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,

waterfall3

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).

slothhappy

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.

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.

Green-peas-in-wooden-bowl.jpg
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.

Enjoy a Clear Vision

love is blue

Life… (Na Na Nana Na) Life is life… (Na Na Nana Na),” so sang Opus in the summer of 1985. Who could argue? “Life is life.” It’s logical. Irrefutable! Life isn’t death. That would be, as Vinzinni says, “Inconceivable!” It’s scientific. People are living machines who can be technologically enhanced and “blinded by science“.

ghost
Spirit in material form (A Ghost Story, 2017).

If life is life, questions get personal. How you live becomes a matter of spirit as in, “That’s the spirit!” 

To have spirit is to take charge of your freedom. It’s the deep breath you take before returning to automatic. Spirit is how you feel as in, “I’m in good spirits,” “I’m in low spirits,” “I’m in-between spirits.”

With “That’s the spirit!” you see through the game of one-upmanship. You “Whip it good!” like Devo did overcoming adversity.

know thyself
Spirit in liquid form.

From Socrates’ naïve maxim, “Know thyself,” we add the addendum: Be thyself.

Most people define the principal ends and values of life as wealth, health, long life, pleasure, happiness, usefulness, security, peace, etc. These are believed “reasonable.” And if these are your values, getting them becomes the goal of your existence.

But is that it? Is life just a means to comfortable ends?

With over 22.2 billion WordPress blog pages viewed each month (source) and over 450 million English blogs and one billion non-English blogs (source), the chances of finding a philosophy of enjoyment are like winning a Powerball lottery at one in 292,201,338 (source).

But here you are. How’d that happen?

you are here2

It’s your lucky day. It may be sacrilegious to money god people, but a person’s philosophy is more important than money. Craving a big win shows dissatisfaction. Meaning is made, not found. Getting what you want doesn’t guarantee a beautiful life. Contrary to lottery commercial propaganda, being rich is a “spirit” complication.

In the movie John Wick (2014) Keanu Reeves plays a retired killer bent on revenge against evil Russians. Reeves shows the power of a man free of any money craving! (Note: Violence and language warning but remember, it’s just pretend. No real money was burned).

It’s nice to dream of things you’d do with money, but wealth does not make for better people. Psychologist Paul Piff called it the “asshole effect” (see: Age of entitlement: how wealth breeds narcissism). Piff’s studies show how wealth can turn people narcissistic, dishonest and greedy (see Piff’s lecture: Does money make you mean?).

Here we pause for a breather. We listen. We look around. We ignore our brain’s complaining, “This is Stupid!” We let thoughts quieten and consider: The difference between objective truths (provable/scientific) and subjective truths (experiential/religious) is like knowing intellectually that “Fascination” is a song Mantovani recorded and feeling it in your heart.

subjectivity

A secular fundamentalist says, “I know objectively there is no God,” just as a religious zealot says, “I know objectively there is a God!” Both feel smug in their belief but both are wrong. Belief is of the mind and religion isn’t. Religion is an experience. It’s doing not doctrine. Belief isn’t required. How you believe matters more than what you believe (Scott, 2003). In The Case for God Karen Armstrong emphasizes compassion and peace over argument (source).

NachoLibre
A religious man with spirit (and a cape).

A truly religious person has doubts, a “sense of right” and what philosopher Søren Kierkegaard (1846) called “passionate inwardness” (whatever that is). Try this: Imagine looking at yourself as from a balloon or security camera. See yourself seeing yourself seeing the world. Notice how it fits together?

Here’s the trick: toggle between subjectively seeing and objectively observing yourself as an object of analysis engaging with others. Imagine watching yourself as a character on TV. Imagine you’re James Gandolfini as Tony Soprano. Not only can you see what you see but you can see where you see from!

Tony
Don’t Stop Believing” (Journey).

Audience-you sees acting-you and can see what you’re thinking by what you do. In such contemplation you might feel a gentle contentment, love and enjoyment (see: Enjoy a Simple Plan). Feeling aware can help you find your true self.

Kierkegaard listed the stages we go through on our way to our true self: the aesthetic, the ethical, and the religious. Each represents a competing view on life.

hamster wheelStage one is like childhood. The focus is on fun. It’s the aesthetic stage. Picture someone self-indulging in enjoyable experiences who gets bored and feels empty and lonely. He buys a car and enjoys it for a while but gets bored so the search for pleasure continues. (It’s a circular trap.)

Stage two is like being an adult. This is the ethical stage. The focus is on responsibility, following rules for the good of society and achieving goals.

Ethics scalesEthical people are concerned with actions effecting others because ethical choices evoke a higher set of principles. But the ethical life doesn’t leave room for self-exploration which is a key to stage three – the highest plane of existence (source).

Stage three is when you’re old and wise and you see through the game.

In stage three you enjoy the absurdity of life. You are free to jump in without second thought. This is the religious stage where you find your true self singing with Mr. Loco, “I am I am”.

Philosophy starts (and ends) with how one lives. It begins with you as an individual subjectively living. Writing under the pseudonym Victor Eremita (Latin for “victorious hermit”) in Either/Or (1843) Kierkegaard wrote:

kierkegaard2.jpg“Marry and you will regret it! Don’t marry, you will also regret it! Marry, don’t marry, you’ll regret it either way. Laugh at the world’s foolishness, you will regret it. Weep over it, you’ll regret that too. Hang yourself, you’ll regret it. Don’t hang yourself and you’ll regret that too. Whether you hang yourself or don’t hang yourself, you will regret both. This, gentlemen, is the essence of all philosophy.”

To Kierkegaard, the only intelligent and tactical response to life’s horror is to laugh defiantly at it” (School of Life, 2015).

upstairs downstairs2.jpgMost people, generically speaking, if asked how they should live, might blink and mumble something like, “Oh? I dunno? Be a good person? Take care of family? Work hard? Do something you love? Think happy thoughts? Be a good person? (Oh, did I say that already?)...”

Funny how imagined answers arrive intoned as questions (especially if we think the questioner has the answer).

Most people don’t give much thought to how they should live. They’re too busy living to think about that. It’s like we unknowingly live like Kramer on the TV show Seinfeld.

As you live, you too do what you do because that’s the way you always do it and the way it’s always been done.

Without forethought we get caught up in life. It happens. From first to last, we’re distracted and easily led. We live, but to live is to go forward – one breath after another, one foot in front of the other.

dawn of man2.jpgTo see clearly and holistically is the root of all wisdom. You can look back on your life and realize that sometimes you were walking in a fog without knowing. The clouds were all around but now, they’re gone.

You can see life clearly and like Johnny Nash sing, “I can see clearly now the rain is gone. I can see all obstacles in my way. Gone are the dark clouds that had me blind” (I Can See Clearly Now”).

Nash’s song soothes spirits, but for a rocking inspiration leap into a Screeching Weasel version and say, “Arrrrgh! Life!”

Bring it on.

Enjoy Your Self Feeling Infinitely Subjectively Groovy

Sky_Grass_Moon_Balloon_House_1920x1200.jpg
A-ah-ahh-ah. A-ah-ahh-ah. We come from the land of ice and snow from the midnight sun where the hot springs flow. Hammer of the gods will drive our ships to new land. To fight the hordes and sing, and cry. Valhalla, I am coming” (“Immigrant song“).

One day, over wine and cheese, on a Tuesday, after too much cheese, a philosopher named Aristotle asked a new acquaintance, “How should we live?” The new acquaintance, a fellow academic, shrugged his shoulders and walked away mumbling something about nature calling.

nature callsIt’s a question we might ask our self on occasion. There’s a lot we should do but don’t. Why is that? Maybe it’s because we’re human and being human isn’t easy. We know where we’re headed. As Sigmund Freud said, “Everyone owes nature a death.”

Death is a gloomy consequence of life. We know we’re finite, but knowing doesn’t stop us from longing for something infinite.

sunshine
“Some cardiac arrest patients recalled seeing a bright light; a golden flash or the Sun shining” (source). Puts a new spin on “Here Comes the Sun.”

We’re told death is the end but people take comfort in religion or scientists who say otherwise. A University of Southampton study, for example, found that, “40 per cent of people who survived described some kind of ‘awareness’ during the time when they were clinically dead before their hearts were restarted” (source).

beaker2Stuck between finite awareness and infinite imagining and longing, everyone wants to enjoy themselves but feeling ethically responsible in an expanding human ant hill gets in the way of enjoying (unless ethics over aesthetics is your thing).

There’s a battle going on.

The battle is between those who live for pleasure and those who demand an ethical existence.

Are you secretly singing, “How does it to feel, to be on your own, with no direction home, like a complete unknown,” (Dylan, 1965) (see video of the chaos of being: “Like a Rolling Stone”) or is your song “All Together Now“? “

If you do not pursue pleasure as an Individual living a life that is beautiful (aesthetically speaking) and dedicate yourself to helping the greatest number enjoy maximum pleasure (ethically speaking), what then? How does it feel? In the end, with the last breath on the last day, life still hits you in the eye “like a big pizza pie!” (“That’s Amore”).

And then you die.

elephantBizarro.jpg

Whether we like it or not (or admit it or not), how death is regarded (or disregarded) is intimately bound up with an individual’s entire view of life.

Is this a “me” life or a “we” life? What’s the line of separation? Your body? Your mind? What’s the deal? Is life summed up nicely in that Trooper song from ’77, “Here for a good time (not a long time)”?

linus and his blanket.jpgThe human race as a whole has replaced the role of God and fate. This has encouraged a standard of morality that doesn’t rise higher than the goal of the greatest happiness for the greatest number. Individuals are encouraged to work for the welfare of the group and future generations. We survive to survive without any enlightenment about the problems afflicting “you” as an individual.

me weWe’re encouraged to go from a selfishly materialistic “me generation” into a “we generation” where we celebrate differences at the same time we level everyone in the mania of a carefully orchestrated We Day pep rally for social change featuring big-deal speakers.

The Individual “me” is the smallest natural unit of humanity. An Individual has existed from the very beginning of humankind. Over time, Individuals chose to associate within societal structures for the benefits of those associations. If there are no benefits, the Individual may choose not to participate or to escape physically or mentally in an alternate reality.  

Burning_Man_2015_Galen_Oakes_Art_1
“Joyful desert art / A rolling sea of neon / In another world” (Haikus & Happiness At Burning Man).

It is short-sighted “reasoning” to advocate the needs of society at the expense of the Individual. Society only exists through the consensual efforts of the Individual due to benefits that cooperation yields.

pendulumBoth “me” and “we” perspectives seem oblivious of transcending their pronoun. Do you put yourself first or the group? Some might say, “That depends.” Sigmund Freud (1856-1939) observed, “In the depths of my heart I can’t help being convinced that my dear fellow-men, with a few exceptions, are worthless.”

Humans historically believed in the fantastical, but the pendulum has swung from belief to reason.

Some people think it’s a virtue to believe in something without evidence while others think it’s foolish. This leaves two types of people: those who look for logical explanations based on reason and those who look for magic (and find it). But all people – whether believers or not – seek a deeper meaning, purpose, and significance in the things that happen to them.

What if the answer to our transcendental longing is in our words? Look at the word “universe” which is, “the totality of existing things.” “Universe” literally means “turned into one.” It comes from unus meaning “one” as in “alone, one unique” plus versus, past participle of vertere meaning, “to turn, turn back, be turned; convert, transform, translate; be changed” (source).

It’s like the song “Turn, Turn, Turn” from ’65! The universe is one alone transformed. That’s you! “One Alone Transformed!”

cobblestone2People know you by what you do but how do you identify yourself? Your self is your will and your lack of will. Your will pulls you together into a coherent whole complete with muscular tension. There are no mistakes. The big trick is to take that leap and see the beauty and miracle in the ordinary.

The most important level of relation is not between your self and others or your self and yourself, but between your self and everything else as an individual: life, the world, the universe, nature, God – call it what you will – but most especially, it’s not a word but a subjectively beautiful Feeling Groovy” loosey-goosey lovely feeling!  

When you decide that “this is true” and “this is not,” you identify “beliefs” that you have based on experiences you’ve had while trying to satisfy your longing for meaning, purpose, and significance.

flower in a crannied wall
“Flower in a crannied wall” (Tennyson).

Transcendent enjoyment involves you as a self and everything else merging in a feeling beyond reasoning.

If Aristotle with wine on breath, asked you point blank, BAM: “How should we live?” dear reader: What’s your answer?

Self-awareness and Subtle Enjoyment

subtle

If you look up the word “subtle” in the dictionary, you will find a word that’s ill-defined, indistinct, faint and mysterious. That’s what it is. It’s something elusive. It’s not obvious. Subtle insights penetrate depths of being.

If something is hard to understand, it’s probably subtle. Feeling self-aware is subtle. Feeling spiritual is subtle. Such things are subtle because no one is quite sure how to explain them.

clap.gifFeeling self-aware of subtle things in your surroundings with your senses can blow your mind (in a good way)!

When you’re self-aware, you’re never bored. You’re conscious of your feelings and desires but you’re not manipulated by them. You can see where your thoughts and emotions are trying to take you but you’re not taken.

gardeningYou’re free to cultivate peace of mind like a philosopher gardener discarding negative emotions like weeds and watering positive emotions like flowers. You’re free to listen to “A Whiter Shade of Pale” repeatedly without need to analyze or dissect.

Feeling love is enough. The subtle enjoyment of yourself as you: living, breathing, thinking, feeling, loving and attending to this miraculous world with your senses is enough.

And so we begin. Cue music: “Flying.”

Like flightless birds (possibly peacocks or more probably, turkeys) we fly on the ground self-aware of surroundings.

if-i-die2

The Cambridge dictionary defines subtle as: “not loud, bright, noticeable or obvious.” When you achieve something in a quiet way without attracting attention, you are subtle. Something subtle is “small but important” (like you and your enjoyment).

white-on-white
Spot the ptarmigan. It’s “white in front of you” (source).

Something subtle is “delicate in meaning or intent” and “difficult to analyze or describe.”

Subtle goes with words like “nebulous” which means muddled and ambiguous, “complex,” which is something with many interconnected parts and “rarefied,” which is something high, lofty and exalted (source). 

How do you describe a spiritual experience that you have standing in stillness with a ptarmigan? It’s subtle. Suddenly you’re aware of a world that wasn’t there before.

Perceiving something subtle takes sensitivity and a penetrating intellect. Subtle things are like the silent ‘b’ in the word “sub” which is hidden in the word subtle and also hides beneath surfaces.

A subtle liar is cunning. He’ll advertise big enjoyment then let you down when expectations aren’t met (they never are). People fall for it because they picture the ultimate enjoyment as being rich like a shark or dragon billionaire on TV but it’s a subtle trick (called envy).

is-that-me
By Robert Crumb.

We might not like feeling envious, afraid, irritated, angry, sad, frustrated, impatient etc., but “What are you gonna do?

There’s nothing you can do except maybe become self-aware. But how do you do that?

Think catch and release fishing.

You cast your line and wait. When you catch a fish, you look at it, then let it go. So too with an emotion or thought. You catch one, look at it, then let it go (or act on it – if it means surviving).

goldfish
“A rich man is nothing but a poor man with money.” – W.C. Fields

People love to imagine winning the lottery. They equate happiness with Las Vegas decadence, which is fine, if you want your enjoyment shallow. If you’d like something deeper, something profound, like a personal “Revolution” for a rock and roll philosopher, well then: go subtle.

Subtle enjoyment will give you chills (in a good way)!

lemon-treeImagine hearing the song “Lemon Tree” in a store. It makes you think of your underwear which has a lemon pattern. Your eyes fall on a picture of a lemonade stand and you smell lemon-fresh Lysol in the air.

Just as you’re thinking, “That’s funny,” someone walks up to you and offers a cookie sample. What kind? Lemon (of course).

What are the chances? It’s like the world is trying to tell you something (about lemons?). It’s subtle. And you smile. You enjoy a thrill and you wonder, “Is it me?” (for more on this phenomenon see: And then…).

As journalist Brian Bethune observed, “Humans have an innate tendency to ascribe random and natural events to conscious agents and a hunger to belong to something larger than ourselves – both militant atheists and fervent believers can agree on this” (Maclean’s, Ap. 2015, p. 41).

mona-lisa

If you want to experience subtle enjoyment, look at the world with soft eyes.

more-spiritually-enlightened-or-less-spiritually-enlightenedLisa Miller, clinical psychologist at Columbia University Teachers College, says that a strong self-concept, religiosity, spiritual connection and, “An intensely felt, transcendental sense of a relationship with God, the universe, nature or whatever you identify with as a higher power” actually “confers a protective effect in all kinds of disorders” (Maclean’s, Ap. 2015, p. 41-42).

The trouble with self-aware subtle (spiritual) enjoyment is that it disappears in noise, aggression, decadence, bright lights and vacuous parties and these are the things people are attracted to.

Subtle enjoyment goes unnoticed because people don’t see it. They think it’s boring because they don’t know it.

keep-it-simpleTo breathe, to watch the sky, to eat a lemon, to watch birds fly, such things are boring to people acclimatized to constant mental stimulation without downtime but that constant stimulation makes everything seem boring. Attention spans are waning! Bored people get depressed.

Bored people get addicted to sex, drugs and alcohol. Bored people don’t enjoy work or school very well.

alice
“Go ask Alice, when she’s feeling ten feet tall,” (hear: “White Rabbit“)

Quiet activities and stillness in nature might strike a lot of people as boring, but the most profound moments of pure transcendent enjoyment can only happen when your mind is quiet and the world inside you is not quite boisterous.

When a profound feeling of subtle enjoyment hits you, you know you should be bored, but you’re not. A subtle feeling  of peace and calm can hit anywhere, anytime.

So, be ready.black-and-white-with-umbrella

Something subtle is hard to see. It’s something discreet and low-key. Enjoyment is like that. It doesn’t have to be in your face. It can be subtle. Sometimes all it takes is a little Boogie-woogie.

Go! Be subtle. And then, enjoy it.

Priming, Framing, Transcending & Enjoying

framing-psychology

There’s a battle going on. It happens in your brain. Do not be alarmed. It only affects every decision you’ve ever made and will ever make. It only affects your health, wealth and opinion and how you think and behave. No biggie.

icebergThe battle goes on beneath the surface of consciousness. That’s why you sometimes say, “Why did I do that? Did I say that? That wasn’t me.” Like everybody, you’re under a misconception. You think you know what influences you and how those influences affect you.

Freud (1915) described the conscious mind as the tip of the iceberg because a lot goes on beneath the surface (source). We can like or dislike something instantly without knowing why.

It goes like this (cue music: Ulf Söderberg “Tide” part 1).

chickenfreudpartyFirst you have a feeling, then you make up something to explain that feeling. The explanation becomes a label. The label is declared true. It influences you. You become a self-fulfilling prophecy primed by what you do.

Think badly and badly you become.

You’re framed by spin.

In You Are Not So Smart (2011) David McRaney wrote, “You move through life forming opinions and cobbling together a story about who you are… taken as a whole it seems real” (p. xi).

you-are-not-so-smartBut it isn’t.

It’s how you look at it. Out of the randomness of life you try to make sense and create meaning for yourself (McRaney, 2011). It’s what humans do. We interpret reality. We look at stars and see constellations. We see patterns in bullet holes on country signs.

With facial suggestions, we are “uniquely wired” to see faces in breakfast (source).

jesus-on-toast
Jesus on toast.

We connect the dots of what goes on by combining expectations (what we think will happen) with mental models (how we think something works) and five senses (source: Myth or Science?).

act-naturally
See: “Act Naturally,” 1963

With confidence you see your history like a movie with characters, plots, themes and settings. You see yourself as a protagonist, but it’s a beautiful confabulation. The truth is: You make yourself up as you go. You’re a work in progress and like Buck Owens and a Buckaroo think, “All I gotta do is act naturally.” 

You are the tale you tell. It’s “The Story of Me!” as told by you. Memories are daydreams: part true, part fantasy, but you believe them completely.

Look at your surroundings. Set your mind “Open!” Realize that what matters most is to enjoy the significance of existence by loving the life you are given and giving the life you are living.

sunset on melting snow.jpgThere’s nothing you must do. There’s no mountain you must climb. Success and failure don’t matter. Just contentment. Contentment is not death! Contentment is bliss! In dictionaries contentment and happiness are interchangeable.

loser-stampIt’s all in how you frame it. What’s your spin on things? How do you see yourself? Is life bliss-filled or disasterous? You decide. You choose. It’s simple really. Nothing to it. Live a pleasant life by living wisely, justly and well (Epicurus). And yet, living a pleasant life can be difficult when you’re with a species hell-bent on making the earth a landfill.

How is it that humans are such brilliant numbskulls (or is it boneheads)?

numbskull-boneheadIn 1982 when Alice Cooper (aka Vinnie Furnier) sang, “We’re all clones. All are one and one are all” (“Clones”) he anticipated a people without individuality singsonging, “No more problems on the way!” 

It’s not a new idea. People have always cloned around. In 1802 Willy Wordsworth put it this way:

The world is too much with us; late and soon,
Getting and spending, we lay waste our powers; –
Little we see in Nature that is ours;
We have given our hearts away, a sordid boon!

landfill

Why have humans declared war on nature? Is it because we construct reality and meaning within our minds? Is it because we have a bias towards confirming ourselves? Is it because we have a bias towards the present? What is it? The news is not good.

Is it any wonder so many want a new drug like Huey Lewis did?

Here we come to the crux of the matter. The trick to enjoying in the midst of humanity’s idiocy is in framing, priming and transcending.

larry-davidFraming is a bias towards a given choice depending how it’s presented. It’s how the cover of a book influences your judgement. Framing moves you to react in certain ways based on how your brain makes comparisons between loss/gain, good/bad, half-full/half-empty. In framing you decide what’s important.

Framing is how you find patterns in chaos to survive and create meaning out of meaninglessness. The way you choose to frame things determines how you see.

Amelie-Bridge-End
See: Amelie frames and primes les petits plaisirs (the little pleasures).

Priming happens when subtle triggers influence your behavior without your awareness (Gladwell, 2006). Almost everything you perceive with your senses can blitz you with associations in your mind and cause you to act in certain ways without your awareness.

For example, if asked to name a fruit and you see the word “RED,” you’re more likely to think “apple” than “banana.” The word “RED” is priming the word “apple” into your brain.

magritte
Detail of  René Magritte’s “Son of Man” (1964).

René Magritte painted a self-portrait with his face behind a green apple and said, “Everything we see hides another thing. We always want to see what is hidden by what we see” (source). Maybe that’s why we don’t see what’s in front of us. We’re looking for something hidden.

beacon-of-beauty

Priming works best when not over thinking. You know you’re priming when time disappears. The trick is to let human bumbling cruelty prime you for transcendence by framing it differently. Frame it: They don’t know what they’re doing! They’re doing the best they can. Frame yourself freedom and then see beauty in a dump.

kite“Transcend” comes from Latin trans-, meaning “beyond,” and scandare, meaning “to climb” (source). It’s simple: to transcend is to climb beyond your usual physical needs and realities.

Prime yourself aware! Create meaning! Climb beyond ordinary feeling. Transcend transcendence by enjoying.

References:

Glandwell, M. (2006). Blink. Little Brown & Company.
McRaney, D. (2011). You Are Not So Smart. Gotham Books.

Life is Enjoying.

garden

Suppose a well-meaning person asks you, “What’s your philosophy of life?” What would you say? Would you draw a blank and say, “Oh, I don’t know,” and leave it at that?

Would you profess a religious or secular belief? Would you quote Salvador Dali, the Dalai Lama, Cornel West, Jesus Christ or Lady Gaga?

old-man-and-boyThe Merrium-Webster Dictionary defines a philosophy of life as: an overall vision of or attitude toward life and the purpose of life,” but the word “life” has become a symbol and symbols have become things nowadays (How we confuse symbols and things).

time.gifPeople think of life in terms of style or metaphor: Life is a jigsaw puzzle (and you don’t have a picture of how it should look), life is a maze (exits avoided), life is an elevator (with ups and downs and people pushing your buttons).

Life is time, but as composer Hector Berlioz said, “Time is a great teacher, but unfortunately it kills all its pupils” (November 1856).

But forget symbols. Think of life not as an idea, but as your body. You are life and in living, you are lived. Right now (unless you’re dead) you are breathing and you don’t have to think about it. Your body is breathing you.

breathing.gifYou can focus attention on breathing – take deep breaths, slow breaths, hold your breath, but after a while, your body kicks in. Your body has a mind of its own. Maybe that explains why people think there’s a divide between body and mind (and world).

mind-bodyOn the side of the body is Friedrich Neitzsche. He said that people don’t have bodies, they are bodies. No transcendence but his love of life encompassed dark sides and purposelessness with grit and sobriety. His credo: “Be faithful to the earth!”

divide.jpgOn the side of mind (extended) is writer D.H. Lawrence who talked of two ways of knowing: “knowing in terms of apartness, which is mental, rational, scientific, and knowing in terms of togetherness which is religious and poetic” (Sex, Lit. and Censorship, 1959, p. 108).

Lawrence’s idea was to fuse the mind with wit and all the senses. He wrote: “There is no god apart from poppies and flying fish, men singing songs, and women brushing their hair in the sun” (The Last Poems, 1933).

antonin-artaud
“All true language is incomprehensible, like the chatter of a beggar’s teeth.” ~ Antonin Artaud

The great religions (and artists) make a distinction between their self as personality, their self as body and their self transcended.

As poet Antonin Artaud (1896-1948) put it, “Admittedly or not, conscious or unconscious, the poetic state, a transcendent experience of life is what the public is fundamentally seeking through love, crime, drugs, war or insurrection.”

From the ancients to Bruce Springsteen in 2016, people tell of an enjoyable sensation where their individual sense of self is transcended and the external world feels like their body.

Philosophers Emerson and Thoreau advised us to go outside and walk in nature because hustle, bustle and ambition distract us from transcendent sensations (source).

zombi-apocalypse-mobile-phonesA quick trick to enjoyment is to go through your senses one by one very… very… slowly. See the world as a child and dissolve into awareness. If you’re lucky, all of a sudden in slow motion, a filter you didn’t know was there will disappear and in vividness you’ll walk into a four dimensional picture.

This is the magic of enjoying. This is what logicians don’t see. This is overcoming anxiety and worry with a song like, “Been down one time. Been down two times. Never going back” (Fleetwood Mac, “Never Going Back Again“).

plantsA philosophy of life is how you take care of yourself. It’s your intention. In the same way that you can walk without noticing, you can click a switch to consciousness. You can live without paying attention or switch to consciously living. A philosophy of life is your vision. It’s how you picture yourself living

unpacking
“I love you darling.”

A philosophy of life is your attitude toward living (without a problem).

A philosophy of life is your purpose – your aim, intention and will (to enjoy).

A philosophy of life is how you will yourself to picture the life you imagine enjoying and living the way you envision!

mirage-saleBuddhists say, “Life is suffering.” They say life is impermanent and ever-changing. And it is, but isn’t that what makes it precious?

A philosopher of enjoyment says, “Life is suffering? Not necessarily. Frame it differently. Frame it: Life is enjoying! In this, life does not become death. Winter does not become spring. There is winter. There is spring.

It’s a Zen thing. A box of moonlight is not nothing.

Life is enjoying living not because it’s easy. It is to enjoy the blues like Albert King singing, “I been down since I begin to crawl. If it wasn’t for bad luck, I wouldn’t have no luck at all” (“Born Under a Bad Sign“). Enjoyment is a pessimistic loving cynic. Of course people do what they do! There’s no other way! So you may as well enjoy the rising and falling of turbulent waters and/or roller coasters.

It is said on the Internet that Miley Cyrus said, “Life is just about having a good time.” But what happens to Miley when she has a great fall (not that she will) but, what then?

Suppose someone you love dies. You cry. You feel lost. Things will never be the same. There’s pain in your heart, but the current of life in your veins is pronounced. There’s hot-chocolate for you to enjoy but its not the same without your friend by your side.

glassesMemories of what was and imaginings of what might have been rattle your feelings in a present that hurts but you know you have to go on so when you get back from a very long walk, remember: Rock on.

In strong moments, sing like Tim and The Jim Carroll Band with all your might, “Those are people who died, died!” Breathe and be breathed. Jump and sing while you can. See the humour in all things like a Romantic. “Why do you do this?” you ask.

No reason. You just do.

For Timothy H., “This song is for you my brother!

Enjoy A Space For Happiness

forest-house

The question to ask of a philosophy is not whether it is original but whether it is true (Cicero, 45 BC). A philosophy of enjoyment is based on the premise that you know what is true by way of experience. In the same way that you know fear by having been afraid, you know enjoyment by having have enjoyed.

tear-of-joyHappiness and enjoyment are related but where enjoyment is temporary, happiness is durable. If enjoyment is the journey, happiness is the destination. If tears of happiness come from the heart, tears of enjoyment come from the belly from laughing. If enjoyment comes as a carefree feeling, happiness comes mainly from caring.

Enjoyment and happiness can be tested for validity. It’s a “proof of the pudding is in the eating” type thing – like in the movie Scrooge (1951) where nuances of happiness and enjoyment in relation to pudding are revealed.

Tiny Tim looks forward to pudding. His mother worries that it won’t be any good but his father, Bob Cratchit, assures her that it will be perfect because he knows the merit of the pudding is incidental in relation to the love they enjoy together.

It’s a John Donne (1572-1631), “No man is an island entire unto itself” type thing – or as Robin Williams put it, “No man is an island but some are peninsulas.

man_on_a_desert_island_v2_by_jgzon-d8a4bk4
“Man On Desert Island” by JGZON.

The Cratchit family in A Christmas Carol (1843) is poor and happy. Scrooge is rich and unhappy. A church moralist might say that if Scrooge had virtue, he wouldn’t have been miserable. The moral: with virtue comes happiness. But the philosopher Freddy Nietzsche said that it’s the other way ’round! A happy man is naturally virtuous. The moral: with happiness comes virtue.  

nietzsche
Precisely the least, the softest, lightest, a lizard’s rustling, a breath, a flash, a moment – a little makes the way of the best happiness” ~ Thus Spake Zarathustra.

Nietzsche said that church moralists say, “Do this and that, refrain from this and that – then you will be happy! Otherwise…” but if you watch a happy man, you will see how he carries happiness into relationships in ways that make him virtuous.

In Twilight of the Idols (1888) Nietzsche wrote, “Every mistake in every sense is the effect of the degeneration of instinct…All that is good is instinct – and hence easy, necessary, free.”

Observe animals. Feel natural. Ever notice how a reality of rocks, clouds, birds and trees becomes boring to people? Why does this happen?

Why doesn’t reality blow us away like it did when we were children?

a-little-cock-sparrow
A little cock-sparrow sat on a high tree … And he chirrupped, he chirrupped so merrily.

There was a time when the world perceived with our senses was not named. That’s when the world was your miracle and will be again.

Just listen. Don’t say a word about what you hear. Going into the space between one thought and another is like splitting the atom.

Nothing blows up but consciousness opens.

As long as you remain an airy nothing in reality, you are an angel in a space called heaven. Space is nothing but a continuous expanse of height, depth and width that is free and unoccupied within which all things (including you) exist and move. Space is within you. Space is infinite. It’s within and around everything you see and don’t see.

space-stars-road.jpg

“Space: the final frontier.” To be “spaced out” is to be stupefied in quietude as if from a drug. It’s when words in your brain fall silent. It’s when you’re aware of yourself in a now state of mind that is free.

Contrary to what manufacturers of desire and discontent spin, it doesn’t take much to be happy. More than what would satisfy a sparrow is superfluous. A wish for happiness is a will for perfection (source) but a wish will only become reality through an effort of will. It’s a “Where there’s a will there’s a way,” type thing.

A quick trick to make a wish for happiness come true is to enjoy whatever comes to you.

wishingwellhigh

Nietzsche admired Epicurus’s idea of a happy life, “A little garden, figs, a little cheese and in addition three or four good friends – these were the sensual pleasures of Epicurus” (source). To Epicurus and Nietzsche happiness comes  from a modest existence cultivated with “spiritual joyfulness” (Freudigkeit) and not over-indulgence.

In the end, it isn’t a matter of getting what you want. Can you make yourself want something? Can you will yourself to want something? Wants come unannounced. Ask yourself, “Why do I want this?” again and again and you might find the reason for wanting is a habit of mind.

Here we think about time and space – not time as in a rotation of the world or as in a chronological birthday countdown increasing in number. Here we think about enjoying for reasons of happiness and a better world because just as the band Crowded House sang it in 1992, “Everywhere you go you always take the weather with you.” You effect your surroundings by the person you are. Lighten up and love one another without fault-finding.

Enjoy a new you in old shoes (or an old you in new shoes). See the baby that was in the eyes of a grown up other. Here’s to the love in everyone!

References

Nietzsche’s Therapeutic Teaching: For Individuals and Culture (2013) edited by Horst Hutter, Eli Friedland.

Ansell-Pearson, K. (2013). Heroic-Idyllic Philosophizing: Nietzsche and the Epicurean Tradition.

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!

The Enjoyment Argument

girl tornado

Starting the day with an argument isn’t fun. Maybe some people enjoy a rip-roaring argument in the morning (sets the tone for a rip-roaring day!), but most people don’t. A bad argument can feel like you are “In the Hall of the Mountain King.”

Arguments can feel threatening. Threats can activate the fight or flight response, like the song: “The foot bone is connected to the leg bone. The leg bone is connected to the knee bone…” except it isn’t bones connecting; it’s brain chemicals and physical effects.

brain-is-built-to-changeWhen we argue, we sing the “Fight or Flight Song” (set to the tune of the Delta Rhythm Boys’ “Dry Bones”): “The amygdala is connected to the hypothalamus. The hypothalamus is connected to the pituitary gland. The pituitary gland is connected to the adrenal medulla…”  and then it’s: “Release the hounds!

the-houndsOr rather, “Release the hormones!” First adrenaline then cortisol causing: “increased heart rate, bladder relaxation, tunnel vision, shaking, dilated pupils, flushed face, dry mouth, slow digestion and hearing loss” (source).

Great for running from killer air-planes when you need bladder relaxation, but not when arguing about money, underpants, the existence of God or the Big Bang Theory.

fight-or-flight-2

We can try to stick to facts, but emotions get in. A rock and roll philosopher can be left feeling somewhere between the Rolling Stones’ “Paint It Black”: “No colour anymore!” (see also orchestral version) and Annie Lennox’s “Why”: “This boat is sinking.

Academics, Mercier and Sperber, argue in the “Argumentative Theory” that arguments aren’t about getting at the truth. They’re about winning!

winnerDr. Jonathan Haidt said of the theory, “Reasoning was not designed to pursue the truth. Reasoning was designed by evolution to help us win arguments” (source).

Bias and lack of logic are social adaptations.

They enable one group to defeat another or, as George Carlin put it, “The problem with the world is that the intelligent people are full of doubt, while the stupid people are full of confidence.” Or, as Patricia Cohen from the New York Times put it, “Certitude works, however sharply it may depart from the truth” (source).

I'm right you're wrong.jpg
“I’m smart; you’re dumb. I’m big; you’re little. I’m right; you’re wrong!” (scene from Matilda)

no-it-isntArguments can become loops of back-and-forth like Monty Python’s “Argument Clinic”. Reason is argumentative and people become skilled arguers, but skilled arguers are not after the truth: they want a better argument to support their views!

yes-it-isReason is responsible for some fantastic achievements, but as Mercier and Sperber point out, we should be cautious with these accomplishments since “failures are often less visible” (source).

Some people blame emotion

Researchers at University College London say that rational individuals “can override their emotional responses” (source).

picasso-and-chagal-emotion
Paintings by Picasso and Chagall showing emotion.

The implication being that rational individuals are unemotional and therefore better able to make rational decisions, but (and here’s the kicker) people left without emotion from a brain injury are unable to make decisions (source) because reasoning is full of emotion (source).

reasonable_man_1Thoughts are representations of reality. Thoughts accepted as true become beliefs. Once a belief is accepted, it is established as a fact that is rarely questioned.

What separates a reasonable person from an emotional person isn’t feeling or not feeling. It’s the quality of those thoughts tied to those emotions (source).  The more we believe we know something, the more we ignore contrary information and look for information to confirm our beliefs (confirmation bias).

What we believe is like our personal operating system or window through which we evaluate everything we see.

we-see-as-we-are

Phenomena comes in two types. One type can be verified (ice is cold). The other type can’t be verified (do good and good things happen). Verified things are scientific. Unverified things are philosophical and religious.

morgan-freeman-2Of things that can’t be verified, if it is accepted as self-evidently true, it is religion.

Beliefs carve grooves in our brains. Some beliefs start as theories developed from assumptions, observation and deduction. Some beliefs grow from emotional viewpoints that feel logical.

logicalIn the “Logical Song” Roger Hodgson sings of being taught to be logical: “When I was young, it seemed that life was so wonderful, a miracle, oh it was beautiful, magical. And all the birds in the trees, they’d be singing so happily, oh joyfully, oh playfully watching me. But then they sent me away to teach me how to be sensible, logical, oh, responsible, practical…clinical, intellectual, cynical” (Supertramp, 1979).

In the song Hodgson wonders who he is and therein is the key. What happens when you notice yourself and what you see?

thoreau2
source

Poetical philosopher Henry David Thoreau (1817-1862) said that he not only knew himself as “the scene of thoughts and affections,” but he knew a “doubleness” to being where he could, “stand remote from myself as from another” (Walden and Other Writings, 1950, p. 122). It is from this “doubleness” that we too step back to see how beliefs pull strings.

pinocchioSome beliefs shaped from childhood experiences can block one’s ability to be happy and free, but as Jiminy Cricket advised, “Always let your conscience be your guide!”

That’s especially true when it comes to enjoyment.

In adolescence we start believing in unhappy thinking and consider self-interest as the primary motivator of human behaviour but in so doing the carefree passion that was once natural and easy in childhood gets squashed by social expectations, subtle shame and criticism.

As comedian George Carlin (1937-2008) observed, “Scratch any cynic and you will find a disappointed idealist.” Mix one part disillusion with two parts pessimism and you get cynicism, but as Nana Grizol sang it, “Cynicism isn’t wisdom, it’s a lazy way to say that you’ve been burned” (“Cynicism”).

Profound enjoyment combines two awarenesses: an awareness of yourself: “This is me! I’m incredulous! I AM ALIVE! CAN YOU BELIEVE IT?” and an awareness of your immediate surroundings wide-eyed in wonder accepting everything as mysterious and better than imagined.

This is when your face goes slack and you see from the sides. It’s when you feel an incomprehensibly beautiful feeling inside.

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If this philosophy is to ring true for you, it will depend upon your preexisting beliefs and ability to lighten up.

The light simply won’t get in if you block the way.

Enjoyment is balancing in a tree. It is imagining yourself as the tree seeing itself feeling the existence of being and the sky above.

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John Keats in a tree and an “Ode to a Nightingale.”

The Men Without Hats advised everybody to look at their hands (“Safety Dance”), so you do, and there, like the poet Walt Whitman (1819-1892) who also looked at his hands and saw a hair on the back that was, “just as curious as any revelation,” so too do you.

im-not-contained-between-my-hatYou have The Cure when on Friday you love everything (“Friday I’m in Love”) and, like The Kings, you “mobilize some laughs with just one call” and let “the beat go on” (“The Beat Goes Om”).

And on. And on.

Now Enjoy yourself. That’s an order.

What have you got to lose?