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.

Rainbows, Religious Experience and Nerf Warfare

rainbow
“In the desert, you can remember your name” (“A Horse With No Name”)

In the 1915 novel, The Rainbow, writer D. H. (don’t call be David—call me “Herb”) Lawrence  (1885-1930) tells of a young man named Tom Brangwen who has a shift in consciousness during a moment of irritation with a child.

Lydia Brangwen, Tom’s wife, is in labour and her four-year old daughter, Anna, gets upset. Tom and Tilly, a cross-eyed housekeeper, can’t stop Anna from crying for her mother. When Tom lifts the girl’s body, “Its stiff blindness made a flash of rage go through him. He would like to break it” (p. 79).

rage.jpgAnna is “a little, mechanical thing of fixed will,” and Tom is “blind, and intent, irritated into mechanical action” (p. 78). They are blind and mechanized. Cut off. Disconnected. Tom is angry and Anna won’t stop crying. Each is alone to the other. Hostility evaporates their empathy. Tom doesn’t care what she wants and Anna doesn’t care what he wants.

We’ve all been there. Emotions veto reason. Anger kills happiness like car sickness kills enjoyment of scenery. They call it a loss of self-control but it’s more like a self trying to control what it can’t!

tom
Tom rages.

Lawrence describes a loss of self-control as feeling bewitched by moods, drowning in floods and being possessed by demons (Sanders, 1974). Popular culture stemming from religious images uses devils and angels to symbolize a good self who puts others first and a bad self who puts himself first.

devil HomerJoe Campbell said that, “Every god, every mythology, every religion, is true in this sense: it is true as metaphorical of the human and cosmic mystery. He who thinks he knows doesn’t know. He who knows that he doesn’t know, knows” (“Masks of Eternity”).

It’s simple, really: get what you want—enjoy; don’t get what you want—don’t enjoy. The real trick is in the “what” that is wanted. It’s in the wanting/satisfying dichotomy that people go off kilter. 

Tom wanted Anna to stop crying but she couldn’t. He wanted something he couldn’t provide because Anna controls her crying. Tom was alone in his wanting and a wall went up between himself and reality.

What happens when you want something you simply can’t provide?

NerfBownArrowBox

BONK!” Like a Nerf arrow falling from the sky, a thought hits Tom square in the head:

What did it all matter? What did it matter if the mother talked Polish and cried in labour, if this child were stiff with resistance, and crying? Why take it to heart? Let the mother cry in labour, let the child cry in resistance, since they would do so. Let them be as they were, if they insisted. Why should he fight against it, why resist? Let it be, if it were so” (p. 79).

With this thought, Tom is freed. He’s released from wanting/getting. He accepts what is. No expectations. No disappointment. He sees Anna’s sad face as if for the first time. She is herself and not an object of his vexation. He feels life creating and has a “let it be” feeling way before Paul McCartney’s dreaming (see: Enjoy Knowing in the Rain).

Tom carries Anna outside, through the rain, and into the barn. He cradles her with one arm and feeds the cows with the other. Anna grows quiet. They sit listening to animals eating and Tom enjoys a “timeless silence”.

The lantern shed a soft, steady light from one wall. All outside was still in the rain. He looked down at the silky folds of the paisley shawl. It reminded him of his mother. She used to go to church in it. He was back again in the old irresponsibility and security, a boy at home” (p. 116).

Later that night he steps outside, lifts his face to the rain and feels, “the darkness striking unseen and steadily upon him… and he was overcome. He turned away indoors, humbly. There was the infinite world, eternal, unchanging, as well as the world of life” (p. 118).

rain on windowReligion and philosophy are guides. Where religion has rituals, philosophy doesn’t. Where religion has supernatural beliefs and a concept of faith (a belief in something without evidence), philosophy doesn’t.

Philosophy will only believe in something if it’s proven to be true by way of reason, but what is proven by way of reason in Tom’s experience with irritation, cows, a mother, sad child, and silence?

Nothing. Everything. Tom straddles a line between philosophy and religion. He enters a zone of enjoyment where practicalities give way to feelings of “stillness and rain” that are not easy to grasp.

science_and_religion_900x506

Tom’s shift in consciousness is significantly ordinary and superlatively natural. He breathes as a boy and feels those old violins play “Try To Remember”. It could be described as a religious experience simply because it’s profound.

But religion is tricky. People are funny when they get serious.

God cartoon

Evangelical theologian Michael Dowd thinks, “God is a personification, not a person” (source). In Faces in the Clouds (1993) Stewart Guthrie says that religion is best understood as anthropomorphism and all images and concepts of God are interpretations and personifications. To personify is to see inanimate objects and living things as having human traits, intentions and feelings, but the thing about reality is that it’s real regardless of perception.

thought and emotionScience fiction writer Philip K. Dick (1928-1982) said, “Reality is that which, when you stop believing in it, doesn’t go away” (1978).

Between self and other and thought and feeling, we interrelate, interconnect and go round and round each other within our blip of time.

Birth and death, cycles of nature, forces of the universe—they’re real. We can’t always predict what will happen but reality freed of expectation is a revelation.

Poet Omar Khayyám (1048-1131) wrote: “We are no other than a moving row, Of Magic Shadow-shapes that come and go”…

Omar Khayyám
Illustration by Adelaide Hanscom.

“Ah, make the most of what we yet may spend, Before we too into the Dust descend; Dust into Dust, and under Dust, to lie, Sans Wine, sans Song, sangs Singer, andsans End!…

Oh, threats of Hell and Hopes of Paradise! One thing at least is certain—This Life flies”… 

My rule of life is to drink and be merry. To be free from belief and unbelief is my religion” (Ruba’iyat).

In this life we are, on the one hand, a self-creation, and on the other, an affiliation. One’s secret self, unique and separate from all others, is a self directed chemical reaction like “La Vie En Rose”. When everything is rosy and cheerful to you, a state of bliss from everything around you is a source of joy.

To Lawrence, a lack of “natural awe” and “natural balance” is a sign of the breakdown of modern life. Problems start at a subconscious level so we need to explore a new world of lovenot to dictate imperativesbut to feel.

“The final aim of every living thing, creature, or being is the full achievement of itself…[So] the day is richer for a poppy, the flame of another phoenix is filled in to the universe, something is which was not… And I wish it were true of us. I wish we were all like kindled bonfires on the edge of space, marking out advance-posts.” (“Study of Hardy”, Phoenix, p. 403).

poppy

You are the one who sees blackness behind closed eyes. You are a secret other to another and another is a secret other to you.  Your self is like a nut within a shell that is the universe universing.

russian dollA shift in consciousness towards acceptance, contentment and awareness like Tom Brangwen’s could happen to anyone, anywhere, anytime—even you, even here, even right this second!

BONK!

 

References

Guthrie, S. (1993). Faces in the Clouds A New Theory of Religion. Oxford University Press. Available online: as a pdf.

Lawrence, D.H. (1915). The Rainbow. Penguin Books. Available online: The Project Guttenberg Ebook of The Rainbow.

Panichas, G.A. (1964). Adventures in Consciousness: The meaning of D.H. Lawrence’s Religious Quest. Mouton & Co.

Sanders, S. (1974). D.H. Lawrence: the world of the five major novels. Viking Press.

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 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?

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.

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.

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“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.

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“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.

Enjoy A Perfect World

drivingtowardsrain

Imagine you’re on a highway. Up ahead is a storm. It’s a big one. You want to get where you’re going, but should you turn around?

Before deciding what to do, you stop to enjoy the view. The air is earthy. Electrified. Colours vivid: dark green, dark blue, pink, distant purple.

a-perfect-world
Casper doesn’t want to go out and boo people. He want’s to be friendly,”  from There’s Good Boos Tonight.

Driving for hours in a time machine car has put you in a trance. The road ahead has taken you into the future and left the past in a rear-view mirror (see: Kevin Costner explain In a Perfect World).

lightning2The sky rumbles and ruminates upon your fate as you stand bewildered. A thundering song rocks your brain: “I was caught in the middle of a railroad track (thunder!). I looked round and I knew there was no turning back (thunder!)” (“Thunderstruck,” AC/DC).

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Source

Between waking and sleeping and thinking and doing you breathe deeply. The storm edges closer but there is no hurry, no tension, no mental chatter. You are as loose as a wet noodle as you listen to sound come and go. Your face is stupidly slack. Vision widens. Inside the car the Clash asks your question, “Should I stay or should I go?”

It’s perfect.

Everything is just so: earth, sky, air, body. The voice within goes quiet when you touch reality. Judgement: suspended! Impatience: gone! A childlike freedom hits. You’re like a bird perched on a branch giving way, but why worry?

calm-risk-taker.jpg

Life is forever asking: What are you going to do? (see also: The Joy of Living and Everyday Ecstasy).

Tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow,” said Macbeth immersed in a future that didn’t exist. Life is “a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing,” but like a lot of people living fictional lives, he confused thinking with reality. That’s probably where the whole notion of a spirit within came from.

a-murderer-will-kill-youWe trick ourselves into thinking there must be a watcher for something to be watched, that what happens now follows the past, but it’s the other way round: the past follows from what’s happening now.

It’s a head-game we play in our storied lives where actions have responses and character is revealed.

Even though we know actors are pretending in a show, we pretend with them. Management (MGMT) was correct, “We are fated to pretend” (“Time To Pretend“).

wantMost stories go want-obstacle-action-response (repeat) – outcome (when the want is gone or resources are depleted). That’s the beat of a hero’s journey. Behind it all there’s an underlying message or “big idea.”

What we want associates with what is lacking: a hungry person wants food, a thirsty person wants water, a prisoner wants freedom, a sick person wants health, a cheated person wants justice, a bored person wants excitement, a weak person wants power and so on ad infinitum. 

Wanting never ends.

A person who has everything probably wants more. It’s hard to imagine that you can contemplate your way into a mental state aligned with nature and make wanting and getting one and the same.

If asked, “What do you want?” what would you say? Is it food, shelter, money, sex, health, longevity, love, happiness, freedom? contentment, excitement, enlightenment… a stupendous high? What?

All of the above?

While you might feel stressed and worthless as you try to achieve, if you imagine achieving whatever it is, there could be a point afterwards when the achievement isn’t that important. When that happens, you realize that you’re the same person you’ve always been.

Within the life you lead, you will be about as happy as you choose to be. No matter how fantastic the achievement, eventually it will pass and become old news. Look at how research into lottery winners shows they’re not much happier than those who didn’t win (source).

Of the 108 billion people who have lived and the 7.5 billion swarming today (according to the World population Clock), there are just as many people with just as many problems and wants as ever. At the end of the last day without understanding, a billionaire and pauper will tremble naked and alone under their clothes.

In a world where automation replaces people, in the not too distant future half the people will need something to do. That’s when a philosophy of enjoyment will be critical.

george
“It’s not a lie if you believe it.”

Our storied brains help us enjoy despite self-destruction as a species. And yet, if you want to get everything you want, the answer isn’t in satisfaction of urges.

It’s the opposite.

Like Jerry Seinfeld said to George Castanza, “If every instinct you have is wrong, then the opposite would have to be right.” “Yes!” says George. “I will do the opposite!” (see: George does the opposite).

water flowing.gif

Imagine looking at yourself from ten feet above. Feel aware of yourself in all that you see. Breathe consciously. When you’re done reading, don’t do anything. Just pause. Look around. See yourself seeing. This is it. There isn’t any more. Your heart is beating. Love what you see. It’s a perfect world. Sense everything in its entirety and flow with what is. Feel purely natural like a planet going around the sun without any sort of control, force, or attempt to revolve.

All insides have outsides. Yours doesn’t end with the skin. Hear Bert’s “African Beat” and know the world is your body! Engage in spontaneous effortless movement like a stream and what you want and get are made one and the same.

Enjoy! Enjoy! Enjoy.

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.

bell
Click Here.

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.

bright-star-3
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?

Enjoy Knowing In the Rain.

rain-falling-on-bench

It is raining. The question is: Why?

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

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

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

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

Gone.

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

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

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

rain-in-garden

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

That’s up to you.

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

That’s all.

this-is-me
“Well, this is  me.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

That’s the mystery.

pug
It’s an eclipse.

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

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

breathing

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Gil couldn’t agree more.

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

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

With love and amazement at what is.

 

Enjoy a Little Dream

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“Tower of Babel” by Damian Parlicki.

A philosopher has a dream. In the dream she’s lying on her back beside a precarious tower. From her vantage point, it’s like she’s inside the Eiffel Tower looking up. The top looks far, far away.

Without a sound and ever so slowly – like a cargo ship setting out to sea – starting at the top, the tower begins to fall in slow motion straight down upon the dreamer.

With terror and disbelief she thinks, “That’s it. I’m dead.”

bottom-of-the-eiffel-tower-looking-up
Inside the Eiffel Tower looking up.

Within a minute she will be killed. The screaming words of AC/DC come to mind, “I’m back in black. I hit the sack. I’ve been too long. I’m glad to be back” (Back In Black, 1980) or as another poet put it:

This is the end, my only friend, the end.
Of our elaborate plans, the end.
Of everything that stands, the end.
No safety or surprise, the end (The Doors, “This Is the End,” 1967).

snuffed-candle

In death there is no pain, only regret.

It’s like the final scene in the the TV series The Sopranos. The family is in a diner talking and eating onion rings as “Don’t Stop Believin'” by Journey is playin’ on the jukebox. Just as Steve Perry sings, “Don’t stop!” BINK – it cuts to black silence and remains black silence for longer than is comfortable. Ten seconds elapse before credits roll.

The silent black nothingness surprises us. We want to go back, but can’t. It’s the silent slam of a door.

Some will win. Some will lose. Some were born to sing the blues.
Oh, the movie never ends. It goes on and on, and on, and on…
(Journey, “Don’t Stop Believin‘”, 1981).

AJ says, “Focus on the good times.” “Don’t be sarcastic,” says his father. “Isn’t that what you said one time? Try to remember the times that were good?” “I did?” says Tony with pause. “Yeah? Well, it’s true, I guess.

And so it is that we too focus on good times and let bad times roll off like duck water. It is now the dreamer who is included as one of “those people who died, died” like in the song by Jim Carroll.

And then… the dream ends. She wakes up. She sees her bed, a cat in the window and hears crows singing brightly, “Caa! Caa! Caa!” There is no tower. There never was. Dreamers see worlds behind closed eyes.

water-off-a-ducks-back“Is that what it feels like to die?” she wonders, looking around at what was old made new.

“Is it, BINK – cut to black silence, roll credits? What if death is like being born? How would you know? Do you remember being born? Do you know when you became aware of yourself as you?”

Is it not the case that as far back as you can remember, you’ve been you? Are you not the only you you’ve ever known? It’s always been you. It’s always been now.

And so it has been for anyone ever. All we know is now! Here you are then something happens – a tower falls, a bit of cancer: Cut to black silence. You’re gone then BINK! back from a dream beginning anew.

That could explain why squirrels and birds look so surprised.

time-is-fluid

Time feels permanent while you’re in it, but it isn’t. The year could be 1822, 1922 or 2022 – doesn’t matter – you roll in the time you’re in.

man-in-1822Flash – you’re at work. Splash – you’re eating dinner. Zip it’s tomorrow, all the while, without interruption, you’ve been yourself to you alone.

What if we each become aware of our self as we go along living from the beginning but the you-ness in each of us feels (and is) the same! Why not? Maybe ‘you’ is a relative term?

After all, we’re all ‘you’  to each other and ‘I’ to ourselves. Every night you close your eyes to disappear and every morning you open them to be yourself again and so does everyone all the time.

Everything is in motion. Cue music: “About Time” or “The Knick.”

cat-in-windowA woman says, “I’m Mavis. I live in Moose Jaw. I’m middle-aged, overweight and I work at Tim Hortons.”

Mavis has an idea of herself that others have come to share, but no one but Mavis knows what it’s like to be Mavis from birth to demise.

When Mavis is gone, only the idea of her will remain.

A man says, “I’m Archie from Arizona. I teach high school and play video games.” Archie has been acculturated. He knows who he is and goes around proving it. He judges others using himself as exemplar.

self-awareness

Charles Dickens wrote, “A wonderful fact to reflect upon, that every human creature is constituted to be that profound secret and mystery to every other” (A Tale of Two Cities).

What is that secret? Can you see it? Peer into the pupil of another. What do you see? Do you see a black hole the same as your own? Maybe they’re not even just the same as in similar but the ‘same’ like the space around a star is the ‘same’ space near or far.

close-up-of-eye2
Eye see you.

A black hole isn’t a “hole” at all. It isn’t even black. It’s an orb in space that looks black because light can’t escape. If you jumped on one you’d descend towards it so slowly that “it would take an infinite amount of time” for you to be atomically disassembled and added to it (Universe Today).

Isn’t it odd how black holes look a lot like pupils in eyeballs, which, by the way, also absorb light rays (Wikipedia)?

black-hole
Artist’s conception of a black hole, Universe Today, 2015.

An old philosopher said, “Each day is a little life: every waking and rising a little birth, every fresh morning a little youth, every going to rest and sleep a little death” (Schopenhauer, 1851). The question is: If your lifespan is 24 hours, how will you live it?

A trick to enjoying a rock and roll philosophy is to recognize the significance of existence and in Hard Times rock it like Ray Charles and in Good Times roll like the Cars.

Enjoy the role of you playing you always and forever (or at least until a tower falls on you).