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,

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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.

Enjoyment, World Peace… and Something Else—Guaranteed!

candle smokeLet’s mash it. Let’s smash it. Let’s get creative! The meaning of life is in what you make it. Let’s juxtapose a few things. See what happens. Incongruecies can be funny. To smile, to laugh, per chance to enjoy.

Lester Burnham, played by Kevin Spacey in the movie American Beauty (1999), said, “Remember those posters that said, ‘Today is the first day of the rest of your life‘? Well, that’s true of every day but one—the day you die.” In his closing narration, Lester describes meaningful experiences in his life. Despite his death, Lester is happy because there’s “so much beauty” in the world.

americanbeauty1
Lester watching stars (final scene.)

The phrase ‘Today is the first day of the rest of your life‘ comes from 1960’s wisdom. It now appears in The Walking Dead as, “To our newest undead recruits. Good moaning. Today is the first day of the rest of your afterlife.” 

Kinda funny (not really).

The blogger Craig McKee lists 57 zombie and doomsday movies that came out from 2000 to 2015 (source). To McKee these movies tell us that “living in peace, co-operation, and connectedness with others on this planet is an illusion, a luxury we can’t afford when survival is on the line. In the end, it’s eat or be eaten. The message is that we must be suspicious of each other, mistrustful of each other, isolated from each other, and when it comes down to it, we have to struggle against each other to survive.”

the walking dead.jpg

McKee refers to “predictive programming.” It’s a theory about the use of entertainment to “introduce planned societal changes.” Regardless of the theory’s validity, a steady diet of mistrust, fear and violence might not be good. As Kurt Vonnegut said, “We are what we pretend to be, so we must be careful about what we pretend to be” (Mother Night).

Science tells us is that violence is transmitted like a disease (source). Violence begets violence but you can create a world where violence is rare by not being violent. Picture a beautifully interconnected world of trees, birds and flowers, “Tweet, tweet.” Now make a wish and blow out the candle. Wish for world peace, then make it happen.

Don’t look for problems or make complications. Be a wish fulfilled by your actions. Life is a celebration (see also: Enjoy an Interlude). Life is a religious experience. Death isn’t. The only thing we know about death is that it stinks.

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When you know that the feeling of consciousness within you is the same as in all you’s including non-human animals, you won’t be bullied or bamboozled into hurting another “you” (like you) and world peace is guaranteed!

People will argue that it’s a crazy idea. Of course, it’s overly simplistic. Enjoying not harming is ridiculous because the world is complicated and people are too self-interested and won’t do it, but therein is the key! Not doing and self-interest are integral! Not doing is easy! World peace is as easy as watching grass grow! Now curl your toes in fun and enjoy it!

Nature happens gloriously as we occupy ourselves in fantasy, mechanized, digital, virtual or otherwise.

groucho
“The problem with doing nothing is you never know when you’re finished” Groucho.

Wide-eyed awareness of one’s mind expanded is the answer. If the past was about groups, mobs, gangs, religions and nations clashing for control, the future belongs to the individual.

It is as the Three Musketeers said, “All for one and one for all on this ecologically interconnected ball we men with big hats and flouncy pants call the world!”

Cue music.

Through enjoyment we make the world better for everyone by not hurting anyone. Life is rare. Our forays into space have said as much.

frank cannon
“I can’t help that. I’ve been chubby all my life” – Frank Cannon, Private Eye.

Like a giddy child, happy in a world of fun, let’s proceed with our Philosophy of Enjoyment investigation. Is there anyone who wouldn’t want to live a happy and enjoyable life—free and healthy, having fun, finding love, doing exciting things, having friends, eating, sleeping, procreating?

Let’s ask: Why are people baffled and baffling? Why is happiness elusive? Why is self-awareness lacking and ignorance in surplus?

keaton3.gif
“Silence is of the gods; only monkeys chatter… Life is too serious to do farce comedy” – Buster.

To explain why the world is as it is, the political philosopher Slavoj Žižek (1949- )—a fun Slovenian if ever there was one—takes the idea that individuals are always “split” between what we consciously know and can say about stuff, and the unconscious beliefs we hold of “the big Other” (authority figures and the regime we’re under).

Slavoy zigzags between knowledge and belief saying that we don’t know what “the essence” of “their people” is but our beliefs are decisive (source).

zizek-lowcard
Rub-A-Dub-Dub, Slavoj pontificates in a tub: “The one measure of true love is: you can insult the other… If you have reasons to love someone, you don’t love them.”

Knowledge is objective truth. Belief is subjective truth. Knowledge is thought true because it’s independent of circumstances. Belief is an idea held as true to the individual who holds it but not necessarily to everyone (see also: The Enjoyment Argument).

If you know something is true then you must believe it, but just because you believe it does not make it true! We think in terms of self and other (one or the other) but we’re one togetherlike one cell in the 37 trillion that make up a human, so you are to the world (source).

The existence of another (a not-self) allows us each to recognize our own self, as in: “Yoo-hoo, I see you! I don’t control your body or hear your thoughts. You are separate. You are not me. Therefore, I am me” (Schalk, 2011).

self and other

The self/other (one or the other) division is how a modern person understands who she, he, they is by recognizing what s/he/they is not! But what happens when you identify yourself with another or when you behave differently than you typically act causing you to appear as other to yourself?

Reality is not a matter of consensus. As the author Johann von Goethe (1749-1832) said, “Behaviour is the mirror in which everyone shows their image.”

The Good Humor Man
Enjoy good humor and Jonathan’s wisdom.

Sociologist Niklas Luhmann (1927-1998) said that there is no reality without the colour of our wishes and fear. “Reality is what one does not perceive when one perceives it” (source).

Your mission, should you choose to accept it (hear that music!), is to start a nuclear fusion of enjoyment worldwide (with or without ice cream). You can perceive reality differently by consciousness-raising right here.

Right now.

It’s a gentle click of understanding when you enjoy reality imagined.

Enjoy a Clear Vision

love is blue

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

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

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

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

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

know thyself
Spirit in liquid form.

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

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

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

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

But here you are. How’d that happen?

you are here2

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

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

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

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

subjectivity

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

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

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

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

Tony
Don’t Stop Believing” (Journey).

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bring it on.

Enjoy Your Self Feeling Infinitely Subjectively Groovy

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

There’s a battle going on.

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

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

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

And then you die.

elephantBizarro.jpg

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Self-awareness and Subtle Enjoyment

subtle

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

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

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

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

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

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

And so we begin. Cue music: “Flying.”

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

if-i-die2

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

is-that-me
By Robert Crumb.

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

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

Think catch and release fishing.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Go! Be subtle. And then, enjoy it.

The Art Of Enjoying

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Here we go. Cue music: “Flash”. There’s only one thing to do. You know what it is. You know what you want.

Don’t you?

cocktailsWhat is the one thing you want? What element is missing? Say the first thing that comes to mind.

Is it money? love? leisure? comfort? freedom? a good job? better health? a better attitude? a friend? a new car? a martini? drugs? travel? a new house? nicer clothes? a cabin in the woods? good sex? Is it peace? a family? beauty? Is it wisdom? good food? excitement? adventure? contentment?

What is it?

diana-rossLife is epitomized by two questions: What do you do when you feel too much? What do you do when you feel too little?

In 1975 Diana Ross sang the questions most of us ask ourselves at least once, “Do you know where you’re going to? Do you like the things that life is showing you? Where are you going to, do you know? Do you get what you’re hoping for? (“Theme from Mahogany”).

freddy-fenderDo you know what you want? When you lay down your sweet head, how do you know you haven’t just “Wasted Days and Wasted Nights” like Freddy Fender?

Kathy Caprino, a women’s coach of success (not failure), wrote that of all things professional women (as opposed to amateur) say they want, the #1 mentioned missing element is… Happiness.  

face-and-shadowCaprino writes, “Happiness continually escapes them because, first, they don’t really understand exactly what will make them happy. They just don’t know themselves well at all. Secondly, they search outside themselves for happiness – in a job, a husband, a family, a title, a paycheck, a fancy house. As a result, Happiness is constantly out of their control and a perpetual moving target that never stands still long enough for them to grasp.”

“I’m not saying that these things don’t bring happiness – of course, they can. The key point is that if everything you’re searching for remains outside of you, you’ll always be scrambling and chasing” (source).

We’re told that the biggest challenge is to know what we want, but that’s like the line from Pink Floyd, “If you don’t eat your meat” (if you don’t know what you want), “you can’t have any pudding” (you can’t be happy). (“Another Brick In The Wall“)

It’s a vicious circle. You have to know what you want to get it and if you don’t, you’re told, “Want harder! Dream bigger!” It leaves you somewhere between a rock (wanting) and a hard place (getting).

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Nobel Prize winner Doris Lessing (1919-2013) wrote, “Do you know what people really want? Everyone, I mean. Everybody in the world is thinking: I wish there was just one other person I could really talk to, who could really understand me, who’d be kind to me” (The Golden Notebook, 1962).

hi-how-are-youAviator and author, Ann Morrow Lindbergh (1906-2001) spoke of surrendering to one person in conversation, “It is not restful, it is not possible to talk wholeheartedly to more than one person at a time. You can’t really talk with a person unless you surrender to them…

Cheap Trick sang of surrender, “Mommy’s all right. Daddy’s all right. They just seem a little weird. Surrender. Surrender. But don’t give yourself away. Hey, heeeeeey.” Sarah McLachlan sang of surrender too, but hers was sweet and all she had to give.

The art of enjoyment is to surrender to what is and waste time freely.

'Wait I can see something moving and it's waving a white flag!'News today is gone tomorrow. Resist what is and happiness eludes. Wishing something different smothers enjoyment. Wanting comes up with a plan and getting is a die cast. It’s like the Zen story of the old man who falls in a river and is taken over a waterfall.

dice.gifOnlookers fear for his life but the old man comes out unharmed. Asked how he survived he says, “I accommodated myself to the water, not the water to me. Without thinking, I allowed myself to be shaped by it. Plunging into the swirl, I came out with the swirl. This is how I survived” (source).

Enjoyment is a flowing kindness. If thoughts are demanding, listen without acting because thoughts can trick you into believing it’s your self wanting the best for you (see: “It’s not me”).

To be with reality without wanting is to enjoy peace like Otis Redding. “So I’m just gonna sit on the dock of the bay. Watching the tide roll away. Ooo, I’m sittin’ on the dock of the bay. Wastin’ time.

time-flies

People flounder for meaning, but as Charlie Chaplin said, “What do you want a meaning for? Life is a desire, not a meaning” (My Life in Pictures, 1974). Whatever you do wastes time. The trick is to waste time with abandon.

Be easy with what is and accept change as enjoyment.

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See: It’s A Wonderful Life scene

If life is a desire you can’t help, stop expecting. It leaves you open for disappointment. You might even wish you’d never been born like George Bailey in the movie It’s A Wonderful Life. 

Speaking of which, the philosopher David Benatar argues in Better Never to Have Been: The Harm of Coming into Existence that a hypothetical person’s non-existence is better than an actual person’s (source).

Benatar hears aBaby Elephant Walkand lays it out thus:

baby-elephant-walk1) If a person exists, pain is bad.
2) If a person exists, pleasure is good.
3) A non-existing person has an absence of pain (that’s good).
4) A non-existing person has an absence of pleasure (not bad).

To Benatar there’s an asymmetry in favour of nonexistence:

scenario-a-and-b

But if Benatar didn’t exist, how could he muse on this? Nonexistence is not an experience. Would Frankenstein rather not live because of pain in his thumb? If the blind man didn’t exist, how could he enjoy a cigar?

Benatar could learn from Frankenstein and Helen Keller (1880-1968) who wrote: “Everything has its wonders even darkness and silence, and I learn whatever state I may be in, therein to be content.”

If you’re made of corpses or are deaf and blind, at least by existing you experience something! If you can read this, you’ve been procreated. Enjoy it! The art of enjoyment includes singing Saba Lou’s song, “Early to bed. Early to rise. Picking my nose. Wasting my time. These are my good habits. These are my bad habits. But I never stop feelin’ fine” (“Good Habits (and bad)“).

Enjoy any given day (even a bad one). Take a deep breath. What have you got to lose?

Enjoy An Interlude

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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.

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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.

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Enjoy A Perfect World

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Imagine you’re on a highway. Up ahead is a storm. It’s a big one. You want to get where you’re going, but should you turn around?

Before deciding what to do, you stop to enjoy the view. The air is earthy. Electrified. Colours vivid: dark green, dark blue, pink, distant purple.

a-perfect-world
Casper doesn’t want to go out and boo people. He want’s to be friendly,”  from There’s Good Boos Tonight.

Driving for hours in a time machine car has put you in a trance. The road ahead has taken you into the future and left the past in a rear-view mirror (see: Kevin Costner explain In a Perfect World).

lightning2The sky rumbles and ruminates upon your fate as you stand bewildered. A thundering song rocks your brain: “I was caught in the middle of a railroad track (thunder!). I looked round and I knew there was no turning back (thunder!)” (“Thunderstruck,” AC/DC).

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Source

Between waking and sleeping and thinking and doing you breathe deeply. The storm edges closer but there is no hurry, no tension, no mental chatter. You are as loose as a wet noodle as you listen to sound come and go. Your face is stupidly slack. Vision widens. Inside the car the Clash asks your question, “Should I stay or should I go?”

It’s perfect.

Everything is just so: earth, sky, air, body. The voice within goes quiet when you touch reality. Judgement: suspended! Impatience: gone! A childlike freedom hits. You’re like a bird perched on a branch giving way, but why worry?

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Life is forever asking: What are you going to do? (see also: The Joy of Living and Everyday Ecstasy).

Tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow,” said Macbeth immersed in a future that didn’t exist. Life is “a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing,” but like a lot of people living fictional lives, he confused thinking with reality. That’s probably where the whole notion of a spirit within came from.

a-murderer-will-kill-youWe trick ourselves into thinking there must be a watcher for something to be watched, that what happens now follows the past, but it’s the other way round: the past follows from what’s happening now.

It’s a head-game we play in our storied lives where actions have responses and character is revealed.

Even though we know actors are pretending in a show, we pretend with them. Management (MGMT) was correct, “We are fated to pretend” (“Time To Pretend“).

wantMost stories go want-obstacle-action-response (repeat) – outcome (when the want is gone or resources are depleted). That’s the beat of a hero’s journey. Behind it all there’s an underlying message or “big idea.”

What we want associates with what is lacking: a hungry person wants food, a thirsty person wants water, a prisoner wants freedom, a sick person wants health, a cheated person wants justice, a bored person wants excitement, a weak person wants power and so on ad infinitum. 

Wanting never ends.

A person who has everything probably wants more. It’s hard to imagine that you can contemplate your way into a mental state aligned with nature and make wanting and getting one and the same.

If asked, “What do you want?” what would you say? Is it food, shelter, money, sex, health, longevity, love, happiness, freedom? contentment, excitement, enlightenment… a stupendous high? What?

All of the above?

While you might feel stressed and worthless as you try to achieve, if you imagine achieving whatever it is, there could be a point afterwards when the achievement isn’t that important. When that happens, you realize that you’re the same person you’ve always been.

Within the life you lead, you will be about as happy as you choose to be. No matter how fantastic the achievement, eventually it will pass and become old news. Look at how research into lottery winners shows they’re not much happier than those who didn’t win (source).

Of the 108 billion people who have lived and the 7.5 billion swarming today (according to the World population Clock), there are just as many people with just as many problems and wants as ever. At the end of the last day without understanding, a billionaire and pauper will tremble naked and alone under their clothes.

In a world where automation replaces people, in the not too distant future half the people will need something to do. That’s when a philosophy of enjoyment will be critical.

george
“It’s not a lie if you believe it.”

Our storied brains help us enjoy despite self-destruction as a species. And yet, if you want to get everything you want, the answer isn’t in satisfaction of urges.

It’s the opposite.

Like Jerry Seinfeld said to George Castanza, “If every instinct you have is wrong, then the opposite would have to be right.” “Yes!” says George. “I will do the opposite!” (see: George does the opposite).

water flowing.gif

Imagine looking at yourself from ten feet above. Feel aware of yourself in all that you see. Breathe consciously. When you’re done reading, don’t do anything. Just pause. Look around. See yourself seeing. This is it. There isn’t any more. Your heart is beating. Love what you see. It’s a perfect world. Sense everything in its entirety and flow with what is. Feel purely natural like a planet going around the sun without any sort of control, force, or attempt to revolve.

All insides have outsides. Yours doesn’t end with the skin. Hear Bert’s “African Beat” and know the world is your body! Engage in spontaneous effortless movement like a stream and what you want and get are made one and the same.

Enjoy! Enjoy! Enjoy.

Beautiful Enjoyable Virtue With More Cowbell

autumn-trees

Jonathan Edwards (1703-1758) was a hell-fire preacher and philosopher. His book, The Nature of True Virtue (1765), is a hard book to read (without falling asleep), but what he said in his wordy way is that virtue, a.k.a. moral excellence, decency, and courage is a kind of sixth sense like Spider-Man’s spidey sense except instead of sensing imminent danger, one senses a beautiful feeling of virtue.

Virtue is “founded in sentiment and not in reason,” said Edwards meaning: virtue is a beautiful feeling. If you enjoy strolling a tree-lined path, you don’t need reason to explain beauty to you. You know its beautiful because you feel it! Virtue is like that. It’s something “immediately pleasant to the mind.”

jonathan_edwards
“…virtue most essentially consists in love…”  Jonathan Edwards

Edwards may have been indecisive about what to wear, “Should I wear the black jacket or the black jacket?” but when it came to virtue, he was never conflicted because virtue is not relative to culture. Virtue is universal. It may not come to everyone (even though it could), but with genuine concern for what is good, virtue has already come.

Edwards (a.k.a Mr. Bluesky) called true virtue the “benevolence of being” or “beauty of the heart.” The heart being symbolic home to emotions of love, affection, and courage and where people say they feel a heartwarming sensation (as opposed indigestion).

If you are touched by an insurance commercial and “believe in good,” that is true virtue. It isn’t beautiful like a flower, house or body. It isn’t a thing. Virtue is feeling beauty in good doings.

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Taking an opposite stance to “feelings, nothing more than feelings,” (not the Offspring version) is Ayn Rand (1905-1982). To her, reality is exclusively perceived by the physical senses and only REASON can take sensory data and arrive at objectively valid conclusions (source). Her philosophy, Objectivism, is based on reason, egoism, individualism and capitalism.

aynrandreason
“Money is the barometer of a society’s virtue,” Ayn Rand.

With Rand, prickly analytical type people are either critical (Was Ayn Rand Evil?) or evangelical (The Atlas Society).

Rand argued that morality is a code of values that guide the choices we make which determine the course of our lives (source), but we’ve been offered two false alternatives: be moral – sacrifice yourself to others, or be selfish – sacrifice others to yourself (source). Which did she choose?

Be selfish. 

Edwards probably wouldn’t buy Rand’s “The Virtue of Selfishness.” He believed in feeling beyond reasoning, but he did say that some virtue comes from self-love (even if it isn’t true virtue).

The Golden Rule for example (treat others as you wish to be treated) treats virtue as an exchange for mutual benefit (reciprocity), but when treated poorly, do people say, “That’s OK,” (true virtue) or do they say, “How dare you treat me this way?” and demand retribution?

goldenwizard10

Cue music. Edwards said that “self-love” is to feel “one with one’s self” and true love (like parent for child), is to feel a union of the heart with others: a kind of enlargement of the mind, whereby it so extends itself as to take others into a man’s self.”

In eastern traditions, feeling separated from the earth and each other is a trick. Our brains put things into intellectual boxes that we label, but we are all a self and an other to each other and everything goes together: back with front, sound with hearing, inside with outside.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And remember: Living in peace is better than resting!

The Enjoyment Argument

girl tornado

Starting the day with an argument isn’t fun. Maybe some people enjoy a rip-roaring argument in the morning (sets the tone for a rip-roaring day!), but most people don’t. A bad argument can feel like you are “In the Hall of the Mountain King.”

Arguments can feel threatening. Threats can activate the fight or flight response, like the song: “The foot bone is connected to the leg bone. The leg bone is connected to the knee bone…” except it isn’t bones connecting; it’s brain chemicals and physical effects.

brain-is-built-to-changeWhen we argue, we sing the “Fight or Flight Song” (set to the tune of the Delta Rhythm Boys’ “Dry Bones”): “The amygdala is connected to the hypothalamus. The hypothalamus is connected to the pituitary gland. The pituitary gland is connected to the adrenal medulla…”  and then it’s: “Release the hounds!

the-houndsOr rather, “Release the hormones!” First adrenaline then cortisol causing: “increased heart rate, bladder relaxation, tunnel vision, shaking, dilated pupils, flushed face, dry mouth, slow digestion and hearing loss” (source).

Great for running from killer air-planes when you need bladder relaxation, but not when arguing about money, underpants, the existence of God or the Big Bang Theory.

fight-or-flight-2

We can try to stick to facts, but emotions get in. A rock and roll philosopher can be left feeling somewhere between the Rolling Stones’ “Paint It Black”: “No colour anymore!” (see also orchestral version) and Annie Lennox’s “Why”: “This boat is sinking.

Academics, Mercier and Sperber, argue in the “Argumentative Theory” that arguments aren’t about getting at the truth. They’re about winning!

winnerDr. Jonathan Haidt said of the theory, “Reasoning was not designed to pursue the truth. Reasoning was designed by evolution to help us win arguments” (source).

Bias and lack of logic are social adaptations.

They enable one group to defeat another or, as George Carlin put it, “The problem with the world is that the intelligent people are full of doubt, while the stupid people are full of confidence.” Or, as Patricia Cohen from the New York Times put it, “Certitude works, however sharply it may depart from the truth” (source).

I'm right you're wrong.jpg
“I’m smart; you’re dumb. I’m big; you’re little. I’m right; you’re wrong!” (scene from Matilda)

no-it-isntArguments can become loops of back-and-forth like Monty Python’s “Argument Clinic”. Reason is argumentative and people become skilled arguers, but skilled arguers are not after the truth: they want a better argument to support their views!

yes-it-isReason is responsible for some fantastic achievements, but as Mercier and Sperber point out, we should be cautious with these accomplishments since “failures are often less visible” (source).

Some people blame emotion

Researchers at University College London say that rational individuals “can override their emotional responses” (source).

picasso-and-chagal-emotion
Paintings by Picasso and Chagall showing emotion.

The implication being that rational individuals are unemotional and therefore better able to make rational decisions, but (and here’s the kicker) people left without emotion from a brain injury are unable to make decisions (source) because reasoning is full of emotion (source).

reasonable_man_1Thoughts are representations of reality. Thoughts accepted as true become beliefs. Once a belief is accepted, it is established as a fact that is rarely questioned.

What separates a reasonable person from an emotional person isn’t feeling or not feeling. It’s the quality of those thoughts tied to those emotions (source).  The more we believe we know something, the more we ignore contrary information and look for information to confirm our beliefs (confirmation bias).

What we believe is like our personal operating system or window through which we evaluate everything we see.

we-see-as-we-are

Phenomena comes in two types. One type can be verified (ice is cold). The other type can’t be verified (do good and good things happen). Verified things are scientific. Unverified things are philosophical and religious.

morgan-freeman-2Of things that can’t be verified, if it is accepted as self-evidently true, it is religion.

Beliefs carve grooves in our brains. Some beliefs start as theories developed from assumptions, observation and deduction. Some beliefs grow from emotional viewpoints that feel logical.

logicalIn the “Logical Song” Roger Hodgson sings of being taught to be logical: “When I was young, it seemed that life was so wonderful, a miracle, oh it was beautiful, magical. And all the birds in the trees, they’d be singing so happily, oh joyfully, oh playfully watching me. But then they sent me away to teach me how to be sensible, logical, oh, responsible, practical…clinical, intellectual, cynical” (Supertramp, 1979).

In the song Hodgson wonders who he is and therein is the key. What happens when you notice yourself and what you see?

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Poetical philosopher Henry David Thoreau (1817-1862) said that he not only knew himself as “the scene of thoughts and affections,” but he knew a “doubleness” to being where he could, “stand remote from myself as from another” (Walden and Other Writings, 1950, p. 122). It is from this “doubleness” that we too step back to see how beliefs pull strings.

pinocchioSome beliefs shaped from childhood experiences can block one’s ability to be happy and free, but as Jiminy Cricket advised, “Always let your conscience be your guide!”

That’s especially true when it comes to enjoyment.

In adolescence we start believing in unhappy thinking and consider self-interest as the primary motivator of human behaviour but in so doing the carefree passion that was once natural and easy in childhood gets squashed by social expectations, subtle shame and criticism.

As comedian George Carlin (1937-2008) observed, “Scratch any cynic and you will find a disappointed idealist.” Mix one part disillusion with two parts pessimism and you get cynicism, but as Nana Grizol sang it, “Cynicism isn’t wisdom, it’s a lazy way to say that you’ve been burned” (“Cynicism”).

Profound enjoyment combines two awarenesses: an awareness of yourself: “This is me! I’m incredulous! I AM ALIVE! CAN YOU BELIEVE IT?” and an awareness of your immediate surroundings wide-eyed in wonder accepting everything as mysterious and better than imagined.

This is when your face goes slack and you see from the sides. It’s when you feel an incomprehensibly beautiful feeling inside.

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If this philosophy is to ring true for you, it will depend upon your preexisting beliefs and ability to lighten up.

The light simply won’t get in if you block the way.

Enjoyment is balancing in a tree. It is imagining yourself as the tree seeing itself feeling the existence of being and the sky above.

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John Keats in a tree and an “Ode to a Nightingale.”

The Men Without Hats advised everybody to look at their hands (“Safety Dance”), so you do, and there, like the poet Walt Whitman (1819-1892) who also looked at his hands and saw a hair on the back that was, “just as curious as any revelation,” so too do you.

im-not-contained-between-my-hatYou have The Cure when on Friday you love everything (“Friday I’m in Love”) and, like The Kings, you “mobilize some laughs with just one call” and let “the beat go on” (“The Beat Goes Om”).

And on. And on.

Now Enjoy yourself. That’s an order.

What have you got to lose?