“Words are flowing out like endless rain into a paper cup. They slither wildly as they slip away across the universe. Pools of sorrow, waves of joy are drifting through my opened mind. Possessing and caressing me (John Lennon, Across the Universe). Lennon wrote the above after he’d been lying in bed next to his wife feeling irritated because she was going on and on about something. His irritation turned into a song about enjoying an opened mind (possibly inspired by an LSD flashback). Most people who are not former Beatles would probably prefer something like a product, situation or activity to pools of sorrow and waves of joy. Words in a paper cup just doesn’t cut it.

People are happiness seeking creatures. Drugs and distractions are big business. To the average person, enjoyment is as easy as falling of a log. First you: A) Find something to enjoy, and then, B) you enjoy it. Generally, if you enjoy sports, you watch TV. If you enjoy video games, you plug one in. If you want to talk, you text and if you enjoy action, romance and thrills, you face a screen. Reality is virtual.

Plato anticipated this in his allegory of the cave where slaves are chained to couches watching reflections of events (and eating cheese doodles), “while philosophers struggle up to the sunlight to see what’s really going on” (Tom Lewis, Living the American Dream is a Nightmare).

In a human world conflicted between Utilitarianism: “the doctrine that an action is right insofar as it promotes happiness, and that the greatest happiness of the greatest number should be the guiding principle of conduct” (Google) and Individualism: "the pursuit of individual rather than common or collective interests; egoism" (Google). Maybe we need to adjust our hedonistic calculus. A hedonistic calculus is the "appraisal of possible choices in terms of the amount of pleasure to be gained and pain to be avoided in each" (dictionary.com). 

Dualism means separation. Our problem is how we deal with reality. Since René Descartes said that a person is a thinking thing, we’ve separated ourselves into brains and bodies and brains and world. Almost everything we do to make ourselves happy is outside reality.

brainWe’re so immersed in an ideology: “a system of ideas and ideals…” (Google) that if we step out of it, as Slavoy Zizek said, “it hurts…. the truth can shatter many of your illusions…You must be forced to be free. Freedom hurts” (Slavoy Zizek Explains Ideology).

What if real enjoyment is not a product or lifestyle? What if enjoyment is an ability? Like when you feel sick, nothing is funif you’re not in the mood, then enjoyment won’t come. You need to make yourself enjoy, but can you cultivate an “enjoy ability”?  Absolutely. It’s outside. It is your ride to death. You can be free to enjoy like a leaf on a tree. With awareness of yourself – not as a disembodied brain – but as a being-in-the world (Martin Heidegger).

The philosopher Sarte uses the example of chasing a bus. You don’t think, “I am chasing a bus,” it’s just, “getting closer.” The sense of yourself disappears. Like an athlete you are in flow or as Professor Dreyfus says, “When you are absorbed in the moment, consciousness is gone. And self-consciousness, is really gone” (Is Consciousness an Illusion?).

If you live as a direct living being without self-thinking, “What’s in it for me?” marketers won’t like you. Big business depends on a trick: Convince people they need something to be happy like it says on a Coke bottle, “Open happiness.”

Writer Paulo Coelho wrote, “Whatever you decide to do, make sure it makes you happy.” In a search engine this quote has over six million results which begs the question: Why so many?

Is this a revelation? As if one day, people said, “Do what makes me happy? Of course! What was I thinking?” 

What if the dream is a nightmare?

The Coelho quote appears on web sites like: “Every Day Feng Shui to Design Your Dream Life,” “50 Inspirational Career Quotes,” “15 Happiness Quotes to Inspire You to Live Your Best Life” and “40 Ways to Happiness.” (Numbered lists always make things better.)

Alexander Nazaryan of the Daily News said that Paulo Coelho “is the purveyor of “inspirational” schlock like “The Alchemist” that has somehow managed to fool millions, probably because there is so much that is rotten in the world and people will listen to anyone who will sell them bromides about making it all better. He is just Tony Robbins with a pen, nothing more” (The astounding stupidity of Paulo Coelho, 2012).

Ouch. Did Nazaryan even read “The Alchemist“? It’s easy to take shots. Occult symbolism aside, it’s a beautiful quick read. The point is not to trash and be divisive, but to have open eyes and awareness of the ideologies that may blind us. “I’m like everyone else – I see the world in terms of what I would like to see happen, not that actually does” (The Alchemist, large print version, p. 53).

People need comfort. They need enthusiasm. There is no separation between ourselves and the world around us. If 7.3 billion people (current population on Worldometers), did “whatever makes me happy,” what would happen?

We would see a world exploited and destroyed for profit… deforestation, industrialization, polluted water, sprawling cities, massive mines stripping landscapes and factories making garbage that’s out of control.

We know the human world is a fantastic mess—always has been and will be. Lamenting does no good. Remain calm. Breathe. Let the world be. Let others be as they insist. Start with a philosophy of enjoyment and a list.

5 Suggestions for a Being-in-the-World Can To Enjoy:

  1. Enjoy nature (Keep It Simple). 
  2. Enjoy being a kind being.
  3. Laugh at yourself and life's nonsense. Don't take it so serious. It isn't the end of the world (unless it is).
  4. Enjoy being self-aware.
  5. Enjoy others by accepting them without interference.

What's on your list?