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?

Think about it.

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 up 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 now being 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.

Enjoy a Clear Vision

love is blue

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

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

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

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

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

know thyself
Spirit in liquid form.

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

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

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

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

But here you are. How’d that happen?

you are here2

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

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

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

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

subjectivity

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

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

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

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

Tony
Don’t Stop Believing” (Journey).

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bring it on.

Enjoy Your Self Feeling Infinitely Subjectively Groovy

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

There’s a battle going on.

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

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

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

And then you die.

elephantBizarro.jpg

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Self-awareness and Subtle Enjoyment

subtle

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

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

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

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

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

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

And so we begin. Cue music: “Flying.”

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

if-i-die2

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

is-that-me
By Robert Crumb.

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

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

Think catch and release fishing.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

mona-lisa

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Go! Be subtle. And then, enjoy it.

Enjoy A Space For Happiness

forest-house

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Nothing blows up but consciousness opens.

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

space-stars-road.jpg

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

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

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

wishingwellhigh

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

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

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

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

References

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

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

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.

cardboard-box-head.jpg

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And remember: Living in peace is better than resting!