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Quick. There isn’t much time. Canadian researchers say human attention spans have dropped from 12 seconds in 2000 to 8 seconds in 2015—note: goldfish have 9 (source).

Cue happy music: George Harrison “What is life?”.

The point is… everyone—including you—is a character in a story. Your story has settings, plots and themes (the big ideas). You narrate your story to yourself. Your story begins and ends but of that ending you don’t know. According to science, when this is over you won’t know you don’t know (see scientific analysis: “What is life? Is death real?”).

From a first-person perspective this is itRight here and now—that’s all she wrote. But what if this first person perspective is not all there is?

If we are organic machines who seek meaning and/or diversion, does that make us each a one-man band self-contained like a water-balloon with big ideas in a world of sharp objects?

(Probably.)onemanband.gifYou can look at someone and see their story. You can tell what a person is thinking, feeling and intending. Science says it’s because we have mirror neurons in the brain, but in our hearts we know it’s because we “Walk the Line”.

penguinOn the one hand we have a strong sense of freedom—we believe we have free will—but on the other hand, we have a funny feeling that we could be mistaken.

Byron Reese, author of The Fourth Age, says it’s hard to account for free will given our two sets of natural laws: Newtonian physics—every cause has an effect—and Quantum theory—certain things are truly random (video source).

A scene in No Country for Old Men with a coin toss, a gas station clerk and a killer named Chigurh illustrates the paradox between random chance and a universe built on cause and effect.

Chigurh took a twenty-five cent piece from his pocket and flipped it spinning into the bluish glare of the fluorescent lights over head… Call it. Call it? Yes. For what? Just call it….I didn’t put nothin’ up. Yes you did. You’ve been putting it up your whole life. You just didn’t know it” (p. 56).

That’s what this is about.

The coin toss could symbolize fate—there’s a deeper meaning—or it could symbolize chance—there is no meaning. We think we have free will but isn’t every event the result of previous events and circumstances together with the laws of nature?

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Reality could be nothing but chance and circumstance or it could be following a path determined by previous events. The occurrence of things depends upon choices and actions but choices and actions could be determined just like everything else.

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Right here and now is what this is about. Relationships, responsibilities, stresses, distractions, habits and such like are fantastic—they make us who we are—but a first person perspective like you’d find in a novel or a movie separates us into a head-game that removes us from a happy feeling where there are no divisions.

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But with a click you can shift perspective from your self as the centre experiencing here, to here as the centre experiencing you.

You can see your story and yourself in it. You are the writer, actor and director. You are like a disembodied voice looking and seeing all that is there to be seen and seen in. And with this awareness comes a wonderful feeling of oneness—“Hapa he-eia”!

(See also “Step Into Enjoyment (take one)“.)

An explanation.

mindblownThe heart is made of heart cells. Heart cells on their own don’t have the property of pumping blood. Heart pumping is an emergent property of the whole heart. So too with consciousness.

It’s the sum of neurons that generates complex emotions. No single neuron holds complex information like self-awareness. It’s the sum of everything that makes the world. Like the keynote speaker in Fargo (season 2) said, “Try it. Try simply being.”  

think or be

The whole is greater than the sum of the parts. You are the world aware. Now is experiencing you. Claiming that an individual heart cell can pump blood because the heart can or that a single neuron in the nervous system generates self-awareness is a fallacy of division.

As scholar Beth Dempster said, “process is interactive: “causes” generate behaviours, behaviours generate “causes”” (Smith 1993, p. 21) (source). Everything looks like it’s outside your body but things interconnect like a fourth dimension of space-time.

Figure 3.1 Human psyche as self-organizing system

If everyone is a story, you are a story but what happens when you see your story as a story? What happens when you interrupt the narration?

When you see everything as interconnected and experience the world with your senses without story-telling and ambition you can feel the ultimate enjoyment of oneness and simply enjoy “being.” That’s when you see humour and feel happy as a lark without fear.

You can tell by a person’s conduct whether or not that person has shifted perspective but it really comes down to feeling love for everything. That’s when you know your perspective has shifted. When you love everything, that’s when you say, “Wow! This really is quite awesome, thank you.”

That’s what this is about.

(Groovy.)

Enjoy Perfect Understanding

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And rise with me forever, across the silent sand. And the stars will be your eyes, and the wind will be my hands” (“Far From Any Road”). Sometimes it feels like we’re puppets at the mercy of wider forces and hypocrisy is the norm. Most people wonder on occasion whether or not they’re making the most of their time. If we had it to do it over, would we do it again? Should we be doing something different with our time?

We put pressure on ourselves to enjoy every minute as bucket lists items pile upIn the time it takes to read, “Right this second,” you might ask, “Am I wasting my time?” but herein is the question: What is time for?

sword of damoclesTime can feel like a Sword of Damocles hanging above your head. Anybody who enjoys wealth, luxury and power lives under threat and anybody who has nothing envies those who have what they want. Gated communities imprison the pampered as poverty imprisons the poor. Questions about whether or not you’re making the most of your time happen when you’d rather be doing something else. In moments of boredom, irritation and/or annoyance, that’s when the present turns into the past like the end of a toilet paper roll running out fast.

As you watch a truck commercial you’ve seen a thousand times, scrub a stain that won’t come out or do anything you don’t like, you might wonder, “Am I missing something?” 

Time is fleeting. It’s cliché. Time flows regardless of wanting. Is time ever really wasted? Soon you and everyone you know will be dead. You’ve seen old films. You know the score. We can’t help but do what we don’t like and all good times end. We’re between the proverbial rock and a hard place.

As the astronomer Arthur Eddington observed in 1927, there’s an asymmetry to time. We experience its flow in a one-way direction: forward, like an arrow. You can remember the past but not the future. You can turn an egg into an omelette, but you can’t turn an omelette into an egg. You can put cream in your coffee, but you can’t take it out.

Days pass like words in a sentence—here and gone, here and gone. You were a baby, now you look different. You’ll change again before you’re finished. You might want to hold time in a bottle and make days last forever like Jim Croce (1943-1973), but unless you’re an X-man, that’s probably not going to happen.

Our trouble is that we divide things into “either/or” opposites—nature~nurture, individual~collective, self~other—but that obscures the in-between dynamic of life. Truth is between. Fortunately our brains are capable of showing two contradictory and mutually exclusive behaviors at the same time (The Complementary Nature).

coffee out of time

When time no longer feels like it’s on your side, when you’ve spent your day doing what you don’t like and your night vicariously living someone else’s fictional life, you might think of “Nights In White Satin” and the line, “Another day’s useless energy spent.”

When there’s a job that needs doin’, but you don’t do it: time is a wastin’. When you’d rather be doin’ somethin’ different: time is a wastin’. Like June and Johnny said, “A cake’s no good if you don’t mix the batter and bake it. And love’s just a bubble if you don’t take the trouble to make it”  (Time Is A Wastin'”).

You might think that you’re wasting the time you have, but that’s the thing about time. You don’t have it: It has you. You are time passing and resistance is futile”.

piece of cakeYou’re like a candle burning itself out. Time for you to lighten up. Remember what Mary Poppins said, “In every job that must be done, there is an element of fun. You find the fun and, ‘Snap!’ The jobs a game. And every task you undertake becomes a piece of cake, a lark, a spree, it’s very clear to see” (“Just a Spoonful of Sugar”).

Suppose you’re angry. You think, “I’m angry!” You elaborate the feeling with stories of justification but the more you think in “stories,” the more distracted you are from the present. Saying “I” and “mine” started the process so if you watch the story you tell without identifying with “I” and “my,” you blow out the “story” and disturbing emotion like a candle.

Happy Birthday. You are free.

eleutheromaniaWhen you drop labeling things as “I” and “mine,” you feel the world directly. Disturbing emotions are empty of identify and so is everything else. Look at the one who feels. Look without distraction and anger turns to nothing. Nothing stands alone. Everything is taken together. You see the world through a window where what’s outside is seen through your own reflection. We divide between self and everything else but everything else is one seamless landscape.

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In the Mind Of A Rampage Killer scientists talk about how the emotion centre of the brain (amygdala), “goes into overdrive when a threat is perceived.” If the threat isn’t real, higher level thinking (prefrontal cortex) sends “a message to the amygdala to calm down, but if the wiring is faulty, the message may not get through.” A boy who flies into rages says, “It’s kind of like a werewolf. When a werewolf turns into a werewolf, it doesn’t know who he is, it doesn’t know where he is, it just wants to hurt and fight people.”

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To enjoy without needing anything, go into an equilibrium and watch. Watch the present with your senses. Watch the stories you tell yourself without identification and gain perfect understanding.

To be free of duress and drama, forget stories and assumptions and your mind will be empty of greed, anger and delusions of grandeur.

Whether or not you think you’re wasting time is subjective. As the Western fiction writer Louis L’amour said, “The only thing that never changes is that everything changes.” If you don’t believe it, look in the mirror.

Like George Costanza on Seinfeld said to Kramer, “What you call wasting, I call living. I’m living my life!”

What if getting the daily news really is enough?

 

How to Master the Joy of Living

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The news likes to boost our egos by saying how big our brains are. Huffpost Science reports, “Humans have an advantage in the animal kingdom because our brains are bigger and more wrinkled than those of other animals” (7 Cool New Findings About the Brain).

bigbrainBig wrinkly brains. Amazing. Good to know. Hallelujah. But if big wrinkly brains make us smarter than other animals, how come we make such a mess of things?

We only see what we want to see and are as happy as we want to be. Each of us is like a flock of geese inside a biological car.

We think we create our own reality but we can’t control what other people do or environmental forces. That doesn’t mean we’re victims. We participate in creating our reality through attitude and how we deal with things (Amodeo, 2014).

skipperTo master the joy of living takes grit, spit and a whole lotta duct tape. It takes a conscious effort (and a nonconscious one too).

What isn’t widely known is that the human brain has a well-being filter (Wilson, 2002). Just as our bodies have an immune system to protect us from disease, we have a psychological immune system to protect us from unease. We look at the world in a way that maintains our sense of well-being. We’re spin doctors who rationalize threatening information to make us feel better.

modest mouseIn Strangers To Ourselves (the book, not the album) social psychologist Tim Wilson writes, “What makes us feel good depends on our culture and personalities and our level of self-esteem, but the desire to feel good, and the ability to meet this desire with nonconscious thought, are probably universal” (p. 39).

We apply fight-or-flight reflexes to information by pushing threatening information away and pulling friendly information up close for a kiss.

oblivious of danger

Reasoning is bathed in emotion. Anger let’s us dominate. Love let’s us harmonize and vanity let’s us feel better about ourselves. People without normal emotional processing display irrational behaviour (Damasio, 1994).

What we feel is based on the value we place on something. Positive or negative feelings occur fast enough for an EEG device to detect but too fast for conscious awareness. We can reason but that works slower.

unconsciousThe challenge posed by a Philosophy of Enjoyment is to enjoy life, but living on a planet without forests, song birds, tigers and water might not be as enjoyable as it sounds.

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Not Mars.

If something is too painful or disturbing, our unconscious protects our sense well-being (McLeod, 2009). We enjoy fictional wars on stars and imagine life on Mars. As appealing as Mars is – with its average temperature of minus 60 Celsius, planetary dust storms and radiation equivalent to a whole-body CT scan every five days (Castro, 2015) – there’s just something special about Earth.

flamingoMaybe it’s the flamingos.

There’s a cartoon called “MAN” by Steve Cutts that illustrates human impact. It’s funny, sad and if you don’t unconsciously hate it immediately, it might make you wonder: What’s a big wrinkly brained creature to do?

manIn “The Lie We Live” Spencer Cathcart says, “Each of us shares a common goal: Happiness. We tear the world apart looking for joy without ever looking within ourselves. Many of the happiest people are those who own the least but are we really so happy with our iPhones, our big houses, our fancy cars? We’ve become disconnected… We have mastered the act of killing. Now let’s master the joy of living.

But how does one master the joy of living?

the lie we live

Are the happiest people those who own the least? Researchers say no. They say that wealthy people aren’t happier they’re just less sad, daily (Kushlev, Dunn, & Lucas, 2015) .

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Forbes magazine reports: “One day I’ll be able to afford a spacious loft in the city with outdoor space and huge windows overlooking the park…The first step in getting what you want in life is to envision yourself already there… what is behind this process is believing… you can will the life you want into being and make it a reality” (How To Create The Exact Life You Want).

readerForbes is a money man magazine with a bad ass financial plan. Its advice to create the exact life we want assumes we want the fool’s gold of a spacious loft in the city with a view of the park.

But here in our philosophy we put on those glasses that help us see unconscious messages. Here we focus on that inward eye which is the bliss of solitude. We don’t believe in money gods, spacious lofts and cars, but in the inner wealth of character.

We keep our eyes wide open all the time and gaze – and gaze – at the wealth and pleasure of daffodil shows.

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A philosopher of enjoyment sings with Johnny Cash, “I keep a close watch on this heart of mine. I keep my eyes wide open all the time. I keep the ends out for the tie that binds. Because you’re mine, I walk the line…As sure as night is dark and day is light, I keep you on my mind both day and night. And happiness I’ve known proves that it’s right. Because you’re mine, I walk the line” (I Walk the Line).

Johnny CashAnd who are you? You are the line. Enjoy it. You walk the line between life and death, and love and hate. The trick to it is to walk that line one step at a time with a kind heart valuing wisdom, reason, nature, beauty, harmony, humour, friendship and love – you know: the good stuff.

Any time, day or night, is the right time to walk the line.

 

References

Amodeo, J. (2014). Do We Create Our Own Reality? Not So Fast. Psych Central.

Brooks, D. (2011). The Social Animal: The Hidden Sources of Love, Character, and Achievement. Random House.

Castro, J. (2015). What would it be like to live on Mars? Space.com.

Damasio, A. R. (1994). Descartes’ Error and the Future of Human Life. Scientific American.

Heath, I. (2002). Unconscious Ideas and Emotions. Psychologist World.

Krueger, A. (2014). How To Create the Exact Life You Want. Forbes Lifestyle.

Kushlev, K., Dunn, E. & Lucas, R. (2015). Higher Income Is Associated With Less Daily Sadness but not More Daily Happiness. Social Psychological & Personality Science.

McLeod, S. (2009). Simply Psychology.

Whiteman, L. (2014, Sept. 1). 7 Cool New Findings About the Brain. Huffpost Science.

Wilson, T. D. (2004). Strangers to ourselves. Harvard University Press.