1844 as “self-indulgence,” from Greek hēdone “pleasure” (see hedonist) + -ism.
“… that the pleasure of the moment is the only possible end, that one kind of pleasure is not to be preferred to another, and that a man should in the interest of pleasure govern his pleasures and not be governed by them; hence, that ethical doctrine which regards pleasure or happiness as the highest good. … Egoistic hedonism considers only the pleasure of the individual; altruistic hedonism takes into account that of others. [Century Dictionary]
Hedonism says that pleasure is what motivates us. Only pleasure, our own or another’s, has worth and only displeasure has the opposite of worth (source).
Pursuing happiness might be encouraged, but to most people, the pleasures pursued by hedonists are indecent, indulgent and possibly sinful (at least, to the religious).
The common myth is that happiness is about having more good times than bad. The more good times, the more happy overall, but it isn’t about the quantity of ups over downs, but how smoothly we ride them.
Everything is changing all the time. From one moment to the next, good things and bad things happen to everyone. Those who are the happiest don’t have more good times than bad, they just don’t cling to the “good” or run from the “bad” like most people.
They appreciate every minute for what it is knowing it’s not going to last forever (see also: “This Too Shall Pass“).
Surveys show happiness is the number onething people say they want (money is number two) but the biggest challenge is: “Not knowing what I want to do” (source).
People don’t realize they don’t have to do anything to enjoy living. Try holding your breath and see what happens.
Time slows right down!
After a minute or two, you’ll enjoy life by simply breathing!
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.
As 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.
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!”
Even the blossoms that are destined to fall tomorrow
Are blooming now in their life’s glory.” ~Takeko Kujo
Maybe when you die it will be like before your parents were born. Maybe there’s a trick to this death truth.
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).
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.
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.
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.’”
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Each 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).
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.
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.
At the prospect of deathWalter 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?
Knowledge, wisdom, insight and enjoyment relate to the mind but differ in kind. Knowledge is information, wisdom is the application of knowledge, insight is awareness of an essential truth, and enjoyment is, as writer Paul Goodman (1911-1972) observed, “not a goal, it is a feeling that accompanies important ongoing activity.”
Knowledge is, “Nothing but the facts ma’am.” If you’re a carpenter, you have knowledge of carpentry. If you play guitar, you have knowledge of guitars. If you’re an astronomer, you have knowledge of stars. Knowledge requires research, study and experience.
Knowledge is the foundation for wisdom. Wisdom is knowing why something is. Wisdom is the application of knowledge for making sound decisions because one can’t act wisely without knowing the potential consequences of a choice.
Wisdom requires reflection and contemplation of what you know and don’t know so as to understand and use that knowledge in an intelligent way.
Wisdom is necessary if you are to have insight. Insight is a personal realization. Insight is an experience. It is the deepest level of knowing. It is understanding a specific cause and effect within a specific context.
Insight is a clearer perception of knowledge and wisdom as it pertains to your life. Whereas knowledge and wisdom are based on rationality, insight is based on intuitive understanding.
The application of wisdom enables a person to gain insight into the essence of an underlying truth. To enjoy insight you not only need to acquire knowledge andtake that knowledge and contemplate it—look at all sides with care and attention—and deliberate it—weigh facts and arguments with a view to a choice and consequences—so as to gain wisdom, but you need to make an intuitive connection which is hard to explain—let alone impart to another person.
If you have insight, explanations are meaningless to another person. Like enjoyment, insight is an individual experience that can be described and analyzed but not transmitted or shared. When discussing knowledge, wisdom, insight and enjoyment, we are digging into two incompatible types of thought: rational and intuitive.
Rationality employs language, logic and reason. Think of rationality as a machine. Rationality can be taught but intuition cannot. Think of intuition as a flower. Intuition is embedded in your consciousness but it is often repressed by self-consiousness.
Rational knowledge is knowing what people, things, practices and pleasures make you happy, but wisdom is knowing that things you enjoy do not actually make you happy; happiness comes from within. Insight is feeling that whether or not you believe something isn’t the right question because the answer is what you know through experience.
Intuition is beyond words. You can’t manipulate intuitive consciousness with rational thinking. Rational thinking is a veil through which we think we see reality, but we’re really only perceiving a shallow portion filtered through our constructed perspective.
Rationality constrains one’s mind and intuition releases it.
Intuition is a key to what might be called, “higher consciousness” which is, “the part of the human being that is capable of transcending animal instincts” (Wikipedia). Higher consciousness has been described as a feeling of oneness where the world is seen directly and not analytically. The world feels like an extension of your consciousness and there is a sudden sense of freedom from a bondage to the way you think about things.
An insight of higher consciousness is a highly enjoyable direct experience with reality in the present. It is knowing that the happiness you feel is a temporary emotion just like any other temporary emotion that you experience. Happiness is one emotion in a spectrum. If you give yourself permission and relax with acceptance, if you let your face go slack and see from the sides, if you hear without hearing, if you do all this without trying, you will enjoy the intuitive realization or insight that there’s nothing to realize.
The world is there. It is unchanged regardless of how you perceive it. Now is the time to give birth to an awareness of all the love and care you have in your body for everything that is, was, and shall be.
This is not a matter of believing or not believing. That’s the wrong way to look at it. This is about knowing from direct experience. It’s when a feeling of awareness dawns in you. It’s when you stop interpreting what you see, hear, smell and feel. That’s when you realize that you and the world around you are one and the same. Like a cell in a body you are. But wait, before you make a decision as to whether or not this is nonsense, try it yourself—then you’ll know. The trick is to try and not try without effort.
In The Divine Comedy—a medieval vision of the afterlife completed in 1320—Dante (c. 1265-1321) wrote, “Tonight we fly over the chimney tops, skylights and slates. Looking into all your lives and wondering why happiness is so hard to find.”
Seven hundred years later we do the same, except with a drone—still wondering why happiness is hard to find (even with indoor plumbing). Like a peeping Peter Pan we fly over “all the lonely people” living in “quiet desperation.”
The quietly desperate are resigned to fate. They won’t speak up. They won’t cry out. They simply exist. Nothing means anything. And when nothing means anything, pleasure is everything. Pleasure initiates a process that learning sustains.
Pleasure releases dopamine into nerve cells underneath the cerebral cortex—the area for planning and executing tasks in the brain. Liking it becomes wanting it and then we’re driven to get it. It’s in the Human Brain Owners Manual. We might think we run our own show, but it’s really just chemistry.
How addicted we get to a drug or activity depends on the quickness, intensity and reliability of dopamine release (Harvard Medical School). Without self-understanding, the default is to become a non-self-aware robot-person following a program.
The comedian Mitch Hedberg (1968-2005) used to joke, “I used to do drugs. I still do, but I used to, too.” People used to laugh. They still do, but they used to too. Mitch joked about addiction until it killed him. But he was onto something when he said, “I like to play blackjack. I’m not addicted to gambling. I’m addicted to sitting in a semi-circle,” because it doesn’t matter if it’s sex, drugs, or Cocoa Puffs, human brains register all pleasures the same (Harvard Medical School).
But it’s funny (maybe it isn’t), the more we get what we want, the less we enjoy it. Psychologist Wendy Wood from the University of Southern California said, “With repetition, action tendencies become stronger. Feelings, however, become weaker with repetition. So, the more often you eat ice cream, the less pleasure you get from eating it” (“If you enjoy something, don’t make it a habit”).
The greatest single barrier to finding what you seek is the secret assumption that you already know. Thinking you know lends itself to barking up wrong trees.
Living quietly desperate means never knowing satisfaction and feeling happiness only rarely (possibly while dancing).
Thoreau’s quote about leading a life of quiet desperation is used as a reason to follow your passion and achieve a life that isn’t small and mediocre but big and successful but to Thoreau, “success” isn’t big: it’s small.
Success is in the small and ordinary—watching ducks, feeling cozy, wearing plaid.
“If the day and the night are such that you greet them with joy,” writes Thoreau, “and life emits a fragrance like flowers and sweet-scented herbs, is more elastic, more starry, more immortal—that is your success” (Walden).
Seeing is beautiful when the “I” of criticism is gone.
When the comedian Steve Martin said, “Let’s get small,”he was practically Thoreauvian! To get small is to shift from a self-perspective to a kind of disappearing where you get smaller and smaller until at last you are free of fault-finding and a happy feeling of love for “Both Sides, Now” hits you in the face like a pillow.
It’s practically mystical—or is it mystically practical? Either way, it is beautiful. Take a break. Stop seeing the world through conditioned opinion as a programmed person and feel aware of reality and yourself in it.
Happiness happens. It’s happening right now but you might not see it because happiness is like finding money on the road. You look at the money but don’t see it. Your mind is elsewhere. The hypnosis of regularity obscures the profound.
If everybody really felt what it is to be alive in this minute counting up as we count down, it would be too much! Daily living puts us in an emotional coma. It’s easier to deaden our senses, but it isn’t better. If you don’t believe it, try this exercise in awareness:
Look up. Look around. Give your head a shake. Don’t just notice where you are, notice yourself in where you are. See yourself as if from above. Notice how as you were reading, you did not exist to yourself? Notice how you can listen to thoughts in a detached way? Watch your thoughts come and go like floats in a parade. Wave hello and good bye to trolling thoughts and your mind will start to relax.
It’s like there’s an annoying duck-person blathering inside. Who is this annoying self-centred duck-person? How’d he get in here? Make him leave. Listen without reaction. Eventually he’ll get tired and you’ll feel peace.
In the 1911 song “Life’s a funny proposition after all” George M. Cohan (1878-1942) sang-spoke, “Hurried and worried until we’re buried; there’s no curtain call.” Cohen puts it all together and shows us the pickle of our problem.Life may be funny but not everyone is laughing. People don’t necessarily live the way they do because they like it. They live the way they do because they don’t know what else to do!
If you sat on a beach and yelled at the ocean, “Stop waving!” It wouldn’t stop. It couldn’t stop. Oceans aren’t independent. There are natural processes beyond our control. There are two worlds: the living and not living. Neither knows the other.
Reality plays itself out from first to last. If you don’t believe it, ask Bo Diddley to “Bring it to Jerome”. Everything connects back to front. The back of you is the front of what’s behind. What’s inside has an outside inside something else and space holds it together.
There is but one answer to every question that’s ever been asked by every single man, woman or combination thereof. The question is: What is that one answer?
And there it is.
“There is what?”
There is what that one answer is.
“What is that one answer? I don’t get it.”
That’s because ‘what-is-that-one-answer’ is the answer.
To every question there is one answer but that doesn’t mean there aren’t many answers. It just means that the answer you give is your answer. It’s like on a test: The answer you put on the test is your answer. It might not be right. It might not be wrong. Either way: It’s your answer.
If the question is, “What path did I take?” The answer is the path taken. The path is where you are as you’re going. Your path is what’s done as you do it. Life is a warring of opposites. Understanding the pleasure-centre dopamine release game frees you from chemical bondage. To cry until you laugh and laugh until you cry is to enjoy a ripple in time, self-aware in happy awe and filled with love.
Here we go. Cue music: “Flash”. There’s only one thing to do. You know what it is. You know what you want.
What 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?
Life is epitomized by two questions:
1) What do you do when you feel too much?
2) 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”).
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.
Caprino 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).
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).
Aviator 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.
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.
Onlookers 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.“
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.
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).
1) 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 (notbad).
To Benatar there’s an asymmetry in favour of nonexistence:
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?
The question to ask of a philosophy is not whether it is original but whether it is true (Cicero, 45 BC). A philosophy of enjoyment is based on the premise that you know what is true by way of experience. In the same way that you know fear by having been afraid, you know enjoyment by having have enjoyed.
Happiness and enjoyment are related but where enjoyment is temporary, happiness is durable. If enjoyment is the journey, happiness is the destination. If tears of happiness come from the heart, tears of enjoyment come from the belly from laughing. If enjoyment comes as a carefree feeling, happiness comes mainly from caring.
Enjoyment and happiness can be tested for validity. It’s a “proof of the pudding is in the eating” type thing – like in the movie Scrooge (1951) where nuances of happiness and enjoyment in relation to pudding are revealed.
Tiny Tim looks forward to pudding. His mother worries that it won’t be any good but his father, Bob Cratchit, assures her that it will be perfect because he knows the merit of the pudding is incidental in relation to the love they enjoy together.
It’s a John Donne (1572-1631), “No man is an island entire unto itself” type thing – or as Robin Williams put it, “No man is an island but some are peninsulas.“
The Cratchit family in A Christmas Carol (1843) is poor and happy. Scrooge is rich and unhappy. A church moralist might say that if Scrooge had virtue, he wouldn’t have been miserable. The moral: with virtue comes happiness. But the philosopher Freddy Nietzsche said that it’s the other way ’round! A happy man is naturally virtuous. The moral: with happiness comes virtue.
Nietzsche said that church moralists say, “Do this and that, refrain from this and that – then you will be happy! Otherwise…” but if you watch a happy man, you will see how he carries happiness into relationships in ways that make him virtuous.
In Twilight of the Idols(1888) Nietzsche wrote, “Every mistake in every sense is the effect of the degeneration of instinct…All that is good is instinct – and hence easy, necessary, free.”
Observe animals. Feel natural. Ever notice how a reality of rocks, clouds, birds and trees becomes boring to people? Why does this happen?
Why doesn’t reality blow us away like it did when we were children?
There was a time when the world perceived with our senses was not named. That’s when the world was your miracle and will be again.
Just listen. Don’t say a word about what you hear. Going into the space between one thought and another is like splitting the atom.
Nothing blows up but consciousness opens.
As long as you remain an airy nothing in reality, you are an angel in a space called heaven. Space is nothing but a continuous expanse of height, depth and width that is free and unoccupied within which all things (including you) exist and move. Space is within you. Space is infinite. It’s within and around everything you see and don’t see.
“Space: the final frontier.” To be “spaced out” is to be stupefied in quietude as if from a drug. It’s when words in your brain fall silent. It’s when you’re aware of yourself in a now state of mind that is free.
Contrary to what manufacturers of desire and discontent spin, it doesn’t take much to be happy. More than what would satisfy a sparrow is superfluous. A wish for happiness is a will for perfection (source) but a wish will only become reality through an effort of will. It’s a “Where there’s a will there’s a way,” type thing.
A quick trick to make a wish for happiness come true is to enjoy whatever comes to you.
Nietzsche admired Epicurus’s idea of a happy life, “A little garden, figs, a little cheese and in addition three or four good friends – these were the sensual pleasures of Epicurus” (source). To Epicurus and Nietzsche happiness comes from a modest existence cultivated with “spiritual joyfulness” (Freudigkeit) and not over-indulgence.
In the end, it isn’t a matter of getting what you want. Can you make yourself want something? Can you will yourself to want something? Wants come unannounced. Ask yourself, “Why do I want this?” again and again and you might find the reason for wanting is a habit of mind.
Here we think about time and space – not time as in a rotation of the world or as in a chronological birthday countdown increasing in number. Here we think about enjoying for reasons of happiness and a better world because just as the band Crowded House sang it in 1992, “Everywhere you go you always take the weather with you.” You effect your surroundings by the person you are. Lighten up and love one another without fault-finding.
Enjoy a new you in old shoes (or an old you in new shoes). See the baby that was in the eyes of a grown up other. Here’s to the love in everyone!
Nietzsche’s Therapeutic Teaching: For Individuals and Culture (2013) edited by Horst Hutter, Eli Friedland.
Ansell-Pearson, K. (2013). Heroic-Idyllic Philosophizing: Nietzsche and the Epicurean Tradition.
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.
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?
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.
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.”
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.
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.”
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.”
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?
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?).
We 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).
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.
What 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.
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.
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?”
You’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 acoal 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.
But 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!
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“).
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“).
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?”
No 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.
Takin’ 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…”
What 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.
“Gatsby believed in the green light, the orgastic future that year by year recedes before us. It eluded us then, but that’s no matter—tomorrow we will run faster, stretch out our arms farther. And then one fine morning— So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past” (F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby, p. 180)
The “single green light” on Daisy’s dock that Gatsby gazed at from his house across the water represents an “unattainable dream.” It is the dream that seems close but can’t be grasped. It represents the hazy future, forever elusive. The green light is Gatsby’s dream of Daisy in the past, but then, if it is of her in the past, how does it represent the future too? Is the future tied to our dreams of the past?
We wander as we wonder, “What is that green glow?”
A philosophy of enjoyment is about enjoying life through a special kind of awareness but if enjoyment is the purpose of life, doesn’t this philosophy give a green light to selfish behaviour?
In a word: Not at all.
What interests people most? Themselves. Centuries of navel gazing prove it. A starting point for enjoyment is your self –not self as it is normally thought: a brain encased in skin like a car in a garage, but a self imagined (like air).
When asked, “What is the self illusion?” writer Sam Harris observed that the self is not what it seems. “The self illusion explains so many aspects of human behavior as well as our attitudes toward others. When we judge others, we consider them responsible for their actions. But was Mary Bale, the bank worker from Coventry who was caught on video dropping a cat into a garbage can, being true to her self? Or was Mel Gibson’s drunken anti-Semitic rant being himself or under the influence of someone else?” (Psychology Today, 2012).
Harris isn’t saying we should throw out our rule books, but to understand psychological factors that control behaviours.
We often think of ourselves as our car, our clothes, our job, our house, our country, our uniform, our gender, our age… our body. This has always been the case throughout history. We get caught up in material things.
But when you are lost in gazing at the moon, who are you? Who is the real you – the you who was a child – the secret you – the true you? Who are you when you’re asleep? As Suzanne Little sang in You, “There’s something about you’s not too bad.”
There’s just one thing to do. Look at your self and in mental stillness ask, “Who is my ‘I’?” When angry ask, “Who is angry?” When sad, ask, “Who is sad?”
Instead of ‘self-ish‘ in the dictionary sense of: “lacking consideration for others; concerned chiefly with one’s own personal profit or pleasure” and instead of ‘self-ish’ in the sense of adding an “ish” suffix to say that something is somewhat x (largish, rockish, selfish), this philosophy encourages stepping into natural places to ask, “Who am I?” until the last “I” thought vanishes. And when it does, something beautiful happens.
The world changes. You free yourself from problems and woe can’t touch you.
Chatty professors Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari stretch the idea of animal-human boundary not to encourage a metamorphosis like in that scene in American Werewolf in London (1981) but to achieve a “non-identity” which to them is a condition of freedom.
Most people think rocks are inanimate, but writer David Abram (Becoming Animal An Earthly Cosmology, 2010) says that to a person alive to her animal senses, a rock is “first and foremost another body engaged in the world.” Abram writes:
“You are silent, puzzling. I see you gaze back at the rock face now, questioning it, feeling the looming sweep of its bulk within your torso, listening with your muscles and the quiet composition of your bones for what this old, sculpted presence might wish to add to the conversation… The stillness, the quietude of this rock is its very activity, the steady gesture by which it enters and alters your life.”
Imagine coming upon a rock on the road. You see it. You smell mud and exhaust. You hear two-leggeds and feel the patter of rain. You have a conscious experience from a first-person point of view that isn’t limited to your senses – thought, emotion and imagination are part of it too because you are “part of what it is for the experience to be experienced and part of what it is for the experience to be“ (Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy: Phenomenology).
Plato once said, “At the touch of love, everyone becomes a poet.” This is not a reasonable philosophy. It’s a love philosophy.
To most people, most of the time, love is selective. It’s personal. It’s based on contact with people and things that please us, but if you go mentally quiet, there’s an all encompassing and unconditional love that can hit you in unexpected moments.
It’s like seeing the world as a basket of baby bunnies. You go unreasonable and love everything. You see the baby in everyone’s eye. It’s a great love that comes from knowing that everyone is worthy. It’s like that opening scene in Love Actually (2003) where the narrator, Hugh Grant, says, “Whenever I get gloomy with the state of the world, I think about the arrivals gate at Heathrow airport…. Seems to me that love is everywhere” (opening scene Heathrow airport).
One day, in searching for “happiness” on Google (as many people do), happiness appeared as a man and woman in hip medieval clothing.
Is that how you picture happiness?
Is happiness a warm puppy like Charles Schultz said in 1962? Is happiness that simple? Is it a moment of satisfaction with whatever your “warm puppy” is?
Or is happiness a warm gun as the Beatles sang it in 1968? Said John Lennon, “I thought it was a fantastic, insane thing to say” (Beatles Bible).
“Project Happiness” (where the science of happiness meets the art of living) says that10% of happiness is due to circumstance, 50% comes from genes, and 40% comes from activities like forgiveness and gratitude. With practice, they say, you can make yourself happy. But what if, instead of making yourself happy, you make someone happy?
It’s strange. We feel so alone. Talk to someone and there’s a gulf between. We’re a universe apart. We don’t see how the consciousness looking back at us is the same as our own. The profound is hidden in the ordinary.
To look into another’s eyes and see love and mercy reflected there is a rare happiness. We grow up forming a healthy self-image but gain wisdom by letting it go (Jung).
A self-image is developed through what we say and think about ourselves and what others say of us. If that self-image is overly negative, inaccurate, or inflated, it creates problems.
It’s hard to see a self-image (Latin ego “I”). It hides behind opinions believed true, but if you follow the trail of emotions it leaves behind (like anger at a slight, jealousy, a need to win and so on) there you find ego. It’s a condemning voice inside your head that’s critical and blaming.
But, “Smile!” says the research. “It’s good for your brain.” (Who cares if you look insane?)
The thinking is that if you’re not happy, there’s something wrong with you. Maybe that explains why antidepressant use went up 400% in the US between 2005–2008 (Harvard Medical School).
Too bad they don’t work – at least, according to the New England Journal of Medicine (Huffington Post, 2011).
Kirsch (2014) said,“Instead of curing depression, popular antidepressants may induce a biological vulnerability making people more likely to become depressed in the future” (Antidepressants and the Placebo Effect).
So, “What are you gonna do?” (language warning)
First, we listen to Herb Alpert & the Tijuana Brass play “Tijuana Taxi.” If your self-image sees you as a dancer, you will dance.
Then we search images for what “happiness” looks like.
Happiness appears as beaches, beautiful skies, people with arms open wide at sunrise and jumping at sunset, we see ladies with balloons and a parasol soaking up sunshine and summer fields. The word “freedom” comes to mind.
Freedom: Old English freo meaning, “not in bondage, acting of one’s own will, noble, joyful” (Online Etymology Dictionary). Does freedom look like happiness?
Yes it does. Again we see sunshine, that same woman with a parasol and people with arms open wide as if to fly. (Sinatra was onto something when he sang, “Fly Me To The Moon.”) The word “spirit” (as in: “happy spirits” and “free-spirited”) comes to mind.
Spirit: Latin “spiritus” meaning, “breathing” (life!). Like “moo” or “BANG” such words mean their sound. Spirit is like that. It is an imitation of breathing (Online Etymology Dictionary).
An image search of spirit showed a Disney movie. Undeterred, we enter” “spiritual.”
Again we see beautiful skies, sunshine, beaches and arms open wide. (Enya was onto something when she sang “Only Time.”
What if, instead of categorizing things into two opposites (either-or, self-other, good-bad, life-death, happy-sad…) we consider opposites as one process like a game of ping pong.
Without ping there is no pong. Happiness (ping) goes with sadness (pong). Life (ping) goes with death (pong).
Happiness might not be about getting what you want and having a good time all the time. Happiness could be a love of life in all its aspects – pleasant and unpleasant.
A self-image is like putting on eye-glasses. As Clark Kent, the world looks different. How we think colours everything we see. Should you take off your glasses of personality, you might enjoy reality (even if it is fuzzy). Maybe that’s what a higher consciousness experience is: It’s a union with reality. You see everyone and everything as interconnected. You see beauty.
When you focus on breathing, you are aware of it (in-out, in-out, repeat), but when you stop focusing, breathing continues. We are breathed in the same way that grass grows and produces the oxygen we need. It’s all a relationship. It’s all connection.
A feeling of happiness doesn’t depend on what you know or do. You can’t make progress in it. You can’t do anything or not do anything to get it.
Happiness comes when you are so adapted to pleasure and pain that you say, “I love it!” No matter what happens. Like the Bad Finger song, “Knock down the old grey wall. Be a part of it all. Nothing to say, nothing to see, nothing to do,” you get it because you got it (see: Bad Finger “No Matter What”).
Let go your eggo (aka ego) and go out there and let the universe happen as you.