Enjoy a Funny Feeling

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In The Divine Comedya 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.

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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.

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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).

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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.

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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.

coffee2Success is in the small and ordinarywatching 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.

henry thoreau cartoonIt’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.

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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:

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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. 

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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!

this-chair-looks-pretty-depressed-226290If 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.

negative spaceThere 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. 

“What?” 

Precisely.

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The Pilgrim (Le Pelerin) 1966 by René Magritte (1898-1967).

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.

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The Treasure of Life to Enjoy

treasureWhat does it mean to enjoy? Let’s get right to it. Is it just a matter of having a “Good Time”? Is that what this about? Have fun? Take it easy. It’s a no brainer. Enjoy yourself. End of story. Why make it complicated?

keep it simple2Most people would probably recommend that you relax, take a deep breath and enjoy doing whatever you do. Enjoy a show. Enjoy theme parks. Enjoy eroticism and angry comedy. Enjoy texting, surfing, skiing and skipping. Lift weights. Get religious. Eat protein supplements. Water slide. Run on or off treadmills. Get a dog—carry a bag for poo.

Shop.

bucket of wine2Adopt a highway. Go Buddhist. Do yoga. Go churchy. Take classes in mindfulness and meditation. Play video games. Fight death. Enjoy the pure satisfaction of a lush green lawn from fertilizer. Doesn’t matter what you enjoy as long as you keep busy—so goes society’s mass mentality.

Jump from airplanes (with parachute and/or helmet). Climb mountains. “Follow your dreams.” Doesn’t matter what you do—as long as you do something.

Industries are dedicated to providing the highest quality products and services for you to enjoy. If you work hard enjoyment’s, “Easy peasey!” as they say—whoever they are.

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Peas be with you.

Put on a Life is Good® t-shirt and jiggle as you walk to “I Love to Boogie” by T-Rex. (Note: Life is Good® is a registered trademark). Doesn’t matter if people find you irritating. Who cares? Smile to spite them. Stay positive. Ignore negativity.

life is goodMaybe all you need is a six-pack of Pabst Blue ribbon, a fishing rod and a beautiful day. Or, if you’re a real man’s man, all you need is an outlet mall and a blow-out sale on fashion and accessories. Wear humour like a life preserver. Be quick with a smile and say, “Have a stupendous day! Wipe those tears away!

“Keep it simple,” as they say—whoever they are.

If you’re a woman, maybe all you need is a mythically comfortable bra and to dance with abandon with Mr Right.

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Mr Right?

Or, if you’re not of a stereotypical gender or race, maybe all you need is a big screen TV, some snacks and the latest episode of the Big Bang Theory or The Walking Dead.

There are any number of enjoyable things to do on (or off) this planet. But if enjoyment is easy, why are so many people unhappy? Is it political, geological, psychological, situational or economic? Even people who say they’re happy might just be busy.

Busy is often mistaken for happy.

On TV in his Unnatural Act (1991), comedian Jim Carey wondered, “Imagine if you could just be that happy? That would be powerful manPeople would be tunnelling under the street to avoid you.”

Life is bitter sweet. It’s a truth. “Trying to make ends meet, you’re a slave to money and then you die—” so sang The Verve. Maybe that’s why, as Chris Rock observed, “People love to get high!” (“Getting High”).

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Richard Pryor by Devonne Amos.

Transcending is a craving. Look at the fun such greats as Lenny Bruce, Mitch Hedberg, River Phoenix, and Philip Seymour Hoffman had on their way to the pleasure dome  of “Kubla Khan”.

But it’s all fun and games until someone starts on fire (or dies). Drugs are slippery. What goes up must come down—sometimes hard.

Thomas Hobbes (1588-1679), the philosopher (not the tiger) said that life is, “nasty, brutish and short” (Leviathan, 1610). He had a low opinion of humans. To him we’re all selfish and driven by a fear of death and a desire for personal gain. Only the rule of law keeps us in check” (source).

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Calvin and Hobbes by Bill Watterson.

A biologist might say that life is an arrangement of molecules of self-sustenance and self-replication. Life is self-organising chemistry reproducing and passing characteristics via DNA, but this definition puts humans in with the amoeba.

Science bases life on externals but knowing life means knowing it from within. Life is either a meaningless accident operating in a meaningless universe, or it’s a planned experiment with future unknown. If the universe has any purpose, it is to explore what will happen.

Many physicists believe that the universe is only information and life is a process of energy being transformed—so is non-life, but the difference is that life is linked to the story it contains. Non-life is indifferent to stories imposed.

In Human Givens (2003) Ivan Tyrrell and Joe Griffin said that we are born with needs that seek satisfaction. When enough physical and emotional needs are met, an individual will enjoy life.

But a meaningful life becomes impossible if physical and emotional needs are insufficient and unfortunately, modern society seeks meaning through materialism which leaves us dissatisfied because of our biology. We can’t seem to find meaning. The result us mental ill-health on a societal level.

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Many people will never experience the satisfaction of a meaningful life. So, what’s the answer?

Look to nature.

Life is an unbroken flow of rippling simultaneous events. The sheer Scale of the Universe is as mind boggling as human ignorance. This world is beautiful. Animal life and the life of vegetation shows us that life is a matter of being. By means of a modest routine of eating, sleeping and reproducing, animals and vegetation balance their days doing what their bodies ask of them.

Life is simply a beautiful and harmonious borrowing of energy.

pandaHumans lose the power to simply be happy eating, sleeping and reproducing because we believe we need a reason to be alive—a purpose and a goal to reach. On our deathbeds (something we have been made to fear) we want to be able to look back and tell ourselves that we have done something.

Life loses its purpose when we try to give it one. We are each no more significant than the sand by the sea or the clouds in the sky.

No more significant. But as significant.

Whatever your race, religion or gender, when you step outside your door in the morning and feel the morning sun on your face and the fresh air in your lungs, close your eyes and smile. In that moment you feel life as it should be. No defining. No understanding. No thinking. Just that feeling of pure bliss.

City_LightsHear violins in birds singing. Sing Chaplin’s, “This Is My Song” in your heart to yourself in the voice of Petula Clark. Let tears of unbridled love and enjoyment flow from you as you feel the significance of your own existence and everyone else’s.

This is you! This is you! This is you! Ignore advertising and look around! This is what life is.

Enjoy it.