The Point of Enjoyment

arrows pointing
“If you don’t know where you are going, any road will get you there.” ~ Lewis Carroll

A point, whether of an idea, joke or tapered object, is always arrived at in the immediate. You get the point when you get the point. Even if you don’t get the point right away, when you do get it, you get it at a precise moment.

do you see the point

In the game of darts you get points by getting the point of your dart to stick to a point aimed at, but over and above the mechanics of the game the real point is to enjoy it.

But why? Why do we enjoy what we do?

lawn-darts
Lawn Darts was enjoyed in the 1980s: 6,700 people were treated in hospital and three children died.

Science says that enjoyment is a matter of brain chemistry. A characteristic of people with depression and mental illness is anhedonia: an inability to gain pleasure from normally pleasurable experiences.

stuber
Art by Murfish.

Brain expert Dr. Stuber PhD might say (and did), “GABA neurons located in the VTA are just microns away from dopamine and are negative regulators of dopamine function… A dysfunction in these GABA neurons might potentially underlie different aspects of neuropsychiatric illness, such as depression” (UNC Healthcare).

Psychologists treat happiness as if it’s mysterious. They recommend working on a meaningful career, spending time with friends, savoring the day and so on, but happiness doesn’t come from outside.

Assuming your GABA neurons aren’t buzz-killing dopamine release, there are as many ways to enjoy as there are people but it boils down to one thing: We enjoy what we enjoy (because we enjoy it).

It’s circular – like Donna Summer singing, “Love to love you baby.”

circular-reasoning

X is true because of Y. Y is true because of X. We dance because it’s enjoyable. It’s enjoyable because we dance. We play to have fun and have fun when we play. If we’re forced to play, it isn’t play anymore. It’s emotion first, then realization and confabulation.

sprockets
Now we dance.

If the point of enjoyment is to enjoy, the question is: What is the meaning of true enjoyment? This was asked in Quora (a question-and-answer site) and people responded. (Note: names have been changed to protect the anonymous).

Tommy said enjoyment is, “Celebrating life, not one’s life; just life!”  Dieter said enjoyment is, “Living the moment.

live-the-moment

Sally listed enjoyments: “Looking at the smile of a new born baby. Eating Mango by plucking and stealing it from an orchard. Getting wet in rain without bothering about getting wet.”

captain obvious
Simon says, “Enjoy!”

Simon said, “Everyone has different meaning of enjoyment! They have different source of enjoyment but for me … it’s something which I do for myself!”

And there it is.

Maybe there’s a little Simon in all of us. There’s just something about one’s self that makes it special to one’s self. To you, there’s no you quite like you.

Psychologists say it’s good to love one’s self. Why, if there was no you – no you as a living organism with thoughts and feelings in an environment – there would be…what?

absolutely_nothing

But vain self-importance blocks the flow of enjoyment like crimping a garden hose. When things don’t go the way we want, we’re unhappy so the trick is to loosen up and enjoy what you get (see post: Is it serious?).

garden-hoseWe have a limited idea of who we are. Yes, we are each a bag of skin crowned by a cranium, but do we end in skin? What about air in lungs and energy from the sun in our bellies? Going into atoms we see nothing there – just energy waves. We’re energy waves. Not that this matters when you stub your toe, but a “hard” world is softened with a realization of how interconnected and diaphanous (light and insubstantial) this all is.

Philosopher Alan Watts saw interconnections, saying, “where there are no flowers there are no bees, and where there are no bees there are no flowers. They’re really one organism” (Conversation With Myself).

bee-and-flower

A dandelion seed has fine hairs allowing it to ride on the wind. The wind is, in a manner of speaking, a part of itself. Why do advertisers associate their product with love and happiness? It isn’t the product in itself that we want: it’s the feeling the product is said to impart.

happy3What you love is what you enjoy. Enjoyment is a one step process: Express love for something and you are happy.

Author of The Element (2009), Ken Robinson, said, “To be in your element you have to love it… Being good at something is not a good enough reason to do it…It’s about finding the thing that resonates within you most fully” (see Ken Robinson video).

There’s a little verse from an ancient Hindu text called the Rig Veda that tells of the tree of life and two birds. One bird eats the tree’s fruit (some good some bad) and the other watches. They represent two aspects of ourselves. We are the bird eating – we participate in the action of life (killing and eating), experiencing joy and sorrow – but in contemplation, we are the second bird who watches. The trick is to be aware of the second bird watching the first bird participating.

two-birds

You walk into a forest and suddenly you are struck by the wonder of this place. You feel the mystery of being and life itself. A cedar waxwing flies by. That such a creature should be there! That the universe should be here! That’s something that excites you to wonder.

And enjoy.

Advertisements

Enjoy An Insight


Ever have one of those days? Everybody does. It’s a real bummer of a day (bummer is hippie speak for misfortune). It’s one of those days when you say to yourself, “Why me?” or “Why now?”

that's a bummerYou’re up before the sun “working in a coal mine, going down down,” and someone says, “Lord! I am soooo tired. How long can this go on?” Not that you actually work in a coal mine (unless you do). We’re talking metaphor. We all work in a coal mine of one kind or another. Even those who don’t work, work in a coal mine of a kind.

It’s on a “one of those days” day that you look for a sign that there’s more to life. Not that you’re superstitious. It’s just that when life is boring, pointless and terrible, most of us look for a sign that there’s more to it. Even those who don’t believe in miracles look for them.

coal miner's helmet2But few people see signs these days and those who do are maligned. We might crave a vision but all we have is TV. It’s not because the signs aren’t there that we don’t see them.

We don’t see them because we’re either not paying attention or we lack imagination. It takes a special kind of sensitivity to subtlety for a person to see signs and put it together.

In 1989 two math professors wrote “Methods for Studying Coincidences” in which they outlined four sources for most coincidences: 1) a hidden cause, 2) the psychology of a person, including memory and perception, 3) multiplicity of endpoints, including the counting of “close” or nearly alike events as if they were identical, and 4) the law of truly large numbers – given enough events, almost any coincidence is bound to occur.

They found that most puzzling coincidences arise in the mind of the observer. Therein is the magic! That’s the answer! You alone see the sign! You create magic by tuning into it!

coincidence
Coincidence?

If you pay attention and if you lighten up and if you go for silly walks now and then you will become familiar with wonderful oddities (for complete instructions see: Ministry of Silly Walks) .

Call it coincidence. Call it ironic, moronic or divine. Call it just one of those things. Beyond rationalization, confabulation and logical explanation, there are times when weird things happen and you are in a perfect position to see them (see earlier post: “Enjoy What Is And Take What Comes“).

strange
The Slant.

Let’s say you’re on your way to get your blood tested. As you peddle past a pretty storybook house with a fountain, you’re reminded of fairy-land pictures you’ve seen. The thought occurs to you that you and everyone you know will soon be dead.

It sounds gloomy, but at this moment it isn’t. Knowing that everything you know and have ever known will soon be gone has a way of putting things in perspective (see earlier post “Enjoy A Bad Day“).

chickendeathhome

What’s the worse case scenario in any situation? You could die. But you know that’s going to happen anyway so, as Dire Straits put it, “Why worry?

street-sign-spinnerNo sooner do you have this realization when you see a sign. But it isn’t the sign that catches your attention. It’s the sign spinner. Stopped at a streetlight, you watch the sign spinner. Suddenly life doesn’t seem so bad.

And you hear music coming from somewhere. It’s Tommy James and the Shondells singing Draggin’ the Line which goes, “Makin’ a livin’ the old, hard way.

art_purpleflowers_2Takin’ and givin’ my day by day.
I dig snow and rain and the bright sunshine…
My dog Sam eats purple flowers.
Ain’t got much, but what we got’s ours…
I feel fine!
I’m talkin’ ’bout peace of mind.
I’m gonna take my time.
I’m gettin’ the good sign…”

fountain-05What you thought was going to be “one of those days” changes into something beautiful when you open yourself to connection and possibility.

Jump forward: now you’re in a lab cubicle waiting for a nurse to take your blood. You’re listening to the Moody Blues sing “Tuesday Afternoon” and you think, “That’s funny. It is a Tuesday afternoon!”

The nurse comes in and prepares the syringe. You avert your eyes and on the wall you see a picture of a fountain. It looks like the fountain you saw earlier by the storybook house that reminded you of pictures that you once saw of a fairyland of love. They say that fountains symbolize joy and peace and water is the sign of calmness. All you know is that you like water fountains.

You may look back on your life like a Dickens’ novel. Life seems planned but little accidental meetings and experiences turn out to be main features of the plot. At this minute, looking around at the world as you do, you suddenly have an insight.

You marvel at the wonder of life and in so doing, enjoy it.

 

Enjoy the Reality of Reality

gate.jpgAs Sandy Nelson put it in in the 1961 hit “Let There Be Drums,” there’s reality and there’s the reality of reality.

Reality is the beat. It’s the world as you see it. It’s not real in the dictionary sense of “occurring in fact; not imagined or supposed” because we each see the world a bit differently based on how we think about it.

For example: A couple stops to look at cows. One person is a sweet city woman (like the song). She says, “Cows! Aren’t they cute?” The second person has cow experience and says, “Yeah, they’re cute until one steps on your foot.” Same cows, different reality.

One person sees potato salad and salivates, another sees it and cringes. Same potato salad, different reality.

when potato salad goes badIt’s because we each see through a mental window of our own making. From this self-window the world is negotiated. We look for advantages. We envy. We see faults. We worry. Our world is decorated with self-created irritations and we feel different and alone within our self-made, self-identity.

umbrella

But it’s easy to break that self-window. Just slip off that self-made identity with a shrug of your shoulders. Let self-concern and opinion go quiet and you’ll look around like a baby and feel that subtle feeling. It’s a feeling of awe. You notice colours and textures more. Silence sounds more silent. You feel ecologically aware when you enter a reality that’s all too beautiful.

Shift from thinking about the world as self-interest sees it to experiencing it with your five senses plus one more: Amazement. The games Mel Tormé sang about can continue, but you don’t care (see related post: Horizons, Games, Connections & Enjoyment) because you see through the games and enjoy them for what they are.

half-car
Reality “As Is”.

Most of the time we take what we see for granted, but then, in an emergency or during a profound moment of awareness, when reality isn’t resisted or judged and it’s taken “as is,” the reality of reality hits you like a beautiful dream.

With this gentle shift in looking, you enjoy beauty, pathos and humour. You love almost everything and you enjoy humility because “you,” as you normally think of yourself in a competitive world, are gone.

30-As-Seen-On-TV

But wait! There’s more!

This can be tested. Prove it to yourself with direct experience. Every now and then stop what you’re doing and look up. Look around. Listen. That’s it. Don’t do anything. Go perfectly still like a show room dummy. Take a deep breath and observe. See yourself seeing. Notice thoughts thoughting. Watch what happens. Look at where you are and say to yourself, “I am aware.”

And you are.

Because it isn’t what you see, it’s how you see. That’s what unshaven mystics, romantics and drummers have been sayings for years. Perceiving the reality of reality is like being in a mixed quantum state of moving and not moving at the same time.

drumIn quantum theory there’s a phenomenon known as “superposition” from which it’s possible for the same particle to be doing two contradictory things simultaneously (Scientists supersize quantum mechanics).

You’re like that particle. A particle can be moving and stationary at the same time until an outside force acts on it and then in an instant the particle chooses one of two contradictory positions. Similarly, reality is perceived by you as it affects you AND you are a reality perceiving. The trick is to go into “superposition.”

ice creamThink of a time when you felt a feeling of love, of beauty, of understanding, of oneness with everything and everyone.

Sublime feelings like this come out of the blue like the sky above when you enjoy the reality of reality.

Maybe you’ve felt it while sitting alone beside a lake or while walking in a forest or while eating ice cream that you found. It’s when your senses are heightened and worries vanish.

Thurston_the_Great_MagicianIt’s like we’ve been hypnotized by a magician (our self). He snaps his fingers and says, “Wake up. Look around.” And you do. No longer is reality filtered by fear and desire. It’s direct. What you see blows your mind.

In a state of intense consciousness everything is poignantly lovely. There’s a beautiful ordinariness to everything.

Separations dissolve. There are no faults and no thoughts of self. You understand. You are free and unafraid. You do your best without thought for result and let what happens, happen.

It’s like going into a trance while walking in a forest or driving in a car at night. It’s a total presence in a moment of heightened awareness without expectation or want.

In a self-perceived reality one must be smart, tough or lucky. In this self-created reality there are sharks and dragons glorified on TV by their dollars, possessions and arrogance and there are self-righteous people looking down on others from a vantage point of belief.

The sky may be blue, but it’s not impressive to you if you’re like the old man who sees fireworks on the fourth of July in Fort Collins Colorado and says, “If you’ve seen fireworks once, you’ve seen them all.”

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

We let our senses go dull and interpret the world like a movie rated from one to five based on convenience and comfort, but if you want to feel something beautiful, watch opinions come and go without clinging to them like a creeper to a gate.

Enjoy the reality of reality by getting out of your way. Breathe into what is and go swimming away into the reality of reality because you already know how it ends.

Come To Your Senses

quizzing glass
Two guys in a bar circa 1774 by Gabriel Bray (1750–1823).

Two guys are sitting in the Ye Olde Trip to Jerusalem pub, Nottingham, England. The time is 8:44 PM on a rainy Wednesday, May 4th, 1774. One man, named Humphrey, is wearing a dandy hat and holding a quizzing glass to his eye. Humphrey is rich, clever and bored. Beside Humphrey is Marcus. Marcus has no hat or quizzing glass. They call Marcus a fool but praise and blame don’t worry him. Marcus is not rich, clever or bored. Unlike Humphrey who has everything but contentment, Marcus has nothing but contentment.

quizzer
An 18th century quizzing glass or “quizzer” is a sign of wealth.

“Why are we here, Marcus?” asks Humphrey. “I’ve studied religion, philosophy, science. I’ve tried and I’ve tried but I can’t get no satisfaction! Are we here to enjoy (occasionally) and suffer (primarily) and then die?”

“Yes,” says Marcus. “Isn’t it great?”

No, thinks Humphrey. People are right. You are a fool.

“We are here, my dear Humphrey,” says Marcus smiling (almost exactly like a fool), “to enjoy the last of Brother Lionel’s winter ale.”

tankard of aleThere are men at the next table yelling. Humphrey leans close. “Look at them,” he says. (Marcus complies.) “As long as they are busy and entertained, they will be good but tonight these men will drink and look for a fight. Why? Boredom! And why? Because life has no meaning.”

Marcus looks long at Humphrey. (Someone drops a plate. Smash!) “You my friend,” says Marcus, “are in a muddle.” A muddle? thinks Humphrey. “Yes. A muddle,” says Marcus. “You want to do something but you think there’s nothing to do so you think, ‘What’s the point?’ and conclude: there isn’t one. But what you don’t see is that the point of life (Marcus points) is always arrived at in the immediate moment.”

Humphrey doesn’t move.

HumphreyMarcus holds up a flower. Men at the next table mimic. “What is this?” asks Marcus. A flower, thinks Humphrey. “Is this flower a thing?” Yes. It is a thing (weed actually). “What is a thing?” A thing is an object. “Am I a thing?” No. You are a man. “Why am I not a thing and this flower is?”

Humphrey isn’t sure (maybe Marcus is a thing).

Dandylion“What is the meaning of this thing?” asks Marcus of the flower. It has no meaning. “Would you agree that the purpose of this flower is to flower?” Possibly. “Could the meaning of a bird be that it birds?” Birds bird. Flowers flower. You, you. I get it. “Does not a blue sky mean what it is?” Humphrey isn’t sure. “The trouble is that we word the world. We think ourselves separate. We thing it, or, ‘thing-K’ it.” Marcus emphasizes the hard K sound.

Humphrey rolls his eyes.

ye-olde-trip-to-jerusalem-city-break-nottingham“When we were children, the world was what I’d call spiritual. We didn’t name. We didn’t categorize. We didn’t analyze. We enjoyed. One star was not better than another. We ran around without thinking, ‘Why are we running around?’ It’s like we were in Eden – not the Biblical place – but the feeling of delight, contentment, happiness and bliss.” 

tree3

“We were happy running around naked until we started to notice how we appeared to other selves who might judge. We felt self-conscious. Afraid. Anxious. As we got older we were no longer in the moment. We took ourselves out of time and place and located ourselves behind the eyes. We think of ourselves as within the brain and become like islands, separate and alone. We think there’s a thinker in there and the thinker is separate from the thought and the feeler is separate from the feeling.”

18th century serpent_playerBAM! Two tankards of ale are slammed onto the table by a beautiful barmaid. They pick up their drinks and enjoy as a musician plays chant tunes on a bass wind instrument called a serpent. “To enjoy or not to enjoy, that is the question,” says Marcus. “Enjoyment is a matter of coming to your senses, literally.”

“Interesting. We thing the world, so what do I do? Stop thing-ing?” asks Humphrey.

“No. Don’t do anything. Do nothing! Absolutely nothing – don’t even analyse. There’s nothing you can do that you’re not doing already. That’s the point. The world can’t stop what it’s doing. It is what it’s doing. Same as you.”

barmaid
Hannah Longworth, barmaid of the year 1774.

“The trick,” says Marcus, “is to pay attention like a child who is experiencing the world for the first time. To enter the kingdom of heaven on earth become like a child again. The world is not complicated. There are no problems. If you don’t believe me, try it. Nothing is stopping you from being vividly aware. You’re already having a direct experience, why not make it visionary? Start by not doing anything….: Go!

Humphrey looks at Marcus. Marcus looks at Humphrey. They sit perfectly still for a long time and then, ever so slowly, in unison, they turn their heads in opposite directions. They pan the room with their eyes and take it all in.

MarcusThe feeling within Humphrey switches from boredom to…. a feeling of music 200 years in the future -a feeling of openness to what is. He noticed little things – like the way the ceiling reflected in a puddle on the table, the way the barmaid moved and the men at the next table. Everyone’s face was angelic. He felt no separation between himself and the world.

candle2Humphrey and Marcus finished their ale and parted. Humphrey said he’d never forget being intensely aware. He thanked Marcus for pointing out the obvious and for showing him how to enjoy. A few days later, Humphrey died of an abscessed tooth.

They say he died happy.

 

Reality And The Zone of Enjoyment

spring_time_churchyard.jpg
When it’s springtime in the  graveyard, the crocuses are in bloom (set to the tune of “When it’s springtime in the Rockies“)

Sometimes, reality isn’t so great. It isn’t everything. We want more. The world is a mess and getting messier still. Go to a zoo. You’ll see. Is it any wonder people seek escapes?

Reality is not, as they say, “a day at the beach.” Unless it is, and you do spend a day at the beach in which case the beach is probably polluted or littered with irritated egomaniacs getting sand in everything.

he loved the beach

As Tony Soprano would say, “Reality? Fuhgeddaboudit!” But Tony didn’t know about the ancient Greek philosopher Epicurus and his forty principle doctrines. Then again, even if a fictionalized TV gangster like Tony did read Epicurus, he wouldn’t get it. He’s too busy being Tony. Tony follows a script (like a lot of people).

forgetaboutit
“You know my feelings: Every day is a gift. It’s just, does it have to be a pair of socks?”

Reality is as we think it to be and people resist what they most need. We can read something smart, say, “Good one!” then go and do what we know shouldn’t be done.

To get what Epicurus said, go into a garden (real or imagined). Listen to the music of sound and look around like a child would.

An-Old-Fashioned-GardenTake a deep breath and sit calm and content without concern for those who would do you harm.

What most people don’t know – as they go around in a daze behind their wind-shield eyes – is that with a slight shift in attention, reality changes from the way we think it to be.

david puddy
Puddy staring on a plane scene.

In not doing we see what’s there. We hear what’s heard. We enjoy without expectation or defense mechanism like David Puddy in Seinfeld

Puddy is content to stare at the back of a seat. Such not-doing drives busy people crazy, but in not-doing anything you can enter a dimension of boredom beyond comprehension where everything is as it could be.

Revolver movie
“The greatest enemy will hide in the last place you would look” Julius Caesar, 75 BC.

Mental chatter is like a shadow that is, as Alexander sang of it in Truth (2011), “And everyday it’s trying to trick me into doing battle.” But the shadow battle is over when the ego con is revealed.

We go naturally good like the guy in the elevator scene in the movie Revolver (2005) who realizes that his fear is the result of lies he’s been telling himself.

broiled face
“Well, here you are” (Shell Silverstein).

In a zone of enjoyment, you can present your face to the world and say, “This is my face.”

You can be in chaos, in the dreariest or most beautiful place and it won’t matter. You’re impervious. The world is the way it is because it couldn’t be any other way. If the world could be different, it would.

We all do the best we can. When the best we can isn’t good, it’s because we couldn’t do better. If we could, we would. Reality is revealed by what we do. Potential is only imagined. When someone does something stupid, selfish, cruel or rude, they did what they did because they thought they should.

rocket lady small
Hope rockets eternal.

Epicurus (341-270 BC) said, “It is impossible to live a pleasant life without living wisely and honourably and justly, and it is impossible to live wisely and honourably and justly without living pleasantly. Whenever any one of these is lacking, when, for instance, the man is not able to live wisely, though he lives honourably and justly, it is impossible for him to live a pleasant life” (Principle Doctrines).

A PLEASANT LIFEIt’s like a three-legged stool: to live pleasantly – live honourably, wisely and justly; to live wisely – live honourably, pleasantly and justly.

As the world gets shaped in our image, we hardly notice its destruction. We have our hobbies, electronics, addictions and jobs. Some of us have self-control and those who don’t sometimes die a slow death clutching a sign in search of someone to help us from ourselves.

smile
A stoic who doesn’t know it.

Those who say, “What the hell!” can (figuratively speaking), release their egotistical beast to destroy its host (and anything else that’s vulnerable).

A person is the product of thought, heredity and capacity mixed with language and culture. (Love and spirit get lost when attention is on a bottom line.)

Language and culture gave us great things like law, science, ethics and philosophy, but language and culture can also make us victims. The key is in you as an individual.

infected
Culturally infected.

Novelist Aldous Huxley (1894-1963) said, “Most human beings have an almost infinite capacity to take things for granted” (Brave New World).

He also wrote, “There are quiet places also in the mind’, he said meditatively. ‘But we build bandstands and factories on them. Deliberately — to put a stop to the quietness. …” (Antic Hay, 1923).

joshua tree desert
“Now we will count to twelve and we will all keep still. For once on the face of the earth, let’s not speak in any language; let’s stop for one second, and not move our arms so much” (Keeping Quiet by Pablo Naruda)

A trick to profound enjoyment (and happiness) is to find quiet places in your mind. From there you can see and hear without taking things for granted. Because heaven is here.

And heaven is now.

Enjoyment And Enlightenment: Side By Side

modern-times

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

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

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

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

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

We can’t help it.

true-self-seeking-enlightenment-cartoon

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

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

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

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

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

scene from breaking bad

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

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

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

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

Siddhartha nodded (chapter 11).

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

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

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

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

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

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

Where Are You? The Paradox of Happiness

 

a_pair_of_docks
A pair of docks.

Are you sitting comfortably? Good. Let us begin. “Take another sip my love and see what you will see. A fleet of golden galleons, on a crystal sea …” (Moody Blues, 1970). Let us “ride the winds of time to see where we have been” and then…we can ride the mother of all see-saws! 

see saw
Sing, “Ride My See Saw” (just for fun).

Today we enjoy the bewilderment of a long walk off the short pier of enlightenment. But few will read this and of those who do few will read with contemplation. There are just so many distractions to divide our attentions on the Internet.

drinking from the fire hose
Internet research.

Nicholas Carr tells us in The Shallows What the Internet Is Doing to Our Brains that the days of deep reading and deep thinking are over. And yet, take heart, it is an irony of enjoyment that not thinking overmuch is sometimes a requirement.

Jakob Nielson of Nielson Norman Group summarized it in red text, “On the average Web page, users have time to read at most 28% of the words during an average visit; 20% more likely” (Nielson, 2008).

irony
Think about it.

Eye-tracking researchers say that you will scan this Web page in the shape of an F. You will skim words as you move down the left and only see 30% of the right (Nielson, 2006). Even a link to How Little Do Users Read? is enough to divide attention and break concentration.

On the Internet, you see, it’s about brevity. It is the nature of a web to entangle, but in this Web we’re both consumer and consumed.

In The Shallows Nick Carr writes, “In Google’s world, which is the world we enter when we go online, there’s little place for the pensive stillness of deep reading or the fuzzy indirection of contemplation. Ambiguity is not an opening for insight but a bug to be fixed. The human brain is just an outdated computer that needs a faster processor and a bigger hard drive…” (p. 172).

mike meyersIn observations of dwindling attention spans, machine-like thinking and disconnection from the garden, Carr points out how tools become part of us. Hold a hammer and your brain thinks it’s part of your hand. The more we use a tool, the more we mold ourselves around it.

Our brains get accustomed to typical activities. When these activities stop or new activities start it’s like our “neurons seem to ‘want’ to receive input” (p. 29). In other words, we become what our brains do.

singularityAs we extend ourselves artificially, we distance ourselves from natural functions. Like an industrialized farmer in a massive computerized machine who loses touch with the soil he serves, so too we lose touch with meaningful feelings found only in natural beauty.

nature-healing

It’s because of the paradox of happiness. We think that technology will make us happy, but happiness is better achieved when not pursued. Like the name of that menacing mechanic with the missing section of finger that you can’t you remember. Stop trying and out of the blue, the name comes.

mechanic bronson1
“It’s Murray! The mechanic! His name is Murray!”

So too with happiness. It sneaks up on you. The trick is to enjoy living things more than the electronic crack of computer screens.

It’s like the line from John Lennon’s song Beautiful Boy except instead of life insert the word happiness: “Before you cross that busy street take my hand. Life (happiness) is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans” (see post Simple Enjoyment).

pair-of-ducks-on-a-sunny-day

We’re pretty inept when it comes to making happiness-promoting choices (Eggleston, 2013). Based on our options, we overestimate how much happier we’ll be if we had more income and better technology but we underestimate the sacrifices we need to make.

If you ask, “What’s my situation? Do I enjoy the life I’m in?” The answer depends on opinion and your will and won’t power. Suppose you are in a situation and as you skim this in a distracted fashion, you want to get the point before it happens.

lucky momentsWhen you see that doing something about your situation is not going to help and not doing something is also not going to help, where are you? You’re nonplussed. Perplexed. Like a song. And in bewilderment you are reduced to watching.

You enjoy the fuzzy indirection of contemplation like people of long ago.

On a warm day in 1844, novelist Nathaniel Hawthorne sat far from computers in a small clearing in Massachusetts, USA. In deep concentration he focused on the world around him like his friend Ralph Waldo Emerson recommended in his “transparent eyeball” idea where one absorbs rather than reflects what nature has on offer.

natural beauty

Hawthorne wrote of breezes, sunshine, fragrance and sound, “the gentlest sigh imaginable, yet with spiritual potency, insomuch that it seems to penetrate, with its mild ethereal coolness, through outward clay, and breathe upon the spirit itself, which shivers in gentle delight… sunshine glimmers through shadow..the fragrance of white pines… the striking of the village clock… But hark! there is the whistle of the locomotive, – the long shriek, harsh above all harshness…It tells a story of busy men, citizens from the hot street… men of business, – in short, of all unquietness; and no wonder it gives such a startling shriek, since it brings the noisy world into the midst of our slumbrous peace” (Nathaniel Hawthorne and His Wife: A Biography, 1885, pp. 498-503).

And so, like Nathaniel Hawthorne back in 1844, you too can enjoy focused noticing in what remains of the natural world and in so doing feel a calm and heartbreaking happiness.

 

REFERENCES

Carr, N. (2010). The Shallows What the Internet Is Doing to Our Brains. New York.

Eggleston, B. (2013). Paradox of Happiness. The International Encyclopedia of Ethics. Blackwell Publishing.

Neilson, J. (2008). How Little Do Users Read

Neilson, J. (2006). F-Shaped Pattern For Reading Web Content.

World Views, Weird Edges & Higher States of Consciousness

black and white landscape

It’s difficult to discover anything beyond presuppositions. Presuppositions are assumptions assumed in advance. When it comes to presupposers, it is as Nobel Prize Winner (1915) Romain Rolland said, “Discussion is impossible with someone who claims not to seek the truth, but already to possess it.” (Above the Battle).

angels

Ideas running contrary to assumptions are subject to argument and ridicule.

If someone says, “Yesterday I saw angels sitting in a tree!” You’d think that person is on drugs, mentally imbalanced or a romantic poet named William Blake (who also saw angels in a tree).

The presupposition is, of course, that angels don’t sit in trees.

They prefer chairs.

A presupposition can be true, partially true or totally false. Most people – knowingly or not – have assumptions relating to their world view.

earth comicA world view is how truth and reality is understood. It asks: What is reality? What is a human being? What happens when you die? How do you know what’s right and wrong?

A world view can affect one’s goals, ability to enjoy life and attitudes towards society, progress and nature. Collectively, a world view can affect the world itself.

World views are fundamental assumptions. Fundamental assumptions always have an opposite. They can never be completely proven. There are two basic world views: one is religious (spiritual) and the other isn’t (secular).

juggler
Secular juggler.

Secular types say, “There are causes for all effects!” There are (1) atheists: there is no God or gods, the universe is material, theories like the big bang explain things scientifically, death is the end, what’s right and wrong is what we decide; and (2) postmodernists: we create a social reality, there are no truths only preferences, moral values are relative so do what feels good.

Spiritual types say, “Some effects are without causes!” Spirit is more important. There are (1) pantheists (Hindu, Buddhist, Taoist, new agers): everything is God, we’re all of the same stuff, divinity is us, God is an impersonal Force, Energy, Vibration, there is no sin only ignorance, we die and are reborn; and (2) theists (Christianity, Islam, Judaism): there is one eternal personal God of infinite wisdom and power who created the universe, we pray and obey and exist beyond death.

northfork flood
A scene from Northfork (2003).

When a believer of whatever orientation has a prepackaged model, it’s hard to experience something outside that model.

But if you can set aside assumptions and self-interests for a minute or two, you can come up from day-to-day thinking to enjoy a higher mental state that is not only blissful (perfect happiness), but peaceful (free from disturbance).

umbrella woman

There’s something curiously unconscious about this good feeling that’s easy. First: Relax. No pressure. No worries. This is not a competition. Put yourself in a beautiful scene (real or imagined) and let yourself feel content and tranquil.

paul maclean
“We can never discover anything outside the brain,” said Paul MacLean.

three  bearsInstead of three bears, picture three brains inside your skull like neuroscientist Paul MacLean (1913-2007) said there was.

Imagine climbing from the lowest brain, the reptilian (think: road rage!), up past the next lowest, the paleo-mammalian – paleo means older – (think: threatened mama bear with cub) to the highest brain sitting on top like a cloud.

This is the neo-mammalian brain (neo means new).

ladder to cloudThe neo-mammalian (or neocortex) is the seat of perception and imagination. Whether religious or not, the three brains theory allegorically explains why people think and do what they think and do do.

The reptilian brain is responsible for “aggression, dominance, territoriality, and ritual displays;” the paleo-mammalian (limbic system) is responsible for “motivation and emotion involved in feeding, reproductive behaviour, and parental behavior,” and the neomammalian is responsible for “language, abstraction, planning, and perception” (Triune Brain).

triune-brain-theoryLower brains are said to be instinctive. Their concern is with reproduction and dominance, sometimes necessitating deception and violence.

When under the sway of lower brains, we’re principally concerned with our self and successes. We strike back when hit. We shift blame. We lack introspection. We rationalize behaviour in a so-called dog-eat-dog world while maintaining a flattering image of ourselves.

mirrorBut in rare moments, when there are no demands put upon us, when one is quiet and comfortable, in such a peaceful interval, we are free to enter a higher mental state. When released from pride, ambition and self-justification, one looks at others not with criticism and judgement, but with a realization.

Human behaviour is driven by primitive mental pressures. People are nasty, emotional and self-interested, not out of evil, but out of hurt! In a higher mental state you see distress for what it is and not in terms of how it affects you.

ocean2

Romain-Rolland
“It is the artist’s business to create sunshine when the sun fails,” said Monsieur Rolland.

Romain Rolland (1866-1944) described higher intelligence as a religious feeling independent of any dogma, credo, Holy Scripture, mission statement or self salvation. It is simple and direct. It is contact. It’s a feeling of the eternal in the sense of not having limits – like an ocean (Oceanic Feeling).

bird and pointing
Bird.

With self-interest gone, caring not for status, power or possession, boundaries are broken. We connect with things like trees, clouds, rocks, and birds. As William Blake said in Proverbs of Hell, “A fool sees not the same tree that a wise man sees” (1789). We see visions as children until worldliness blinds us.

The trick is to set aside self-concern and go into nature wherever that is. Step out of mechanical garments. Look up from technological gadgetry and have a poetic vision. Attend to sensations in the world without thought of advantage and know there’s no difference between any two world views. As a rational witness, let your higher mind drift above and beyond the weird edges like a cloud minding not minding at all.

floating
Melvin Sokolsky’s 1965 photo spread entitled Fly.

Enjoy A Simple Plan

We know what makes us happy (at least, in theory). If you’re not sure, just watch little children or read about elves and hobbits.

First, you enjoy something simple – preferably something in the natural world – and then, you, as an egotistical critic, get out of the way and let happiness happen.

How you value the world leads straight to enjoying it. With the right use of your senses, you can enjoy the world and accomplish a purpose for being in it. Without thinking about what you want or don’t want, you can convert a material world into a spirit of happiness.

joyPeople try to make themselves happy. When Judy Garland sang “Get Happy,” she did her best, but the song didn’t take. She was tired. She struggled to escape herself and died of an overdose at 47.

A clue as to why is in something she said, “I tried my damnedest to believe in the rainbow that I tried to get over and I couldn’t. SO WHAT!

Judy wanted something magical to come from outside herself to make her happy. When she sang Somewhere Over the Rainbow, she saw happiness as somewhere out there – over the rainbow, way up high – but it’s not. Happiness is here. Beyond joy and sorrow, utopia is now! If only Judy could have experienced the world like it was when she was a baby. Then no crying she’d make.

cloud

You become an act of happiness by losing self-consciousness. Happiness is not in the intellect. It’s in the light that you see by. Let your eye and the object you see complete each other.

Imagine that you are a cloud seeing and replace a dead mechanized world bound by selfish motivation, mental manacles, debt and scientific manipulation. Recreate it with your sense of enjoyment.

rainbow-road

rainbow diagramThink about how a rainbow appears. It’s your eye at the right angle combined with sunlight and water drops. Without you to see, a rainbow doesn’t appear. But a rainbow is more than light refraction. It isn’t a symbol. It has no reason for being. It’s light playing. It’s fun. It’s beauty.

It’s a miracle! It’s you seeing!

happy childImagine yourself as a child. You are fed and content. Your world is not filtered by custom, interpretation, and analysis. The world is new. Imagine seeing a butterfly for the first time!

A child without want is as free as a bird or flower. No regrets or worries. As a child of whatever age, you are as you are and in this, you are humility and humility is happiness.

happy hobbitIn The Lord of the Rings and PhilosophyGregory Bassham lists six lessons in happiness we can learn from Tolkien’s elves and hobbits: 1) Delight in simple things; 2) Make light of your troubles; 3) Get personal (cultivate friendships); 4) Cultivate good character; 5) Cherish and create beauty; and, 6) Rediscover Wonder (it’s not just bread).

We know that we should live a simple life. We should find hope and humour even in dire circumstances. We should have close friends. We should have good morals. We should clean our psychological window so things don’t look drab and familiar. We should be less self-interested and more amazed by the world.

frustrationEven though we know what we should and shouldn’t do, something invariably happens to complicate simplicity and sour generosity. Irritation, frustration and sadness can shred good intentions.

We can remind ourselves to be wise and live uncomplicated lives like a hobbit in the Shire, but something in the outside world can happen to shatter our plan.

Messy manBy the end of the day we’re tired. We wind up flaked out on a chair, covered in cheesie dust. What went wrong? We tried, but therein is our problem. Who was the one trying? Was the spirit willing and the flesh weak? Remember Dr. Schwartz’s scientific dictum, “You are not your brain” (see: It’s Not Me. It’s My Brain). A person must be detached enough to see himself objectively while at the same time committed to his own values (Kierkegaard).

sirenOur brains can be like a Siren song luring us like sailors to shipwreck on a rocky coast. Thoughts become habitual through repeated pleasure-seeking and dopamine. Our heart may say, “No-no,” but our brain says, “Yes-yes!” Our brain often urges us to do what we probably shouldn’t.

Tom BombadilWe may have more luxuries and conveniences thanks to the magic of technologies, but that doesn’t mean we’re happier. We’re busier. We now lack time to focus on things that produce a quieter happiness.

What’s to be done? Nothing much. Just some rewiring of our brains by forging new pathways and enjoyable singing of a Tom Bombadil song.

Henry David Thoreau said in Walden: “Our life is frittered away by detail… But men labor under a mistake.

“The better part of the man is soon plowed into the soil for compost. By a seeming fate, commonly called necessity, they are employed, as it says in an old book, laying up treasures which moth and rust will corrupt and thieves break through and steal. It is a fool’s life, as they will find when they get to the end of it, if not before… Simplicity, simplicity, simplicity! (Ch. 1…a man is rich in proportion to the number of things which he can afford to let alone” (Ch. 2).

thoreaus-cabin

You don’t have to build a cabin in the woods to live deliberately. You can live deliberately anywhere. Randomly stop what you’re doing. Freeze! Take the world in and move your eyes to gaze and listen.

All it takes is an ever so slight shift in focus, not to see what you think is there, but to see what is and isn’t.

 

********************************************

For little friend Timmy. Who enjoys a good thunder storm.

Enjoy What Is And Take What Comes

sparrow

What does a sparrow see? Science can explain how a sparrow sees colour, movement and so on, but she can’t relay the actual experience of seeing. You’d need a sparrow gifted with the ability to describe what she sees in a language better than, “Chirp, chirp,” for a human to understand.

We can imagine and simulate birdlike seeing with drones, skydiving and literature, but the experience itself: of bird seeing, as bird in bird form within bird reality, is unavailable to us. The same holds true for other animals and people too.

It’s like the chorus to Nik Kershaw’s song that goes, “Wouldn’t it be good to be in your shoes, even if it was for just one day. And wouldn’t it be good, if we could wish ourselves away. Wouldn’t it be good to be on your side, the grass is always greener over there. And wouldn’t it be good, if we could live without a care” (Wouldn’t It Be Good). Of course Nik is singing about wanting to be in the shoes of a lover and sparrows don’t normally wear shoes; nevertheless, a feeling of dissatisfaction with one’s life is common.

Wanting to be as free as a sparrow is pretty universal. They look so happy. “What is that?” asks an old man. “A sparrow,” says his son lacking patience. Some might think, “Wouldn’t it be good to be a sparrow? Zipping from tree to tree! Eat a seed and you’re good for the day.” That may be so. To be free is beautiful, but then again, it’s all fun and games until you fly into a picture window.

eye diagramScientists can explain the mechanics of eyeballs: how they function and how to fix them, but in terms of perception – the link between world “out there” as taken in by eyeballs, and the mind’s interpretation of that world – science can’t say.

It’s a bit like the sparrow scenario. Nobody but you can see what you see. You are a kind of sparrow, but one without wings, without a beak, without feathers or bird feet.

Science can identify your species and proclivities but not your mystery. Nobody but you knows what it’s like to be you and even then, you hardly notice.

look downThink about what you see. As you walk, arms not swinging, looking at your feet, eyes glazed like donuts, imagine that you’re in a silent helicopter or a balloon looking down at landscapes far away and small.

It feels like there are third person things down there and all around and digging deeper into the experience of being, you observe a strange first person phenomena where you are the one looking.

balloonWe each think of ourselves as a subject in a world of objects. We think we have an inner stream of consciousness that babbles, sometimes turbulent, sometimes calm, but are you in the stream, the stream itself or the one looking at the stream?

Are you the inner story you tell yourself?

The trick to enjoyment isn’t in self-absorption. It’s the opposite. It’s in going outward. Don’t ask yourself how you should move. Step forward and let the world move through you. Don’t second guess what you say, speak from your heart.

Mick Jagger said a mouthful at the buffet when he said, “You can’t always get what you want”, but if you try sometime, you just might find, you get what you need.

When you’re in the world without thought for gain or advantage, with humility and humour, you don’t feel self-conscious. When you’re in the moment, your inner story drops away and your consciousness and self-consciousness is gone (Hubert Dreyfus, 2013).

apple and eyeScience tells us we perceive only reflected colours. Red is not “in” an apple. An apple reflects wavelengths that we see as red with our light receptors. Our eyes and brain together “translate light into colour” (How Do We See Color). Reality is a merging of world and interpretation.

In the immortal words of Arsenio Hall who while driving in his car one day pondered certain thoughts and referred to them as “things that make you go hmm…” inspiring the C + C Music Factory to sing the same, so too we explore things that make us go hmm, except instead of singing about infidelity, we sing of coincidence and connection, of links in chains between what we see and do and what is seen and done. We enjoy.

No special powers are required to experience beauty. Enjoy peace and looking without knowing. Forget who you think you are. Answers to the deepest questions like, “What’s it all for?” are in the lives we lead. Observe your unfolding.

what is thisThere is a double vision between self and situation. Inside and outside are two sides of one coin. You see through a massive window, not as a thing inside. The world out there comes inside with each step you take forward.

Ideas in this unhurried mental receptacle are fuzzy; fuzzy like a pussy willow is fuzzy; fuzzy like a little yellow duckling that goes, “Peep. Peep. Peep.”

ducklingAnd, like a peeping fuzzy duckling, your life is nature’s music without notation.

The trick to enjoying the life you’re in is to sing with humble tickled amusement a melodious duck song.