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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The Point of Enjoyment

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

So true.

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

And we make do (or we make don’t).

mistakes

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

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

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

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

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

birth and in between stuff

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

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

Seems like a no-brainer.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

pointillism

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

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

busters car

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

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

the 4 steps

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

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

stigma

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

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

Points are individual.

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

 

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

plant-cycle

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

sunset palm trees

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

dance-steps

Just dance.

Don’t overthink it.

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

Wherever you go, there you are.

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.

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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.

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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.

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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).

Enjoy Perfect Understanding

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And rise with me forever, across the silent sand. And the stars will be your eyes, and the wind will be my hands” (“Far From Any Road”). Sometimes it feels like we’re puppets at the mercy of wider forces and hypocrisy is the norm. Most people wonder on occasion whether or not they’re making the most of their time. If we had it to do it over, would we do it again? Should we be doing something different with our time?

We put pressure on ourselves to enjoy every minute as bucket lists items pile upIn the time it takes to read, “Right this second,” you might ask, “Am I wasting my time?” but herein is the question: What is time for?

sword of damoclesTime can feel like a Sword of Damocles hanging above your head. Anybody who enjoys wealth, luxury and power lives under threat and anybody who has nothing envies those who have what they want. Gated communities imprison the pampered as poverty imprisons the poor. Questions about whether or not you’re making the most of your time happen when you’d rather be doing something else. In moments of boredom, irritation and/or annoyance, that’s when the present turns into the past like the end of a toilet paper roll running out fast.

As you watch a truck commercial you’ve seen a thousand times, scrub a stain that won’t come out or do anything you don’t like, you might wonder, “Am I missing something?” 

Time is fleeting. It’s cliché. Time flows regardless of wanting. Is time ever really wasted? Soon you and everyone you know will be dead. You’ve seen old films. You know the score. We can’t help but do what we don’t like and all good times end. We’re between the proverbial rock and a hard place.

As the astronomer Arthur Eddington observed in 1927, there’s an asymmetry to time. We experience its flow in a one-way direction: forward, like an arrow. You can remember the past but not the future. You can turn an egg into an omelette, but you can’t turn an omelette into an egg. You can put cream in your coffee, but you can’t take it out.

Days pass like words in a sentence—here and gone, here and gone. You were a baby, now you look different. You’ll change again before you’re finished. You might want to hold time in a bottle and make days last forever like Jim Croce (1943-1973), but unless you’re an X-man, that’s probably not going to happen.

Our trouble is that we divide things into “either/or” opposites—nature~nurture, individual~collective, self~other—but that obscures the in-between dynamic of life. Truth is between. Fortunately our brains are capable of showing two contradictory and mutually exclusive behaviors at the same time (The Complementary Nature).

coffee out of time

When time no longer feels like it’s on your side, when you’ve spent your day doing what you don’t like and your night vicariously living someone else’s fictional life, you might think of “Nights In White Satin” and the line, “Another day’s useless energy spent.”

When there’s a job that needs doin’, but you don’t do it: time is a wastin’. When you’d rather be doin’ somethin’ different: time is a wastin’. Like June and Johnny said, “A cake’s no good if you don’t mix the batter and bake it. And love’s just a bubble if you don’t take the trouble to make it”  (Time Is A Wastin'”).

You might think that you’re wasting the time you have, but that’s the thing about time. You don’t have it: It has you. You are time passing and resistance is futile”.

piece of cakeYou’re like a candle burning itself out. Time for you to lighten up. Remember what Mary Poppins said, “In every job that must be done, there is an element of fun. You find the fun and, ‘Snap!’ The jobs a game. And every task you undertake becomes a piece of cake, a lark, a spree, it’s very clear to see” (“Just a Spoonful of Sugar”).

Suppose you’re angry. You think, “I’m angry!” You elaborate the feeling with stories of justification but the more you think in “stories,” the more distracted you are from the present. Saying “I” and “mine” started the process so if you watch the story you tell without identifying with “I” and “my,” you blow out the “story” and disturbing emotion like a candle.

Happy Birthday. You are free.

eleutheromaniaWhen you drop labeling things as “I” and “mine,” you feel the world directly. Disturbing emotions are empty of identify and so is everything else. Look at the one who feels. Look without distraction and anger turns to nothing. Nothing stands alone. Everything is taken together. You see the world through a window where what’s outside is seen through your own reflection. We divide between self and everything else but everything else is one seamless landscape.

window reflection

In the Mind Of A Rampage Killer scientists talk about how the emotion centre of the brain (amygdala), “goes into overdrive when a threat is perceived.” If the threat isn’t real, higher level thinking (prefrontal cortex) sends “a message to the amygdala to calm down, but if the wiring is faulty, the message may not get through.” A boy who flies into rages says, “It’s kind of like a werewolf. When a werewolf turns into a werewolf, it doesn’t know who he is, it doesn’t know where he is, it just wants to hurt and fight people.”

i'm turning into my mother

To enjoy without needing anything, go into an equilibrium and watch. Watch the present with your senses. Watch the stories you tell yourself without identification and gain perfect understanding.

To be free of duress and drama, forget stories and assumptions and your mind will be empty of greed, anger and delusions of grandeur.

Whether or not you think you’re wasting time is subjective. As the Western fiction writer Louis L’amour said, “The only thing that never changes is that everything changes.” If you don’t believe it, look in the mirror.

Like George Costanza on Seinfeld said to Kramer, “What you call wasting, I call living. I’m living my life!”

What if getting the daily news really is enough?

 

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!

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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.

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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.

Life is Enjoying.

garden

Suppose a well-meaning person asks you, “What’s your philosophy of life?” What would you say? Would you draw a blank and say, “Oh, I don’t know,” and leave it at that?

Would you profess a religious or secular belief? Would you quote Salvador Dali, the Dalai Lama, Cornel West, Jesus Christ or Lady Gaga?

old-man-and-boyThe Merrium-Webster Dictionary defines a philosophy of life as: an overall vision of or attitude toward life and the purpose of life,” but the word “life” has become a symbol and symbols have become things nowadays (How we confuse symbols and things).

time.gifPeople think of life in terms of style or metaphor: Life is a jigsaw puzzle (and you don’t have a picture of how it should look), life is a maze (exits avoided), life is an elevator (with ups and downs and people pushing your buttons).

Life is time, but as composer Hector Berlioz said, “Time is a great teacher, but unfortunately it kills all its pupils” (November 1856).

But forget symbols. Think of life not as an idea, but as your body. You are life and in living, you are lived. Right now (unless you’re dead) you are breathing and you don’t have to think about it. Your body is breathing you.

breathing.gifYou can focus attention on breathing – take deep breaths, slow breaths, hold your breath, but after a while, your body kicks in. Your body has a mind of its own. Maybe that explains why people think there’s a divide between body and mind (and world).

mind-bodyOn the side of the body is Friedrich Neitzsche. He said that people don’t have bodies, they are bodies. No transcendence but his love of life encompassed dark sides and purposelessness with grit and sobriety. His credo: “Be faithful to the earth!”

divide.jpgOn the side of mind (extended) is writer D.H. Lawrence who talked of two ways of knowing: “knowing in terms of apartness, which is mental, rational, scientific, and knowing in terms of togetherness which is religious and poetic” (Sex, Lit. and Censorship, 1959, p. 108).

Lawrence’s idea was to fuse the mind with wit and all the senses. He wrote: “There is no god apart from poppies and flying fish, men singing songs, and women brushing their hair in the sun” (The Last Poems, 1933).

antonin-artaud
“All true language is incomprehensible, like the chatter of a beggar’s teeth.” ~ Antonin Artaud

The great religions (and artists) make a distinction between their self as personality, their self as body and their self transcended.

As poet Antonin Artaud (1896-1948) put it, “Admittedly or not, conscious or unconscious, the poetic state, a transcendent experience of life is what the public is fundamentally seeking through love, crime, drugs, war or insurrection.”

From the ancients to Bruce Springsteen in 2016, people tell of an enjoyable sensation where their individual sense of self is transcended and the external world feels like their body.

Philosophers Emerson and Thoreau advised us to go outside and walk in nature because hustle, bustle and ambition distract us from transcendent sensations (source).

zombi-apocalypse-mobile-phonesA quick trick to enjoyment is to go through your senses one by one very… very… slowly. See the world as a child and dissolve into awareness. If you’re lucky, all of a sudden in slow motion, a filter you didn’t know was there will disappear and in vividness you’ll walk into a four dimensional picture.

This is the magic of enjoying. This is what logicians don’t see. This is overcoming anxiety and worry with a song like, “Been down one time. Been down two times. Never going back” (Fleetwood Mac, “Never Going Back Again“).

plantsA philosophy of life is how you take care of yourself. It’s your intention. In the same way that you can walk without noticing, you can click a switch to consciousness. You can live without paying attention or switch to consciously living. A philosophy of life is your vision. It’s how you picture yourself living

unpacking
“I love you darling.”

A philosophy of life is your attitude toward living (without a problem).

A philosophy of life is your purpose – your aim, intention and will (to enjoy).

A philosophy of life is how you will yourself to picture the life you imagine enjoying and living the way you envision!

mirage-saleBuddhists say, “Life is suffering.” They say life is impermanent and ever-changing. And it is, but isn’t that what makes it precious?

A philosopher of enjoyment says, “Life is suffering? Not necessarily. Frame it differently. Frame it: Life is enjoying! In this, life does not become death. Winter does not become spring. There is winter. There is spring.

It’s a Zen thing. A box of moonlight is not nothing.

Life is enjoying living not because it’s easy. It is to enjoy the blues like Albert King singing, “I been down since I begin to crawl. If it wasn’t for bad luck, I wouldn’t have no luck at all” (“Born Under a Bad Sign“). Enjoyment is a pessimistic loving cynic. Of course people do what they do! There’s no other way! So you may as well enjoy the rising and falling of turbulent waters and/or roller coasters.

It is said on the Internet that Miley Cyrus said, “Life is just about having a good time.” But what happens to Miley when she has a great fall (not that she will) but, what then?

Suppose someone you love dies. You cry. You feel lost. Things will never be the same. There’s pain in your heart, but the current of life in your veins is pronounced. There’s hot-chocolate for you to enjoy but its not the same without your friend by your side.

glassesMemories of what was and imaginings of what might have been rattle your feelings in a present that hurts but you know you have to go on so when you get back from a very long walk, remember: Rock on.

In strong moments, sing like Tim and The Jim Carroll Band with all your might, “Those are people who died, died!” Breathe and be breathed. Jump and sing while you can. See the humour in all things like a Romantic. “Why do you do this?” you ask.

No reason. You just do.

For Timothy H., “This song is for you my brother!

Enjoy An Interlude

moonocean

Which of the following statements are true or false?

#1: Life itself is pleasurable. 

#2: Life is pleasurable like a Pérez Prado mambo

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

garden-party

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

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

drugs

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

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

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

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

rodin-thinker

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

first snow.jpg

Enjoy Happiness from the Periphery

happiness

One day, in searching for “happiness” on Google (as many people do), happiness appeared as a man and woman in hip medieval clothing.

Is that how you picture happiness?

Is happiness a warm puppy like Charles Schultz said in 1962? Is happiness that simple? Is it a moment of satisfaction with whatever your “warm puppy” is?

happiness is a warm puppy

Or is happiness a warm gun as the Beatles sang it in 1968? Said John Lennon, “I thought it was a fantastic, insane thing to say” (Beatles Bible).

Project Happiness” (where the science of happiness meets the art of living) says that 10% of happiness is due to circumstance, 50% comes from genes, and 40% comes from activities like forgiveness and gratitude. With practice, they say, you can make yourself happy. But what if, instead of making yourself happy, you make someone happy?

What then?

self-deceptionIt’s strange. We feel so alone. Talk to someone and there’s a gulf between. We’re a universe apart. We don’t see how the consciousness looking back at us is the same as our own. The profound is hidden in the ordinary.

To look into another’s eyes and see love and mercy reflected there is a rare happiness. We grow up forming a healthy self-image but gain wisdom by letting it go (Jung).

A self-image is developed through what we say and think about ourselves and what others say of us. If that self-image is overly negative, inaccurate, or inflated, it creates problems.

fake smile2It’s hard to see a self-image (Latin ego “I”). It hides behind opinions believed true, but if you follow the trail of emotions it leaves behind (like anger at a slight, jealousy, a need to win and so on) there you find ego. It’s a condemning voice inside your head that’s critical and blaming.

But, “Smile!” says the research. “It’s good for your brain.” (Who cares if you look insane?)

The thinking is that if you’re not happy, there’s something wrong with you. Maybe that explains why antidepressant use went up 400% in the US between 2005–2008 (Harvard Medical School).

cartoon4Too bad they don’t work – at least, according to the New England Journal of Medicine (Huffington Post, 2011).

Kirsch (2014) said, “Instead of curing depression, popular antidepressants may induce a biological vulnerability making people more likely to become depressed in the future” (Antidepressants and the Placebo Effect).

So, “What are you gonna do?” (language warning)

First, we listen to Herb Alpert & the Tijuana Brass play “Tijuana Taxi.” If your self-image sees you as a dancer, you will dance.

Then we search images for what “happiness” looks like.

images of happiness
“Happiness” image search results.

Happiness appears as beaches, beautiful skies, people with arms open wide at sunrise and jumping at sunset, we see ladies with balloons and a parasol soaking up sunshine and summer fields. The word “freedom” comes to mind.

Freedom: Old English freo meaning, “not in bondage, acting of one’s own will, noble, joyful” (Online Etymology Dictionary). Does freedom look like happiness?

freedom
“Freedom” image search results.

Yes it does. Again we see sunshine, that same woman with a parasol and people with arms open wide as if to fly. (Sinatra was onto something when he sang, “Fly Me To The Moon.”) The word “spirit” (as in: “happy spirits” and “free-spirited”) comes to mind.

spirit-of-love-3262Spirit: Latin “spiritus” meaning, “breathing” (life!).  Like “moo” or “BANG” such words mean their sound. Spirit is like that. It is an imitation of breathing (Online Etymology Dictionary).

An image search of spirit showed a Disney movie. Undeterred, we enter” “spiritual.”

spiritual.jpg
“Spiritual” image search results.

Again we see beautiful skies, sunshine, beaches and arms open wide. (Enya was onto something when she sang “Only Time.”

What-ifWhat if, instead of categorizing things into two opposites (either-or, self-other, good-bad, life-death, happy-sad…) we consider opposites as one process like a game of ping pong.

ping pong with willWithout ping there is no pong. Happiness (ping) goes with sadness (pong). Life (ping) goes with death (pong).

Happiness might not be about getting what you want and having a good time all the time. Happiness could be a love of life in all its aspects – pleasant and unpleasant.

kermit's discovery

A self-image is like putting on eye-glasses. As Clark Kent, the world looks different. How we think colours everything we see. Should you take off your glasses of personality, you might enjoy reality (even if it is fuzzy). Maybe that’s what a higher consciousness experience is: It’s a union with reality. You see everyone and everything as interconnected. You see beauty.

superman

When you focus on breathing, you are aware of it (in-out, in-out, repeat), but when you stop focusing, breathing continues. We are breathed in the same way that grass grows and produces the oxygen we need. It’s all a relationship. It’s all connection.

spiritual cartoon3Life is a doing. It’s happening (see the Supreme’s sing “The Happening,” 1967). We might feel isolated, but that isn’t how it is.

A feeling of happiness doesn’t depend on what you know or do. You can’t make progress in it. You can’t do anything or not do anything to get it.

Happiness comes when you are so adapted to pleasure and pain that you say, “I love it!” No matter what happens. Like the Bad Finger song, “Knock down the old grey wall. Be a part of it all. Nothing to say, nothing to see, nothing to do,” you get it because you got it (see: Bad Finger “No Matter What”).

zen cartoon.jpgLet go your eggo (aka ego) and go out there and let the universe happen as you.

Enjoy.

eggo-homestyle-waffles1.jpg

References

  1. Happiness (14th century) (Wikipedia)
  2. Beatles Bible
  3. Project Happiness
  4. How Smiling Changes Your Brain
  5. 5 Ways to Make Yourself Happier in the Next 5 Minutes (Psychology Today, 2014)
  6. Harvard Medical School
  7. Huffington Post (2011)
  8. Antidepressants and the Placebo Effect (2014)
  9. Online Etymology Dictionary.
  10. Science of Happiness

Realize Enjoyment

pretty lake

This is not a lake. It is a picture; nevertheless, you can imagine spending a lazy sunny afternoon here. Not working. Feeling free to wander – here at a lake like the one pictured above.

Maybe you’ve lost everything or own nothing – doesn’t matter! You’re here. You can stroll around enjoying yourself in this bit of heaven.

stick-in-the-mud1You can poke a stick in the mud and lose your footing. You can enjoy a duck singing and a bee’s humming.

“Ca-caw! Ca-caw! Ca-CAW!” some kind of bird is calling for immediate assistance.

Everything is randomly well-ordered. What a high it is to be with what is. You feel that “Wouldn’t It Be Nice” happy Beach Boys singing feeling when, “BAM!” a spontaneous reality hits you right between the eyes. Here you are: at a lake, seeing faces in clouds.

They call it pareidolia. It’s where you see familiar patterns like a face on the surface of the moon or in cloud formations and get excited.

mona lisa photo: Mona Lisa Mona2.gifAnd you smile like Mona Lisa when you realize that all this is not serious. It’s pure enjoyment. You need nothing, want nothing and everything is as it should be. Like a suddenly wise idiot, it comes to you. It’s right in front of you and in-between.

dandy lionsYou get those good vibrations that Brian Wilson sang about. You get it because you’ve paused analytical thinking. You see what’s in front of you. You see dirt through windows. It’s all good (even when it isn’t). You don’t believe or unbelieve in not believing. You feel the harmony in all things like the child you once were. It’s heaven!

But you don’t need a pretty lake like the one pictured above (as fantastic as that is). You can enjoy a parking lot and a feeling of pity. Without an attitude of “what’s in it for me?” (the double whammy of a big ego and a feeling of separation from the world around you) you can appreciate beauty in peeling paint and dandy lions because poetic vision is the world we’re in.

Even plastic bags dance for you if you see it that way.

Good and bad don’t cancel each other. You take all seasons as they come. Life is not a struggle. It is not all dark or light. To be wise is to be in harmony with the good-and-badness and the up-and-downess of a universe doing a doing.

And so it is.

In our cities, behind dashboards and video screens, we don’t think of ourselves as nature manifesting. Maybe that’s why we do what we do. We live in our heads and think we end in our butts. We think like a material girl living in a material world even though the world’s top physicists tell us that isn’t so.

They say nothing is solid. They say the physical world is a sea of energy flashing in and out of being in milliseconds, over and over again. They say we’re made of atoms made of invisible energy and not tangible matter.

Our senses may tell us that reality is made of material things outside our skin, but not so in theory so says professor of physics Richard Conn Henry from Johns Hopkins University: “The Universe is immaterial — mental and spiritual. Live, and enjoy” (The Mental Universe).

Hal Holbrook
Video clip Season 6, episode 4 (coarse language warning)

To explain the science we turn to actor Hal Holbrook who appeared in the Sopranos as a physicist in a hospital room with Tony and others watching a fight on TV. “Think of the two boxers,” says Hal, “as ocean waves or currents of air – two tornadoes, say.”

“They appear to be two things, right – two separate things? But they’re not. Tornadoes are just wind stirred up in different directions. The fact is nothing is separate. Everything is connected.”

Feynman diagramEven knowing that nothing is separate, people continue to aggrandize themselves. They jump on the idea of the “observer effect” whereby the mind of a conscious observer is said to affect quantum processes, but not so says physicist Richard Feynman:

“Nature does not know what you are looking at, and she behaves the way she is going to behave whether you bother to take down the data or not” (The Feynman Lectures on Physics, Vol. III). 

So, what does all this mean? A pretty lake? a plastic bag blowing around? quantum physics? Nothing really. Nothing is the point. When you see a tree, you see a tree. When you fall down, you fall down. The big scoop is that when you feel no separation between yourself and the world around you out to the sun, you realize that the space between is not nothing. The space between is what connects you.

Nothing is holding this whole thing together.

What a trip. Enjoy it!

(See also: Enjoy What is and Take What Comes.)

Enjoyment And Enlightenment: Side By Side

modern-times

Lee Morse2In 1927 a small woman with a big heart named Lee Morse sang, “Oh, we ain’t got a barrel of money. Maybe we’re ragged and funny, but we’ll travel along, singing a song – side by side…” It’s a song about enjoying good times and bad together but it could be about enjoyment and enlightenment. They go together.

One might even say they’re one and the same.

Kant 2In 1784 a small man with a big head named Immanuel Kant wrote “What Is Enlightenment?” In it he called people cowards. He said that except for a few men (and no women), most people are too lazy, immature and afraid to think for themselves. Kant believed that mature thought and reason is enlightenment.

He said, “Dare to know!” is the motto of enlightenment.

Spiritual types say otherwise. They say it’s not about thought. It’s about heart and love and letting go of what you think you know. A teacher in the Zen koan tradition, Joan Sutherland, said that enlightenment is “more true than our ordinary self-oriented ways of experiencing life… Enlightenment is our true nature and our home… it’s not about being a better self but about discovering our true self” (Lion’s Roar). But most people wouldn’t know their true self from a hole in the ground.

We can’t help it.

true-self-seeking-enlightenment-cartoon

Neuroscientist Dr. Jeffrey Schwartz said, “The brain puts things into our consciousness, but it is the active mind that makes choices about whether to listen and how to listen.” He said that our brains trick us with deceptive brain messages that come to us as mental chatter.

Schwartz said, “Deceptive brain messages are any false or inaccurate thought or any unhelpful or distracting impulse, urge or desire that takes you away from your true goals and intentions: your true self” (“It’s not me. It’s my brain”…).

bootstrapsWhen we try to improve ourselves, we can’t seem to because the one that needs improvement is the one trying to improve! Spiritual entertainer Allan Watts said that it’s the equivalent of trying to pull yourself up by your own bootstraps and it can’t be done.

Thinkers think enlightenment is thought, feelers feel enlightenment is felt and scientists say it’s a matter of re-programming. Enlightenment sounds hard if not impossible, but it isn’t! It’s like enjoyment. It’s easy. The word enlightenment has light in it. Lighten up!

It’s like that scene in the show Breaking Bad where a tough guy who broke the law and lost everything sits watching a river and waiting to die.

scene from breaking bad

Everything he tried to do was for naught. He’ll never see his beloved granddaughter again but just before dying, he finds peace. He simply enjoys watching the river and is enlightened (the Breaking Bad river scene).

herman hesseIt’s not just that the river is tranquil, soothing, and the best place to chill beer. Rivers are wellsprings of ancient wisdom (in a good way). In Siddhartha, Herman Hesse uses a river to represent existence and time. Through a river Siddhartha is enlightened: “You’ve heard it laugh,” he said. “But you haven’t heard everything. Let’s listen, you’ll hear more.” 

They listened. Softly sounded the river, singing in many voices. Siddhartha looked into the water, and images appeared to him in the moving water: his father appeared, lonely, mourning for his son; he himself appeared, lonely, he also being tied with the bondage of yearning to his distant son; his son appeared, lonely as well, the boy, greedily rushing along the burning course of his young wishes, each one heading for his goal, each one obsessed by the goal, each one suffering. The river sang with a voice of suffering, longingly it sang, longingly, it flowed towards its goal, lamentingly its voice sang. 

“Do you hear?” Vasudeva’s mute gaze asked.

Siddhartha nodded (chapter 11).

Rational thinking may be necessary for day-to-day responsibilities, but sometimes, in an odd moment of awareness, when you realize that doing something won’t help you and not doing something will also not help you (like the old man in the Breaking Bad scene), you are in the zone of enlightenment. You step out of “the quicksand of time” (Moody Blues). You watch. You listen.

squeegy enlightenmentWhen we listen to what others have to say about enlightenment, it’s like trying to see through a dirty window.

We get caught in the middle like that Stealers Wheel song that goes, “Trying to make some sense of it all. But I can see that it makes no sense at all… Clowns to the left of me, jokers to the right, here I am. Stuck in the middle with you…” (Rafferty & Egan).

Who is the clown? Who is the joker? How do you know? You Kant. It’s all opinion. But when it comes to enjoyment and enlightenment it isn’t a matter of opinion. It’s direct experience. A feeling of peace and tranquility is not a matter of opinion. It is enjoyed. Like music.

In 1969 the Moody Blues sang “Watching and Waiting” with the words: “But don’t be alarmed by my fields and my forests / They’re here for only you to share / ‘Cause here there’s lots of room for doing / The things you’ve always been denied / So look and gather all you want to / There’s no one here to stop you trying.”

And there it is. No harm trying. Watch and wait. That’s all it takes. Enjoyment is enlightenment enjoying.