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.

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.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

garden-party

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

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

drugs

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

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

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

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

rodin-thinker

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

first snow.jpg

Enjoy 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.

Enjoy The Impossible Dream

heraclitus of Ephesus

Long ago, before indoor plumbing, iPhones, disposable razors, squeezable cheese and remote controls TVs, sometime in the sixth century BC, along the coast in what was then Greece and is now Turkey, there lived a reclusive thinker of royal decent named Heraclitus of Ephesus (530-470 BC).

Little Heraclitus had no interest in politics or power. He preferred to think. He rejected information-gathering because it didn’t teach understanding (Heraclitus). He renounced royal privileges and withdrew to a secluded estate in the country where he enjoyed observing nature and self-questioning (Basics of Philosophy).

He wrote, “There are two tragedies in life. One is not to get your heart’s desire. The other is to get it” (Russell, 1945) and “The character of man is his guardian spirit (Stanford). One should turn one’s luck into a function of character and ethical stance.

He noticed how most people sleep-walk through life without understanding what’s going on (IEP). They called him the Obscure, the Riddler, the Reviler of the mob and the Weeping philosopher – possibly because he used to sit in Ephesos and cry over man’s feebleness (Heraclitus the Obscure).

heraclitus cartoon
Existential Comics “The Weeping Philosopher

Heraclitus noticed how things flow and nothing stays the same. “We both step and do not step in the same river. We are and are not” (Fragments). “Unless you expect the unexpected, you will not find it, for it is hidden and thickly tangled” (Wikiquote).

“Panta Rhei” – all flows, nothing lasts. Permanence is an illusion of the senses. Things change for the continued existence of other things. Opposites replace each other (IEP).

river

But this is the hardest message of all. All things are transient: your happiness, your home, your family, your friends, your dreams, your health, your moments of ecstasy and insight – everything is flowing through your hands as you’re aware of it.

But what if it’s not such a bad thing? Life is change. It’s a good thing! That’s the point! What if there’s more to it? What if, at a level you’re not aware, you’re more important than you think you are. What if you actually matter?

Science says that you’re a complex machine. In a Scientific American article Why Life Does Not Really Exist it readsLife is a concept that we invented… all matter that exists is an arrangement of atoms and their constituent particles… We have failed to define life because there was never anything to define in the first place.”

cat2Really? A cat is a complex machine. You’re a complex machine. No wonder people treat each other like machines. According to science, we are machines.

But do we really think that there is no difference between an inanimate machine and a man or a woman?  What about feeling? What about consciousness? What about beauty? What about love? What about a baby? What about a boy learning to skate? What about spirit? 

Sam Harris observed that many people consider the word spiritual to be “thoroughly poisoned by its association with medieval superstition” (In Defense of Spiritual) and yet, it’s just the right word. Spirit is the deliberate effort to overcome separateness and non-ordinary states of consciousness.

In 1797 William Blake wrote: “What is the price of Experience? do men buy it for a song? or wisdom for a dance in the street? No. It is bought with the price of all that a man hath: his house, his wife, his children. Wisdom is sold in the desolate market where none come to buy (The Four Zoas).

Experience is a loss of innocence and yet through that pain Blake sees how the world is infinite. “To see a World in a Grain of Sand / And a Heaven in a Wild Flower / Hold Infinity in the palm of your hand / And Eternity in an hour / A Robin Red breast in a Cage / Puts all Heaven in a Rage” (Auguries of Innocence).

ocean

Can you see infinity in a grain of sand? What would it take to do that? Could any little thing contain a cosmic truth that you could be aware of with enough imagination? Could a wildflower be a miniature heaven? Could a grain of sand be a miniature world?

Most people don’t know how to hold eternity in the palm of their hand. It’s hard enough keeping it together until the end of the day! We’ve lost our minds. Our attention is lost in a blur of appointments, technologies, to-do lists, worries and agitation. We’re more absorbed in movie worlds than our own. We walk by a crow or a rabbit or a sparrow without being blown away by how miraculous it is!

But… sometimes… in the briefest moment, when we freeze in our tracks, when we hear Pachelbel’s Canon or harmonia 76 or some music, sound, sight or smell that takes us out of ourselves for no reason. And we look into the eyes of people who look angry, distant or afraid and we feel compassion for them. We feel a spirit of friendship. We have a feeling of beauty and a happy, tingly shiver goes through our body. In a brief moment of attention we pick up the scent of something more going on than survival, but the moment passes and mundane thinking swallows us again.

rain

The trick is to cultivate those moments. Enjoy them. Again and again. Blake’s vision of an expansive experience is available to anyone, any time. It’s just that the modern world has given itself to the literal, to the informational and to the material. We’ve lost touch with what matters within ourselves. The pendulum has swung to non-spiritual. We miss the magic in front of us. A tree is not just a tree. It’s a tree! It’s a tree! It’s a damn tree!

You can see the Universe in a grain of sand! You can stop slogging through your day and take a moment to notice something cosmic. The connection between everyday reality and ecstatic enjoyment is as close as your face! It’s in the dust on the floor, in the mess on your desk and the water in your sink. The trick is to notice… and imagine… and love… and dream.

Dream your own particular impossible dream

ship in a bottle

References

Harris, W. (n.d.). Hericlitus: The Complete Philosophical Fragments.

Russell, B. (1945). History of Western Philosophy. Simon & Shuster. New York.

For Roberto. Who encourages.

Enjoy A Bad Day

country dance
The Country Dance by Jean-Antoine Watteau (1684 – 1721). Bring it on.

Bad days come and go. That is all there is to know. Life is up and down, ebb and flow. In the mashed potato dance of life you know it’s not all good, but do you know how to enjoy a bad day? Do you know how to make a bad day bearable?

bearable2
A bad day made bearable.

First, picture good and bad days as positive and negative polarities in a single process like a magnet. If you cut off the negative polarity on a magnet, a new negative polarity appears. You can’t get rid of a bad day. If you expect only good, you’ll be disappointed.

The trick is to enjoy all the nuances of life (bad days too) and put your philosophical pedal to the metal.

pedal
Rock on. Bang a gong (get it on).

In The Way of Myth Joe Campbell refers to a saying, “Joyful participation in the sorrows of the world.” Life isn’t meant to be happy. That’s not what it’s about. It isn’t about lifestyle choices, convenience and a good golf score. Sorrow is the essence of life. Get into it. That’s what myths are about. A myth asks, “Are you affirmative enough with your relationship to say, Yes! – no matter what?”

Life’s a killer. It’s true. Your body will die. Enjoyment is the ability to absorb the horror of that truth. The question is, “Will your love absorb it?

Go spiritual. Thoughts immaterial. Soul Man. Rock on.

Chaplin
Chaplin on a bad day in 1916. Bring it on.

Charlie Chaplin said, “Life is a tragedy when seen close-up, but a comedy in long shot.” Unhappy people want the world to be other than it is. Let a bad day be, smile, slam your heart on the table and say, Bring it on.  You can say, This too shall pass! Condition temporary. The world isn’t a problem. Turn your gaze inward and look where you’re looking from. Enjoy your vantage point.

The you that’s looking is the same as it’s been since day one. A 100 year old man feels the same as he did at 15. Forget age. Forget knowledge. Get to the source of it all.

Go graceful. You can dance if you want to.

Forget criticism. Expect nothing. Go blank. Be an idiot. That should be easy. Forget that you’re a third person thing called I, me, and mine. With awareness, imagine reversing your gaze. Look at the looker looking. Look from the source. Give your face away. You don’t own it anyway.

floats your boat
Enjoy a bad day at sea.

Dance to the art of noise. Walk a beat without swinging your arms. Look out the sides of your eyes. What you see is relative to where you are.

Dualists  say that it’s mind over matter. If you don’t mind, it doesn’t matter. They say the mind is a non-physical thing so put on a sweater and let intellectual powers override threats, problems and difficulties.

dualismMonists say that a whole variety of things could be explained as a single substance or a single thing that we call “the universe.”

Scientists say that every living thing is made of cells which are protein based robots too small to feel anything. Cells have the properties of life but no part of them is alive.

In the short video What is life? a narrator asks, “If everything in the universe is made of the same stuff, does this mean that everything in the universe is dead or that everything in the universe is alive? That it’s just a question of complexity? Does this mean we can never die because we were never alive in the fist place? Is life and death an irrelevant question and we haven’t noticed it yet? Are we much more a part of the universe than we thought?” (kurzgesagt).

bad dats

The Flaming Lips (the band that is) made a free-wheeling song about escaping into dreams on bad days. The chorus goes, “And all your bad days will end. You have to sleep late when you can. And all your bad days will end” (Bad Days). In the video they enjoy an old motel, summer, watermelons and a couple of kids enjoy riding their bikes.

And there it is. It’s as simple as that. Look at the world like a kid. Have no idea. Enjoy.

consciousness
17th century consciousness.

Enjoyment isn’t about money or achievement. You don’t need to be smart, strong or even slightly good looking. To enjoy reality, all of it – bad days too! – cleaning teeth and toilets, waiting in lines, getting cancer, losing everything, giving, taking, the whole damn thing! – through it all, whatever happens, let it. Do what you can. Be just and live in heartfelt awareness. Tune your senses to the frequency of the moment like a Nacho Libre Religious man singing, “I am I am!”

Unfettered by fury or despair, open to experience, where death is nothing, the future a concept and compassion a reality, therein find sublime enjoyment. There, like a non-violent pirate say, “Arr! Man, she be good!” You say without fear like a llama going over the falls,Bring it on.

nacho libreYou don’t have to be successful. Just be behind your eyes. Look outward and inward at the same time. Measure success by awareness and an ability to enjoy what comes along – no matter what!

References

Boa, F. (1994). The Way of Myth: Talking With Joseph Campbell. Shambhala Pocket Classics.

Harding, D. E. (2000). Face to No-Face: Rediscovering Our Original Nature. D. Lang (Ed.). Carlsbad, CA.

So This Is Christmas

christmasChristmas. It’s a time to enjoy being a kid again. ‘It’s time to be nice to the people you can’t stand all year’ (Blink 182, Won’t Be Home For Christmas). It’s time to lighten up like a string of lights and not be so serious. Serious people lose their sense of humour. They lose perspective, get mad, start wars (or self-destruct).

Let go of expectations. Lower the bar! It’s time to take stock, have a good cry and then: move on – refreshed – ready for a new year.

where is mindIt’s time to pay attention to matters of love and friendship and textured vests. It’s a time to want what you get and be thankful for it. It’s a time to enjoy being mild and to smile for no apparent reason. It’s time to relax your face muscles completely, to not be critical of the idiot next door or find fault with yourself and all the others out there.

It’s like Ebenezer Scrooge said in A Christmas Carol after his nightmare and metanoia (change of heart), “It is a fair, even-handed, noble adjustment of things, that while there is infection in disease and sorrow, there is nothing in the world so irresistibly contagious as laughter and good humour.” And then, later a new and improved Mr. Scrooge said, “I will honour Christmas in my heart, and try to keep it all the year. I will live in the Past, the Present, and the Future. The Spirits of all Three shall strive within me. I will not shut out the lessons that they teach!”

scrooge

It’s time to hear a Medieval Christmas Carol and imagine. Christmas is a perfect time for a philosopher of enjoyment because isn’t enjoyment what it’s all about? Isn’t that why we’re here? Don’t all mothers and fathers want their children to be happy?

With or without a religious affiliation, everyone believes in love. Everyone believes in happiness. Christmas is a time for traditions, for remembering good times and the lessons learned in bad. It’s a time to stop competing, to get off the rat race and enjoy being alive.

being in the momentChristmas is a time to enjoy seeing, hearing, smelling, tasting, touching, imagining (and caroling). It’s a time to be in time (not on time).

It is time to take a simple approach: When looking, look. When hearing, hear. Look without judgement. Hear what is there. Let thoughts come and go like the trace of a line left by a fly.

This Christmas be introspective with a difference: Pay attention to sights and sounds and let thoughts move along like marching bands in a Santa Claus parade.

santa-clause-paradeIf you get sucked into the vortex of thinking, take a deep breath and start again. Gaze at Christmas ornaments unabashedly wide-eyed. Listen to music of love like it’s as essential as the air that you breath. Watch thought bubbles come and go and you will feel lighthearted love for all.

bubblesNot that thinking is bad (unless it is bad thinking). It’s just that being perpetually absorbed takes you into a mental world that isn’t real. Before his transformation Scrooge was in a mental world where only money mattered. He was blind to the world outside his mind. But you don’t need ghosts to tell you what is.

christmas ballsLook at Christmas tree balls. No sorrow. No lamenting. No coveting. No grief. Feel a passion for what is real in every moment, undistracted and accepting.

Christmas is a be-in-the moment thing.

christmas treats

Christmas is a time for bitter-sweet tears of loss and heartache (in a good way!), but try not to let emotions of love get mixed with pain. Love hurts. That’s what it does. Too often people have unrealistic expectations and engage in too much self-reflection. As a result, there’s an increase in depression and suicide attempts (Psychology Today).

christmas3The trick to all this is to ignore how the media presents Christmas perfection. Christmas is not perfect. Be with what is and remember the kid that you were.

expectationsAs much as we may ponder the past and worry about the future, Christmas is time to focus on now.

This is it. This is it. This is it.

If you want to be happy in the world, there is nothing more important than to understand this. The trouble is that we spend our lives forgetting and overlooking the truth. We flee from it and manage to avoid being happy while we struggle to become happy by fulfilling desire.

Listen to that old song called Stewball that goes, “Oh Stewball was a racehorse, and I wish he were mine. He never drank water, he always drank wine,” and remember how Stewball became something else.

Stewball’s melody was turned into a new Christmas song about love, “So this is Christmas and what have you done? Another year over and a new one’s just begun. And so this is Christmas, I hope you have fun, the near and the dear ones, the old and the young…” (John Lennon, So this is Christmas).

Now is the time that is. Now is the time for your transformation. Now is the time to enjoy what Christmas is. Go forth and enjoy all the love that you can.

christmas 4.jpg

Nonordinary Enjoyment


After scuba diving, Charles Michael Kittridge Thompson IV (aka Blackman Francis or Frank Black) from the band the Pixies was inspired to write, “With your feet on the air and your head on the ground. Try this trick and spin it. Yeah. Your head’ll collapse, but there’s nothing in it. And then you’ll ask yourself: Where is my mind?

He’s not literally looking for his mind of course. One doesn’t lose one’s mind like one loses one’s keys (see post: A New Way of Looking).

flippersWhile scuba diving Black probably lost his mind, not to madness, but to a beautiful feeling when there’s nothing in it. When inner talk that runs between wanting and not-wanting, and liking and disliking is stopped – particularly in a natural scene – we can feel aware of beauty in the outside world. 

Stilling the inner monologue has been talked about by artists, poets, artisans and all those who lose themselves in creating, by athletes who lose themselves in playing, by mothers, fathers, lovers and friends who lose themselves in loving, by meditators who lose themselves in breathing, by comrades in camaraderie, by martial artists in the zone, by co-workers and soldiers, by mystics and bakers – by anyone who suddenly feels aware of the world with a shock of boundless love and the enjoyment of being.

If your mind is always busy, angry, depressed or confused, if you are always trying to achieve goals and better health, you won’t enjoy living because you are always somewhere else – you live for a future perfection – but if life doesn’t feel quite right, it never will. It’s only when you allow yourself to relax that you do relax and in so doing, enjoy.

There may be future goals, hazards, struggles and sorrows but each seeker of happiness should know that we don’t want happiness later. We want it now. Happiness isn’t at the  top of the hill.

path

We want a path to present happiness now but we only find good reason to be satisfied on that path by being satisfied. Feel satisfied and you are. That’s it. Tell yourself and you will listen. It’s an unconscious thing. You don’t love because… you just do.

When thoughts of self-gain subside, one’s mind is extended from brain and body to world. Ego-brain and ego-mouth are Trumped by love and forced to be quiet. Everyone is just another you. It’s a merging thing. Even scientists can explain altered states of consciousness in terms of brain scans they understand. 

bunny-720x340

The Pixies 1988 version of “Where is my mind?” is in the movie Fight Club. Other versions of the song include Maxence Cyrin’s (set to scenes from The Mysterious Lady, a silent film from 1928 starring Greta Garbo), the band Placebo‘s and Sunday Girl’s version in the show Mr. Robot.

It’s a song that gets around.

batmanEnjoyment can be conscious – as in, you consciously choose to read this – or unconscious – as in, you feel something without knowing why.

Feelings are real.

Most people think their mind is in their brain. Some say that “the mind is a function of the brain” in the same way that seeing is a function of eyes and hearing is a function of ears (The Automatic Mind). Others say the mind is closer to personality, but personality is in the eye of a third-person and mind is a first-person thing.

The mind is what it feels like to be you. When that mind (the feeling of being you) is blown, ‘you’ as an individual feeling of consciousness receives sensory information that frees you. Freedom from dissatisfaction is blissful. Utter contentment and a good solid floating feeling is yours.

Float on that dandelion seed of imagination.

where is my mind seed

In the British Journal of Psychiatry Susan Greenfield (2002) wrote, “Now consider ‘losing the mind’ or ‘blowing the mind’. Because we are still conscious when these often much-sought-after events occur, I would suggest that it is wrong to conflate ‘mind’ with ‘consciousness’. Just think a little more about being ‘out of your mind’. In such situations, the individual no longer is accessing personalised cognitive perspectives, the world no longer has a personalised meaning and instead one is the passive recipient of incoming sensory information” (Mind, Brain and Consciousness).

Fight-Club-Where-Is-My-Mind

You don’t need a rave to enjoy. You don’t need anything. When mental chatter about wanting and not-wanting are silent, you become enjoyment itself. You shift to lamp mode. You glow.

lampWhen you enjoy, you become as a poet.

And what is a poet? A poet is a person speaking to people. A poet adopts the very language of people. All good poetry is the spontaneous overflow of powerfully good feelings (adapted from Wordsworth’s Preface to Lyrical Ballads).

Medicine for an unhappy mind is not just sensory awareness of outward beauty, but in states of feeling, and of thought coloured by feeling, under the excitement of beauty.

With practice of character, self-awareness and attention to your senses in your surroundings, a sense of beauty and love – a fantastically happy feeling – can happen anywhere, any time. Even right now. Why not?

You’re here aren’t you?

lake picture