The Content of Contentment: Press Play

tightrope walkerThere’s a war going on. It’s been going on for a couple of thousand years. It’s happening right now. It’s on TV, in the news and in books and movies. It’s on the Internet and on billboards but it isn’t an obvious war. It’s subtle. There are no bombs as a rule.

jesus billboardLike The Troggs said, “It’s written on the wind. It’s everywhere I go” (“Love Is All Around”), but it isn’t love that’s all around: it’s thought.

From thought love flows or shuts off (“Real Love Is a Choice”). You can’t see thought of course—it’s more or less invisible, ergo: “spiritual”—but you can see evidence of thought (or lack thereof) in brain scans, behaviour and city planning.

Cue music: “Peacock Tail” or “Calcutta”.

willy wonka memeThe philosopher Michel Onfray—resident hedonist, atheist, and anarchist—says that it’s a war between materialists and idealists (source). It’s a war that focuses on the big question: “What is reality?”

How you answer determines how you relate to the world.

No biggie.

matrixImagine holding a spoon. You see it. You feel its weight and cool metal in your hand. These perceptions happen within your brain where data from sensory organs comes together and forms an “image” of the spoon in your brain, but apart from your perceptions and awareness of the spoon, is there really something outside and separate from your mind? Do you regard the spoon as real or not?

Materialism says yes.

Idealism says no.

Which one are you?

To a materialist everything is matter because everything, including mental activity and consciousness, is physical. It’s matter acting upon matter. Reality is independent of perceptions.

materialist

As the philosopher Alexander Spirkin (1918-2004) put it in “Matter as the Substance of Everything That Exists”, “Consciousness belongs not to any transcendental world but to the material world.”

The word “materialist” also refers to someone who displays conspicuous consumption of material goods or who pursues wealth and luxury.

If materialism had a theme song it would be Let’s get physical” with Olivia Newton John or “Material Girl” with Madonna.

Now, the opposite of materialism (everything is “matter”) is idealism. To an idealist everything is mental (not matter) and therefore immaterial because the mind, as in, thoughts and ideas, make reality for you (source).

In the movie The Matrix, a boy bends a spoon without touching it and says, “There is no spoon.” To an idealist this means that you can’t manipulate reality, you can only manipulate yourself. Only when you change yourself can you change reality.

perceiver and perception

Idealists can be dualists or nondualists. Dualists (“being two”) think the world is made of divisionsgood/bad, here/there, self/other, past/future; whereas, nondualists (“not two”) think these divisions don’t exist and that we don’t really experience them at all because everything is interconnected and not separated.

Nondualists in Eastern and Western traditions say that a dual, divided experience leaves us feeling finite and vulnerable because we think we’re separate from everything else but if we really understand the nondual unbroken-experience, feelings of separation and suffering end completely (Science & Nonduality).

duality and nonduality

Idealism says, “I am Consciousness. All objects of my awareness are really Awareness in disguise”  (source). If idealism had a theme song, it would be “Life Is But a Dream” with the Harptones, “Spirit In the Sky” with Norman Greenbaum, or “Hurdy Gurdy Man” with Donovan.

The word “idealist” also describes a person with high ideals or qualities of perfection and excellence.

when I was young

In this war the lines are drawn in phrases of persuasion. When Onfray says, “Religion is like magic. It’s all about tricks,” he expresses a materialist’s position. When British physicist James Jeans (1877-1946) says, “the Universe begins to look more like a great thought than like a great machine,” he expresses an idealist’s position. But why must we choose between one or the other? Why not be both together?

bubble

Whether materialist or idealist, we each live in our own little bubble of awareness. The bubble is our self—a universe of one. Some bubble-people float alone. Some bubble-people stick together like suds. Inside our bubbles we think we’re awake and aware of our surroundings. Consciousness seems to come from the operations of our brain but consciousness is tricky that way.

It’s like there’s a locked box inside our head and the key to open it is inside! Thinking about thought is like that. As the Platters said, “Only you can make this world seem right” (“Only You”). The best we can do is to make educated guesses about what others are thinking (source).

lady in a bubble
Photograph by Alex Kisilevich.

The philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche (1844-1900) wrote, “There are no facts, only interpretation” (source) meaning, truth and reality are concoctions of someone interpreting reality and therefore creating it. It’s an idea verified by science. In “What hallucination reveals about our mind” neurologist Oliver Sacks said that we see with the brain but the brain can be fooled by hallucinations that mimic perceptions.

brain is outside inIn “Your brain hallucinates your conscious reality”, neuroscientist Anil Seth said, “What we consciously see is based on the brain’s best guess of what’s out there. Our experienced world comes from the inside out, not just the outside in.”

You could be a materialist who isn’t materialistic or an idealist without ideals, but not likely. Materialism’s determination that everything is “matter” goes with a materialistic desire to buy and idealism’s realization that reality is mental goes with caring more for ideals of excellence and goodness than for anything purchased.

materialism3In the article “If You Shop on Thanksgiving, You Are Part of the Problem” Matt Walsh writes of  the materialist’s credo for happiness: “Everybody buy. It doesn’t matter what you buy. Just buy. It doesn’t matter if you don’t have money. Just buy.”

To which George Monbiot adds, “The more we consume, the less we feel. The richer we are and the more we consume, the more self-centred and careless of the lives of others we appear to become” (“Why we couldn’t care less about the natural world”).

A materialistic bid for happiness confirms research that shows, “Those who pursue wealth and material possessions tend to be less satisfied and experience fewer positive emotions each day… Life satisfaction—surprise, surprise—is correlated with having less materialistic values” (“The Psychology Of Materialism, And Why It’s Making You Unhappy”).

idealist cartoon

Psychologist Felicitas Heyne writes, “If you are an Idealist, life represents one continuous search for a deeper meaning: Who am I? Where am I going? What is my destiny? This already describes the most important pillar of your personal concept of happiness: The meaning of life!” (“How Idealists can find Meaning in their Lives”).

To be awake means to be fully conscious in the present moment. To be “unconscious” is to be not conscious. It is to be “without awareness, or cognition” (Dictionary.com). 

In the film, You, the Living, a psychiatrist delivers a bleak assessment of the human condition: “People demand to be happy at the same time as they are egocentric, selfish and ungenerous. I’d like to be honest and say they are quite simply mean, most of them. I’ve stopped trying to make a mean person happy. I just prescribe pills, the stronger the better.

So, is the answer in a pill?

red pill or blue pill

When Bob Dylan said, “The answer, my friendis blowin’ in the wind,” he said a slurring mouthful (“Blowing In The Wind”).

Peace_and_Contentment_Eduard-Grützner
Peace and contentment by Eduard von Grützner, 1897.

As an idealist, you interpret the world as if it were a person and then, as a materialist, you enjoy it. Two sides. Same coin.

Contentment is simply seeing and enjoying what is seen and enjoyed simply.

In a state of satisfaction with absolute acceptance of yourself and your situation, perfect gratitude hits you with perfect ease and contentment.

And there you are.

Here.

Enjoying.

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The Art of Love And Enjoyment Incarnate

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“Spirit of Love,” by Paul Horton (source).

Most people would probably say that love is something you “fall into.” It’s like a butterfly landing on your finger. You can’t make it happen. People say the same of enjoyment. It too is thought of as something that happens to you (if you’re lucky) like a butterfly landing, but such notions are perpetuated by a misunderstandingLove and enjoyment are not things you fall into (if you’re lucky) like uncovered manholes. There’s an art to it.

origami swanHappy feelings that make life worth living don’t just hit unbidden. You cultivate them. Love and enjoyment are nurtured with attention, authenticity and self-understanding. You can learn how to love and enjoy. They are capacities. You are the soil prepared for good feelings to grow.

Enjoyment is like an origami swan you learn how to fold. It’s an art that takes honesty, humour and heart.

dude probably notTo capitalize on our craving, love and enjoyment are used in product branding. Advertisers use the words “love” and “enjoy” interchangeably. To say, “I’m loving it!” is another way of saying, “I enjoy!

Ask yourself: Is it possible to love without enjoying or enjoy without loving?

Probably not.

To enjoy without love is to sully our yearning. Cue music: “Enjoy Yourself (It’s later than you think”).

People are starved for love and enjoyment. They knock themselves out to feel glorious. Entire religions and new consciousness movements revolve around dissolving one’s ego so as to feel a beautiful oneness like a fetus back inside mother before birth created the problem of identity.

i_love_enjoymentLook at how people spend money each year: online dating in the U.S.: two billion dollars (source); illegal drugs worldwide: 360 billion dollars (source); entertainment industry in the U.S.: 720.38 billion dollars (source); global travel and tourism: 7.6 trillion dollars (source). People think they can buy their way into a feeling no product or service can provide.

People see the problem of love as being loved (as opposed to being loving) and the problem of enjoyment as about finding something fun to do (as opposed to being life’s enjoyment incarnated with awareness).

incarnation
Gherardo delle Notti o Gheritt van Hontorst – Adorazione del Bambino, January 1620 (source).

To be lovable, men try to appear successful primarily through money, status and sex appeal. Women do likewise, but their focus is on appearances – bodies, clothes and accessories.

Popular stand-up comedians often say what people keep hidden and people laugh because they know it’s true. Comedian Chris Rock said (between expletives), “If you haven’t contemplated murder, you ain’t been in love.” Why? “Because,” Rock says, “Try your best to make her happy, but here’s what nobody tells you: You can’t make a woman happy. It’s impossible!”

ugly_blind_date-290x300
Ugly Date, Linda Causey, 2005 (source)

People assume the problem of love and enjoyment is one of an object. They don’t see it as a problem of knowledge and ability. They think love and enjoyment is simple. The problem isn’t with one’s self but with finding the right object to love and enjoy. This attitude is rooted in our society’s idea of buying and mutually agreeable exchanges (Fromm, 1956).

Two people fall in love when they think they’ve found the best object available on the market given exchange limitations. They were strangers (as all of us are) until they let the wall between down and then they feel a miraculous oneness. Neither person feels alone, but those feelings of intimacy fade as antagonism, mutual boredom and disappointment kill the initial feelings of excitement.

butterflies
Painted by blind artist John Bramblitt (2015).

The only way to overcome this failure is to understand the meaning of love and enjoyment. The first step is to be aware of how love and enjoyment are art forms.

When we’re born, we’re thrown from a situation that’s definite into one that’s uncertain.

We’re born with the gift of reason. We’re life aware of itself. We’re aware of our self, of our fellows, of our past and possible future.

vampire
Not insane. Just misunderstood.

Awareness of your self as a separate entity can feel like a prison. You know life is short. You know that you will die against your will before those you love or they before you. People who can’t escape their aloneness by uniting with others and the world tend to go insane. The panic of absolute isolation can be overcome only by a radical withdrawal from the outside world so the feeling of isolation disappears as the world disappears.

Then again, as Kurt Vonnegut (1922-2007) said, “A sane person to an insane society must appear insane” (Welcome to the Monkey House, 1968).

kurt vonnegut
“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'” (15 Vonnegut quotes).

The feeling of being separate is the source of all anxiety. Love is the only answer. With love comes enjoyment. Feeling separate cuts us off from human powers. Feeling separate is to be helpless. Our separation is represented in the story of Adam and Eve.

After they ate of the “tree of knowledge of good and evil,” they became human. They were emancipated from an animal harmony with nature. They became strangers to each other as is shown by how Adam blames Eve instead of defending her.

tree of knowledgeOur deepest need is to overcome separateness. It’s why we conform. It’s why we cling to cults, clans and nations. It’s why we participate in the herd activities of sports, politics and drug-fuelled electronic dancing.

We enjoy connection over isolation. We love to belong to something bigger than our self. We used to be God’s children. We shared a divine substance that made us one and yet separate like a flowered cosmos, but equality has changed. Equality is becoming “sameness” between genders and people instead of “oneness.”

The greatest enjoyment is found in transcending one’s self in a moment of feeling at one with everything, but only a true non-conformist can overcome today’s spirit of a production oriented, materialistic society run by a managers, professional politicians and billionaires.

garry shandlingGarry Shandling (1949-2016) – another great comic with heart – said, “All my journey is, is to be authentically who I am – not trying to be somebody else…. The whole world is confused because they’re trying to be somebody else! To be your true self, it takes enormous work… Ego drives the problems so you have to work in an egoless way” (source).

Like the Kinks said, “I’m not like anybody else” but that doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy unity. Reach out. Love and enjoyment are what this philosophy is about! We’ll always be the child we were. It’s behind the eyes of another when you look at the world with love.

Enjoy. Practice the art of love and enjoyment.

References

Fromm, E. (1956). The Art of Loving. Harper & Row, Publishers.

Enjoy A Space For Happiness

forest-house

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.

tear-of-joyHappiness 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.

man_on_a_desert_island_v2_by_jgzon-d8a4bk4
“Man On Desert Island” by JGZON.

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
Precisely the least, the softest, lightest, a lizard’s rustling, a breath, a flash, a moment – a little makes the way of the best happiness” ~ Thus Spake Zarathustra.

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?

a-little-cock-sparrow
A little cock-sparrow sat on a high tree … And he chirrupped, he chirrupped so merrily.

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-stars-road.jpg

“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.

wishingwellhigh

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!

References

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.

Beautiful Enjoyable Virtue With More Cowbell

autumn-trees

Jonathan Edwards (1703-1758) was a hell-fire preacher and philosopher. His book, The Nature of True Virtue (1765), is a hard book to read (without falling asleep), but what he said in his wordy way is that virtue, a.k.a. moral excellence, decency, and courage is a kind of sixth sense like Spider-Man’s spidey sense except instead of sensing imminent danger, one senses a beautiful feeling of virtue.

Virtue is “founded in sentiment and not in reason,” said Edwards meaning: virtue is a beautiful feeling. If you enjoy strolling a tree-lined path, you don’t need reason to explain beauty to you. You know its beautiful because you feel it! Virtue is like that. It’s something “immediately pleasant to the mind.”

jonathan_edwards
“…virtue most essentially consists in love…”  Jonathan Edwards

Edwards may have been indecisive about what to wear, “Should I wear the black jacket or the black jacket?” but when it came to virtue, he was never conflicted because virtue is not relative to culture. Virtue is universal. It may not come to everyone (even though it could), but with genuine concern for what is good, virtue has already come.

Edwards (a.k.a Mr. Bluesky) called true virtue the “benevolence of being” or “beauty of the heart.” The heart being symbolic home to emotions of love, affection, and courage and where people say they feel a heartwarming sensation (as opposed indigestion).

If you are touched by an insurance commercial and “believe in good,” that is true virtue. It isn’t beautiful like a flower, house or body. It isn’t a thing. Virtue is feeling beauty in good doings.

flowers-sidewalk-crack

Taking an opposite stance to “feelings, nothing more than feelings,” (not the Offspring version) is Ayn Rand (1905-1982). To her, reality is exclusively perceived by the physical senses and only REASON can take sensory data and arrive at objectively valid conclusions (source). Her philosophy, Objectivism, is based on reason, egoism, individualism and capitalism.

aynrandreason
“Money is the barometer of a society’s virtue,” Ayn Rand.

With Rand, prickly analytical type people are either critical (Was Ayn Rand Evil?) or evangelical (The Atlas Society).

Rand argued that morality is a code of values that guide the choices we make which determine the course of our lives (source), but we’ve been offered two false alternatives: be moral – sacrifice yourself to others, or be selfish – sacrifice others to yourself (source). Which did she choose?

Be selfish. 

Edwards probably wouldn’t buy Rand’s “The Virtue of Selfishness.” He believed in feeling beyond reasoning, but he did say that some virtue comes from self-love (even if it isn’t true virtue).

The Golden Rule for example (treat others as you wish to be treated) treats virtue as an exchange for mutual benefit (reciprocity), but when treated poorly, do people say, “That’s OK,” (true virtue) or do they say, “How dare you treat me this way?” and demand retribution?

goldenwizard10

Cue music. Edwards said that “self-love” is to feel “one with one’s self” and true love (like parent for child), is to feel a union of the heart with others: a kind of enlargement of the mind, whereby it so extends itself as to take others into a man’s self.”

In eastern traditions, feeling separated from the earth and each other is a trick. Our brains put things into intellectual boxes that we label, but we are all a self and an other to each other and everything goes together: back with front, sound with hearing, inside with outside.

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Edwards probably believed in a higher self (good) and a lower self (bad), but in Zen there’s no such thing. There’s just you as far as the eye can see! Poetically speaking, “We’re rays of the same sun,” or as Oliver sang it in ’69, “Good Morning StarshineThe earth says hello. You twinkle above us. We twinkle below.

shadowAnd yet, feeling at one with everything sounds like a fantasy because it feels like there’s a self “in here” (with your name on it!) and a world “out there,” (that’s scary sometimes) but this is a trick we play on ourselves (source).

Reality is a feeling of colour, sound and sensation. We receive this as an entirety, but tell ourselves that some of it is “me” and some of it is “you.”

Pristine enjoyment is total acceptance: acceptance of yourself, of this universe as it is in this instant without any feeling of separation between self within (yes you!) and world without (look around!).

True virtue is to enjoy walking 500 miles in comfortable shoes like the Proclaimers claimed they’d do for no good reason but love.

Martial artist, Morihei (“abundant peace”) Ueshiba (1883-1969), said in The Art of Peace, “Foster peace in your own life then apply the Art to all that you encounter” (p. 13), but how do you do that?

Watching simulated horror in The Walking Dead show is popular, but in such places as ISIS territory, in flooding refugees, in crowded slums and extinction of species from inharmonious activity, a leaden-hearted brain-dead zombie apocalypse of a kind is happening now.

That a terrifying show about death feeding on life should provide advice about love and peace just goes to show, “You never know.”

In the non-horrible video below we meet Mr. Eastman who shows a man how to live a peaceful philosophy of nonresistance: redirect, evade, accept, care, protect, move forward and remember: All life is precious (and carry a big stick).

Enjoy living in the beauty of virtue. In the words of the band Blue Oyster Cult, “Don’t fear the reaper,” but if you do, amuse yourself with a little more cowbell!

And remember: Living in peace is better than resting!

Enjoy Love

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?

greenlight

We wander as we wonder, “What is that green glow?”

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.

self-reflection

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.

car personality

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.

moon over waterBut 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.

becoming animal 2

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 Cosmology2010) 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.”

rock-on-road

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.

love of nature

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).

And it is.

 

 

Reality And The Zone of Enjoyment

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

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

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

he loved the beach

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

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

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

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

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

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

david puddy
Puddy staring on a plane scene.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

rocket lady small
Hope rockets eternal.

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

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

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

smile
A stoic who doesn’t know it.

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

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

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

infected
Culturally infected.

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

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

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

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

And heaven is now.

So This Is Christmas

christmasChristmas. It’s a time to enjoy being a kid again. ‘It’s time to be nice to the people you can’t stand all year’ (Blink 182, Won’t Be Home For Christmas). It’s time to lighten up like a string of lights and not be so serious. Serious people lose their sense of humour. They lose perspective, get mad, start wars (or self-destruct).

Let go of expectations. Lower the bar! It’s time to take stock, have a good cry and then: move on – refreshed – ready for a new year.

where is mindIt’s time to pay attention to matters of love and friendship and textured vests. It’s a time to want what you get and be thankful for it. It’s a time to enjoy being mild and to smile for no apparent reason. It’s time to relax your face muscles completely, to not be critical of the idiot next door or find fault with yourself and all the others out there.

It’s like Ebenezer Scrooge said in A Christmas Carol after his nightmare and metanoia (change of heart), “It is a fair, even-handed, noble adjustment of things, that while there is infection in disease and sorrow, there is nothing in the world so irresistibly contagious as laughter and good humour.” And then, later a new and improved Mr. Scrooge said, “I will honour Christmas in my heart, and try to keep it all the year. I will live in the Past, the Present, and the Future. The Spirits of all Three shall strive within me. I will not shut out the lessons that they teach!”

scrooge

It’s time to hear a Medieval Christmas Carol and imagine. Christmas is a perfect time for a philosopher of enjoyment because isn’t enjoyment what it’s all about? Isn’t that why we’re here? Don’t all mothers and fathers want their children to be happy?

With or without a religious affiliation, everyone believes in love. Everyone believes in happiness. Christmas is a time for traditions, for remembering good times and the lessons learned in bad. It’s a time to stop competing, to get off the rat race and enjoy being alive.

being in the momentChristmas is a time to enjoy seeing, hearing, smelling, tasting, touching, imagining (and caroling). It’s a time to be in time (not on time).

It is time to take a simple approach: When looking, look. When hearing, hear. Look without judgement. Hear what is there. Let thoughts come and go like the trace of a line left by a fly.

This Christmas be introspective with a difference: Pay attention to sights and sounds and let thoughts move along like marching bands in a Santa Claus parade.

santa-clause-paradeIf you get sucked into the vortex of thinking, take a deep breath and start again. Gaze at Christmas ornaments unabashedly wide-eyed. Listen to music of love like it’s as essential as the air that you breath. Watch thought bubbles come and go and you will feel lighthearted love for all.

bubblesNot that thinking is bad (unless it is bad thinking). It’s just that being perpetually absorbed takes you into a mental world that isn’t real. Before his transformation Scrooge was in a mental world where only money mattered. He was blind to the world outside his mind. But you don’t need ghosts to tell you what is.

christmas ballsLook at Christmas tree balls. No sorrow. No lamenting. No coveting. No grief. Feel a passion for what is real in every moment, undistracted and accepting.

Christmas is a be-in-the moment thing.

christmas treats

Christmas is a time for bitter-sweet tears of loss and heartache (in a good way!), but try not to let emotions of love get mixed with pain. Love hurts. That’s what it does. Too often people have unrealistic expectations and engage in too much self-reflection. As a result, there’s an increase in depression and suicide attempts (Psychology Today).

christmas3The trick to all this is to ignore how the media presents Christmas perfection. Christmas is not perfect. Be with what is and remember the kid that you were.

expectationsAs much as we may ponder the past and worry about the future, Christmas is time to focus on now.

This is it. This is it. This is it.

If you want to be happy in the world, there is nothing more important than to understand this. The trouble is that we spend our lives forgetting and overlooking the truth. We flee from it and manage to avoid being happy while we struggle to become happy by fulfilling desire.

Listen to that old song called Stewball that goes, “Oh Stewball was a racehorse, and I wish he were mine. He never drank water, he always drank wine,” and remember how Stewball became something else.

Stewball’s melody was turned into a new Christmas song about love, “So this is Christmas and what have you done? Another year over and a new one’s just begun. And so this is Christmas, I hope you have fun, the near and the dear ones, the old and the young…” (John Lennon, So this is Christmas).

Now is the time that is. Now is the time for your transformation. Now is the time to enjoy what Christmas is. Go forth and enjoy all the love that you can.

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