A Way of Seeing To Enjoy (Part 1)

Knowing is equated with seeing. If you see the light, it could mean that you see a light blinking on a radio tower or it could mean that you know something that makes you see everything different. It could mean both.

Philosophy is equated with thinking. Religion is equated with feeling. Today, like the physicist David Bohm, “we hold several points of view, in a sort of active suspension” (Dialogue). Like poet William Blake, (“To see a World in a Grain of Sand, And a Heaven in a Wild Flower“) and philosophers Søren Kierkegaard—we see the ‘eternal in the temporal’—and Ludwig Wittgenstein we say, “how extraordinary that anything should exist” (Lecture on Ethics).

wittgenstein and russell
Bertrand Russell and Ludwig Wittgenstein; from Logicomix (2008) by Apostolos Doxiadis, illustrated by Alecos Papadatos

Today we feel stoic acceptance of what the world throws at us. We say like Wittgenstein, “I am safe, nothing can injure me whatever happens” (Lecture on Ethics). With a “Click!” we connect to an awareness that leaves us feeling strangely lighthearted—for no apparent reason.

This feeling could best be described as “Self Actualization” (à la psychologist Abraham Maslow) or as an “oceanic feeling” of limitlessness and oneness with the entire human race and universe (à la mystic Romain Rolland) or it could be just one of those things. “What’s for supper?”

Today we go from a narrow self-centred perspective to a wider view of the world in its totality. We are ‘disturbed by joy’ like William Wordsworth a few miles above Tintern Abbey:

“…I have felt a presence that disturbs me with joy
Of elevated thoughts; a sense sublime
Of something far more deeply interfused,
Whose dwelling is the light of suns,
and the round ocean and the living air,
and the blue sky, and in the mind of man:…” (source)

TinternAbbey
1804. Tintern Abbey by William Havell (source).

Religious belief and the lack thereof could be understood not as rival theories but as different ways of seeing. If a believer and an atheist look at a picture and one says it’s hideous and the other says it’s lovely, who’s right? who’s wrong?

wittgenstein
Ludwig Wittgenstein (1889-1951)

Wittgenstein saw religion not as theoretical but as a ‘collection of pictures’ reinforcing rules of life in the form of morality and a way of living that is itself what is eternal (Culture and Value, 1980). If someone taps into that eternal by living it’s ideal, one is living and being the eternal for a time like a leaf on a tree that is seasonal.

The world is factual. Facts are identifiable by science but facts can’t answer why you are here.

Like Wittgenstein said, “We feel that even if all possible scientific questions be answered, the problems of life have still not been touched” (Lecture on Ethics).

The philosopher Jean-Paul Sarte concluded in The Transcendence of the Ego that, “The World has not created the me: the me has not created the World” (p.105) but these two things are connected in a consciousness that is spontaneous. Sarte wrote, “Consciousness is always ‘of something‘, and therefore defined in relation to something else. It has no nature beyond this and is thus completely translucent” (source).

eggman2

Some people picture a soul as translucent—as a kind of a ‘thing’—but not Wittgenstein. He said that if you look at soul language in religion, soul is not pictured as a thing but as integrity (which is equally invisible). So if someone says, “He sold his soul for money” or “He sold his soul to the devil” it really means that he’s become materialistic. He has no deep moral sense and moral sense, as we know, is not visible and immaterial.

A man may have everything but feel horribly afraid of what’s coming. A good man, however, enjoying a good way—tried, true and eternal through himself and those who live after—why, he has nothing to fear. Ever.

No matter what.

He can be light as a feather. He is not chained by anything material. He can never be judged as having lived a futile life even if he dies poor and unknown and didn’t do very much. After all, what does a sparrow do? What are flamingos for?

flamingo

According to Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, a person can’t get to the highest level of “self-actualization” without making it by lower level needs such as food, sex and security.

Please note: some people can blast up to their highest potential without need of basics, but they are rare like hen’s teeth.  

To be self-actualized is to be unafraid of the unknown, untroubled by ambiguity and triviality, Self-aware, Accepting weaknesses while developing strengths, living a “meaningful life” by having a purpose that goes above and beyond one’s self to a greater good (see: Self Actual).

maslow-pyramid

If you were asked, “Do you understand the difference between thinking and being?” what would you say?

Understanding the difference between thinking and being is like when police catch someone in the act of a crime and say, “What do you think you’re doing!” which is another way of saying, “How stupid are you?

This is the exact moment when the cop and the criminal give their collective heads a shake. Most people (most of the time) see the world from inside a self-enclosed bubble of preoccupied thoughts that shape how the world is perceived. But this way of seeing is limiting because it sees a world perceived through language and opinion.

When a person with soul (and a clear conscience, if possible) wakes up, looks around and says full of happiness, “This is a miracle!” he isn’t just describing an event. It’s really his reaction to something significant that he is being, enjoying and becoming.

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Enjoy a Clear Vision

love is blue

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

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

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

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

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

know thyself
Spirit in liquid form.

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

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

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

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

But here you are. How’d that happen?

you are here2

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

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

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

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

subjectivity

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

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

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

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

Tony
Don’t Stop Believing” (Journey).

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bring it on.

Enjoy Your Self Feeling Infinitely Subjectively Groovy

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

There’s a battle going on.

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

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

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

And then you die.

elephantBizarro.jpg

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.

 

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