Step Into Enjoyment (take one)

elevator door
The old joke goes, “A salesman tells an American that he has a new invention that will do half his work for him. The American replies, ‘Great. Give me two.‘”

Suppose a person named Emerson, of whom you’re familiar (and avoid), is in an elevator that you enter. “Oh great,” you think without pleasure. This is the last person you want to meet, but it’s too late to turn around. Emerson smiles brightly. You do likewise, but dimly. In Emerson’s eyes you see the sting of your dislike which makes you dislike even more. It’s not that Emerson is a bad person—just boring, an innocent, a nerd.

Stepping into the elevator, you assume the position: facing the door watching floor numbers count down—14…12…11…. And you think, “Why is this elevator so slow?”

Hawaiian music comes from a speaker in the ceiling. “That’s Gabby Pahinui singing “Hi`ilawe”,” says Emerson. “Oh, really?” you feign interest, roll your eyes and then, something remarkable happens.

In a beautiful voice Emerson sings “Hi`ilawe” in English,

waterfall3

All eyes are on Hi`ilawe
In the sparkling lowlands of Maukele
I escape all the birds
Chattering everywhere in Waipio.
I am not caught
For I am the mist of the mountains.
Waterfall,
Nothing can harm me at all.
My world is so very small
With my waterfall I can see
My rainbow calling me
Through the misty breeze
Of my waterfall.”

The song ends and you are hit by silence and stillness. Time is suspended between now and later, like the elevator that is suspended between up and down.

A fog of indifference lifts. Emerson’s lack of guile disarms social defenses. In an instant you know yourself and forget yourself. You see and hear—not as “you” seeing, but as “seeing” itself—as a body-and-mind seeing, you grasp things directly (see also Enjoy a Perfect World).

slothhappy

You feel giddy and silly as you and Emerson laugh. You wake up to the moment. You feel the space around you as if it’s a ghostly solid connecting everything together. You feel yourself inside a body that has an outside appearance that’s inside an elevator that’s inside a building that’s outside on a street and inside a biosphere.

And you wonder: “If everything has an inside with an outside that’s inside something else, where does it begin? where does it end? The experience of experiencing yourself experiencing feels like an awakening! 

In school Emerson was voted least likely to succeed. Like the Invisible Boy in the movie Mystery Men (1999), Emerson is invisible because no one is looking. It’s a power developed after years of being ignored.

mai tai2
“A drunk man’s words are a sober man’s thoughts.”

And a new thought occurs: Why not be nice to Emerson? It won’t hurt. Maybe it’s from the music or the wine you had with dinner (or the Mai Tai before), but right now you feel a loving warm glow for all the Emersons in the world.

So you smile. It is your gift. You give generously with your teeth.

You realize that you are not a mind attached to a body and neither is Emerson.

You are just two human beings in a world dancing without moving as you fall through space in Hawaiian time.

You once saw Emerson try to talk to people. Emerson quoted the philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer who said, “The ox does not butt because it happens to have horns; it has horns because it intends to butt” (A Perplexed Philosopher, p. 154). People looked at one another as if Emerson were a talking houseplant.

Unfazed, Emerson held up a pen saying, “I don’t write because I have a pen. I have a pen because I intend to write! It’s a matter of will that I am what I do! I don’t enjoy being Emerson because life is enjoyable. I enjoy being Emerson because it is my intention that life be enjoyable! All that we are and will ever be is an intention. We fly in jets because people contributed intelligent effort towards that intention. With intention and will, we devise ways to make our want happen.”

Someone said something stupid (and it wasn’t “I love you” like Frank and Nancy Sinatra) and everyone wandered away talking about their day. Emerson stood like a statue listening to a song no one could hear and then went invisible.

On the ground floor as the doors are opening, Emerson says, “Do you mind if I ask you a question?” and then, without being given permission asks, “Do you enjoy being you?” 

Of course you do! (Don’t you?) What a stupid question! You have to enjoy being yourself! If you don’t enjoy being you, you can’t enjoy! (Can you?) It’s like what the great Sammy Davis Jr said in song, “Whether I’m right or whether I’m wrong. Whether I find a place in this world or never belongI gotta be me! I’ve gotta be me! What else can I be but what I am?”

In this world increasingly crowded, where people become traffic and virtual reality is deemed more desirable than the physical, in anonymity we assimilate into social functions like machines in a hurry as we crush nature and lose a sense of being in the world.

As William Barrett, author of Irrational Man (1958) observed, it is from one’s being in the world in the most mundane, factual and ordinary sense that we feel aware (William Barrett Interview, 1978).

existential GPSThat we split reality between observer and observed isn’t obvious. We’re often on auto-pilot, thinking thoughts that may or may not be stupid, but sometimes—on vacation, while washing dishes or doing nothing, in a relaxed moment—we emerge from being babies in a baby world to feeling aware of our self being here in this world!

Much of life’s unfolding is beyond our controlling. One thing happens, then another, and another, in an interconnected chain of consequences like a Rube Goldberg (1883-1970) machine, until one day, without awareness, nothing happens and you stop waking up.

Today we plant donut seeds in the form of Cheerios. We do what our Mamas and Pappas told us when they sang, “Do what you want to do. Go where you want to go” (“Go Where You Wanna Go”).

listen to a sea shellToday we celebrate you! We celebrate you, not to be egotistical, narcissistic, solipsistic or to show you how equally equal you are with 7.5 billion other people (according to a Worldometer).

We celebrate you “being in the world” so that you can feel as happy as Tommy (aka Roger Daltrey in The Who musical) singing “I’m Free” after he’s healed from not seeing, feeling and hearing.

keystokingdom
Knock, knock. Who’s there? ‘Doris.’ Doris who? ‘Doris locked, that’s why I knocked.’

Sensory awareness is a key. Sensory awareness isn’t about holding something like a key as a means to the instrumental task of opening a door. Sensory awareness is to be drawn to a particular aspect, like a key’s shiny metal, its cool texture, or lovely “Click” when it opens a door.

Sensory awareness is when you take a call from nature and hear yourself hearing. Everyone has sensory awareness, but not everyone engages in sensations thousands of times a day, but such is the intention of a lover of wisdom. Sometimes all it takes is an absence of hurry.

Enjoy a Clear Vision

love is blue

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

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

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

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

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

know thyself
Spirit in liquid form.

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

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

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

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

But here you are. How’d that happen?

you are here2

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

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

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

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

subjectivity

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

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

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

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

Tony
Don’t Stop Believing” (Journey).

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bring it on.

Enjoy Your Self Feeling Infinitely Subjectively Groovy

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

There’s a battle going on.

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

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

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

And then you die.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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 A Space For Happiness

forest-house

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Nothing blows up but consciousness opens.

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

space-stars-road.jpg

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

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

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

wishingwellhigh

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

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

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

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

References

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

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

The Light of Enjoyment

candle in rose bowl
Here ideas grow like leaves – not added one to another, but naturally calling forth one to another, like one candle-light enkindles another candle which kindles yet another to form a beautiful pattern to enjoy.

Cue music: Weapon of Choice. And… begin.

“How is a person like a candle?” Sounds like a set up to a joke: “My love for you is like a candle, if you forget about me, I’ll burn your house down!” It’s funny (and scary) because candles symbolize romance and burning love and actually do burn houses down – 9,300 in the US between 2009-13 according to the National Fire Protection Association.

candle brideCandlelight represents the sun, spiritual illumination, goodness, joy. Light symbolizes intelligence and darkness is death and destruction. Candles at weddings symbolize unity. On birthday cakes they symbolize the light of life and the old belief that smoke from candles carries wishes and prayers to gods who live in the skies.

blueskiesDiarist and Holocaust victim Anne Frank (1929-1945) wrote, “Look at how a single candle can defy and define the darkness.” She knew about darkness and yet, despite her terror, she wrote like a philosopher of enjoyment: “As long as this exists, this sunshine and this cloudless sky, and as long as I can enjoy it, how can I be sad?”

light in the dark 2Poet Mehmet Murat ildan said, “If your mind is misty, your life will be misty; if your mind is sunny, your life will be sunny! Your life will be the reflection of your mind, of your thoughts! If there is a candle in your mind, your life will not know what utter darkness is!” (Mehmet Murat ildan).

lighting-a-cigarette-off-a-100-candle-funny-oldAncient Greeks (and not Athenian octogenarians) burned candles as an offering to their gods, but symbolism aside, a candle burning is similar to the life-functioning of a person. Not that we’re on fire (except for Jerry Lee Lewis and his Great Balls of Fire), but we do burn food (chemicals) and turn it into life-energy and waste (not necessarily of the smoky and romantic kind).

how a candle worksAccording to the National Candle Association when you light a candle, heat from the flame melts the wax made of hydrocarbons and draws it up the wick to burn. A hydrocarbon is made of hydrogen and carbon atoms. Scientists say humans are 96% carbon, hydrogen, oxygen, nitrogen and 4% other elements (Live Science).

According to the Encyclopedia of Human Thermodynamics, Human Chemistry, and Human Physics each human is: “a large atomic structure, or single abstract molecule which has been synthesized over millions and billions of years… if a large chemist was looking down on earth, as though the surface of the earth were a test-tube for his studies, the chemist would view humans to be little molecules reacting together forming products” (Human Chemistry).

humans as chemicalsTo science humans are factories, machines, chemically constructed bags of skin with in-puts and out-puts and parts that can be replaced or repaired. The point is to survive, learn and reproduce.

The question is: “So? What has any of this to do with enjoyment?” Nothing, really. Except, maybe… everything.how a person is like a candleThis goes towards understanding common assumptions. We feel like we’re behind the eyes – a spot of awareness, alone in the universe – and our bodies are like cars and we’re drivers within. We think there is a separation between ourselves and our surroundings, but think of a candle: Would it burn in outer space? We say, “This is me,” and look around pointing, “Not me. Not me. Not me!” (Sometimes we’re shrill.)

WhereAmIIf you’re scientific, you say we’re made of stuff and things run automatically: cause and effect, natural selection. Big visible things are products of tiny, invisible things. Living things come out of dead chemicals. If we go in smaller and smaller, stuff disappears and becomes mostly space. If we look at stars, they go farther away.

And if we’re religious, we think much the same except instead of being made by self-perpetuating processes we believe in a creator.

candleBoth are great views – fantastic! – but this isn’t serious. It’s play. A person (Latin: persona) is a mask. Tag! You’re it! Experience. The amazing thing about the world is that you can walk into it – one foot in front of the other. The trick is to pay attention to its three-dimensionality. We don’t appreciate the softness of air or notice how it parts before us without needing a shovel (unless we’re in Beijing).

beijing
Sunday in Beijing.

We’re airy nothings dependent on the world we’re in. Toys aren’t us: Nature is.

In ’69 Jimmy Cliff sang, “You can get it if you really want. But you must try – try and try – try and try. You’ll succeed at last, mmh, yeah.” A cheerful ditty – repetitive maybe – but fun to lip-sync like David Morrissey.

A philosopher can enjoy the song and get it – not as success – but it as enjoyment. It’s a choice: “I will enjoy.” It perpetuates itself in you as self-conscious feelings of yourself as you disappear.

Try this:

escalatorNext time you’re in a department store and you find yourself alone in your brain, far away in thought and the world is out there, just before stepping onto an escalator whisper, “I will enjoy.” Step on. Let enjoyment (and the escalator) take you on. Merge with a world that’s in and of you.

Leave language. Leave analysis. Live as music. Face forward. Let scenery move in the periphery.

A goofy smile is…. optional.

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

What if…

Hare in November

The computer is often used as a metaphor for the brain. We talk of the brain being hard wired and re-wired, but then: If the brain is like a computer, who’s controlling the keyboard?

tree fourLikening the brain to a computer has been around for awhile. We think  of ourselves in machine terms. We enjoy time on our computers but lose contact with the natural world.

Nature deprivation due to hours spent in front of TV or computer screens is associated with depression (University of Minnesota).

In Last Child in the Woods Richard Louv explains how not spending time in the natural world is linked to depression and attention deficits. The Biophilia Hypothesis is about how humans have an instinctive bond with living systems and suffer when deprived of them.

Sometimes all it takes is an enjoyable walk in nature to improve memory and mood in people diagnosed with depression, but people continue to separate themselves into abstractions and spend inordinate amounts of time in front of screens as ‘experts’ debate separations of mind and brain, subjectivity and objectivity… man and reality.

Such chatter takes us down a “rabbit hole” where we associate more with information and less with the natural world. 

rabbit holerabbit in Alice in WonderlandThe rabbit hole is a metaphor for that which takes us to difficult truths and the bizarre. It is a reference to the rabbit hole leading to Wonderland in Alice in Wonderland.

Spend an evening looking at nefarious activities on the internet and Wonderland looks normal. It’s hard to know what’s real. Much is rooted in ego, delusion and fear.

morpheusAs Morpheus softly said, clad in leather sitting on his Santa Claus chair in The Matrix, “You take the red pill and you stay in Wonderland and I show you how deep the rabbit hole goes.” In electronic worlds we lose touch with the natural world.

face
Not a face.

Humans have a tendency to perceive meaningful patterns in randomness. We see faces in circles, lines and linoleum patterns. We see what we want. Meanings become self-referential and paranoid. We think that our own existence is the only thing that is real so instead of epiphanies we have apophanies.

An apophany is not an insight into reality but a “process of repetitively and monotonously experiencing abnormal meanings in the entire surrounding experiential field” (Klaus Conrad, Die beginnende Schizophrenie). In other words, like schizophrenics, people see meanings that aren’t there.

brain xrayBack to the question: If the brain is like a computer, who’s controlling it? Some scientists say it’s the brain controlling the mind and some say it’s the other way around (Does the Brain Control the Mind…?). In California Gladding and Schwartz say that with their 4-Step Solution you can rewire your brain with your mind and find your Wise Advocate.

stairsThe Wise Advocate (true self or inner guide) can be thought of as a cognitive construct or as something spiritual. It is attentive to the bigger picture. It knows what you’re thinking and feeling and wants the best for you because it cares for you. Here we see hints of science meeting religion.

In the Power of Myth Joseph Campbell said, “People say that what we’re all seeking is a meaning for life. I don’t think that’s what we’re really seeking. I think that what we’re seeking is an experience of being alive, so that our life experiences on the purely physical plane will have resonances with our own innermost being and reality, so that we actually feel the rapture of being alive.”

Imagine that time spent electronically is time spent on shaky ground. On shaky ground we stare at our feet. Open yourself to full recognition that you partly create yourself. Try less over-thinking and more feeling with heart.

deep rutDissatisfaction and deceptive pleasure habits form neural pathways that cut deep ruts hard to get out of. The life you live may not be the one you envisioned, but with imagination, a spirited effort and new routines, you can travel past trouble and feel enjoyment in the world.

Life is an experience made of happiness and sorrow. There will be rough and smooth places, disappointments, happy surprises, tragedies and discoveries.

Through it all, be brave: then pack some food and a Thermos of tea, cut a good walking stick, and once more travel with face forward towards the enjoyable goal and a song on your lips (perhaps a 1920 hit).

hare in Nov 2To one awake to life in the natural world, to its symbolism as well as its facts, with a Philosophy of Enjoyment, depending where you are in the world, there is always air and quite possibly a hare for you to see and love!

 

7.3 Billion Ways To Enjoy the World

log-pillow-2
Not a log. A pillow.

“Words are flowing out like endless rain into a paper cup. They slither wildly as they slip away across the universe. Pools of sorrow, waves of joy are drifting through my opened mind. Possessing and caressing me (John Lennon, Across the Universe).

paper cupLennon wrote the above after he’d been lying in bed next to his wife feeling irritated because she was going on and on about something. His irritation turned into a song about enjoying an opened mind (possibly inspired by an LSD flashback).

Most people who are not former Beatles would probably prefer something like a product, situation or activity to pools of sorrow and waves of joy.

Words in a paper cup just doesn’t cut it.

People are happiness seeking creatures. Drugs and distractions are big business. To the average person enjoyment is as easy as falling of a log. First you: A) Find something to enjoy, and then you, B) enjoy it.

itsjustthateasyGenerally, if you enjoy sports, you watch TV. If you enjoy video games, you plug one in. If you want to talk, you text and if you enjoy action, romance and thrills, you face a screen.

Reality is virtual.

Plato anticipated this in his allegory of the cave where slaves are chained to couches watching reflections of events (and eating cheese doodles), “while philosophers struggle up to the sunlight to see what’s really going on” (Tom Lewis, Living the American Dream is a Nightmare).

plato-caveIn a human world conflicted between Utilitarianism: “the doctrine that an action is right insofar as it promotes happiness, and that the greatest happiness of the greatest number should be the guiding principle of conduct” (Google) and Individualism: “the pursuit of individual rather than common or collective interests; egoism” (Google), maybe we need to adjust our hedonistic calculus: “appraisal of possible alternative choices in terms of the amount of pleasure to be gained and pain to be avoided in each” (dictionary.com). 

dualism
Dualism means separation.

Our problem is how we deal with reality. Since René Descartes said a person is a thinking thing, we’ve separated ourselves. Almost everything we do to make ourselves happy is outside reality.

brainWe’re so immersed in an ideology: “a system of ideas and ideals…” (Google) that if we step out of it, as Slavoy Zizek said, “it hurts…. the truth can shatter many of your illusions…You must be forced to be free. Freedom hurts” (Slavoy Zizek Explains Ideology).

trash-run-pick-up-300x300
Real enjoyment.

What if it’s not a product or lifestyle that brings you enjoyment? What if enjoyment is an ability? Like when you feel sick, nothing is fun; if you’re not in the mood, then enjoyment won’t come. You need to make yourself enjoy, but can you cultivate an “enjoy ability”? 

Absolutely.

It’s outside. It is your ride to death.

chasing a busYou can be free to enjoy like a leaf on a tree. With awareness of yourself – not as a disembodied brain – but as a being-in-the world (Martin Heidegger).

Sarte uses the example of chasing a bus. You don’t think, “I am chasing a bus,” it’s just, “getting closer.” The sense of yourself disappears. Like an athlete you are in flow or as Professor Dreyfus says, “When you are absorbed in the moment, consciousness is gone. And self-consciousness, is really gone” (Is Consciousness an Illusion?).

cokeIf you live as a direct living being without self-thinking, “What’s in it for me?” marketers won’t like you. Big business depends on a trick: Convince people they need something to be happy like it says on a Coke bottle, “Open happiness.”

coffee cup garbageWriter Paulo Coelho wrote, “Whatever you decide to do, make sure it makes you happy.” In a search engine this quote has over six million results which begs the question: Why so many?

Is this a revelation? As if one day, people said,Do what makes me happy? Of course! What was I thinking?” 

What if the dream is a nightmare?

The Coelho quote appears on web sites like: “Every Day Feng Shui to Design Your Dream Life,” “50 Inspirational Career Quotes,” “15 Happiness Quotes to Inspire You to Live Your Best Life” and “40 Ways to Happiness.” (Numbered lists always make things better.)

Alexander Nazaryan of the Daily News said that Paulo Coelho “is the purveyor of “inspirational” schlock like “The Alchemist” that has somehow managed to fool millions, probably because there is so much that is rotten in the world and people will listen to anyone who will sell them bromides about making it all better. He is just Tony Robbins with a pen, nothing more” (The astounding stupidity of Paulo Coelho, 2012).

Ouch. Did Nazaryan even read “The Alchemist“? It’s easy to take shots. Occult symbolism aside, it’s a beautiful quick read. The point is not to trash and be divisive, but to have open eyes and awareness of the ideologies that may blind us. “I’m like everyone else – I see the world in terms of what I would like to see happen, not that actually does” (The Alchemist, large print version, p. 53).opinion

People need comfort. They need enthusiasm. There is no separation between ourselves and the world around us. If 7.3 billion people (current population on Worldometers), did “whatever makes me happy,” what would happen?

debbie downerWe would see a world exploited and destroyed for profit… deforestation, industrialization, polluted water, sprawling cities, massive mines stripping landscapes and factories making garbage that’s out of control.

We all know the world is a mess. It’s complex. Lamenting and carping does no good. Stay calm. Love what’s important and enjoy what’s good. Start with a philosophy of enjoyment and a list.

5 Things a Being-in-the-World Can Do To Enjoy:

  1. howards end_blue 5
    A scene from Howard’s End.

    Be-in-the-world.

  2. Enjoy nature (Keep It Simple).
  3. Enjoy kindness & good humour.
  4. Enjoy not buying & giving.
  5. Enjoy tranquility (no noise, no machines, loving).

Now look around and ponder, “What’s on my list?”

Moods, Will and the Meaning of Being

cars-3

It was the philosopher Martin Heidegger (1889-1976) who said in Being and Time (1927) that there are ways of understanding things other than intellectually (Crtichley, 2001).

Before a person has a theoretical reaction, a thought or a thunk (past tense of think), there is an emotional mood. Everyone is always in some sort of mood. Right now your mood could be excited or indifferent, interested or bored.

coffee shopYour mood could be open to enjoyment like a 24 hour diner or closed like a bank after 5 PM. It’s a matter of will and 1-2-3:

  1. will yourself (to enjoy)
  2. take action (or inaction as a wise philosopher would)
  3. happy possibility

The first step is a matter of will. The philosopher Schopenhauer used “will” in the same sense as words like “desire”, “striving” and “wanting”. He held that all nature (including man) is the expression of an insatiable will to life and he thought that it’s through will that mankind finds suffering.

You might think that if desire (or will) is what causes suffering (as a lot of Buddhists do), remove the desire or will and suffering ceases but the desire to remove desire is another desire. You can’t desire not to desire. That’s desire. So the trick is not to desire not to desire (that can’t be done). Use desire to your advantage.

if there's a will there's a wayCounter the view of will = suffering with these simple words of wisdom: Where there’s a will, there’s a way. Will enjoyment. Will a good life. Pay attention to moods. Work with them and don’t deny them.

The way a person sees something is as much determined by one’s mood as it is by what one thinks about what one sees. Moods are first. An image can elicit a happy response or the opposite.

sunsetLet’s say you had an argument. You’re mood is angry and sad. You know life is short. You take action. You go into nature (wherever that happens to be) and you see a sunset.

In an angry mood sunsets are meaningless but if you relax into beauty a bad mood fades. If you think, “This too shall pass,” a sunset that was meaningless becomes sublime. You can become the sunset seeing itself. Stop. Do nothing. It’s a matter of time. Being takes time.

sunsetMoods aren’t just feelings to colour your mental life. Moods are the way each of us experiences life in this world. Moods are connected to our very being.

The biggest question for lots of philosophers, has been the question of the meaning of being a human being (try saying that fast!). The question of the meaning of your being a human being can’t be reduced to a scientific study. How do you explain the meaning of your being?

To Heidegger the basic idea of being is simple: being is time. And time, well, it comes to you with your birth and ends with your death. If you want to understand what it means to be a human being, try projecting your life onto the horizon of your death (Critchley, 2015).

park benchPhilosophy is the love of wisdom. As a philosopher of enjoyment, you are sensitive to the wisdom found in the enjoyment of living – good and bad. For most ancient philosophers including Socrates (or “Socks” as they called him in high school), the wisdom that philosophy taught was how to lead a good human life. For the ancients, a good human life was a happy one.

To be wise, your aim (and will) should be to enjoy being. Why not? Life is a waltz. The waltz of living. Don’t look at your feet. 1-2-3, 1-2-3. 1-2-3. Enjoyment is the thing.