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

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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.

Waterman, A. S. (1990). Personal expressiveness: Philosophical and
psychological foundations. Journal of Mind and Behavior, 11,47-74.

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.

Self-awareness and Subtle Enjoyment

subtle

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

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

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

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

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

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

And so we begin. Cue music: “Flying.”

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

if-i-die2

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

is-that-me
By Robert Crumb.

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

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

Think catch and release fishing.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

mona-lisa

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Go! Be subtle. And then, enjoy it.

The Art Of Enjoying

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

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

Don’t you?

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

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

What is it?

diana-rossLife is epitomized by two questions:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

time-flies

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

Be easy with what is and accept change as enjoyment.

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

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

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

Benatar hears aBaby Elephant Walkand lays it out thus:

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

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

scenario-a-and-b

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

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

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

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

Enjoy A Space For Happiness

forest-house

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Nothing blows up but consciousness opens.

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

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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 An Interlude

moonocean

Which of the following statements are true or false?

#1: Life itself is pleasurable. 

#2: Life is pleasurable like a Pérez Prado mambo

#3: Life is pleasurable in a pretty English cottage. mill-cottages-19.jpg

#4: Life is pleasurable in Syrian rubble. syria-crisis_boy-in-ruins-rubble_1600x500If you answered true to all of the statements, you are probably an irritant to people who find life pleasurable only on condition. To think life itself is pleasurable runs countrary to industrial desires for comfort and convenience (see also: Polarities… and Wisdom).

If you answered false to any statement, it’s probably hard to imagine finding life pleasurable in deplorable conditions.

amas-2015-jennifer-lopez-performance1Surely suffering psychologically in a Syrian city scarred by destruction and murder is not as pleasurable as having Jennifer Lopez sit on your shoulder?

And what about the guy who loves bananas but is denied? For such a one, a banana would be a pleasure beyond measure! Maybe pleasure isn’t in satisfaction but denial? Today we think about thinking and enter a no-thinking-thinking zone.

Without second thoughts or self-consciousness, we go way out “’cause that’s where the fun is (way out).”

We drop in to see what condition your condition is in and in a moment of silence or as trippy water music plays, we ponder the mind where all psychological suffering begins (and ends).

whats-on-your-mind
When you open your eyes, what do you see? A world opening in seeing.

But does knowing the cause of psychological suffering stop suffering? A drug addict knows the cause of his suffering but knowing doesn’t stop him. We know we make a mess, but knowing doesn’t stop us. Knowing isn’t helping! Selfing isn’t helping! Maybe a no self would be better?

We don’t need self-reflection but self-expansion.

hiding-in-plain-sightA  truth can hide  in plain sight when you are preoccupied. Reality is obscured by how you see the world. Freedom comes when you can see your self selfthinking.

By singing “I’ve Got To Be Me” (a bill of goods to impress dames) we create a Sid Vicious circle and think our way into a “me” way of thinking where trouble begins.

falstaff
“…jovial… without anything envious, malicious, mischievous, or despicable… yields that peculiar delight… in Falstaff’s company” (source).

It isn’t about “me” or “we” thinking. It’s all just thinking.

Break free of me-thinking and sing “I want to break free!” by Queen.

In taking time to not do anything but relax and think about thinking you break free of trying to be because you already are.

Everything is a giant puzzle held together by nothing, but don’t take it serious.

Enjoy eating bananas when you can and when you can’t, c’est la vie.

Here we come to a truth, but as the mathematician Blaise Pascal (1623-1662) said, “Truth is so obscure in these times, and falsehood so established, that unless we love the truth we shall never know it” (Thoughts).

Relativists argue, “all points of view are equally valid” (source), but is something true because it pleases you like a Rick Nelson chorus, “But it’s all right now. I learned my lesson well. You see, ya can’t please everyone, so ya got to please yourself” (“Garden Party”)?

garden-party

If you are blind and someone says, “The sky is blue,” unless you know blue, you won’t know if it’s true. If someone says, “The answer is 42!” (see: answer to life, universe and everything), how do you know?

The crux of the matter is that truth cannot be conveyed to another. In the TV show Boardwalk Empire Arnold Rothstein repeated something Blaise Pascal said, “All of man’s troubles come from his inability to sit in a quiet room by himself.” In an interval without a goal, we sit quiet and let troubles go by not hanging on.

drugs

There are labels we ascribe to ourselves that become self-fulfilling. When you look at the world from within a bag of skin, whether you think the world is good, bad or indifferent depends on your way of thinking. It’s more than about having a positive attitude or being self-reflective. It’s about letting go of ego and seeing Reality.

not-a-good-signThe world you see has a thin film of personality covering it. You imagine who you are through flashbacks, inspirations and self-talk (see: Levels of Enjoyment). Self-talk comes as a voice. In comics it’s a cloud of words. On TV it’s voice-over narration like when Pete did it in The Family Guy or as portrayed in Fight Club except with swearing.

We narrate ourselves into being and the life we are leading but in so doing we don’t see reality.

When the words in your head vanish and the cartoon cloud goes empty, where do you go? Without self-talk are you animal, vegetable, or spiritual?

rodin-thinker

As long as you think of ‘me and my thoughts’ and ‘me and outside world’ there will be conflict between with no peace of mind.

We think of thoughts as train cars connected on a track puff-puffing somewhere saying, “I think I can. I think I can. I think I can” which is fine for getting to a destination but not so for enjoying.

i-think-i-canIf you want to slip out of “I-think-I-can” thinking and enjoy peace of mind, shift your centre outward like Copernicus and pick up good vibrations.

copernicus
“Those things which I am saying now may be obscure, yet they will be made clearer” Nic Copernicus.

People thought the Sun went around the Earth (a 2012 study found one in four Americans still do), until Copernicus went far out and saw the big picture.

In noticing how things are connected by nothing, in calmly breathing and heart beating, in stilling circular thinking – not doing, sitting quiet, walking across a parking lot, on a beach, up a tree, on a bus, in a store, eating a banana on the floor… in not-doing you are an integrated personality no longer conscious of having a personality! In being ordinary in reality there is tranquility.

Between thought and not trying (on occasion), a profound realization and peaceful sensation beyond explanation spontaneously arrives in body and mind like snow gently falling and all you do is enjoy enjoying.

first snow.jpg

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).

clashstayorgosingle
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.

Beautiful Enjoyable Virtue With More Cowbell

autumn-trees

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

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

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

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

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

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

flowers-sidewalk-crack

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

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

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

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

Be selfish. 

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

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

goldenwizard10

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And remember: Living in peace is better than resting!

The Point of Enjoyment

arrows pointing
“If you don’t know where you are going, any road will get you there.” ~ Lewis Carroll

A point, whether of an idea, joke or tapered object, is always arrived at in the immediate. You get the point when you get the point. Even if you don’t get the point right away, when you do get it, you get it at a precise moment.

do you see the point

In the game of darts you get points by getting the point of your dart to stick to a point aimed at, but over and above the mechanics of the game the real point is to enjoy it.

But why? Why do we enjoy what we do?

lawn-darts
Lawn Darts was enjoyed in the 1980s: 6,700 people were treated in hospital and three children died.

Science says that enjoyment is a matter of brain chemistry. A characteristic of people with depression and mental illness is anhedonia: an inability to gain pleasure from normally pleasurable experiences.

stuber
Art by Murfish.

Brain expert Dr. Stuber PhD might say (and did), “GABA neurons located in the VTA are just microns away from dopamine and are negative regulators of dopamine function… A dysfunction in these GABA neurons might potentially underlie different aspects of neuropsychiatric illness, such as depression” (UNC Healthcare).

Psychologists treat happiness as if it’s mysterious. They recommend working on a meaningful career, spending time with friends, savoring the day and so on, but happiness doesn’t come from outside.

Assuming your GABA neurons aren’t buzz-killing dopamine release, there are as many ways to enjoy as there are people but it boils down to one thing: We enjoy what we enjoy (because we enjoy it).

It’s circular – like Donna Summer singing, “Love to love you baby.”

circular-reasoning

X is true because of Y. Y is true because of X. We dance because it’s enjoyable. It’s enjoyable because we dance. We play to have fun and have fun when we play. If we’re forced to play, it isn’t play anymore. It’s emotion first, then realization and confabulation.

sprockets
Now we dance.

If the point of enjoyment is to enjoy, the question is: What is the meaning of true enjoyment? This was asked in Quora (a question-and-answer site) and people responded. (Note: names have been changed to protect the anonymous).

Tommy said enjoyment is, “Celebrating life, not one’s life; just life!”  Dieter said enjoyment is, “Living the moment.

live-the-moment

Sally listed enjoyments: “Looking at the smile of a new born baby. Eating Mango by plucking and stealing it from an orchard. Getting wet in rain without bothering about getting wet.”

captain obvious
Simon says, “Enjoy!”

Simon said, “Everyone has different meaning of enjoyment! They have different source of enjoyment but for me … it’s something which I do for myself!”

And there it is.

Maybe there’s a little Simon in all of us. There’s just something about one’s self that makes it special to one’s self. To you, there’s no you quite like you.

Psychologists say it’s good to love one’s self. Why, if there was no you – no you as a living organism with thoughts and feelings in an environment – there would be…what?

absolutely_nothing

But vain self-importance blocks the flow of enjoyment like crimping a garden hose. When things don’t go the way we want, we’re unhappy so the trick is to loosen up and enjoy what you get (see post: Is it serious?).

garden-hoseWe have a limited idea of who we are. Yes, we are each a bag of skin crowned by a cranium, but do we end in skin? What about air in lungs and energy from the sun in our bellies? Going into atoms we see nothing there – just energy waves. We’re energy waves. Not that this matters when you stub your toe, but a “hard” world is softened with a realization of how interconnected and diaphanous (light and insubstantial) this all is.

Philosopher Alan Watts saw interconnections, saying, “where there are no flowers there are no bees, and where there are no bees there are no flowers. They’re really one organism” (Conversation With Myself).

bee-and-flower

A dandelion seed has fine hairs allowing it to ride on the wind. The wind is, in a manner of speaking, a part of itself. Why do advertisers associate their product with love and happiness? It isn’t the product in itself that we want: it’s the feeling the product is said to impart.

happy3What you love is what you enjoy. Enjoyment is a one step process: Express love for something and you are happy.

Author of The Element (2009), Ken Robinson, said, “To be in your element you have to love it… Being good at something is not a good enough reason to do it…It’s about finding the thing that resonates within you most fully” (see Ken Robinson video).

There’s a little verse from an ancient Hindu text called the Rig Veda that tells of the tree of life and two birds. One bird eats the tree’s fruit (some good some bad) and the other watches. They represent two aspects of ourselves. We are the bird eating – we participate in the action of life (killing and eating), experiencing joy and sorrow – but in contemplation, we are the second bird who watches. The trick is to be aware of the second bird watching the first bird participating.

two-birds

You walk into a forest and suddenly you are struck by the wonder of this place. You feel the mystery of being and life itself. A cedar waxwing flies by. That such a creature should be there! That the universe should be here! That’s something that excites you to wonder.

And enjoy.