a lover of wisdom. Sometimes all it takes is an absence of hurry.

Enjoyment, World Peace… and Something Else—Guaranteed!

candle smokeLet’s mash it. Let’s smash it. Let’s get creative! The meaning of life is in what you make it. Let’s juxtapose a few things. See what happens. Incongruecies can be funny. To smile, to laugh, per chance to enjoy.

Lester Burnham, played by Kevin Spacey in the movie American Beauty (1999), said, “Remember those posters that said, ‘Today is the first day of the rest of your life‘? Well, that’s true of every day but one—the day you die.” In his closing narration, Lester describes meaningful experiences in his life. Despite his death, Lester is happy because there’s “so much beauty” in the world.

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Lester watching stars (final scene.)

The phrase ‘Today is the first day of the rest of your life‘ comes from 1960’s wisdom. It now appears in The Walking Dead as, “To our newest undead recruits. Good moaning. Today is the first day of the rest of your afterlife.” 

Kinda funny (not really).

The blogger Craig McKee lists 57 zombie and doomsday movies that came out from 2000 to 2015 (source). To McKee these movies tell us that “living in peace, co-operation, and connectedness with others on this planet is an illusion, a luxury we can’t afford when survival is on the line. In the end, it’s eat or be eaten. The message is that we must be suspicious of each other, mistrustful of each other, isolated from each other, and when it comes down to it, we have to struggle against each other to survive.”

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McKee refers to “predictive programming.” It’s a theory about the use of entertainment to “introduce planned societal changes.” Regardless of the theory’s validity, a steady diet of mistrust, fear and violence might not be good. As Kurt Vonnegut said, “We are what we pretend to be, so we must be careful about what we pretend to be” (Mother Night).

Science tells us is that violence is transmitted like a disease (source). Violence begets violence but you can create a world where violence is rare by not being violent. Picture a beautifully interconnected world of trees, birds and flowers, “Tweet, tweet.” Now make a wish and blow out the candle. Wish for world peace, then make it happen.

Don’t look for problems or make complications. Be a wish fulfilled by your actions. Life is a celebration (see also: Enjoy an Interlude). Life is a religious experience. Death isn’t. The only thing we know about death is that it stinks.

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When you know that the feeling of consciousness within you is the same as in all you’s including non-human animals, you won’t be bullied or bamboozled into hurting another “you” (like you) and world peace is guaranteed!

People will argue that it’s a crazy idea. Of course, it’s overly simplistic. Enjoying not harming is ridiculous because the world is complicated and people are too self-interested and won’t do it, but therein is the key! Not doing and self-interest are integral! Not doing is easy! World peace is as easy as watching grass grow! Now curl your toes in fun and enjoy it!

Nature happens gloriously as we occupy ourselves in fantasy, mechanized, digital, virtual or otherwise.

groucho
“The problem with doing nothing is you never know when you’re finished” Groucho.

Wide-eyed awareness of one’s mind expanded is the answer. If the past was about groups, mobs, gangs, religions and nations clashing for control, the future belongs to the individual.

It is as the Three Musketeers said, “All for one and one for all on this ecologically interconnected ball we men with big hats and flouncy pants call the world!”

Cue music.

Through enjoyment we make the world better for everyone by not hurting anyone. Life is rare. Our forays into space have said as much.

frank cannon
“I can’t help that. I’ve been chubby all my life” – Frank Cannon, Private Eye.

Like a giddy child, happy in a world of fun, let’s proceed with our Philosophy of Enjoyment investigation. Is there anyone who wouldn’t want to live a happy and enjoyable life—free and healthy, having fun, finding love, doing exciting things, having friends, eating, sleeping, procreating?

Let’s ask: Why are people baffled and baffling? Why is happiness elusive? Why is self-awareness lacking and ignorance in surplus?

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“Silence is of the gods; only monkeys chatter… Life is too serious to do farce comedy” – Buster.

To explain why the world is as it is, the political philosopher Slavoj Žižek (1949- )—a fun Slovenian if ever there was one—takes the idea that individuals are always “split” between what we consciously know and can say about stuff, and the unconscious beliefs we hold of “the big Other” (authority figures and the regime we’re under).

Slavoy zigzags between knowledge and belief saying that we don’t know what “the essence” of “their people” is but our beliefs are decisive (source).

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Rub-A-Dub-Dub, Slavoj pontificates in a tub: “The one measure of true love is: you can insult the other… If you have reasons to love someone, you don’t love them.”

Knowledge is objective truth. Belief is subjective truth. Knowledge is thought true because it’s independent of circumstances. Belief is an idea held as true to the individual who holds it but not necessarily to everyone (see also: The Enjoyment Argument).

If you know something is true then you must believe it, but just because you believe it does not make it true! We think in terms of self and other (one or the other) but we’re one togetherlike one cell in the 37 trillion that make up a human, so you are to the world (source).

The existence of another (a not-self) allows us each to recognize our own self, as in: “Yoo-hoo, I see you! I don’t control your body or hear your thoughts. You are separate. You are not me. Therefore, I am me” (Schalk, 2011).

self and other

The self/other (one or the other) division is how a modern person understands who she, he, they is by recognizing what s/he/they is not! But what happens when you identify yourself with another or when you behave differently than you typically act causing you to appear as other to yourself?

Reality is not a matter of consensus. As the author Johann von Goethe (1749-1832) said, “Behaviour is the mirror in which everyone shows their image.”

The Good Humor Man
Enjoy good humor and Jonathan’s wisdom.

Sociologist Niklas Luhmann (1927-1998) said that there is no reality without the colour of our wishes and fear. “Reality is what one does not perceive when one perceives it” (source).

Your mission, should you choose to accept it (hear that music!), is to start a nuclear fusion of enjoyment worldwide (with or without ice cream). You can perceive reality differently by consciousness-raising right here.

Right now.

It’s a gentle click of understanding when you enjoy reality imagined.

The Treasure of Life to Enjoy

treasureWhat does it mean to enjoy? Let’s get right to it. Is it just a matter of having a “Good Time”? Is that what this about? Have fun? Take it easy. It’s a no brainer. Enjoy yourself. End of story. Why make it complicated?

keep it simple2Most people would probably recommend that you relax, take a deep breath and enjoy doing whatever you do. Enjoy a show. Enjoy theme parks. Enjoy eroticism and angry comedy. Enjoy texting, surfing, skiing and skipping. Lift weights. Get religious. Eat protein supplements. Water slide. Run on or off treadmills. Get a dog—carry a bag for poo.

Shop.

bucket of wine2Adopt a highway. Go Buddhist. Do yoga. Go churchy. Take classes in mindfulness and meditation. Play video games. Fight death. Enjoy the pure satisfaction of a lush green lawn from fertilizer. Doesn’t matter what you enjoy as long as you keep busy—so goes society’s mass mentality.

Jump from airplanes (with parachute and/or helmet). Climb mountains. “Follow your dreams.” Doesn’t matter what you do—as long as you do something.

Industries are dedicated to providing the highest quality products and services for you to enjoy. If you work hard enjoyment’s, “Easy peasey!” as they say—whoever they are.

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Peas be with you.

Put on a Life is Good® t-shirt and jiggle as you walk to “I Love to Boogie” by T-Rex. (Note: Life is Good® is a registered trademark). Doesn’t matter if people find you irritating. Who cares? Smile to spite them. Stay positive. Ignore negativity.

life is goodMaybe all you need is a six-pack of Pabst Blue ribbon, a fishing rod and a beautiful day. Or, if you’re a real man’s man, all you need is an outlet mall and a blow-out sale on fashion and accessories. Wear humour like a life preserver. Be quick with a smile and say, “Have a stupendous day! Wipe those tears away!

“Keep it simple,” as they say—whoever they are.

If you’re a woman, maybe all you need is a mythically comfortable bra and to dance with abandon with Mr Right.

not J. Peterman
Mr Right?

Or, if you’re not of a stereotypical gender or race, maybe all you need is a big screen TV, some snacks and the latest episode of the Big Bang Theory or The Walking Dead.

There are any number of enjoyable things to do on (or off) this planet. But if enjoyment is easy, why are so many people unhappy? Is it political, geological, psychological, situational or economic? Even people who say they’re happy might just be busy.

Busy is often mistaken for happy.

On TV in his Unnatural Act (1991), comedian Jim Carey wondered, “Imagine if you could just be that happy? That would be powerful manPeople would be tunnelling under the street to avoid you.”

Life is bitter sweet. It’s a truth. “Trying to make ends meet, you’re a slave to money and then you die—” so sang The Verve. Maybe that’s why, as Chris Rock observed, “People love to get high!” (“Getting High”).

richard pryor
Richard Pryor by Devonne Amos.

Transcending is a craving. Look at the fun such greats as Lenny Bruce, Mitch Hedberg, River Phoenix, and Philip Seymour Hoffman had on their way to the pleasure dome  of “Kubla Khan”.

But it’s all fun and games until someone starts on fire (or dies). Drugs are slippery. What goes up must come down—sometimes hard.

Thomas Hobbes (1588-1679), the philosopher (not the tiger) said that life is, “nasty, brutish and short” (Leviathan, 1610). He had a low opinion of humans. To him we’re all selfish and driven by a fear of death and a desire for personal gain. Only the rule of law keeps us in check” (source).

calvin and hobbes
Calvin and Hobbes by Bill Watterson.

A biologist might say that life is an arrangement of molecules of self-sustenance and self-replication. Life is self-organising chemistry reproducing and passing characteristics via DNA, but this definition puts humans in with the amoeba.

Science bases life on externals but knowing life means knowing it from within. Life is either a meaningless accident operating in a meaningless universe, or it’s a planned experiment with future unknown. If the universe has any purpose, it is to explore what will happen.

Many physicists believe that the universe is only information and life is a process of energy being transformed—so is non-life, but the difference is that life is linked to the story it contains. Non-life is indifferent to stories imposed.

In Human Givens (2003) Ivan Tyrrell and Joe Griffin said that we are born with needs that seek satisfaction. When enough physical and emotional needs are met, an individual will enjoy life.

But a meaningful life becomes impossible if physical and emotional needs are insufficient and unfortunately, modern society seeks meaning through materialism which leaves us dissatisfied because of our biology. We can’t seem to find meaning. The result us mental ill-health on a societal level.

richard pryor meme

Many people will never experience the satisfaction of a meaningful life. So, what’s the answer?

Look to nature.

Life is an unbroken flow of rippling simultaneous events. The sheer Scale of the Universe is as mind boggling as human ignorance. This world is beautiful. Animal life and the life of vegetation shows us that life is a matter of being. By means of a modest routine of eating, sleeping and reproducing, animals and vegetation balance their days doing what their bodies ask of them.

Life is simply a beautiful and harmonious borrowing of energy.

pandaHumans lose the power to simply be happy eating, sleeping and reproducing because we believe we need a reason to be alive—a purpose and a goal to reach. On our deathbeds (something we have been made to fear) we want to be able to look back and tell ourselves that we have done something.

Life loses its purpose when we try to give it one. We are each no more significant than the sand by the sea or the clouds in the sky.

No more significant. But as significant.

Whatever your race, religion or gender, when you step outside your door in the morning and feel the morning sun on your face and the fresh air in your lungs, close your eyes and smile. In that moment you feel life as it should be. No defining. No understanding. No thinking. Just that feeling of pure bliss.

City_LightsHear violins in birds singing. Sing Chaplin’s, “This Is My Song” in your heart to yourself in the voice of Petula Clark. Let tears of unbridled love and enjoyment flow from you as you feel the significance of your own existence and everyone else’s.

This is you! This is you! This is you! Ignore advertising and look around! This is what life is.

Enjoy it.

The Art of Love And Enjoyment Incarnate

spirit-of-love-3262
“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.

The Art Of Enjoying

working-man-on-beach11-424x250.jpg

Here we go. Cue music: “Flash”. There’s only one thing to do. You know what it is. You know what you want.

Don’t you?

cocktailsWhat is the one thing you want? What element is missing? Say the first thing that comes to mind.

Is it money? love? leisure? comfort? freedom? a good job? better health? a better attitude? a friend? a new car? a martini? drugs? travel? a new house? nicer clothes? a cabin in the woods? good sex? Is it peace? a family? beauty? Is it wisdom? good food? excitement? adventure? contentment?

What is it?

diana-rossLife is epitomized by two questions:

1) What do you do when you feel too much?

2) What do you do when you feel too little?

In 1975 Diana Ross sang the questions most of us ask ourselves at least once, “Do you know where you’re going to? Do you like the things that life is showing you? Where are you going to, do you know? Do you get what you’re hoping for? (“Theme from Mahogany”).

freddy-fenderDo you know what you want? When you lay down your sweet head, how do you know you haven’t just “Wasted Days and Wasted Nights” like Freddy Fender?

Kathy Caprino, a women’s coach of success (not failure), wrote that of all things professional women (as opposed to amateur) say they want, the #1 mentioned missing element is… Happiness.  

face-and-shadowCaprino writes, “Happiness continually escapes them because, first, they don’t really understand exactly what will make them happy. They just don’t know themselves well at all. Secondly, they search outside themselves for happiness – in a job, a husband, a family, a title, a paycheck, a fancy house. As a result, Happiness is constantly out of their control and a perpetual moving target that never stands still long enough for them to grasp.”

“I’m not saying that these things don’t bring happiness – of course, they can. The key point is that if everything you’re searching for remains outside of you, you’ll always be scrambling and chasing” (source).

We’re told that the biggest challenge is to know what we want, but that’s like the line from Pink Floyd, “If you don’t eat your meat” (if you don’t know what you want), “you can’t have any pudding” (you can’t be happy). (“Another Brick In The Wall“)

It’s a vicious circle. You have to know what you want to get it and if you don’t, you’re told, “Want harder! Dream bigger!” It leaves you somewhere between a rock (wanting) and a hard place (getting).

cartoon-what-to-do-with-my-life

Nobel Prize winner Doris Lessing (1919-2013) wrote, “Do you know what people really want? Everyone, I mean. Everybody in the world is thinking: I wish there was just one other person I could really talk to, who could really understand me, who’d be kind to me” (The Golden Notebook, 1962).

hi-how-are-youAviator and author, Ann Morrow Lindbergh (1906-2001) spoke of surrendering to one person in conversation, “It is not restful, it is not possible to talk wholeheartedly to more than one person at a time. You can’t really talk with a person unless you surrender to them…

Cheap Trick sang of surrender, “Mommy’s all right. Daddy’s all right. They just seem a little weird. Surrender. Surrender. But don’t give yourself away. Hey, heeeeeey.” Sarah McLachlan sang of surrender too, but hers was sweet and all she had to give.

The art of enjoyment is to surrender to what is and waste time freely.

'Wait I can see something moving and it's waving a white flag!'News today is gone tomorrow. Resist what is and happiness eludes. Wishing something different smothers enjoyment. Wanting comes up with a plan and getting is a die cast. It’s like the Zen story of the old man who falls in a river and is taken over a waterfall.

dice.gifOnlookers fear for his life but the old man comes out unharmed. Asked how he survived he says, “I accommodated myself to the water, not the water to me. Without thinking, I allowed myself to be shaped by it. Plunging into the swirl, I came out with the swirl. This is how I survived” (source).

Enjoyment is a flowing kindness. If thoughts are demanding, listen without acting because thoughts can trick you into believing it’s your self wanting the best for you (see: “It’s not me”).

To be with reality without wanting is to enjoy peace like Otis Redding. “So I’m just gonna sit on the dock of the bay. Watching the tide roll away. Ooo, I’m sittin’ on the dock of the bay. Wastin’ time.

time-flies

People flounder for meaning, but as Charlie Chaplin said, “What do you want a meaning for? Life is a desire, not a meaning” (My Life in Pictures, 1974). Whatever you do wastes time. The trick is to waste time with abandon.

Be easy with what is and accept change as enjoyment.

james stewart.gif
See: It’s A Wonderful Life scene

If life is a desire you can’t help, stop expecting. It leaves you open for disappointment. You might even wish you’d never been born like George Bailey in the movie It’s A Wonderful Life. 

Speaking of which, the philosopher David Benatar argues in Better Never to Have Been: The Harm of Coming into Existence that a hypothetical person’s non-existence is better than an actual person’s (source).

Benatar hears aBaby Elephant Walkand lays it out thus:

baby-elephant-walk1) If a person exists, pain is bad.
2) If a person exists, pleasure is good.
3) A non-existing person has an absence of pain (that’s good).
4) A non-existing person has an absence of pleasure (not bad).

To Benatar there’s an asymmetry in favour of nonexistence:

scenario-a-and-b

But if Benatar didn’t exist, how could he muse on this? Nonexistence is not an experience. Would Frankenstein rather not live because of pain in his thumb? If the blind man didn’t exist, how could he enjoy a cigar?

Benatar could learn from Frankenstein and Helen Keller (1880-1968) who wrote: “Everything has its wonders even darkness and silence, and I learn whatever state I may be in, therein to be content.”

If you’re made of corpses or are deaf and blind, at least by existing you experience something! If you can read this, you’ve been procreated. Enjoy it! The art of enjoyment includes singing Saba Lou’s song, “Early to bed. Early to rise. Picking my nose. Wasting my time. These are my good habits. These are my bad habits. But I never stop feelin’ fine” (“Good Habits (and bad)“).

Enjoy any given day (even a bad one). Take a deep breath. What have you got to lose?

Come To Your Senses

quizzing glass
Two guys in a bar circa 1774 by Gabriel Bray (1750–1823).

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.

quizzer
An 18th century quizzing glass or “quizzer” is a sign of wealth.

“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.”

tankard of aleThere 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.

HumphreyMarcus 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).

Dandylion“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.

ye-olde-trip-to-jerusalem-city-break-nottingham“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.” 

tree3

“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.”

18th century serpent_playerBAM! 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.”

barmaid
Hannah Longworth, barmaid of the year 1774.

“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.

MarcusThe 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.

candle2Humphrey 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.

 

Levels of Enjoyment & the Art of Magic Creation

rabbit in clouds
It’s the way you see it.

‘Good, Better, Best!’ and ‘Bad, worse, worst!’ From one to five (or ten) – with one being bad – people rate almost everything. From wine to pickles and designer gowns and governmental pickles, from pop songs to vacuums and the way the body jiggles (either positively or negatively so), we find fault or give praise.

It’s all about what we enjoy, how much and how little.

As human judging beings, we form opinions waffling between like and dislike based on past experience, knee-jerk reactions, current mood, time of day and wind direction.

waffles
We waffle between like and dislike.

What we enjoy says who we want to be. We say, “I like this!” and “I don’t like that!” to solidify our perpetuation. We filter reality through opinion to create the idea of ourselves as a personality with identifiers self-fulfilled.

This is the art of person creation. For example: One Sunday you may decide to be a waffle-liking person, “These waffles are fantastic!” or a non-waffle-liking person, “Do you have pancakes?

heisenberg
Not Heisenberg.

Compounds of personality are formed by the chemical reaction of what we choose to enjoy. We become a habit to ourselves. We compare ourselves to other people. For example: Surrealist painter Salvador Dali one day decided to like Dr. Werner Heisenberg. Dali said. “I, who previously only admired Dalí, will now start to admire that Heisenberg who resembles me.”

And so it goes.

Dali
“The only difference between me and a madman is that I am not mad.” Salvador Dali

Some opinions become habitual. Example: As a child you decide that you don’t like onions. As an adult, you continue that notion. A dislike becomes ingrained through repeated action (onion avoidance) and memory (Mother hated onions and she hated cats too).

And so it’s true. We make it so. We tell ourselves who we are based on favour and aversion.

Like books judged by covers, we make snap judgments then confabulate reasons why. We fill gaps of information with fabrications that become facts we believe.

alan
What Alan likes.

Example: “You don’t like Alan?” “No.” “Why?” “I knew an Alan once. I didn’t like him.” “You don’t like Alan because of an Alan you once knew?” “That’s right. I don’t like Alan because of Alan association.”

Gradually we become the person we say we are or we fool ourselves into believing the lies we tell.

business dollsWe assess, ruminate, and constipate ourselves through an on-going series of judgments formed on whims of preference.

But when it comes to a philosophy of enjoyment, there are no levels. You enjoy it all and when you don’t, you wait it out. You enjoy in anticipation of a change in condition.

In the movie Amélie (2001) or as it’s known in French, Le Fabuleux Destin d’Amélie Poulain, the hidden personality of characters is revealed in the little things they like and dislike.

Amélie, for example, as shown in this movie scene, cultivates a taste for small pleasures like “dipping her hand into sacks of grain, cracking créme brulée with a teaspoon, and skipping stones” in a canal.

Amelie-Bridge-End
Amélie skipping stones.

Amélie’s father, Raphael, dislikes, “peeing next to someone else, catching scornful glances at his sandals, clingy wet swimming trunks” and he likes “peeling large strips of wallpaper, lining up and shining his shoes” and cleaning his toolbox.

This process of liking and disliking is all part of the art of self creating.

socks-and-sandals-585736As a philosopher of enjoyment you can enjoy pleasing moments while wearing socks in sandals.

(1) Notice how people create personality, (2) cultivate small pleasures, (3) like Amélie or like Roberto Benigni’s character in this scene in Life is Beautiful, lose yourself in the enjoyment and love of creating a miracle for another person and, in so doing, create your own.

It’s like a big lost and found. Get lost in creating magic found by another.

butterflyOne can be blown away by the beauty of birds, butterflies, people and trees but such things are meaningless (without meaning) without taking it all in with attention and a spirit of love for love and enjoyment are one and the same thing.

When you do something with love, no matter how small, you disappear into it all. You are gone in a moment of unprecedented yearning and attention.

hand with stone smallThere is nowhere you need to be. Nothing you have to have. Enjoyment is about becoming a verb. Become a vision of immortally conceived like the first bird to carry its seed. The spirit of love is like underwear beneath your clothes. You can’t see it, but you know it’s there.

It’s the same as skipping stones. Why do people skip stones? For fun. For the enjoyment of launching a stone and watching what happens.

skipping stones2

Skipping stones leave multiple plop points. Like a skipping stone you are a plop point (in a good way!). You too ripple outward. Play the song “Pas si simple” and disappear in miracle making.

Enjoy.

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.

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