Enjoyment, World Peace… and Something Else—Guaranteed!

candle smokeLet’s mash it. Let’s smash it. Let’s get creative! The meaning of life is in what you make it. Let’s juxtapose a few things. See what happens. Incongruecies can be funny. To smile, to laugh, per chance to enjoy.

Lester Burnham, played by Kevin Spacey in the movie American Beauty (1999), said, “Remember those posters that said, ‘Today is the first day of the rest of your life‘? Well, that’s true of every day but one—the day you die.” In his closing narration, Lester describes meaningful experiences in his life. Despite his death, Lester is happy because there’s “so much beauty” in the world.

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Lester watching stars (final scene.)

The phrase ‘Today is the first day of the rest of your life‘ comes from 1960’s wisdom. It now appears in The Walking Dead as, “To our newest undead recruits. Good moaning. Today is the first day of the rest of your afterlife.” 

Kinda funny (not really).

The blogger Craig McKee lists 57 zombie and doomsday movies that came out from 2000 to 2015 (source). To McKee these movies tell us that “living in peace, co-operation, and connectedness with others on this planet is an illusion, a luxury we can’t afford when survival is on the line. In the end, it’s eat or be eaten. The message is that we must be suspicious of each other, mistrustful of each other, isolated from each other, and when it comes down to it, we have to struggle against each other to survive.”

the walking dead.jpg

McKee refers to “predictive programming.” It’s a theory about the use of entertainment to “introduce planned societal changes.” Regardless of the theory’s validity, a steady diet of mistrust, fear and violence might not be good. As Kurt Vonnegut said, “We are what we pretend to be, so we must be careful about what we pretend to be” (Mother Night).

Science tells us is that violence is transmitted like a disease (source). Violence begets violence but you can create a world where violence is rare by not being violent. Picture a beautifully interconnected world of trees, birds and flowers, “Tweet, tweet.” Now make a wish and blow out the candle. Wish for world peace, then make it happen.

Don’t look for problems or make complications. Be a wish fulfilled by your actions. Life is a celebration (see also: Enjoy an Interlude). Life is a religious experience. Death isn’t. The only thing we know about death is that it stinks.

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When you know that the feeling of consciousness within you is the same as in all you’s including non-human animals, you won’t be bullied or bamboozled into hurting another “you” (like you) and world peace is guaranteed!

People will argue that it’s a crazy idea. Of course, it’s overly simplistic. Enjoying not harming is ridiculous because the world is complicated and people are too self-interested and won’t do it, but therein is the key! Not doing and self-interest are integral! Not doing is easy! World peace is as easy as watching grass grow! Now curl your toes in fun and enjoy it!

Nature happens gloriously as we occupy ourselves in fantasy, mechanized, digital, virtual or otherwise.

groucho
“The problem with doing nothing is you never know when you’re finished” Groucho.

Wide-eyed awareness of one’s mind expanded is the answer. If the past was about groups, mobs, gangs, religions and nations clashing for control, the future belongs to the individual.

It is as the Three Musketeers said, “All for one and one for all on this ecologically interconnected ball we men with big hats and flouncy pants call the world!”

Cue music.

Through enjoyment we make the world better for everyone by not hurting anyone. Life is rare. Our forays into space have said as much.

frank cannon
“I can’t help that. I’ve been chubby all my life” – Frank Cannon, Private Eye.

Like a giddy child, happy in a world of fun, let’s proceed with our Philosophy of Enjoyment investigation. Is there anyone who wouldn’t want to live a happy and enjoyable life—free and healthy, having fun, finding love, doing exciting things, having friends, eating, sleeping, procreating?

Let’s ask: Why are people baffled and baffling? Why is happiness elusive? Why is self-awareness lacking and ignorance in surplus?

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“Silence is of the gods; only monkeys chatter… Life is too serious to do farce comedy” – Buster.

To explain why the world is as it is, the political philosopher Slavoj Žižek (1949- )—a fun Slovenian if ever there was one—takes the idea that individuals are always “split” between what we consciously know and can say about stuff, and the unconscious beliefs we hold of “the big Other” (authority figures and the regime we’re under).

Slavoy zigzags between knowledge and belief saying that we don’t know what “the essence” of “their people” is but our beliefs are decisive (source).

zizek-lowcard
Rub-A-Dub-Dub, Slavoj pontificates in a tub: “The one measure of true love is: you can insult the other… If you have reasons to love someone, you don’t love them.”

Knowledge is objective truth. Belief is subjective truth. Knowledge is thought true because it’s independent of circumstances. Belief is an idea held as true to the individual who holds it but not necessarily to everyone (see also: The Enjoyment Argument).

If you know something is true then you must believe it, but just because you believe it does not make it true! We think in terms of self and other (one or the other) but we’re one togetherlike one cell in the 37 trillion that make up a human, so you are to the world (source).

The existence of another (a not-self) allows us each to recognize our own self, as in: “Yoo-hoo, I see you! I don’t control your body or hear your thoughts. You are separate. You are not me. Therefore, I am me” (Schalk, 2011).

self and other

The self/other (one or the other) division is how a modern person understands who she, he, they is by recognizing what s/he/they is not! But what happens when you identify yourself with another or when you behave differently than you typically act causing you to appear as other to yourself?

Reality is not a matter of consensus. As the author Johann von Goethe (1749-1832) said, “Behaviour is the mirror in which everyone shows their image.”

The Good Humor Man
Enjoy good humor and Jonathan’s wisdom.

Sociologist Niklas Luhmann (1927-1998) said that there is no reality without the colour of our wishes and fear. “Reality is what one does not perceive when one perceives it” (source).

Your mission, should you choose to accept it (hear that music!), is to start a nuclear fusion of enjoyment worldwide (with or without ice cream). You can perceive reality differently by consciousness-raising right here.

Right now.

It’s a gentle click of understanding when you enjoy reality imagined.

Rainbows, Religious Experience and Nerf Warfare

rainbow
“In the desert, you can remember your name” (“A Horse With No Name”)

In the 1915 novel, The Rainbow, writer D. H. (don’t call be David—call me “Herb”) Lawrence  (1885-1930) tells of a young man named Tom Brangwen who has a shift in consciousness during a moment of irritation with a child.

Lydia Brangwen, Tom’s wife, is in labour and her four-year old daughter, Anna, gets upset. Tom and Tilly, a cross-eyed housekeeper, can’t stop Anna from crying for her mother. When Tom lifts the girl’s body, “Its stiff blindness made a flash of rage go through him. He would like to break it” (p. 79).

rage.jpgAnna is “a little, mechanical thing of fixed will,” and Tom is “blind, and intent, irritated into mechanical action” (p. 78). They are blind and mechanized. Cut off. Disconnected. Tom is angry and Anna won’t stop crying. Each is alone to the other. Hostility evaporates their empathy. Tom doesn’t care what she wants and Anna doesn’t care what he wants.

We’ve all been there. Emotions veto reason. Anger kills happiness like car sickness kills enjoyment of scenery. They call it a loss of self-control but it’s more like a self trying to control what it can’t!

tom
Tom rages.

Lawrence describes a loss of self-control as feeling bewitched by moods, drowning in floods and being possessed by demons (Sanders, 1974). Popular culture stemming from religious images uses devils and angels to symbolize a good self who puts others first and a bad self who puts himself first.

devil HomerJoe Campbell said that, “Every god, every mythology, every religion, is true in this sense: it is true as metaphorical of the human and cosmic mystery. He who thinks he knows doesn’t know. He who knows that he doesn’t know, knows” (“Masks of Eternity”).

It’s simple, really: get what you want—enjoy; don’t get what you want—don’t enjoy. The real trick is in the “what” that is wanted. It’s in the wanting/satisfying dichotomy that people go off kilter. 

Tom wanted Anna to stop crying but she couldn’t. He wanted something he couldn’t provide because Anna controls her crying. Tom was alone in his wanting and a wall went up between himself and reality.

What happens when you want something you simply can’t provide?

NerfBownArrowBox

BONK!” Like a Nerf arrow falling from the sky, a thought hits Tom square in the head:

What did it all matter? What did it matter if the mother talked Polish and cried in labour, if this child were stiff with resistance, and crying? Why take it to heart? Let the mother cry in labour, let the child cry in resistance, since they would do so. Let them be as they were, if they insisted. Why should he fight against it, why resist? Let it be, if it were so” (p. 79).

With this thought, Tom is freed. He’s released from wanting/getting. He accepts what is. No expectations. No disappointment. He sees Anna’s sad face as if for the first time. She is herself and not an object of his vexation. He feels life creating and has a “let it be” feeling way before Paul McCartney’s dreaming (see also: Enjoy Knowing in the Rain).

Tom carries Anna outside, through the rain, and into the barn. He cradles her with one arm and feeds the cows with the other. Anna grows quiet. They sit listening to animals eating and Tom enjoys a “timeless silence”.

The lantern shed a soft, steady light from one wall. All outside was still in the rain. He looked down at the silky folds of the paisley shawl. It reminded him of his mother. She used to go to church in it. He was back again in the old irresponsibility and security, a boy at home” (p. 116).

Later that night he steps outside, lifts his face to the rain and feels, “the darkness striking unseen and steadily upon him… and he was overcome. He turned away indoors, humbly. There was the infinite world, eternal, unchanging, as well as the world of life” (p. 118).

rain on windowReligion and philosophy are guides. Where religion has rituals, philosophy doesn’t. Where religion has supernatural beliefs and a concept of faith—a belief in something without evidence—philosophy doesn’t.

Philosophy will believe in something if it’s proven by way of reason, but what is proven by way of reason in Tom’s experience with irritation, cows, a mother, sad child, and silence?

Nothing? Everything? Tom straddles a line between philosophy and religion. He enters a zone of enjoyment where practicalities give way to feelings of “stillness and rain” that are not easy to grasp.

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Tom’s shift in consciousness is significantly ordinary and superlatively natural. He breathes as a boy and feels those old violins play “Try To Remember”. It could be described as a religious experience simply because it’s profound but religion is tricky. People are funny when they get serious.

God cartoon

Evangelical theologian Michael Dowd thinks, “God is a personification, not a person” (source). In Faces in the Clouds (1993) Stewart Guthrie says that religion is best understood as anthropomorphism and all images and concepts of God are interpretations and personifications. To personify is to see inanimate objects and living things as having human traits, intentions and feelings, but the thing about reality is that it’s real regardless of perception.

thought and emotionScience fiction writer Philip K. Dick (1928-1982) said, “Reality is that which, when you stop believing in it, doesn’t go away” (1978). Between self and other and thought and feeling, we interrelate, interconnect and go round and round each other within a blip of time.

Birth and death, cycles of nature, forces of the universe are real. We can’t always predict what will happen but reality freed of expectation is a revelation. Poet Omar Khayyám (1048-1131) wrote: “We are no other than a moving row, Of Magic Shadow-shapes that come and go”…

Omar Khayyám
Illustration by Adelaide Hanscom.

“Ah, make the most of what we yet may spend, Before we too into the Dust descend; Dust into Dust, and under Dust, to lie, Sans Wine, sans Song, sangs Singer, andsans End!…

Oh, threats of Hell and Hopes of Paradise! One thing at least is certain—This Life flies”… 

My rule of life is to drink and be merry. To be free from belief and unbelief is my religion” (Ruba’iyat).

In this life we are, on the one hand, a self-creation, and on the other, an affiliation. One’s secret self, unique and separate from all others, is a self directed chemical reaction. When everything is rosy and cheerful to you, a state of bliss from everything around you is a source of joy.

To D.H. Lawrence, a lack of “natural awe” and “natural balance” is a sign of the breakdown of modern life. Problems start at a subconscious level so we need to explore a new world of lovenot to dictate imperativesbut to feel.

“The final aim of every living thing, creature, or being is the full achievement of itself…[So] the day is richer for a poppy, the flame of another phoenix is filled in to the universe, something is which was not… And I wish it were true of us.” (“Study of Hardy”, Phoenix, p. 403).

poppy

You are the one who sees violet behind closed eyes. You are a secret other to another and another is a secret other to you.  Your self is like a nut within a shell that is the universe universing.

russian dollA shift in consciousness towards acceptance, contentment and awareness like Tom Brangwen’s can happen to anyone, anywhere, anytime—even you, even here, even right this second!

BONK!

 

References

Guthrie, S. (1993). Faces in the Clouds A New Theory of Religion. Oxford University Press. Available online: as a pdf.

Lawrence, D.H. (1915). The Rainbow. Penguin Books. Available online: The Project Guttenberg Ebook of The Rainbow.

Panichas, G.A. (1964). Adventures in Consciousness: The meaning of D.H. Lawrence’s Religious Quest. Mouton & Co.

Sanders, S. (1974). D.H. Lawrence: the world of the five major novels. Viking Press.

Enjoy Your Self Feeling Infinitely Subjectively Groovy

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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.

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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?

Realize Enjoyment

pretty lake

This is not a lake. It is a picture; nevertheless, you can imagine spending a lazy sunny afternoon here. Not working. Feeling free to wander – here at a lake like the one pictured above.

Maybe you’ve lost everything or own nothing – doesn’t matter! You’re here. You can stroll around enjoying yourself in this bit of heaven.

stick-in-the-mud1You can poke a stick in the mud and lose your footing. You can enjoy a duck singing and a bee’s humming.

“Ca-caw! Ca-caw! Ca-CAW!” some kind of bird is calling for immediate assistance.

Everything is randomly well-ordered. What a high it is to be with what is. You feel that “Wouldn’t It Be Nice” happy Beach Boys singing feeling when, “BAM!” a spontaneous reality hits you right between the eyes. Here you are: at a lake, seeing faces in clouds.

They call it pareidolia. It’s where you see familiar patterns like a face on the surface of the moon or in cloud formations and get excited.

mona lisa photo: Mona Lisa Mona2.gifAnd you smile like Mona Lisa when you realize that all this is not serious. It’s pure enjoyment. You need nothing, want nothing and everything is as it should be. Like a suddenly wise idiot, it comes to you. It’s right in front of you and in-between.

dandy lionsYou get those good vibrations that Brian Wilson sang about. You get it because you’ve paused analytical thinking. You see what’s in front of you. You see dirt through windows. It’s all good (even when it isn’t). You don’t believe or unbelieve in not believing. You feel the harmony in all things like the child you once were. It’s heaven!

But you don’t need a pretty lake like the one pictured above (as fantastic as that is). You can enjoy a parking lot and a feeling of pity. Without an attitude of “what’s in it for me?” (the double whammy of a big ego and a feeling of separation from the world around you) you can appreciate beauty in peeling paint and dandy lions because poetic vision is the world we’re in.

Even plastic bags dance for you if you see it that way.

Good and bad don’t cancel each other. You take all seasons as they come. Life is not a struggle. It is not all dark or light. To be wise is to be in harmony with the good-and-badness and the up-and-downess of a universe doing a doing.

And so it is.

In our cities, behind dashboards and video screens, we don’t think of ourselves as nature manifesting. Maybe that’s why we do what we do. We live in our heads and think we end in our butts. We think like a material girl living in a material world even though the world’s top physicists tell us that isn’t so.

They say nothing is solid. They say the physical world is a sea of energy flashing in and out of being in milliseconds, over and over again. They say we’re made of atoms made of invisible energy and not tangible matter.

Our senses may tell us that reality is made of material things outside our skin, but not so in theory so says professor of physics Richard Conn Henry from Johns Hopkins University: “The Universe is immaterial — mental and spiritual. Live, and enjoy” (The Mental Universe).

Hal Holbrook
Video clip Season 6, episode 4 (coarse language warning)

To explain the science we turn to actor Hal Holbrook who appeared in the Sopranos as a physicist in a hospital room with Tony and others watching a fight on TV. “Think of the two boxers,” says Hal, “as ocean waves or currents of air – two tornadoes, say.”

“They appear to be two things, right – two separate things? But they’re not. Tornadoes are just wind stirred up in different directions. The fact is nothing is separate. Everything is connected.”

Feynman diagramEven knowing that nothing is separate, people continue to aggrandize themselves. They jump on the idea of the “observer effect” whereby the mind of a conscious observer is said to affect quantum processes, but not so says physicist Richard Feynman:

“Nature does not know what you are looking at, and she behaves the way she is going to behave whether you bother to take down the data or not” (The Feynman Lectures on Physics, Vol. III). 

So, what does all this mean? A pretty lake? a plastic bag blowing around? quantum physics? Nothing really. Nothing is the point. When you see a tree, you see a tree. When you fall down, you fall down. The big scoop is that when you feel no separation between yourself and the world around you out to the sun, you realize that the space between is not nothing. The space between is what connects you.

Nothing is holding this whole thing together.

What a trip. Enjoy it!

(See also: Enjoy What is and Take What Comes.)

The Light of Enjoyment

candle in rose bowl
Here ideas grow like leaves – not added one to another, but naturally calling forth one to another, like one candle-light enkindles another candle which kindles yet another to form a beautiful pattern to enjoy.

Cue music: Weapon of Choice. And… begin.

“How is a person like a candle?” Sounds like a set up to a joke: “My love for you is like a candle, if you forget about me, I’ll burn your house down!” It’s funny (and scary) because candles symbolize romance and burning love and actually do burn houses down – 9,300 in the US between 2009-13 according to the National Fire Protection Association.

candle brideCandlelight represents the sun, spiritual illumination, goodness, joy. Light symbolizes intelligence and darkness is death and destruction. Candles at weddings symbolize unity. On birthday cakes they symbolize the light of life and the old belief that smoke from candles carries wishes and prayers to gods who live in the skies.

blueskiesDiarist and Holocaust victim Anne Frank (1929-1945) wrote, “Look at how a single candle can defy and define the darkness.” She knew about darkness and yet, despite her terror, she wrote like a philosopher of enjoyment: “As long as this exists, this sunshine and this cloudless sky, and as long as I can enjoy it, how can I be sad?”

light in the dark 2Poet Mehmet Murat ildan said, “If your mind is misty, your life will be misty; if your mind is sunny, your life will be sunny! Your life will be the reflection of your mind, of your thoughts! If there is a candle in your mind, your life will not know what utter darkness is!” (Mehmet Murat ildan).

lighting-a-cigarette-off-a-100-candle-funny-oldAncient Greeks (and not Athenian octogenarians) burned candles as an offering to their gods, but symbolism aside, a candle burning is similar to the life-functioning of a person. Not that we’re on fire (except for Jerry Lee Lewis and his Great Balls of Fire), but we do burn food (chemicals) and turn it into life-energy and waste (not necessarily of the smoky and romantic kind).

how a candle worksAccording to the National Candle Association when you light a candle, heat from the flame melts the wax made of hydrocarbons and draws it up the wick to burn. A hydrocarbon is made of hydrogen and carbon atoms. Scientists say humans are 96% carbon, hydrogen, oxygen, nitrogen and 4% other elements (Live Science).

According to the Encyclopedia of Human Thermodynamics, Human Chemistry, and Human Physics each human is: “a large atomic structure, or single abstract molecule which has been synthesized over millions and billions of years… if a large chemist was looking down on earth, as though the surface of the earth were a test-tube for his studies, the chemist would view humans to be little molecules reacting together forming products” (Human Chemistry).

humans as chemicalsTo science humans are factories, machines, chemically constructed bags of skin with in-puts and out-puts and parts that can be replaced or repaired. The point is to survive, learn and reproduce.

The question is: “So? What has any of this to do with enjoyment?” Nothing, really. Except, maybe… everything.how a person is like a candleThis goes towards understanding common assumptions. We feel like we’re behind the eyes – a spot of awareness, alone in the universe – and our bodies are like cars and we’re drivers within. We think there is a separation between ourselves and our surroundings, but think of a candle: Would it burn in outer space? We say, “This is me,” and look around pointing, “Not me. Not me. Not me!” (Sometimes we’re shrill.)

WhereAmIIf you’re scientific, you say we’re made of stuff and things run automatically: cause and effect, natural selection. Big visible things are products of tiny, invisible things. Living things come out of dead chemicals. If we go in smaller and smaller, stuff disappears and becomes mostly space. If we look at stars, they go farther away.

And if we’re religious, we think much the same except instead of being made by self-perpetuating processes we believe in a creator.

candleBoth are great views – fantastic! – but this isn’t serious. It’s play. A person (Latin: persona) is a mask. Tag! You’re it! Experience. The amazing thing about the world is that you can walk into it – one foot in front of the other. The trick is to pay attention to its three-dimensionality. We don’t appreciate the softness of air or notice how it parts before us without needing a shovel (unless we’re in Beijing).

beijing
Sunday in Beijing.

We’re airy nothings dependent on the world we’re in. Toys aren’t us: Nature is.

In ’69 Jimmy Cliff sang, “You can get it if you really want. But you must try – try and try – try and try. You’ll succeed at last, mmh, yeah.” A cheerful ditty – repetitive maybe – but fun to lip-sync like David Morrissey.

A philosopher can enjoy the song and get it – not as success – but it as enjoyment. It’s a choice: “I will enjoy.” It perpetuates itself in you as self-conscious feelings of yourself as you disappear.

Try this:

escalatorNext time you’re in a department store and you find yourself alone in your brain, far away in thought and the world is out there, just before stepping onto an escalator whisper, “I will enjoy.” Step on. Let enjoyment (and the escalator) take you on. Merge with a world that’s in and of you.

Leave language. Leave analysis. Live as music. Face forward. Let scenery move in the periphery.

A goofy smile is…. optional.

Enjoy The Impossible Dream

heraclitus of Ephesus

Long ago, before indoor plumbing, iPhones, disposable razors, squeezable cheese and remote controls TVs, sometime in the sixth century BC, along the coast in what was then Greece and is now Turkey, there lived a reclusive thinker of royal decent named Heraclitus of Ephesus (530-470 BC).

Little Heraclitus had no interest in politics or power. He preferred to think. He rejected information-gathering because it didn’t teach understanding (Heraclitus). He renounced royal privileges and withdrew to a secluded estate in the country where he enjoyed observing nature and self-questioning (Basics of Philosophy).

He wrote, “There are two tragedies in life. One is not to get your heart’s desire. The other is to get it” (Russell, 1945) and “The character of man is his guardian spirit (Stanford). One should turn one’s luck into a function of character and ethical stance.

He noticed how most people sleep-walk through life without understanding what’s going on (IEP). They called him the Obscure, the Riddler, the Reviler of the mob and the Weeping philosopher – possibly because he used to sit in Ephesos and cry over man’s feebleness (Heraclitus the Obscure).

heraclitus cartoon
Existential Comics “The Weeping Philosopher

Heraclitus noticed how things flow and nothing stays the same. “We both step and do not step in the same river. We are and are not” (Fragments). “Unless you expect the unexpected, you will not find it, for it is hidden and thickly tangled” (Wikiquote).

“Panta Rhei” – all flows, nothing lasts. Permanence is an illusion of the senses. Things change for the continued existence of other things. Opposites replace each other (IEP).

river

But this is the hardest message of all. All things are transient: your happiness, your home, your family, your friends, your dreams, your health, your moments of ecstasy and insight – everything is flowing through your hands as you’re aware of it.

But what if it’s not such a bad thing? Life is change. It’s a good thing! That’s the point! What if there’s more to it? What if, at a level you’re not aware, you’re more important than you think you are. What if you actually matter?

Science says that you’re a complex machine. In a Scientific American article Why Life Does Not Really Exist it readsLife is a concept that we invented… all matter that exists is an arrangement of atoms and their constituent particles… We have failed to define life because there was never anything to define in the first place.”

cat2Really? A cat is a complex machine. You’re a complex machine. No wonder people treat each other like machines. According to science, we are machines.

But do we really think that there is no difference between an inanimate machine and a man or a woman?  What about feeling? What about consciousness? What about beauty? What about love? What about a baby? What about a boy learning to skate? What about spirit? 

Sam Harris observed that many people consider the word spiritual to be “thoroughly poisoned by its association with medieval superstition” (In Defense of Spiritual) and yet, it’s just the right word. Spirit is the deliberate effort to overcome separateness and non-ordinary states of consciousness.

In 1797 William Blake wrote: “What is the price of Experience? do men buy it for a song? or wisdom for a dance in the street? No. It is bought with the price of all that a man hath: his house, his wife, his children. Wisdom is sold in the desolate market where none come to buy (The Four Zoas).

Experience is a loss of innocence and yet through that pain Blake sees how the world is infinite. “To see a World in a Grain of Sand / And a Heaven in a Wild Flower / Hold Infinity in the palm of your hand / And Eternity in an hour / A Robin Red breast in a Cage / Puts all Heaven in a Rage” (Auguries of Innocence).

ocean

Can you see infinity in a grain of sand? What would it take to do that? Could any little thing contain a cosmic truth that you could be aware of with enough imagination? Could a wildflower be a miniature heaven? Could a grain of sand be a miniature world?

Most people don’t know how to hold eternity in the palm of their hand. It’s hard enough keeping it together until the end of the day! We’ve lost our minds. Our attention is lost in a blur of appointments, technologies, to-do lists, worries and agitation. We’re more absorbed in movie worlds than our own. We walk by a crow or a rabbit or a sparrow without being blown away by how miraculous it is!

But… sometimes… in the briefest moment, when we freeze in our tracks, when we hear Pachelbel’s Canon or harmonia 76 or some music, sound, sight or smell that takes us out of ourselves for no reason. And we look into the eyes of people who look angry, distant or afraid and we feel compassion for them. We feel a spirit of friendship. We have a feeling of beauty and a happy, tingly shiver goes through our body. In a brief moment of attention we pick up the scent of something more going on than survival, but the moment passes and mundane thinking swallows us again.

rain

The trick is to cultivate those moments. Enjoy them. Again and again. Blake’s vision of an expansive experience is available to anyone, any time. It’s just that the modern world has given itself to the literal, to the informational and to the material. We’ve lost touch with what matters within ourselves. The pendulum has swung to non-spiritual. We miss the magic in front of us. A tree is not just a tree. It’s a tree! It’s a tree! It’s a damn tree!

You can see the Universe in a grain of sand! You can stop slogging through your day and take a moment to notice something cosmic. The connection between everyday reality and ecstatic enjoyment is as close as your face! It’s in the dust on the floor, in the mess on your desk and the water in your sink. The trick is to notice… and imagine… and love… and dream.

Dream your own particular impossible dream

ship in a bottle

References

Harris, W. (n.d.). Hericlitus: The Complete Philosophical Fragments.

Russell, B. (1945). History of Western Philosophy. Simon & Shuster. New York.

For Roberto. Who encourages.