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

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

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

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

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

coffee and depression

Source: PsychCentral

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

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

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

For a lift.

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

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

terrible shoes

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

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

urbansprawl

(source: National Geographic).

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And what is a supreme goal?

(Do you have one?)

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

Good times.

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Alice Cooper: “I’m 18 and I like it.”

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

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

What then?

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

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

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

go to your merry place

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

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

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

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

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

Breathe in the air (and enjoy)

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Long you live and high you fly
Smiles you’ll give and tears you’ll cry
And all you touch and all you see
Is all your life will ever be” (Pink Floyd, “Breathe”, 1973)

Contrary to popular belief (and advertisers everywhere), people don’t need a product, service or lifestyle to enjoy life.

A moment of peace in a park or beside a drainage ditch with a Great Blue Heron can stop a busy brain from blocking beauty.

Without the blinders of identity and self-interest, a person can go from listening to an interior monologue capable of souring any perspective (and ruin your life), to enjoying the smallest things—a ladybug on a leaf, ducks quacking and water vapour (for no reason).

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Breathing can be enjoyable. In the midst of a problem, you can enjoy breathing (assuming that it is safe to do so).

If you hold your breath long enough, your body breathes for you. Combine this breathed sensation with a heart beating autonomously and you can appreciate self-driving organic automation. breathinggiphy

But breathing and heart-beating (consciously or not) gets boring. After breathing (even if it is enjoyable), people get distracted and ask like Peggy Lee did, “Is that all there is?

What’s easily enjoyed is easily ignored. We might want to enjoy more, but therein is our problem: What we enjoy triggers our brain’s “reward” centers and makes pleasure habit-forming (see also: “Hedonism, Selfishness and a Womb with a View”).

A pleasure repeated can “set up potentially harmful routines, such as overeating, smoking, drug or alcohol abuse, gambling and even compulsive use of computers and social media” (Breaking Bad Habits).

Enjoyment (and addictive drugs) prompts the brain to release dopamine—a chemical responsible for transmitting signals between nerve cells.

Dr. Russell Poldrack, a neurobiologist at the University of Texas comments, “If you do something over and over, and dopamine is there when you’re doing it, that strengthens the habit even more. When you’re not doing those things, dopamine creates the craving to do it again” (source)

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(Saturday Cartoons)

Therefore, it isn’t prudent to do whatever thou wilt. One will soon find one’s self on auto-pilot, following a predetermined sequence of operations conditioned by habit prompted by pleasure.

One may soon find one’s self on a Hedonic Treadmill chasing a craving for happiness that becomes evermore unattainable.

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source

“The hedonic treadmill, which is also referred to as hedonic adaptation, is a metaphor for your set point of happiness. The idea here is that no matter how good or bad something makes you feel, you will eventually return to your original emotional state” (developgoodhabits).

hedonicadaptation

Cue music: “The Windmills of Your Mind“:

Round like a circle in a spiral, like a wheel within a wheel
Never ending or beginning on an ever spinning reel
Like a snowball down a mountain, or a carnival balloon…

Like a tunnel that you follow to a tunnel of its own
Down a hollow to a cavern where the sun has never shone
Like a door that keeps revolving in a half forgotten dream
Or the ripples from a pebble someone tosses in a stream…”

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Aristippus (435-356 BC) the philosopher saw danger in pleasure and advised, “It is not abstinence from pleasures that is best, but mastery over them without being worsted” (source).

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“The vice lies not in entering the bordello but in not coming out” (Aristippus)

The philosopher Epicurus (341-270 BC) agreed, but his idea of pleasure was ataraxy, “a state of serene calmness.”

Epicurus advised us not to be ambitious but to live in harmony with nature and strive for tranquility brought by contentment with simple things and the absence of pain.

epicurusExistential Comics: Was Epicurus Really a Hedonist?

Our happiness formula is backwards. We think, “If I do something great, work overtime, get straight A’s, achieve some goal, then I’ll become more successful, and then I’ll be happier.”

But a few weeks after a goal is achieved, the trip over, the new treasure made familiar, happiness levels return to normal and a new goal is needed to achieve happiness later.

hedonic treadmill

The trick to evading the trap of cravings and treadmills is to not wait until later to be happy. Save time and be happy first! To do that, it’s quite simple: Go without expectations, forget who you are and shift from thinking, “I must do something,” to, “I must do nothing.” The real trick is to enjoy reality as it is, because it is.

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You are free to enjoy, but enjoying the world as it is, as you are, is difficult for people who are weighed down by time and things to be done.

Accepting reality without need, fear, or demand, with a sigh, without resistance, “this is what it is,” you suddenly find yourself relaxing into what there is (see also: “This too shall pass“).

A Way of Seeing (Part 2)

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Must we discuss heavy topics such as truth, reality and the best way to live? Isn’t it enough to spend time doing interesting and pleasant things? Shouldn’t we be like young children, free of heavy thoughts and therefore lighthearted?

Isn’t it better to not know certain things? Like, isn’t it better to not know the feeling of cancer?

When we’re young,  death is something that happens to others—the old and infirm and/or unlucky—but then, one day (if it hasn’t happened already), a simple truth suddenly hits: Death happens to everyone—including you.

Put that in your pipe and smoke it.

cheat deathAs hard as it is to imagine, one day, there won’t be another. One day, nothing will happen and you won’t know what happened. You will be gone like those who have gone before you.

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You will join the non-existent and leave only remains but this reality need not cause anguish. There’s nothing you can do. Fuhgeddaboudit. Some people see death as an opportunity to “live every moment.” To them we say, “What! Are you crazy!”

“Just look!
Even the blossoms that are destined to fall tomorrow
Are blooming now in their life’s glory.” ~Takeko Kujo

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“Where does your face go after death? I do not know. Only the peach blossoms blow in the spring wind, This year just as last” ~ an  āgama sutra.

Maybe when you die it will be like before your parents were born. Maybe there’s a trick to this death truth.

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The difference between reality and truth is: “Reality has been existent ever since the beginning of the universe. On the other hand truth is something that you have proved ” (source). Reality is multidimensional. Things appear as they do to you based upon from ‘where’ you are looking. 

The “world” is a felt experience but like Wittgenstein said, “The world of the happy man is a different one from that of the unhappy man” (Tractatus Logico-philosophicus).

In answer to “What is the meaning of life?” Eckhart von Hochheim—aka Meister Eckhart (1260-1328)— said, “Whoever were to ask life for a thousand years: ‘Why do you live?’—if life could answer, it would say nothing but: ‘I live in order that I live’” (source).

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Caspar David Friedrich, Moonrise Over the Sea, 1822.

People have versions of reality that conceal certain aspects but to make the world a better place, it takes acceptance of all of reality and not just the bits we accept.

How a person responds to ethical principles determines that person’s character. For billions of people life means surviving. Life means eating, sleeping and eventually dying.

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The problem seems to be one of money: how to get, spend and save. It’s economics—oil prices, real estate, stocks, debt, GDP, jobs etc.. The purpose of life for billions of people is to get money.

materialism cartoon

Then again, some people don’t care too much for money.

Some people see being creative as their life purpose but regardless of what you think your purpose is (if you have one), you probably don’t mind feeling happy.

As Kurt Vonnegut wrote in A Man Without a Country, “And 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.’”
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Positive psychologists Seligman and Royzman (2003) identified three types of theories of happiness: Hedonism, Desire, Objective List and Authentic Happiness. Which theory you subscribe to (knowingly or not) has implications for how you live your life.

hedonism
Hedonism theory mantra: “Go for it! What the hell!”

Hedonism theory is about maximizing pleasure and minimizing pain. It’s a popular theory. It’s all the rage. Seligman and Royzman (2003) object to it however. They say it can’t handle someone like philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein who lived in misery but died saying, “Tell them it was wonderful!” (source).

Desire theory counters Hedonism by saying that it isn’t about pleasure: it’s about the fulfilment of desire that makes us happy. But again Seligman and Royzman object, saying, if one’s desire is to collect dolls, no matter how satisfying it is to have a big little doll collection, it doesn’t add up to a happy life.

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Desire theory mantra: “I want that!” Image: Celebrity collections.

Countering Hedonism and Desire theories is the Objective List theory. It focuses on “happiness outside of feeling and onto a list of “truly valuable” things in the real world” such as career, relationships, service to community etc., but again Seligman and Royzman object, saying, a happy life must take feelings and desires into account.

objective list
Oxford philosopher Derek Parfit’s “Objective List” Lecture

Seligman and Royzman point to Authentic Happiness theory saying, “there are three distinct kinds of happiness: the Pleasant Life (pleasures), the Good Life (engagement), and the Meaningful Life”  (Authentic Happiness). It’s positive psychology. It’s all the rage. But even if Authentic Happiness covers all bases theoretically, there’s a more deeply rooted problem.

Cross section of soil showing a tree with its roots.

Any quest for happiness through positive psychology is one-sided and self-centred. It’s essentially an unrewarding vision of a full human life because it’s still about another “me” feeling better.

Cue music: Primal Scream “Loaded”.

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Sorry! And the Nature of Suffering,” Existential Comics.

Look at a candle burning. It gives light and heat as long as it burns wax. It lives on wax. It dies as wax wanes. Humans are like candles. We are chemicals. We die as our time wanes and each generation carries our species one step further in time.

how a person is like a candle
A person is like a candle.

sunflowerEach moment must pass away for us to live another. Death is a continuous process.

Living things die as they live but we prefer not to notice.

We’d rather not focus on those who die before us but on the days and nights left to us (see: The Light of Enjoyment and/or Death Clock). But then, maybe being greedy for the pleasure of living isn’t good either.

In Human Minds Margaret Donaldson writes of a man who could put one hundred rattlesnakes into a bag in twenty-eight seconds. The act illustrates something fundamental about humans: We form unique purposes that we pursue with tenacity. If strong feelings are attached, we’ll even die or kill or perhaps maim in pursuit of our purpose.

We share with other animals certain urges—hunger, sexual desire and musicality—but as Margaret Donaldson writes in Human Minds, “it is characteristic of us that we are capable of transcending these urges, though not easily” (p. 8).

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When something that was interesting suddenly isn’t, people get bored. People get angry and argue with others and themselves. The trouble with arguments of self-wanting is that, not only are they self-centred, they’re self-sustaining.

Donaldson says that coming up with a purpose for our lives is easy “because we have brains that are good at thinking of possible future states,” (p. 9) but it is in self-focused single-mindedness that we’re apt to misinterpret reality.

fatalflaw

We feel satisfied when we dispel an illusion but if the illusion serves a purpose, we don’t  want it dispelled. Consider the world of Walter White in the TV show Breaking Bad.

walterwhitesaymyname.gifAt the prospect of death Walter corrupts his morals for money. He thinks ‘ends justify means,’ and finds himself enjoying money and power. Money and power become his purpose.

He becomes poster child for materialism and ego. The Double Whammo. “Say my name.”

Materialism is either a preoccupation with the material world—as opposed to intellectual and/or spiritual—or it’s the theory that everything in the universe is matter. We’re surrounded by matter so it seems only natural that we should be distracted from spiritual and/or intellectual pursuits, but what if problems are caused by materialism and/or ego?

What then?

 

A Way of Seeing To Enjoy (Part 1)

Knowing is equated with seeing. If you see the light, it could mean that you see a light blinking on a radio tower or it could mean that you know something that makes you see everything different. It could mean both.

Philosophy is equated with thinking. Religion is equated with feeling. Today, like the physicist David Bohm, “we hold several points of view, in a sort of active suspension” (Dialogue). Like poet William Blake, (“To see a World in a Grain of Sand, And a Heaven in a Wild Flower“) and philosophers Søren Kierkegaard—we see the ‘eternal in the temporal’—and Ludwig Wittgenstein we say, “how extraordinary that anything should exist” (Lecture on Ethics).

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Bertrand Russell and Ludwig Wittgenstein; from Logicomix (2008) by Apostolos Doxiadis, illustrated by Alecos Papadatos

Today we feel stoic acceptance of what the world throws at us. We say like Wittgenstein, “I am safe, nothing can injure me whatever happens” (Lecture on Ethics). With a “Click!” we connect to an awareness that leaves us feeling strangely lighthearted—for no apparent reason.

This feeling could best be described as “Self Actualization” (à la psychologist Abraham Maslow) or as an “oceanic feeling” of limitlessness and oneness with the entire human race and universe (à la mystic Romain Rolland) or it could be just one of those things. “What’s for supper?”

Today we go from a narrow self-centred perspective to a wider view of the world in its totality. We are ‘disturbed by joy’ like William Wordsworth a few miles above Tintern Abbey:

“…I have felt a presence that disturbs me with joy
Of elevated thoughts; a sense sublime
Of something far more deeply interfused,
Whose dwelling is the light of suns,
and the round ocean and the living air,
and the blue sky, and in the mind of man:…” (source)

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1804. Tintern Abbey by William Havell (source).

Religious belief and the lack thereof could be understood not as rival theories but as different ways of seeing. If a believer and an atheist look at a picture and one says it’s hideous and the other says it’s lovely, who’s right? who’s wrong?

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Ludwig Wittgenstein (1889-1951)

Wittgenstein saw religion not as theoretical but as a ‘collection of pictures’ reinforcing rules of life in the form of morality and a way of living that is itself what is eternal (Culture and Value, 1980). If someone taps into that eternal by living it’s ideal, one is living and being the eternal for a time like a leaf on a tree that is seasonal.

The world is factual. Facts are identifiable by science but facts can’t answer why you are here.

Like Wittgenstein said, “We feel that even if all possible scientific questions be answered, the problems of life have still not been touched” (Lecture on Ethics).

The philosopher Jean-Paul Sarte concluded in The Transcendence of the Ego that, “The World has not created the me: the me has not created the World” (p.105) but these two things are connected in a consciousness that is spontaneous. Sarte wrote, “Consciousness is always ‘of something‘, and therefore defined in relation to something else. It has no nature beyond this and is thus completely translucent” (source).

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Some people picture a soul as translucent—as a kind of a ‘thing’—but not Wittgenstein. He said that if you look at soul language in religion, soul is not pictured as a thing but as integrity (which is equally invisible). So if someone says, “He sold his soul for money” or “He sold his soul to the devil” it really means that he’s become materialistic. He has no deep moral sense and moral sense, as we know, is not visible and immaterial.

A man may have everything but feel horribly afraid of what’s coming. A good man, however, enjoying a good way—tried, true and eternal through himself and those who live after—why, he has nothing to fear. Ever.

No matter what.

He can be light as a feather. He is not chained by anything material. He can never be judged as having lived a futile life even if he dies poor and unknown and didn’t do very much. After all, what does a sparrow do? What are flamingos for?

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According to Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, a person can’t get to the highest level of “self-actualization” without making it by lower level needs such as food, sex and security.

Please note: some people can blast up to their highest potential without need of basics, but they are rare like hen’s teeth.  

To be self-actualized is to be unafraid of the unknown, untroubled by ambiguity and triviality, Self-aware, Accepting weaknesses while developing strengths, living a “meaningful life” by having a purpose that goes above and beyond one’s self to a greater good (see: Self Actual).

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If you were asked, “Do you understand the difference between thinking and being?” what would you say?

Understanding the difference between thinking and being is like when police catch someone in the act of a crime and say, “What do you think you’re doing!” which is another way of saying, “How stupid are you?

This is the exact moment when the cop and the criminal give their collective heads a shake. Most people (most of the time) see the world from inside a self-enclosed bubble of preoccupied thoughts that shape how the world is perceived. But this way of seeing is limiting because it sees a world perceived through language and opinion.

When a person with soul (and a clear conscience, if possible) wakes up, looks around and says full of happiness, “This is a miracle!” he isn’t just describing an event. It’s really his reaction to something significant that he is being, enjoying and becoming.

The Point of Enjoyment

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As John Steinbeck said in The Winter of Our Discontent, “You know how advice is. You only want it if it agrees with what you wanted to do anyway.” Good one John.

So true.

We might not appreciate advice but we’re free to give it. It’s like everyone is saying, “I want what I want! Is that so wrong?” but the world says, “Sorry. You can’t have that—but… you-can-have-this.” 

And we make do (or we make don’t).

mistakes

Contrary to what we might think, “If you want to avoid repeating history, it’s best not to try to learn from it” (Science Behind Repeating Mistakes).

When a mistake happens, say, “Forget about it” like Donnie Brasco. Sing “Walk On By” with Dionne Warwick and move on. Like the weeping philosopher Heraclitus said in 469 BC, “Everything flows.” Nothing lasts. We’re all a little disappointed.

We all dance a tango with the world. In moments of dissatisfaction and/or lamentation it’s not surprising that we ask, “What’s the point?” and find the point lacking and/or nonexistent.

figure 1 figure 2The psychologist Tim Carey wrote, “It’s a funny thing about the point… we rarely think about the point except in those situations when we question if there is one. Most people… meander through their days… getting on with the business of living by making their lives be the way they want them to be” (What’s the Point?…).

Carey concludes: “We have no objective, irrefutable, immutable point that drives us all except, perhaps, the point of keeping our worlds in the states we are satisfied with” (…life is the point).

birth and in between stuff

Cue music: Les Baxter “Blue Tango” (1952).

The propensity to keep one’s self satisfied reinforces the Perceptual Control Theory (PCT) which states, “Behaviour is the control of perception,” which means: “we do things to get what we want” (PCT).

Seems like a no-brainer.

coffee

As it says on the PCT website, “When things are working normally, the person gets to experience what they want to experience. It is just right—like the perfect cup of coffee or tea… the person compares a ‘standard’—what they want—with what they are experiencing right now—their perception” (PCT).

Our brains measure the difference between what we want—a beautiful day—with what we get—mud slides.

just right2The bigger the discrepancy between what we want and what we get, the more effort we put into reducing that discrepancy.

Rather than change our behaviour, we vary our behaviour to control sensory inputs. We do this to feel what we want to feel. We adjust our behaviour until everything is just right.

We think we should be able to control our careers, relationships, health, finances and so on. It’s a surprise when we’re told we can’t.

Effort does not guarantee success. Understand the difference between thinking and being.

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It’s like you’re driving a car. Your purpose is to get where you’re going so you avoid potholes. It’s a negative feedback loop. You turn your steering wheel to cancel the negative effects of potholes to your purpose.

You want things “just right.” If the music is too loud or in some way not just right, you change the music, turn it off, suffer or seek escape.

Carey asks, “What is the point of saying “Good morning”? What is the point of a butterfly bursting from its constricting cocoon and fluttering off to find a flower? What is the point of going to school, of turning up to work on time, of going on holidays, of being kind, of asking for skim instead of full cream milk...” What’s the point of anything, really?

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The point is there is no point, but that is the point! Everything has a point but if you don’t see it, it is indeed pointless.

bird and pointing

The point is what you make because you’re the one pointing!

We are meaning makers and pointers. We see patterns and make connections. It’s apophenia: the “universal human tendency to attribute meaning to perceived connections or patterns and to seek patterns in random information” (source).

The pointillism of a day in the park might be to relax and enjoy, but if you don’t see the point, you won’t.

pointillism

We want things we don’t have. We don’t have things we want. When we have things we want, they don’t last. We have expectations and attachments that bind us to how we want things to be.

Like good old Siddhartha Gautama said, suffering is caused by our wish for things to be other than the way they are.

busters car

Nobody but you feels your “you” feeling (see Here’s the Thing). Scientific instruments can show brain activity, but it can’t point to your awareness of “you-ness” and say, “There it is!” Nor can you prove that you are conscious other than to say you are. Your brain may fire and wire together a sandcastle of self but your mind controls the firing lines.

As Dr. J. Schwartz said, “The brain puts out the call. The mind decides whether to listen” (see slide presentation)The brain is the only organ that you can change (rewire) with conscious attention.

the 4 steps

You decide what is and isn’t important. One person loves old cars, another doesn’t. What’s the point of old cars? Nothing. But to the one who enjoys them there is.

What’s the point of a flower? a tree? a you? Nothing.

stigma

The point of a flower is to flower. The point of a tree is to tree. The point of you is to you. There’s no point other than to be and do whatever it is and does.

Flowering is for reproduction but to sensory perceptions of a sensitive person there’s more to flowers than anatomy. There is beauty but not everybody gets it (if they did, they would).

Points are individual.

If swimming has a point, swim. If laughing has a point, laugh (if it doesn’t, don’t). We have expectations and preferences that we continually compare to the current state of our world. When they match, we’re content. When they don’t, we do something to make it “just right.”

 

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Thoughts are like seeds. A seed (thought) contains a plant (new thought) which gives birth to more seeds containing more plants (thoughts) in a cycle. It’s all very useful but it can remove a person from the real world.

plant-cycle

What’s pulling your strings has been fashioned by memories, dreams and conditioning (see: “It’s Not Me…). You need an ego identity but the trouble with our big brain is that we put ourselves into psychological prisons. Reality is not what we think it is. Reality with a capital R is something else entirely.

sunset palm trees

Prove it to yourself. When you’re done reading, go outside and experience the world with your senses. It’s like cleaning a window of thought grime. Thoughts come and go as you enjoy a timeless dimension that’s always there but obscured by preoccupations.

dance-steps

Just dance.

Don’t overthink it.

All insides have outsides inside something else. Where does it begin? Where does it end? It doesn’t. It’s all you.

Wherever you go, there you are.

Knowledge, Wisdom, Insight and Enjoyment

Knowledge, wisdom, insight and enjoyment relate to the mind but differ in kind. Knowledge is information, wisdom is the application of knowledge, insight is awareness of an essential truth, and enjoyment is, as writer Paul Goodman (1911-1972) observed,  “not a goal, it is a feeling that accompanies important ongoing activity.” 

Knowledge is, “Nothing but the facts ma’am.” If you’re a carpenter, you have knowledge of carpentry. If you play guitar, you have knowledge of guitars. If you’re an astronomer, you have knowledge of stars. Knowledge requires research, study and experience.

knowledge is power

Knowledge is the foundation for wisdom. Wisdom is knowing why something is. Wisdom is the application of knowledge for making sound decisions because one can’t act wisely without knowing the potential consequences of a choice.

Wisdom requires reflection and contemplation of what you know and don’t know so as to understand and use that knowledge in an intelligent way.

knowledgeinfocartoon

Wisdom is necessary if you are to have insight. Insight is a personal realization. Insight is an experience. It is the deepest level of knowing. It is understanding a specific cause and effect within a specific context.

Insight is a clearer perception of knowledge and wisdom as it pertains to your life. Whereas knowledge and wisdom are based on rationality, insight is based on intuitive understanding. calvin and hobbes i have to do this

The application of wisdom enables a person to gain insight into the essence of an underlying truth. To enjoy insight you not only need to acquire knowledge and take that knowledge and contemplate it—look at all sides with care and attention—and deliberate it—weigh facts and arguments with a view to a choice and consequences—so as to gain wisdom, but you need to make an intuitive connection which is hard to explainlet alone impart to another person.

If you have insight, explanations are meaningless to another person. Like enjoyment, insight is an individual experience that can be described and analyzed but not transmitted or shared. When discussing knowledge, wisdom, insight and enjoyment, we are digging into two incompatible types of thought: rational and intuitive.

change

Rationality employs language, logic and reason. Think of rationality as a machine. Rationality can be taught but intuition cannot. Think of intuition as a flower. Intuition is embedded in your consciousness but it is often repressed by self-consiousness.

rational-emotional.jpgRational knowledge is knowing what people, things, practices and pleasures make you happy, but wisdom is knowing that things you enjoy do not actually make you happy; happiness comes from within. Insight is feeling that whether or not you believe something isn’t the right question because the answer is what you know through experience.

chicken of depression

Intuition is beyond words. You can’t manipulate intuitive consciousness with rational thinking. Rational thinking is a veil through which we think we see reality, but we’re really only perceiving a shallow portion filtered through our constructed perspective.

To see reality directly as reality is to be in reality with acceptance as it is (see also: The Art of Love And Enjoyment Incarnate).

Rationality constrains one’s mind and intuition releases it.

Intuition is a key to what might be called, “higher consciousness” which is, “the part of the human being that is capable of transcending animal instincts” (Wikipedia). Higher consciousness has been described as a feeling of oneness where the world is seen directly and not analytically. The world feels like an extension of your consciousness and there is a sudden sense of freedom from a bondage to the way you think about things.

An insight of higher consciousness is a highly enjoyable direct experience with reality in the present. It is knowing that the happiness you feel is a temporary emotion just like any other temporary emotion that you experience. Happiness is one emotion in a spectrum. If you give yourself permission and relax with acceptance, if you let your face go slack and see from the sides, if you hear without hearing, if you do all this without trying, you will enjoy the intuitive realization or insight that there’s nothing to realize.

The world is there. It is unchanged regardless of how you perceive it. Now is the time to give birth to an awareness of all the love and care you have in your body for everything that is, was, and shall be.

This is not a matter of believing or not believing. That’s the wrong way to look at it. This is about knowing from direct experience. It’s when a feeling of awareness dawns in you. It’s when you stop interpreting what you see, hear, smell and feel. That’s when you realize that you and the world around you are one and the same. Like a cell in a body you are. But wait, before you make a decision as to whether or not this is nonsense, try it yourself—then you’ll know. The trick is to try and not try without effort.

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The Enjoyment of A Just Being Just being

moon and trees

Reality isn’t a theory. It isn’t a concept. It isn’t opinion. Reality doesn’t exist to teach lessons. Reality isn’t fair or not fair. It isn’t right nor is it wrong. Reality just is. If it isn’t reality, it’s fiction. How you think about what’s there separates you from what is.

Cue music:  Lara’s Theme” or Midnight Rambler”.

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If you slip and fall and people laugh, don’t take it personal. Reality isn’t out to get you. It’s the dance of chance and circumstance. It’s slippery. It’s poor shoes, ice and lack of attention. Reality is the wind blowing and the hard, icy sidewalk upon which you’re falling. Reality is like Lauryn Hill said, “Everything is everything”.

Before you appeared, reality was there. After you appeared, reality was there. After you pass, reality will be there. Where does everything begin? Where does it end? It doesn’t end or begin, such divisions are like chapters in a book.

When you arrive at a state of being there, there is nothing the matter. As you go through your day taking care of business like Elvis, can you say there is nothing the matter? Only those who can, know that it is so.

Look at yourself looking. If you say, “I know my mind,” who is the one knowing? When you argue with yourself, who’s arguing? You started from your mother’s egg and your father’s seed neither of which is you. When did you become you? Are you a link or the chain?

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Reality is the wind that blows. Reality is the cold. Your reality cannot be shared. When the wind blows your house away, reality doesn’t know, nor does it care. It can’t. It won’t. We create reality for ourselves and opinions obscure what is.

Reality is not what you hear. Reality is the sound.

Reality is not what you see. Reality is what’s there.

windy.gif

In The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy Douglas Adams wrote, “The Guide is definitive. Reality is frequently inaccurate.” It’s a joke because reality can’t be inaccurate, but we can—especially if we’re emotional (Psychology Today). Once we believe we are right based on what we see, hear, and remember, it’s hard to be dissuaded. It’s hard to change a perception once we have one.

thug lifeThe rapper Tupac Shakur defied reality saying, “Reality is wrong. Dreams are for real.” He tattooed “F-✴# the World,” on his back and “Thug Life” on his front. He was gunned down at 25. Was reality wrong or could his murder have been anticipated based on the times and the dangerous game he was playing?

steve jobsThe entrepreneur Steve Jobs said, “Reality is flexible.” He thought he could bend reality to his will. He died regretting nine months of treating his cancer with acupuncture and fruit juice (The Telegraph).

The science fiction writer, Philip K. Dick (Blade Runner, Minority Report) nailed it when he wrote, “Reality is that which when you stop believing, doesn’t go away.

eye from blade runner

Herein is the human conundrum. Reality, as in, “the state of things as they actually exist…,” is objective (“not influenced by personal feelings or opinions…”) and enjoyment, as in, “the state or process of taking pleasure in something,” is subjective (“based on or influenced by personal feelings, tastes, or opinions”) (Google).

objectivity-vs-subjectivity

But what you want can run counter to what you get. That’s reality. When that happens, you can feel self-pity or anger because the truth about the way things are can be hard to handle.

The trouble is in our interpretations. We’re vulnerable. Our senses and interpretations can trick us. We’re like a guy in a car who thinks he’s moving  (but he isn’t) because the car next to him is moving. We misinterpret situations until we realize that perceptions are slippery like ice on a sidewalk.

Our subjective reality is “subject” to filters that modify perceptions. Rods and cones in our eyes, sensory processing in our visual cortex, higher-level brain functions, psychological factors and expectations, can trick us into thinking that what we’re seeing is real.

Everything is moving, changing and spinning. One spin of the Earth carries it 24,000 miles as it moves about 30 kilometers per second around the Sun which is also moving around the centre of the galaxy at about 230 kilometers per second (Ask an Astronomer). All of this is happening right now without your awareness.

earth spinning
A model of how the planets orbit the Sun as it moves (Source: Rhys Taylor).

We’re like Whirling Dervishes in a universe spinning, changing and moving and here is the key: The world is right when you are right. You could be in a beautiful place, but not see anything if you’re thinking and feeling annoyed, disappointed, nauseous or angry. A just person is guided by truth, reason and fairness. You can paint the world ugly or become aware of what you’re doing.

The trick is to not believe everything you tell yourself. You could list everything wrong with reality, but why? You could let complaints buzz in your brain like flies on a carcass. You could believe that what you’re telling yourself is factual, or, you can see the truth and realize that mental machinations are like the whisper of falling snowflakes.

snow falling2

To say that reality is like something is to miss it. If you’re not self-aware, thoughts gain momentum. Thoughts can take you out of reality into a head game of self-inflicted brainwashing but you can train your attention to let thoughts come and go. Open your own eyes. Stand on your own two feet (if you have them). See directly without delusion and act on truth without confusion.

Enjoy being a just being just being there (wherever there is).

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).

clouds

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 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 because we know it ’tis! Suffering is part of the game to be enjoyed without masochism. Let suffering to be there without resistance. Don’t try to forget or escape and suffering moves to the periphery and when that happens, you feel bliss filled in the centre because you are 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, sombre, heavy, weighty, critical, sincere, in earnest and not trifling (Dictionary.com). Is that how “it” is? Is life grave sombre, heavy, and weighty?

squirrel-512

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.

How would it feel if instead of thinking it is serious!, you thought just the opposite?

What if you could see finite games for what they are? 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”).

wascana-park

The truth is, most of what we think of as important probably 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 effort to change it. Let your day rock and roll as it will anyway. Recognize what you can and can’t do and 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. Why not? 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 just be a catch phrase reserved for homicidal maniacs.

The Content of Contentment: Press Play

tightrope walkerThere’s a war going on. It’s been going on for a couple of thousand years. It’s happening right now. It’s on TV, in the news and in books and movies. It’s on the Internet and on billboards but it isn’t an obvious war. It’s subtle. There are no bombs as a rule.

jesus billboardLike The Troggs said, “It’s written on the wind. It’s everywhere I go” (“Love Is All Around”), but it isn’t love that’s all around: it’s thought.

From thought love flows or shuts off (“Real Love Is a Choice”). You can’t see thought of course—it’s more or less invisible, ergo: “spiritual”—but you can see evidence of thought (or lack thereof) in brain scans, behaviour and city planning.

Cue music: “Peacock Tail” or “Calcutta”.

willy wonka memeThe philosopher Michel Onfray—resident hedonist, atheist, and anarchist—says that it’s a war between materialists and idealists (source). It’s a war that focuses on the big question: “What is reality?”

How you answer determines how you relate to the world.

No biggie.

matrixImagine holding a spoon. You see it. You feel its weight and cool metal in your hand. These perceptions happen within your brain where data from sensory organs comes together and forms an “image” of the spoon in your brain, but apart from your perceptions and awareness of the spoon, is there really something outside and separate from your mind? Do you regard the spoon as real or not?

Materialism says yes.

Idealism says no.

Which one are you?

To a materialist everything is matter because everything, including mental activity and consciousness, is physical. It’s matter acting upon matter. Reality is independent of perceptions.

materialist

As the philosopher Alexander Spirkin (1918-2004) put it in “Matter as the Substance of Everything That Exists”, “Consciousness belongs not to any transcendental world but to the material world.”

The word “materialist” also refers to someone who displays conspicuous consumption of material goods or who pursues wealth and luxury.

If materialism had a theme song it would be Let’s get physical” with Olivia Newton John or “Material Girl” with Madonna.

Now, the opposite of materialism (everything is “matter”) is idealism. To an idealist everything is mental (not matter) and therefore immaterial because the mind, as in, thoughts and ideas, make reality for you (source).

In the movie The Matrix, a boy bends a spoon without touching it and says, “There is no spoon.” To an idealist this means that you can’t manipulate reality, you can only manipulate yourself. Only when you change yourself can you change reality.

perceiver and perception

Idealists can be dualists or nondualists. Dualists (“being two”) think the world is made of divisionsgood/bad, here/there, self/other, past/future; whereas, nondualists (“not two”) think these divisions don’t exist and that we don’t really experience them at all because everything is interconnected and not separated.

Nondualists in Eastern and Western traditions say that a dual, divided experience leaves us feeling finite and vulnerable because we think we’re separate from everything else but if we really understand the nondual unbroken-experience, feelings of separation and suffering end completely (Science & Nonduality).

duality and nonduality

Idealism says, “I am Consciousness. All objects of my awareness are really Awareness in disguise”  (source). If idealism had a theme song, it would be “Life Is But a Dream” with the Harptones, “Spirit In the Sky” with Norman Greenbaum, or “Hurdy Gurdy Man” with Donovan.

The word “idealist” also describes a person with high ideals or qualities of perfection and excellence.

when I was young

In this war the lines are drawn in phrases of persuasion. When Onfray says, “Religion is like magic. It’s all about tricks,” he expresses a materialist’s position. When British physicist James Jeans (1877-1946) says, “the Universe begins to look more like a great thought than like a great machine,” he expresses an idealist’s position. But why must we choose between one or the other? Why not be both together?

bubble

Whether materialist or idealist, we each live in our own little bubble of awareness. The bubble is our self—a universe of one. Some bubble-people float alone. Some bubble-people stick together like suds. Inside our bubbles we think we’re awake and aware of our surroundings. Consciousness seems to come from the operations of our brain but consciousness is tricky that way.

It’s like there’s a locked box inside our head and the key to open it is inside! Thinking about thought is like that. As the Platters said, “Only you can make this world seem right” (“Only You”). The best we can do is to make educated guesses about what others are thinking (source).

lady in a bubble
Photograph by Alex Kisilevich.

The philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche (1844-1900) wrote, “There are no facts, only interpretation” (source) meaning, truth and reality are concoctions of someone interpreting reality and therefore creating it. It’s an idea verified by science. In “What hallucination reveals about our mind” neurologist Oliver Sacks said that we see with the brain but the brain can be fooled by hallucinations that mimic perceptions.

brain is outside inIn “Your brain hallucinates your conscious reality”, neuroscientist Anil Seth said, “What we consciously see is based on the brain’s best guess of what’s out there. Our experienced world comes from the inside out, not just the outside in.”

You could be a materialist who isn’t materialistic or an idealist without ideals, but not likely. Materialism’s determination that everything is “matter” goes with a materialistic desire to buy and idealism’s realization that reality is mental goes with caring more for ideals of excellence and goodness than for anything purchased.

materialism3In the article “If You Shop on Thanksgiving, You Are Part of the Problem” Matt Walsh writes of  the materialist’s credo for happiness: “Everybody buy. It doesn’t matter what you buy. Just buy. It doesn’t matter if you don’t have money. Just buy.”

To which George Monbiot adds, “The more we consume, the less we feel. The richer we are and the more we consume, the more self-centred and careless of the lives of others we appear to become” (“Why we couldn’t care less about the natural world”).

A materialistic bid for happiness confirms research that shows, “Those who pursue wealth and material possessions tend to be less satisfied and experience fewer positive emotions each day… Life satisfaction—surprise, surprise—is correlated with having less materialistic values” (“The Psychology Of Materialism, And Why It’s Making You Unhappy”).

idealist cartoon

Psychologist Felicitas Heyne writes, “If you are an Idealist, life represents one continuous search for a deeper meaning: Who am I? Where am I going? What is my destiny? This already describes the most important pillar of your personal concept of happiness: The meaning of life!” (“How Idealists can find Meaning in their Lives”).

To be awake means to be fully conscious in the present moment. To be “unconscious” is to be not conscious. It is to be “without awareness, or cognition” (Dictionary.com). 

In the film, You, the Living, a psychiatrist delivers a bleak assessment of the human condition: “People demand to be happy at the same time as they are egocentric, selfish and ungenerous. I’d like to be honest and say they are quite simply mean, most of them. I’ve stopped trying to make a mean person happy. I just prescribe pills, the stronger the better.

So, is the answer in a pill?

red pill or blue pill

When Bob Dylan said, “The answer, my friendis blowin’ in the wind,” he said a slurring mouthful (“Blowing In The Wind”).

Peace_and_Contentment_Eduard-Grützner
Peace and contentment by Eduard von Grützner, 1897.

As an idealist, you interpret the world as if it were a person and then, as a materialist, you enjoy it. Two sides. Same coin.

Contentment is simply seeing and enjoying what is seen and enjoyed simply.

In a state of satisfaction with absolute acceptance of yourself and your situation, perfect gratitude hits you with perfect ease and contentment.

And there you are.

Here.

Enjoying.

you-are-here_2.png

Enjoy A “You-day-mon-I-am!” Inspiration

the worldThis is the world. The world is as it is. It is not as it isn’t. The world is an interconnected balancing act. Some people say humans came from the hand of God. Some say they came from aliens or from rocks, water and sunshine, but any way you slice it, it’s really quite amazing.

Cue music: Ravel, “Bolero”.

pendulum-ballsLike alternating current (AC) and direct current (dc), the world is positive and negative. Clickety-clack. Clickety-clack. One thing leads to another on the train of days we call life. We hope something incredible will happen—if we’re lucky, if we’re blessed, if a genie grants our wish—but magic doesn’t come from outside.

It is an interaction.

As Sir Isaac Newton observed, “Every action has an equal and opposite reaction,” which means, “The bigger the push, the bigger the push back” (Propulsion). It’s like ping pong.

table tennis

Everything is put into place and goes from there. There are good people. There are bad people. Sometimes good people are bad. Sometimes bad people are good. They’re inconsistent and situational even when they think they’re being spiritual (and/or reasonable).

The world is beautiful and horrible at intervals. We oscillate between positive and negative emotions every minute on our way to enjoying. Throughout history it hasn’t just been girls who wanna have fun. It’s everyone.

Everything humans do revolves around surviving and enjoying. They go together like bread and butter. It’s hard to enjoy if you’re not surviving and if you’re surviving without enjoying, what’s the point?

party hard
High-income countries have the highest prevalence of heavy episodic drinking (source).

That could explain why suicide is the tenth leading cause of death in the world. Globally, one million people commit suicide each year (source). 44,193 Americans commit suicide each year and of those, many are drug and alcohol related (source). 

Party on, Dude.

The trick is to enjoy, but not all enjoyment is equal. Behind the eyes of another is a consciousness that is as you are. The workings of another’s mind is reflected in words and actions. If you’re not enjoying, you could do some rewiring. Neurons that “fire together, wire together” (source). Everyone’s brain is capable of physical change.

Neurons firing at the same time develop a physical connection. Through self-awareness and mindful practice you can structure yourself sane, sensible, and not prone to weeping.

willow-tree

We all want to experience as many joy filled experiences as we can. Las Vegas and Disneyland were built on that desire. It’s why we love eating doughnuts (as opposed to just looking at them).

Let’s get started.

krispy-kremeIn this age of entertainment, where people are immersed in computer generated fantasy or escape through drugs and alcohol, it’s interesting to see that people are still singing, “I can’t get no satisfaction. ‘Cause I try and I try and I try,” like Mick Jagger (“Satisfaction”).

Why is there no satisfaction?

Everyone is searching for something but what that “something” is is sometimes uncertain. Watch reality TV and you’ll see how messed up people can be. It’s as if everyone should be assigned a psychologist at birth to guide them through life.

dogtherapist

The ancient Greeks proposed two opposing philosophical traditions for how to find happiness. Aristotle (384-322 BC) called them: (1) eudaimonia (you-day-monia)—right action leading to “well-being” and the “good life,” and (2) hedonic enjoyment—the pursuit of pleasure from sensual self-indulgence.

Eudiamonia combines “eumeaning “good” and “daimon” meaning “spirit” (“god” or “godlike”). Eudiamonia literally means “having a good guardian spirit”.

Socrate_daimon
Socrates’ daimon.

In psychology daimonic refers to one’s drive towards individuation—the things that distinguish you from everybody else.

Eudiamonia asks you to live in accordance with your daimon or “true self” and hedonism asks you to enjoy an experience where you believe you’re getting what you want and feel the pleasant affects of that belief (source).

But ideas change over time. Daemonic is now associated with a fiend motivated by a spiritual force that is evil, but daimonia is really about a feeling of unrest that forces you into an unknown that leads you to “self-destruction and/or self-discovery” (source).

the-impossibleIn “Two Conceptions of Happiness…” psychologist Alan S. Waterman writes, “The daimon is an ideal in the sense of being an excellence, a perfection toward which one strives and, hence, it can give meaning and direction to one’s life” (p. 678).

Socrates and Plato thought human beings wanted eudaimonia more than anything and Aristotle—that eudimoniac!—rejected hedonism saying, “The many, the most vulgar, seemingly conceive the good and happiness as pleasure… they appear completely slavish, since the life they decide on is a life for grazing animals” (Aristotle, 1985, p. 7).

But Epicurus—the hedonist who was like Jesus (Christians and Epicureans shared social practices)—put the two opposites together. He didn’t advocate pursuing any and every pleasure. He identified eudaimonia (the flourishing life) with the life of pleasure and freedom from distress (Eudaimonia).

To shape a state of mind that is eudaimonic, here’s what to do:

Mungo-Jerry-1970-In-The-Summertime

First, cultivate virtue through: (1) apatheia (literally “being without passions” like a stoic) and (2) ataraxia (literally being “without trouble” or “tranquillity” like a hedonist). Second, stop thinking like a critic. Third, sing, “Chh chh-chh, uh, chh chh-chh, uh. In the summertime, when the weather is hot. You can stretch right up and touch the sky” (“In the Summertime”).

The world—Reality—is a hand in your face waving, “Hey Dude! Wake up Dude! (Reality sounds a lot like Keanu Reeves). “See that sky? That’s me! See those trees? That’s me too, Dude! If you see the world, you’re in the world. You’re the world seeing itself! WHOA! That’s heavy, Dude.”

keanu

Reality answers every question. It speaks every minute. Even when you’re sleeping, reality sleeps with you. The wheels are in motion—spinning, spinning.

party on

Reality says,Feel the grass under your feet. Incredible, right? The reality of your feet and grass feeling is reality happening. You don’t have to believe there are flowers. There are flowers! There are hummingbirds, rhinoceros, butterflies and robins fluffing feathers under sprinklers.” 

But like in dream where all the roads are congested as you choke on exhaust feeling “stuck in the middle” on this “eve of destruction”, is there anything you can do? Of course there is!

Do nothing.

truck

It’s an effortless Chinese wu wei non-doing in harmony kind of thing. Practice not doing and enjoy yourself in not so doing. It doesn’t mean you’re a slug. It  means to sing, “Don’t worry about a thing because everything’s gonna be all right” (“Don’t Worry About A Thing”). Let muscular tension go. Relax and let time pass (see also: Enjoyment and Enlightenment and A New Way of Looking).

Just duck it. Duck it all anyway. Like a duck in a pond, float without purpose or boredom. Let your face go slack like an idiot and enjoy it. Float with euphoria and swim in living. The whole environment is the duck that’s in it.

“Quack. Quack.”

ducksFeel aware of yourself feeling aware in the world you’re in and like Daniel Boone sing, “Hey, hey, hey, it’s a beautiful day” (“Beautiful Sunday”).

Enjoy! Enjoy! Enjoy.

References

Aristotle. (1985). Nicomachean ethics. (T. Irwin, Trans.). Indianapolis,
IN: Hackett.

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