Enjoy A Good Laugh

Now, too, on melancholy’s idle dreams 
Musing, the lone spot with my soul agrees
(“Sweet Was the Walk” Wordsworth).

To understand humans, just watch them. See what they do. Fascinating creatures. Watch their facial expressions and actions. Listen to their words and intonations.

Watch a man drive aggressively. He tailgates. He cuts in and out. He races. He honks. He stops only when he must. Can you tell by his driving what he’s thinking? Probably.

angry driver

Hurry puts people in bad humour. Look at the face of an aggressive driver—narrowed eyes, angled eyebrows, gritted teeth—unless he’s a constipated criminal or Paul Anka singing, “Having my baby”, this is not the face of peace. This is the demon face of frustration and anger—not to mention arrogance and thrill-seeking behaviour.

Poor selfish lout, so stressed out. One might feel pity if he weren’t scary. Here is machine man surrounded by machine people who have become as gods to themselves. He might prefer to relax and enjoy a nice ride, but he’s too busy listening to reptilian brain chatter.

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Blocking My Reptile” by Stuart McMillen

We’ve all been there. The good old basal ganglia (aka reptilian or primal brain). It’s the part controlling automatic self-preserving behavior and the four Fs: Feeding, Fighting, Fleeing, and…. Reproduction (source). It’s the part that defends self, family and personal property and performs socially acceptable actions like handshakes and head nods.

The doer is revealed by the deed but it could be argued that everyone does the best they can—even if it is terrible (see  related post: “World Views, Weird Edges & Higher States of Consciousness”). If people could do better, they would, wouldn’t they? If we don’t pay attention, it is only in yesterday that we realize what happened.

As an individual, you live a life that no one else will live. Knowing yourself will only come from an intensely personal and passionate pursuit of what gives meaning to your life. Consider what brings you joy and focus on that.

Beyond the emptiness of perpetual pleasure-seeking and bad tidings of your disappearance in the wake of time and a society that’ll suck you dry…… there is another way.

society and individual

The trick is to become aware of your true self subjectively. This is the psychology of religion. To feel yourself as your true self is to have a profound feeling of yourself not in an egotistical sense—not in sadness, anger, fear, envy, jealousy, despair or some negative feeling—but by a silent awareness, a perception that, this is me. I am here. Look at this world. Isn’t it amazing? These people are like me.

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If good old Aristotle with wine on breath, asked you point blank—BAM: “How should we live?” Dear reader: What is your answer?

Is the  focus on yourself or on society and its rules? As your mind races for words to answer Aristotle (how’d he get in here anyway?), you think about how life feels accidental. In flashes of memory you see your past and like a Talking Head ask, “Where does that highway go to? And you may ask yourself: Am I right?…Am I wrong? And you may say to yourself: My God!…What have I done?!” (“Once in a Lifetime”).

highway.gifLife stretches ahead as the past falls away (see: “Enjoy A Perfect World”). You enjoy yourself when you can and work hard as you must. You enjoy the cake you get and sing with defiance, “I will survive. Yeah, as long as I know how to love, I know I’ll be alive” (“I Will Survive”).

“How should we live?” Good question. Decisions made thoughtfully when young feel arbitrary when old. We have pleasures and aversions and find love where we can. When young we sing, “I hope I die before I get old” (“My Generation“) and when old, we sing a different tune.

simpsons_yells_at_cloud.jpgThings happen. Like Sid Vicious, Sinatra and Elvis, we too sing, “Regrets, I’ve had a few;  but then again, too few to mention. I did what I had to do. And saw it through without exemption” (“My Way”). We have reasons for what we’ve done but we might wonder at times, “Is it me, or is life meaningless? Where’s the fairness in this?”

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One person has a fantastic life and another is subjected to misery. Why is that? If God is randomness, then you are a believer.

Maybe philosopher Albert Camus (1913-1960) was onto something when he said that existence is absurd.

Man stands face to face with the irrational. He feels within him his longing for happiness and for reason. The absurd is born of this confrontation between the human need and the unreasonable silence of the world” (The Myth of Sisyphus and Other Essays).

camus car
In 1960 Albert Camus (aged 46) died when the Facel Vega he was riding in crashed.

How should we live? Why should? Who says should? Is this about ethical living? In the dictionary should is a verb indicating “obligation, duty or correctness, typically when criticizing someone’s actions.”

looking under the hoodWe know we should give more weight to promoting social welfare than to achieving personal gain but what’s more important, you or society? Here we come to the crux of the matter. A body with a brain is a person, but is there more to a self?

The trick is to enjoy yourself without causing harm in this perfect life that is all your own. Think of a person trying to decide whether to play video games, watch TV, go to work or go for a walk. The different “yous”—aspects of your personality—are conflicting, but the conflict itself is part of what makes you you.

Old wise Epicurus (341-270 BC) said in a letter, “It is impossible to live a pleasant life without living wisely and honorably and justly, and it is impossible to live wisely and honorably without living pleasantly.” Dance to your song and let the wheels of time turn as they will anyway.

Enjoy.

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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.

barking up the wrong tree

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. 

daffy fights darkness

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.

magritte2
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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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.  

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“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?

Self-awareness and Subtle Enjoyment

subtle

If you look up the word “subtle” in the dictionary, you will find a word that’s ill-defined, indistinct, faint and mysterious. That’s what it is. It’s something elusive. It’s not obvious. Subtle insights penetrate depths of being.

If something is hard to understand, it’s probably subtle. Feeling self-aware is subtle. Feeling spiritual is subtle. Such things are subtle because no one is quite sure how to explain them.

clap.gifFeeling self-aware of subtle things in your surroundings with your senses can blow your mind (in a good way)!

When you’re self-aware, you’re never bored. You’re conscious of your feelings and desires but you’re not manipulated by them. You can see where your thoughts and emotions are trying to take you but you’re not taken.

gardeningYou’re free to cultivate peace of mind like a philosopher gardener discarding negative emotions like weeds and watering positive emotions like flowers. You’re free to listen to “A Whiter Shade of Pale” repeatedly without need to analyze or dissect.

Feeling love is enough. The subtle enjoyment of yourself as you: living, breathing, thinking, feeling, loving and attending to this miraculous world with your senses is enough.

And so we begin. Cue music: “Flying.”

Like flightless birds (possibly peacocks or more probably, turkeys) we fly on the ground self-aware of surroundings.

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The Cambridge dictionary defines subtle as: “not loud, bright, noticeable or obvious.” When you achieve something in a quiet way without attracting attention, you are subtle. Something subtle is “small but important” (like you and your enjoyment).

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Spot the ptarmigan. It’s “white in front of you” (source).

Something subtle is “delicate in meaning or intent” and “difficult to analyze or describe.”

Subtle goes with words like “nebulous” which means muddled and ambiguous, “complex,” which is something with many interconnected parts and “rarefied,” which is something high, lofty and exalted (source). 

How do you describe a spiritual experience that you have standing in stillness with a ptarmigan? It’s subtle. Suddenly you’re aware of a world that wasn’t there before.

Perceiving something subtle takes sensitivity and a penetrating intellect. Subtle things are like the silent ‘b’ in the word “sub” which is hidden in the word subtle and also hides beneath surfaces.

A subtle liar is cunning. He’ll advertise big enjoyment then let you down when expectations aren’t met (they never are). People fall for it because they picture the ultimate enjoyment as being rich like a shark or dragon billionaire on TV but it’s a subtle trick (called envy).

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By Robert Crumb.

We might not like feeling envious, afraid, irritated, angry, sad, frustrated, impatient etc., but “What are you gonna do?

There’s nothing you can do except maybe become self-aware. But how do you do that?

Think catch and release fishing.

You cast your line and wait. When you catch a fish, you look at it, then let it go. So too with an emotion or thought. You catch one, look at it, then let it go (or act on it – if it means surviving).

goldfish
“A rich man is nothing but a poor man with money.” – W.C. Fields

People love to imagine winning the lottery. They equate happiness with Las Vegas decadence, which is fine, if you want your enjoyment shallow. If you’d like something deeper, something profound, like a personal “Revolution” for a rock and roll philosopher, well then: go subtle.

Subtle enjoyment will give you chills (in a good way)!

lemon-treeImagine hearing the song “Lemon Tree” in a store. It makes you think of your underwear which has a lemon pattern. Your eyes fall on a picture of a lemonade stand and you smell lemon-fresh Lysol in the air.

Just as you’re thinking, “That’s funny,” someone walks up to you and offers a cookie sample. What kind? Lemon (of course).

What are the chances? It’s like the world is trying to tell you something (about lemons?). It’s subtle. And you smile. You enjoy a thrill and you wonder, “Is it me?” (for more on this phenomenon see: And then…).

As journalist Brian Bethune observed, “Humans have an innate tendency to ascribe random and natural events to conscious agents and a hunger to belong to something larger than ourselves – both militant atheists and fervent believers can agree on this” (Maclean’s, Ap. 2015, p. 41).

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If you want to experience subtle enjoyment, look at the world with soft eyes.

more-spiritually-enlightened-or-less-spiritually-enlightenedLisa Miller, clinical psychologist at Columbia University Teachers College, says that a strong self-concept, religiosity, spiritual connection and, “An intensely felt, transcendental sense of a relationship with God, the universe, nature or whatever you identify with as a higher power” actually “confers a protective effect in all kinds of disorders” (Maclean’s, Ap. 2015, p. 41-42).

The trouble with self-aware subtle (spiritual) enjoyment is that it disappears in noise, aggression, decadence, bright lights and vacuous parties and these are the things people are attracted to.

Subtle enjoyment goes unnoticed because people don’t see it. They think it’s boring because they don’t know it.

keep-it-simpleTo breathe, to watch the sky, to eat a lemon, to watch birds fly, such things are boring to people acclimatized to constant mental stimulation without downtime but that constant stimulation makes everything seem boring. Attention spans are waning! Bored people get depressed.

Bored people get addicted to sex, drugs and alcohol. Bored people don’t enjoy work or school very well.

alice
“Go ask Alice, when she’s feeling ten feet tall,” (hear: “White Rabbit“)

Quiet activities and stillness in nature might strike a lot of people as boring, but the most profound moments of pure transcendent enjoyment can only happen when your mind is quiet and the world inside you is not quite boisterous.

When a profound feeling of subtle enjoyment hits you, you know you should be bored, but you’re not. A subtle feeling  of peace and calm can hit anywhere, anytime.

So, be ready.black-and-white-with-umbrella

Something subtle is hard to see. It’s something discreet and low-key. Enjoyment is like that. It doesn’t have to be in your face. It can be subtle. Sometimes all it takes is a little Boogie-woogie.

Go! Be subtle. And then, enjoy it.