A Way of Seeing (Part 2)

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Must we discuss heavy topics such as truth, reality and the best way to live? Isn’t it enough to spend time doing interesting and pleasant things? Shouldn’t we be like young children, free of heavy thoughts and therefore lighthearted?

Isn’t it better to not know certain things? Like, isn’t it better to not know the feeling of cancer?

When we’re young,  death is something that happens to others—the old and infirm and/or unlucky—but then, one day (if it hasn’t happened already), a simple truth suddenly hits: Death happens to everyone—including you.

Put that in your pipe and smoke it.

cheat deathAs hard as it is to imagine, one day, there won’t be another. One day, nothing will happen and you won’t know what happened. You will be gone like those who have gone before you.

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You will join the non-existent and leave only remains but this reality need not cause anguish. There’s nothing you can do. Fuhgeddaboudit. Some people see death as an opportunity to “live every moment.” To them we say, “What! Are you crazy!”

“Just look!
Even the blossoms that are destined to fall tomorrow
Are blooming now in their life’s glory.” ~Takeko Kujo

bloomingtrees
“Where does your face go after death? I do not know. Only the peach blossoms blow in the spring wind, This year just as last” ~ an  āgama sutra.

Maybe when you die it will be like before your parents were born. Maybe there’s a trick to this death truth.

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The difference between reality and truth is: “Reality has been existent ever since the beginning of the universe. On the other hand truth is something that you have proved ” (source). Reality is multidimensional. Things appear as they do to you based upon from ‘where’ you are looking. 

The “world” is a felt experience but like Wittgenstein said, “The world of the happy man is a different one from that of the unhappy man” (Tractatus Logico-philosophicus).

In answer to “What is the meaning of life?” Eckhart von Hochheim—aka Meister Eckhart (1260-1328)— said, “Whoever were to ask life for a thousand years: ‘Why do you live?’—if life could answer, it would say nothing but: ‘I live in order that I live’” (source).

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Caspar David Friedrich, Moonrise Over the Sea, 1822.

People have versions of reality that conceal certain aspects but to make the world a better place, it takes acceptance of all of reality and not just the bits we accept.

How a person responds to ethical principles determines that person’s character. For billions of people life means surviving. Life means eating, sleeping and eventually dying.

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The problem seems to be one of money: how to get, spend and save. It’s economics—oil prices, real estate, stocks, debt, GDP, jobs etc.. The purpose of life for billions of people is to get money.

materialism cartoon

Then again, some people don’t care too much for money.

Some people see being creative as their life purpose but regardless of what you think your purpose is (if you have one), you probably don’t mind feeling happy.

As Kurt Vonnegut wrote in A Man Without a Country, “And I urge you to please notice when you are happy, and exclaim or murmur or think at some point, ‘If this isn’t nice, I don’t know what is.’”
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Positive psychologists Seligman and Royzman (2003) identified three types of theories of happiness: Hedonism, Desire, Objective List and Authentic Happiness. Which theory you subscribe to (knowingly or not) has implications for how you live your life.

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Hedonism theory mantra: “Go for it! What the hell!”

Hedonism theory is about maximizing pleasure and minimizing pain. It’s a popular theory. It’s all the rage. Seligman and Royzman (2003) object to it however. They say it can’t handle someone like philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein who lived in misery but died saying, “Tell them it was wonderful!” (source).

Desire theory counters Hedonism by saying that it isn’t about pleasure: it’s about the fulfilment of desire that makes us happy. But again Seligman and Royzman object, saying, if one’s desire is to collect dolls, no matter how satisfying it is to have a big little doll collection, it doesn’t add up to a happy life.

johnnydeppscollection
Desire theory mantra: “I want that!” Image: Celebrity collections.

Countering Hedonism and Desire theories is the Objective List theory. It focuses on “happiness outside of feeling and onto a list of “truly valuable” things in the real world” such as career, relationships, service to community etc., but again Seligman and Royzman object, saying, a happy life must take feelings and desires into account.

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Oxford philosopher Derek Parfit’s “Objective List” Lecture

Seligman and Royzman point to Authentic Happiness theory saying, “there are three distinct kinds of happiness: the Pleasant Life (pleasures), the Good Life (engagement), and the Meaningful Life”  (Authentic Happiness). It’s positive psychology. It’s all the rage. But even if Authentic Happiness covers all bases theoretically, there’s a more deeply rooted problem.

Cross section of soil showing a tree with its roots.

Any quest for happiness through positive psychology is one-sided and self-centred. It’s essentially an unrewarding vision of a full human life because it’s still about another “me” feeling better.

Cue music: Primal Scream “Loaded”.

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Sorry! And the Nature of Suffering,” Existential Comics.

Look at a candle burning. It gives light and heat as long as it burns wax. It lives on wax. It dies as wax wanes. Humans are like candles. We are chemicals. We die as our time wanes and each generation carries our species one step further in time.

how a person is like a candle
A person is like a candle.

sunflowerEach moment must pass away for us to live another. Death is a continuous process.

Living things die as they live but we prefer not to notice.

We’d rather not focus on those who die before us but on the days and nights left to us (see: The Light of Enjoyment and/or Death Clock). But then, maybe being greedy for the pleasure of living isn’t good either.

In Human Minds Margaret Donaldson writes of a man who could put one hundred rattlesnakes into a bag in twenty-eight seconds. The act illustrates something fundamental about humans: We form unique purposes that we pursue with tenacity. If strong feelings are attached, we’ll even die or kill or perhaps maim in pursuit of our purpose.

We share with other animals certain urges—hunger, sexual desire and musicality—but as Margaret Donaldson writes in Human Minds, “it is characteristic of us that we are capable of transcending these urges, though not easily” (p. 8).

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When something that was interesting suddenly isn’t, people get bored. People get angry and argue with others and themselves. The trouble with arguments of self-wanting is that, not only are they self-centred, they’re self-sustaining.

Donaldson says that coming up with a purpose for our lives is easy “because we have brains that are good at thinking of possible future states,” (p. 9) but it is in self-focused single-mindedness that we’re apt to misinterpret reality.

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We feel satisfied when we dispel an illusion but if the illusion serves a purpose, we don’t  want it dispelled. Consider the world of Walter White in the TV show Breaking Bad.

walterwhitesaymyname.gifAt the prospect of death Walter corrupts his morals for money. He thinks ‘ends justify means,’ and finds himself enjoying money and power. Money and power become his purpose.

He becomes poster child for materialism and ego. The Double Whammo. “Say my name.”

Materialism is either a preoccupation with the material world—as opposed to intellectual and/or spiritual—or it’s the theory that everything in the universe is matter. We’re surrounded by matter so it seems only natural that we should be distracted from spiritual and/or intellectual pursuits, but what if problems are caused by materialism and/or ego?

What then?

 

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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.

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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.”

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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.

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“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?

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“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).

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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.

Life is Enjoying.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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“I love you darling.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

No reason. You just do.

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