On a cold winter’s night, long, long ago, an old man sits happy by a fire. He enjoys warming himself after a difficult day and realizes with surprise how fantastic he feels. The wine, the food, the fire – it’s all better than good! It’s like he’s imagining it all. It’s so perfect! The cold world with its trees, its stars and its coyotes is as it should be and so is the old man who is seized by an almost intolerable happiness!
The old man has had his share of loss and despair, but none of that matters now in this moment of enjoyment. “What a mystery it is,” he thinks, “that it should be in our power to look or not look at what strikes us as horrible or alluring. Weak fool that I am, I can steer my own mind!”
As he pours wine for he and his friend, the old man realizes that the whole struggle he’s had has been between himself and the pressure of his experience to enjoy or not enjoy life. That is the battle we all wage, but now he knows that there is no need for such a struggle to prevent him from enjoying life because he can enjoy the struggle itself!
“I will enjoy!” says the old man.
“Here! Here!” calls his friend. “Supper is almost ready!”
The old man feels giddy as he merges without moving. To move would be to break the spell of this still transcendence. He feels Rameau’s opera Les Indes Galantes inside and sings, “Peaceful forests. May a vain desire never trouble our hearts here…. Let us enjoy our refuges. Let us enjoy peaceful things! Ah! Can one be happy when you wish for other things?”
“No! Of course not!” calls his friend. “Just a second. I’ll get water.”
The old man who earlier saw without seeing now disappears in seeing what he's seeing! He no longer is in a room with a friend and a fire as a cold wind blows outside. He is the room! He is his friend! He is the fire! He is the cold wind that blows up to the stars! The old man has broken free! In this act of imagination he feels no separation.
Through happy attention to present enjoyment (knowing full-well he is only temporary), the old man has broken the boundary between his mental and physical self and everyone and everything else! In this togetherness he feels selfless beauty and ecstasy.
He’s awakened from a dream he didn’t know he was having. He thought he knew reality, but he didn’t. As he sips delicious and breathes in the scene, he thinks, “Sublime! Awe! Beauty! Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!” To whom he thanks, he doesn’t know. It doesn’t matter. Words of gratitude pop out naturally.
Nothing hurts. Nothing disturbs. He smells the smoke and hears the stew simmer. He feels the weight of his beautiful hat on his head. He touches his shirt with gnarled fingers and feels nothing but love for all that is and was.
Even though the old man died hundreds of years ago in a pre-industrial age his experience isn’t one of a kind. Where there is beauty, nature, good food and drink, where there is a friend and love and warmth, there is enjoyment.
Some things never change.
Throughout history people have described the awe inspiring experience of breaking their individualized ego-bounds. It’s the basis of all good religion and poetry.
Poet John Keats (1795-1821) called it, “the empathic entrance into essence.” He writes in Endymion (1818), “Wherein lies happiness? In that which becks, our ready minds to fellowship divine. A fellowship with essence; till we shine.”
What the old man felt long ago is the same source of enjoyment that anyone, anywhere, at anytime can feel. This is the eternal moment that’s always there.
Each of us perceives an outside world from within the bubble of ourselves. We see through “a glass darkly.” When happy, we see happy. When sad, we see sad. When self-absorbed, we don’t see at all. Terror is as much us as is love.
Without imagination and attention our senses are filtered through self-thought. Every “thing” is a “think.” Thought can distract us from the enjoyment of living in the same way that looking down texting on an iPhone as we walk can take us unknowingly into the path of an oncoming truck!
Look up! There is no hurry. Enjoy!
In the The Little Prince Antoine de Saint Exupéry wrote, “Goodbye,” said the fox. “And now here is my secret, a very simple secret: It is only with the heart that one can see rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eye” (p. 48).
The trick is to see with your heart for imagination and intuition is the heart of enjoyment. Imagine a beautiful world. Imagine a beautiful you. Imagine and it is true!
Imagine that you are at one with the world and you are.
John W. O’Brien, Old Man Grey, 1852.
Published by Philosophy of ENJOYMENT