A Way of Seeing (Part 2)

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

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

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

Put that in your pipe and smoke it.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Caspar David Friedrich, Moonrise Over the Sea, 1822.

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

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

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

materialism cartoon

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

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

As Kurt Vonnegut wrote in A Man Without a Country, “And I urge you to please notice when you are happy, and exclaim or murmur or think at some point, ‘If this isn’t nice, I don’t know what is.’”
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Positive psychologists Seligman and Royzman (2003) identified three types of theories of happiness: Hedonism, Desire, Objective List and Authentic Happiness. Which theory you subscribe to (knowingly or not) has implications for how you live your life.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Cross section of soil showing a tree with its roots.

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

Cue music: Primal Scream “Loaded”.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

fatalflaw

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

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

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

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

What then?

 

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A Way of Seeing To Enjoy (Part 1)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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1804. Tintern Abbey by William Havell (source).

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

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Ludwig Wittgenstein (1889-1951)

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

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

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

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

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

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

No matter what.

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

flamingo

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

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

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

maslow-pyramid

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

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

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

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

Enjoy A Good Laugh

Now, too, on melancholy’s idle dreams 
Musing, the lone spot with my soul agrees
(“Sweet Was the Walk” Wordsworth).

To understand humans, just watch them. See what they do. Fascinating creatures. Watch their facial expressions and actions. Listen to their words and intonations.

Watch a man drive aggressively. He tailgates. He cuts in and out. He races. He honks. He stops only when he must. Can you tell by his driving what he’s thinking? Probably.

angry driver

Hurry puts people in bad humour. Look at the face of an aggressive driver—narrowed eyes, angled eyebrows, gritted teeth—unless he’s a constipated criminal or Paul Anka singing, “Having my baby”, this is not the face of peace. This is the demon face of frustration and anger—not to mention arrogance and thrill-seeking behaviour.

Poor selfish lout, so stressed out. One might feel pity if he weren’t scary. Here is machine man surrounded by machine people who have become as gods to themselves. He might prefer to relax and enjoy a nice ride, but he’s too busy listening to reptilian brain chatter.

reptilebrain
Blocking My Reptile” by Stuart McMillen

We’ve all been there. The good old basal ganglia (aka reptilian or primal brain). It’s the part controlling automatic self-preserving behavior and the four Fs: Feeding, Fighting, Fleeing, and…. Reproduction (source). It’s the part that defends self, family and personal property and performs socially acceptable actions like handshakes and head nods.

The doer is revealed by the deed but it could be argued that everyone does the best they can—even if it is terrible (see  related post: “World Views, Weird Edges & Higher States of Consciousness”). If people could do better, they would, wouldn’t they? If we don’t pay attention, it is only in yesterday that we realize what happened.

As an individual, you live a life that no one else will live. Knowing yourself will only come from an intensely personal and passionate pursuit of what gives meaning to your life. Consider what brings you joy and focus on that.

Beyond the emptiness of perpetual pleasure-seeking and bad tidings of your disappearance in the wake of time and a society that’ll suck you dry…… there is another way.

society and individual

The trick is to become aware of your true self subjectively. This is the psychology of religion. To feel yourself as your true self is to have a profound feeling of yourself not in an egotistical sense—not in sadness, anger, fear, envy, jealousy, despair or some negative feeling—but by a silent awareness, a perception that, this is me. I am here. Look at this world. Isn’t it amazing? These people are like me.

put-that-away-your-moneys-no-good-here-danny-shanaha

If good old Aristotle with wine on breath, asked you point blank—BAM: “How should we live?” Dear reader: What is your answer?

Is the  focus on yourself or on society and its rules? As your mind races for words to answer Aristotle (how’d he get in here anyway?), you think about how life feels accidental. In flashes of memory you see your past and like a Talking Head ask, “Where does that highway go to? And you may ask yourself: Am I right?…Am I wrong? And you may say to yourself: My God!…What have I done?!” (“Once in a Lifetime”).

highway.gifLife stretches ahead as the past falls away (see: “Enjoy A Perfect World”). You enjoy yourself when you can and work hard as you must. You enjoy the cake you get and sing with defiance, “I will survive. Yeah, as long as I know how to love, I know I’ll be alive” (“I Will Survive”).

“How should we live?” Good question. Decisions made thoughtfully when young feel arbitrary when old. We have pleasures and aversions and find love where we can. When young we sing, “I hope I die before I get old” (“My Generation“) and when old, we sing a different tune.

simpsons_yells_at_cloud.jpgThings happen. Like Sid Vicious, Sinatra and Elvis, we too sing, “Regrets, I’ve had a few;  but then again, too few to mention. I did what I had to do. And saw it through without exemption” (“My Way”). We have reasons for what we’ve done but we might wonder at times, “Is it me, or is life meaningless? Where’s the fairness in this?”

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One person has a fantastic life and another is subjected to misery. Why is that? If God is randomness, then you are a believer.

Maybe philosopher Albert Camus (1913-1960) was onto something when he said that existence is absurd.

Man stands face to face with the irrational. He feels within him his longing for happiness and for reason. The absurd is born of this confrontation between the human need and the unreasonable silence of the world” (The Myth of Sisyphus and Other Essays).

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In 1960 Albert Camus (aged 46) died when the Facel Vega he was riding in crashed.

How should we live? Why should? Who says should? Is this about ethical living? In the dictionary should is a verb indicating “obligation, duty or correctness, typically when criticizing someone’s actions.”

looking under the hoodWe know we should give more weight to promoting social welfare than to achieving personal gain but what’s more important, you or society? Here we come to the crux of the matter. A body with a brain is a person, but is there more to a self?

The trick is to enjoy yourself without causing harm in this perfect life that is all your own. Think of a person trying to decide whether to play video games, watch TV, go to work or go for a walk. The different “yous”—aspects of your personality—are conflicting, but the conflict itself is part of what makes you you.

Old wise Epicurus (341-270 BC) said in a letter, “It is impossible to live a pleasant life without living wisely and honorably and justly, and it is impossible to live wisely and honorably without living pleasantly.” Dance to your song and let the wheels of time turn as they will anyway.

Enjoy.

Knowledge, Wisdom, Insight and Enjoyment

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

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

knowledge is power

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

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

knowledgeinfocartoon

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

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

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

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

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

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

chicken of depression

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

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

Rationality constrains one’s mind and intuition releases it.

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

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

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

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

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The Enjoyment of A Just Being Just being

moon and trees

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

windy.gif

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

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

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

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

eye from blade runner

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

objectivity-vs-subjectivity

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

snow falling2

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

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

Is it serious? Up Enjoyment to Bliss Filled Without Trying

autumn trees

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

Is it serious?  

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

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

barn-owl-sunset.jpg

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

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

mouse vs owl

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

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

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

clouds

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

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

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

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

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

you can't always get what you want

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

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

squirrel-512

The  Power Thesaurus lists 509 words that are the opposite of “serious,” including: funny, playful, light, unimportant, silly, trivial, lighthearted, ridiculous, happy, laughable, merry, easy,  trippy, unwise and priceless.

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

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

wascana-park

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

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

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

Live without worry and strain. Why not? The less you strain, the more free you are. There is only so much you can do. Beyond that, you’re helpless. Enjoy it. With this realization, comes freedom to enjoy an infinite game. Look on the light side and give a whistle.

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

The Content of Contentment: Press Play

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

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

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

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

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

How you answer determines how you relate to the world.

No biggie.

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

Materialism says yes.

Idealism says no.

Which one are you?

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

materialist

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

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

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

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

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

perceiver and perception

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

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

duality and nonduality

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

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

when I was young

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

bubble

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

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

lady in a bubble
Photograph by Alex Kisilevich.

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

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

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

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

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

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

idealist cartoon

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

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

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

So, is the answer in a pill?

red pill or blue pill

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

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

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

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

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

And there you are.

Here.

Enjoying.

you-are-here_2.png

Stop Looking And Enjoy Seeing

Sky2Millions of people have provided millions of words of advice about how to live a better life to millions of people who consume that advice then ignore it completely. Nobody really wants to hear what they “should” be doing. It insults the ego. Advice can feel like criticism and advisers can look like self-serving know-it-alls (and they usually are).

As John Steinbeck said in The Winter of Our Discontent (1961), “Nobody wants advice, only corroboration.” This could be cynical—people want cherry-picked evidence to support their behaviour (see also: The Enjoyment Argument)—or it could be practical—people want facts, not opinion.

factsandopinion

Advisers in fashion, lifestyle and spiritual enlightenment industries disguise opinion in palatable platitudes like: “it is what it is”, “nobody’s perfect”, “just be yourself” and “strength is something you choose,” but such generic truisms are meaningless thought-terminators.

Rhonda Byrne made millions telling people how their thoughts create reality through the law of attraction (LOA). It’s ironic that with big money Byrne attracted big lawsuits from colleagues who said she was greedy (source). As Lily Tomlin said, “No matter how cynical you become, it’s never enough to keep up.”

pants on fire

LOA takes “mind over matter” and “the power of positive thinking” and turns it magical. Think positive, good things happen—think Lamborghini and get one—think negative thoughts, bad things happen.

quantumworld

But LOA is slippery. A child gets cancer. She thinks positive but still dies young. Is it because she didn’t think positive enough? Or is it, “Just one of those things?”

In Psychology Today (May 2016)  Neil Farber said that LOA doesn’t exist. It’s a blame the victim game but to question its validity is blasphemy to believers.

When spiritual author Eckhart Tolle (aka Ulrich Leonard Tölle) talks about a sense of presence or “beingness” that watches and about the peace of being a no self watching, 35 million subscribers to Eckhart Tolle TV paid to see his no self talking.

youthinkitseasy

When Tolle says, “the present moment is all you really have,” and, “life is the dancer and you are the dance,” it puts the pressure on. Not only might you not enjoy the present moment but you don’t feel like dancing.

When asked, “How can we drop negativity, as you suggest?” Tolle replied, “By dropping it.” 

It’s just that easy!” as they say. Strolling with Tolle is like singing “Trololo” with Eduard Anatolyevich Khil (1934-2012).

When a motivational speaker like Tony Robbins says, “We can do, have, and be exactly what we wish,” you might be disappointed if your wish to be like Tony is thwarted. If you have debts, no money and no job, what then? If your brain tumor is growing, now what?

“It is what it is,” as they say.  “Just be yourself.”

Are you a man living in a van dreaming you’re a millionaire like Tony Robbins or are you a millionaire like Tony Robbins dreaming you’re a man living in a van? (Cue: Twilight Zone Theme).

People want reality to match their wanting but reality is…reality. Like a sparrow that is regarded, “There’s a sparrow,” so too does a man get labelled as the group he’s in. He becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy from a link between belief and behaviour. Behaviour influenced by expectations causes those expectations to come true.

respect for reality

In “Grid and Group Cultural Theory” anthropologist Mary Douglas (1921-2007) put “group” (the type of group) and “regulation” (how much a group affects your life) into a chart and came up with four incompatible types of social control that mix and mingle. Look at the chart and ask yourself where you fit in.

grid and cultural theory

–Upper left is “Isolate”. Isolates attract no attention. No one asks their opinion. These are the culturally isolated—prisoners, servants, soldiers, those who are supervised, the very poor, hermits and monks.

–Upper right is “Positional”. This is a society biased towards tradition and order in which one’s role and behaviour is governed by position within a hierarchy.

–Bottom right is “Enclave”. Includes religious and cultural sects outside main society. Sects have no ranking or grading rules between members. Leaders say outsiders are evil.

–Bottom left is the “Individualist”. Extreme individualists have no group controls or regulation except for market competition. Individuals are only concerned with private benefit.

This sketch of a theory can help a person to understand and enjoy one’s species and the social and psychological manipulations of humans. When the next person speaks, see if you can hear a group talking. Within each group we conform ourselves to match other members.

Words are symbols. They’re like the brain’s “filter” for comprehending reality. Imagine standing somewhere and looking up at stars. In words you stand “here,” somewhere in the “universe,” and you look “out there,” but every time you think, “What’s beyond that?” you come up with…more words.

pendulumEach of us swings like “Bob” on a pendulum born at a point of suspension.

The amplitude (distance of a swing from the not moving equilibrium) depends on the length of your string (years lived) and energy exerted.

The trick is to let a bad time pass like unpleasant gas as you focus on a good time that was and wait for the next pendulum swing.

Geneticist Juan Enriquez said that an apple is like a computer application—it receives energy from the sun and when the input is sufficient, it executes DNA code and falls from the tree (Life Code Will Reshape Future). Imagine that you know the code and then go outside and look around. Forget politics, theories and worries and in stillness, silence and love, see “life” as purposeful, interconnected and intelligent.

Imagine that, “Only human,” doesn’t apply to you.

switch.gifInstead of seeing yourself as a “true man” with self and group affiliation who will drop bombs when deemed necessary, see the big picture and rise above human. Like the sociologist Max Weber look at what’s in your head as the way to a better life. Instead of looking for what you want, see what’s really there.

With practice you can “Click” a mental switch from feeling life is horrific to beatific. Like a time traveler in a body that remembers and predicts, you are as Manfred Mann put it, “You are the sign between the high road and the low road. You are – you are [fading]” (“You Are – I am”).

If you think of what truly is, it goes beyond reason. What truly “is” clenches you in the gut without explanation. Imagine two people living similar lives in different places. One is happy, the other isn’t and the only thing at variance is their attitude. It isn’t much, but in case you haven’t heard, “Attitude is everything.”

Summer Triangle Thru Trees

References

Taylor, K. (2006). Brainwashing: The Science of Thought Control. OUP Oxford.

 

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 Art of Love And Enjoyment Incarnate

spirit-of-love-3262
“Spirit of Love,” by Paul Horton (source).

Most people would probably say that love is something you “fall into.” It’s like a butterfly landing on your finger. You can’t make it happen. People say the same of enjoyment. It too is thought of as something that happens to you (if you’re lucky) like a butterfly landing, but such notions are perpetuated by a misunderstandingLove and enjoyment are not things you fall into (if you’re lucky) like uncovered manholes. There’s an art to it.

origami swanHappy feelings that make life worth living don’t just hit unbidden. You cultivate them. Love and enjoyment are nurtured with attention, authenticity and self-understanding. You can learn how to love and enjoy. They are capacities. You are the soil prepared for good feelings to grow.

Enjoyment is like an origami swan you learn how to fold. It’s an art that takes honesty, humour and heart.

dude probably notTo capitalize on our craving, love and enjoyment are used in product branding. Advertisers use the words “love” and “enjoy” interchangeably. To say, “I’m loving it!” is another way of saying, “I enjoy!

Ask yourself: Is it possible to love without enjoying or enjoy without loving?

Probably not.

To enjoy without love is to sully our yearning. Cue music: “Enjoy Yourself (It’s later than you think”).

People are starved for love and enjoyment. They knock themselves out to feel glorious. Entire religions and new consciousness movements revolve around dissolving one’s ego so as to feel a beautiful oneness like a fetus back inside mother before birth created the problem of identity.

i_love_enjoymentLook at how people spend money each year: online dating in the U.S.: two billion dollars (source); illegal drugs worldwide: 360 billion dollars (source); entertainment industry in the U.S.: 720.38 billion dollars (source); global travel and tourism: 7.6 trillion dollars (source). People think they can buy their way into a feeling no product or service can provide.

People see the problem of love as being loved (as opposed to being loving) and the problem of enjoyment as about finding something fun to do (as opposed to being life’s enjoyment incarnated with awareness).

incarnation
Gherardo delle Notti o Gheritt van Hontorst – Adorazione del Bambino, January 1620 (source).

To be lovable, men try to appear successful primarily through money, status and sex appeal. Women do likewise, but their focus is on appearances – bodies, clothes and accessories.

Popular stand-up comedians often say what people keep hidden and people laugh because they know it’s true. Comedian Chris Rock said (between expletives), “If you haven’t contemplated murder, you ain’t been in love.” Why? “Because,” Rock says, “Try your best to make her happy, but here’s what nobody tells you: You can’t make a woman happy. It’s impossible!”

ugly_blind_date-290x300
Ugly Date, Linda Causey, 2005 (source)

People assume the problem of love and enjoyment is one of an object. They don’t see it as a problem of knowledge and ability. They think love and enjoyment is simple. The problem isn’t with one’s self but with finding the right object to love and enjoy. This attitude is rooted in our society’s idea of buying and mutually agreeable exchanges (Fromm, 1956).

Two people fall in love when they think they’ve found the best object available on the market given exchange limitations. They were strangers (as all of us are) until they let the wall between down and then they feel a miraculous oneness. Neither person feels alone, but those feelings of intimacy fade as antagonism, mutual boredom and disappointment kill the initial feelings of excitement.

butterflies
Painted by blind artist John Bramblitt (2015).

The only way to overcome this failure is to understand the meaning of love and enjoyment. The first step is to be aware of how love and enjoyment are art forms.

When we’re born, we’re thrown from a situation that’s definite into one that’s uncertain.

We’re born with the gift of reason. We’re life aware of itself. We’re aware of our self, of our fellows, of our past and possible future.

vampire
Not insane. Just misunderstood.

Awareness of your self as a separate entity can feel like a prison. You know life is short. You know that you will die against your will before those you love or they before you. People who can’t escape their aloneness by uniting with others and the world tend to go insane. The panic of absolute isolation can be overcome only by a radical withdrawal from the outside world so the feeling of isolation disappears as the world disappears.

Then again, as Kurt Vonnegut (1922-2007) said, “A sane person to an insane society must appear insane” (Welcome to the Monkey House, 1968).

kurt vonnegut
“I urge you to please notice when you are happy, and exclaim or murmur or think at some point, ‘If this isn’t nice, I don’t know what is'” (15 Vonnegut quotes).

The feeling of being separate is the source of all anxiety. Love is the only answer. With love comes enjoyment. Feeling separate cuts us off from human powers. Feeling separate is to be helpless. Our separation is represented in the story of Adam and Eve.

After they ate of the “tree of knowledge of good and evil,” they became human. They were emancipated from an animal harmony with nature. They became strangers to each other as is shown by how Adam blames Eve instead of defending her.

tree of knowledgeOur deepest need is to overcome separateness. It’s why we conform. It’s why we cling to cults, clans and nations. It’s why we participate in the herd activities of sports, politics and drug-fuelled electronic dancing.

We enjoy connection over isolation. We love to belong to something bigger than our self. We used to be God’s children. We shared a divine substance that made us one and yet separate like a flowered cosmos, but equality has changed. Equality is becoming “sameness” between genders and people instead of “oneness.”

The greatest enjoyment is found in transcending one’s self in a moment of feeling at one with everything, but only a true non-conformist can overcome today’s spirit of a production oriented, materialistic society run by a managers, professional politicians and billionaires.

garry shandlingGarry Shandling (1949-2016) – another great comic with heart – said, “All my journey is, is to be authentically who I am – not trying to be somebody else…. The whole world is confused because they’re trying to be somebody else! To be your true self, it takes enormous work… Ego drives the problems so you have to work in an egoless way” (source).

Like the Kinks said, “I’m not like anybody else” but that doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy unity. Reach out. Love and enjoyment are what this philosophy is about! We’ll always be the child we were. It’s behind the eyes of another when you look at the world with love.

Enjoy. Practice the art of love and enjoyment.

References

Fromm, E. (1956). The Art of Loving. Harper & Row, Publishers.