Beautiful, Average, or Disappointing—what’ll it be?

stairs to nowhere

How would you rate your life thus far, overall and right now? Would you rate your life thus far, overall, and right now as (select one):

Radio buttonsOption 1 Profoundly Beautiful
Quote: “Life is beautiful. I would not change a thing.”

Option 2 Just Average
Quote: “Life is O.K., but there are a few things I might change, if I could.”

Option 3 Rather disappointing
Quote: “Life sucks—more or less. There are many things I’d change, if I could.”

Of course, the above questionnaire is limited and it’s leading. You’re not given much for choices. Most people would probably select option 2 or 3. Option 1 sounds far-fetched—especially given the nature of vales of tears and potholes that we’re in (Latin vallis lacrimarum potholeus).

life cycle

How can life thus far, overall, and right now be profoundly beautiful when aging, dying and disappointment are guaranteed—especially towards the end. Profoundly beautiful seems only to happen in fleeting moments—here and gone, here and gone, and again, if you’re lucky.

Profoundly beautiful doesn’t lend itself to a permanent state of affairs—at least, not without some training in the art of enjoying (see also: Rainbows, Religious Experience and Nerf Warfare).

quickdraw
Watch where you point that thing.

This questionnaire may make you say, “Hold on thar, Baba Looey! I’ll do the thin’in’ around here, and dooon’t you for-git it!” like Quick Draw McGraw used to say before hilarity ensuing.

If you paused before option 1, “I wouldn’t change a thing,” your thoughts may have gone to moments that were not beautiful. There may be many non-beautiful moments, but such is the world.

It is what it is. Things happen. Resistance is futile.

Acceptance frees us and expectations are a set up.

rowboat.gif

From chaotic to predictable and back again, we go like row boats tossed on waves of ups, and downs. The trick is, therefore, to enjoy the rowing (you may as well)

Cue Pérez Prado “Patricia”.

For lots of people (on behalf of lots of people), life may be profoundly beautiful, but, only on occasion. Most people would probably say things don’t seem profoundly beautiful, thus far, overall and right now because, we’re too busy.

Feeling profound beauty takes a special kind of silence and a special sense of awareness of yourself and the place you’re in. In day to day life most people don’t have time to pay attention to paying attention. Only oddballs, musicians, mystics, actors and comedians have that kind of time to waste.

It can get crowded.

people
People.

Most of the time we’re on auto-pilot. That’s why we don’t notice what’s really going on. What matters most to most people is the life they’re in right now and only rarely is that life profoundly beautiful (or so it feels).

If anything is (or was) profoundly beautiful, we’d hardly notice. We’re critical. We’re oblivious to our breathing and hardly notice birds in the trees or the beauty of life on this blue planet.

big pictureBut no more. With a click of awareness, from this moment forward (and backward), you will be aware of yourself, of yourself breathing and of your Self living and everything else. You will notice yourself noticing with your senses and with your mind attuned to the miracle of life and living like the wisest wise person ever.

That’s you.

It’s a paradox, really.

A paradox is “a proposition that, despite sound (or apparently sound) reasoning from acceptable premises, leads to a conclusion that seems senseless, logically unacceptable, or self-contradictory” (source).

In the paradox of “less is more,” for example, how can less be more? Out of two opposites “less” and “more” comes the concept that what is less complicated is often more appreciated (see also: Where Are You? The Paradox of Happiness).

A paradox appears to contradict the truth, but it is an implied truth. It describes an action or situation that seems absurd but is true. It challenges the mind to question common thoughts such as, “Just average is on the right side of terrible.”

Choices we make about what to do now or later and our levels of satisfaction as derived from those choices are driven by comparisons. In economic circles, they call the trade off between now and later satisfaction, “time discounting.”

 

economics of now or later

Contrary to post-modern relativism and lack of truths, the paradox of happiness is that it comes when you are gone!

But, if you want even more than just to lose track of time and get absorbed in what you’re doing, the profoundly beautiful feeling of living life thus far, overall and right now comes only with awareness (see also: “Where Are You? The Paradox of Happiness”).

boing

So the trick is to find your self  in feeling aware of yourself feeling aware in the space you’re in, as if you are extended into what is seen.

Easy peasy.

Boing.

Enjoy.

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This Time (and space-time) to Enjoy

gatekeepercabin

A dream (cue dreamy music):

“I was walking down a path in a misty forest and I came to a gate. A man at the gate said, ‘Correct, go in. Incorrect, stay out.’ I nodded agreement and the man said, ‘What is greater than God, more evil than the devil, the poor have it, the rich need it and if you eat it, you’ll die?’

I didn’t know. I said nothing. 

And the man said, ‘What is between Earth and moon?’

‘Nothing?’ I said—as if it were a question.

And the man said, ‘In our universe even a dark void of empty space absent of particles is still something,’ and in a blink, ten years passed—which seemed long (as far as blinks go).

close up of eye3.jpg

And the man said, ‘All matter is made of atoms and sub-atomic particles ruled by probability—not certainty. You consist of particlesParticles hover in a state of uncertainty, but you don’t. You remain solid. Why is that?’

‘Your experience of the world is constructed by sensory and cognitive capacities. Your understanding of reality is a mental representation—not reality itself—but you can experience reality directly and enjoy it immensely with a shift in perspective.’

‘Instead of thinking of yourself as a being in a world ‘out there’—as in, ‘me in a world outside me’—assume a more universal less egocentric perspective. Let your feeling of self extend.’

(The man was clearly insane.)

you've got advanced stage humans

‘The universe is defined as, “the totality of existing things…. everybody, all people, the whole world… all together, all in one, whole, entire, relating to all… turned into one…. One.”

And the man gave instructions for cosmic reflection:

‘Step One: let your senses fall victim to being here and now as it is. Be here as here being here. Feel the feeling of here. Be here like any other creature self-aware.’

Step Two: look at the space between things as connective. An invisible nothing connects everything into one big thing. We are as nothing—like spirits here and gone but we have one thing the universe needs to exist: Conscious awareness. Without conscious awareness, there is no reality. Reality rests on whether or not there are eyes open.’

And suddenly reality is the dream and the dream is reality.

And the man said, ‘You might wonder what’s going on in someone’s mind, but what is mind?’

And I said, ‘Your brain is a physical substance. It contains billions of neurons relaying electrical signals. Your mind is a product of signals fed by energy from the sun consumed in the form of plants and animals (aka food). Everything is entangled. Like Oliver Swofford said, “Glibby gloop gloopy. Nibby Nabby Noopy, La La La Lo Lo.”‘

And the man said, ‘How do you define a shoreline? Is it water or sand?’

It is both. (Duh.) 

And the man ignored my belligerence and said, ‘The inner workings of your mind wash over the shore as you shape and mix yourself with the world.’

Wave giphy.gif

‘Our experience of self interconnects with the world. One’s inner world is relational to the outer world. We think of our mind as a brain inside a skull like a peanut in a shell. We all feel alone. Sometimes we might even think we don’t belong, but peanuts cannot be separated from the immediate world. Likewise, if you see your mind and the world as relational, there’s a shift in a sense of belonging.’

law of closure

‘Subjective worlds interact with objectivity. It’s difficult to disentangle a subjective view of the world from its interaction.’

‘Your mind is not simply the perception of experiences, but those experiences themselves.’

To sociologists, anthropologists and psychologists, our minds are extended by the effects we have on others and others on ourselves.

Thoughts are ethereal. Cloud-like. Invisible. Spiritual? Thoughts are gaseous abstractions floating. We are alone in conscious awareness but our minds are not just brain activity. Perceiving your mind as a product of brain functioning can make a person feel all alone but to appreciate the benefits of interrelations with the world, all one has to do is open one’s mind to receive it “as is” without ambition or critique.

Einstein perceived space and time as interwoven into a single continuum known as space-time. In space-time events occurring at the same time for one observer could occur at different times for another (source).

If life is a full-bodied movie involving five senses, memories are flashbacks and time itself is but an emotional fourth dimension you can move around in with some imagination.

(Or not.)

Just enjoy it.

 

Resources:

Quantum Theory – Full Documentary

A Way of Seeing To Enjoy (Part 1)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

wittgenstein
Ludwig Wittgenstein (1889-1951)

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

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

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

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

eggman2

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

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

No matter what.

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

flamingo

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

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

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

maslow-pyramid

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

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

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

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

Enjoy a Little Dream

tower_of_babel
“Tower of Babel” by Damian Parlicki.

A philosopher has a dream. In the dream she’s lying on her back beside a precarious tower. From her vantage point, it’s like she’s inside the Eiffel Tower looking up. The top looks far, far away.

Without a sound and ever so slowly – like a cargo ship setting out to sea – starting at the top, the tower begins to fall in slow motion straight down upon the dreamer.

With terror and disbelief she thinks, “That’s it. I’m dead.”

bottom-of-the-eiffel-tower-looking-up
Inside the Eiffel Tower looking up.

Within a minute she will be killed. The screaming words of AC/DC come to mind, “I’m back in black. I hit the sack. I’ve been too long. I’m glad to be back” (Back In Black, 1980) or as another poet put it:

This is the end, my only friend, the end.
Of our elaborate plans, the end.
Of everything that stands, the end.
No safety or surprise, the end (The Doors, “This Is the End,” 1967).

snuffed-candle

In death there is no pain, only regret.

It’s like the final scene in the the TV series The Sopranos. The family is in a diner talking and eating onion rings as “Don’t Stop Believin'” by Journey is playin’ on the jukebox. Just as Steve Perry sings, “Don’t stop!” BINK – it cuts to black silence and remains black silence for longer than is comfortable. Ten seconds elapse before credits roll.

The silent black nothingness surprises us. We want to go back, but can’t. It’s the silent slam of a door.

Some will win. Some will lose. Some were born to sing the blues.
Oh, the movie never ends. It goes on and on, and on, and on…
(Journey, “Don’t Stop Believin‘”, 1981).

AJ says, “Focus on the good times.” “Don’t be sarcastic,” says his father. “Isn’t that what you said one time? Try to remember the times that were good?” “I did?” says Tony with pause. “Yeah? Well, it’s true, I guess.

And so it is that we too focus on good times and let bad times roll off like duck water. It is now the dreamer who is included as one of “those people who died, died” like in the song by Jim Carroll.

And then… the dream ends. She wakes up. She sees her bed, a cat in the window and hears crows singing brightly, “Caa! Caa! Caa!” There is no tower. There never was. Dreamers see worlds behind closed eyes.

water-off-a-ducks-back“Is that what it feels like to die?” she wonders, looking around at what was old made new.

“Is it, BINK – cut to black silence, roll credits? What if death is like being born? How would you know? Do you remember being born? Do you know when you became aware of yourself as you?”

Is it not the case that as far back as you can remember, you’ve been you? Are you not the only you you’ve ever known? It’s always been you. It’s always been now.

And so it has been for anyone ever. All we know is now! Here you are then something happens – a tower falls, a bit of cancer: Cut to black silence. You’re gone then BINK! back from a dream beginning anew.

That could explain why squirrels and birds look so surprised.

time-is-fluid

Time feels permanent while you’re in it, but it isn’t. The year could be 1822, 1922 or 2022 – doesn’t matter – you roll in the time you’re in.

man-in-1822Flash – you’re at work. Splash – you’re eating dinner. Zip it’s tomorrow, all the while, without interruption, you’ve been yourself to you alone.

What if we each become aware of our self as we go along living from the beginning but the you-ness in each of us feels (and is) the same! Why not? Maybe ‘you’ is a relative term?

After all, we’re all ‘you’  to each other and ‘I’ to ourselves. Every night you close your eyes to disappear and every morning you open them to be yourself again and so does everyone all the time.

Everything is in motion. Cue music: “About Time” or “The Knick.”

cat-in-windowA woman says, “I’m Mavis. I live in Moose Jaw. I’m middle-aged, overweight and I work at Tim Hortons.”

Mavis has an idea of herself that others have come to share, but no one but Mavis knows what it’s like to be Mavis from birth to demise.

When Mavis is gone, only the idea of her will remain.

A man says, “I’m Archie from Arizona. I teach high school and play video games.” Archie has been acculturated. He knows who he is and goes around proving it. He judges others using himself as exemplar.

self-awareness

Charles Dickens wrote, “A wonderful fact to reflect upon, that every human creature is constituted to be that profound secret and mystery to every other” (A Tale of Two Cities).

What is that secret? Can you see it? Peer into the pupil of another. What do you see? Do you see a black hole the same as your own? Maybe they’re not even just the same as in similar but the ‘same’ like the space around a star is the ‘same’ space near or far.

close-up-of-eye2
Eye see you.

A black hole isn’t a “hole” at all. It isn’t even black. It’s an orb in space that looks black because light can’t escape. If you jumped on one you’d descend towards it so slowly that “it would take an infinite amount of time” for you to be atomically disassembled and added to it (Universe Today).

Isn’t it odd how black holes look a lot like pupils in eyeballs, which, by the way, also absorb light rays (Wikipedia)?

black-hole
Artist’s conception of a black hole, Universe Today, 2015.

An old philosopher said, “Each day is a little life: every waking and rising a little birth, every fresh morning a little youth, every going to rest and sleep a little death” (Schopenhauer, 1851). The question is: If your lifespan is 24 hours, how will you live it?

A trick to enjoying a rock and roll philosophy is to recognize the significance of existence and in Hard Times rock it like Ray Charles and in Good Times roll like the Cars.

Enjoy the role of you playing you always and forever (or at least until a tower falls on you).