Imagination and Enjoyment

Marcel Proust (1871-1922) was a French novelist and bed writer. He came from a wealthy family. He enjoyed the Leisure of a W.H. Davies poem. He enjoyed pondering ponderings. He enjoyed art galleries and musical performances in rich peoples' salons. He enjoyed fine dining and observing the people around him. He also enjoyed writing without brevity.

In Remembrance of Things Past (1923) people say that he wrote about having new eyesas in a kind of metaphorical ocular transplantbut that’s not quite what he meant. His wordiness is construed as follows: “The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes.” It’s become a slogan slathered on pillows and bric-à-brac for those who enjoy pithy inspirations. But what really happened, was that in a salon long ago, Proust enjoyed a musical performance that transported him to a wonderful “strange land” in his mind (see: What Proust Really Said… and a reenactment). 

Proust was writing about beholding with the eyes of another person so as to appreciate the universe from that person’s perspectiveespecially the perspective of a painter or composer who helps us to fly from star to star.

The only true voyage of discovery, the only fountain of Eternal Youth, would be not to visit strange lands but to possess other eyes, to behold the universe through the eyes of another, of a hundred others, to behold the hundred universes that each of them beholds, that each of them is; and this we can contrive with an Elstir, with a Vinteuil; with men like these we do really fly from star to star” (Proust, “The Captive“).

The trick is to imagine yourself as another person. Feel what that person is feeling. It’s an enjoyable projection. To drink of the fountain of youth is to behold with the eyes of a child. Neuroscience describes this as the act of "mirror neurons" which are, “a type of brain cell that respond equally when we perform an action and when we witness someone else perform the same action (The Mind’s Mirror). This is to see a man drink and say, “This is better than good,” and taste it yourself. It is to see a person’s foot do something and have the neurons connected to our own foot fire as if your foot is moving. It’s like that Joe South song, Walk a Mile in My Shoes that Elvis sang as well.

The relation between yourself and the world is like a pair of shoes. You have a left shoe (that’s you) and a right shoe (that's someone else). You take care of both out of self-interest. You imagine the best life possible by maximizing choices to get what you want.

George Ainslie, a psychiatrist and economist, is quoted in the bookWisdom: From Philosophy to Neuroscience (Hall, 2010) as saying, “Self-control is the art of making the future bigger” (p. 173). In other words, you imagine a future you enjoy over an immediate gratification you regret. You construct, as Ainslie put it, “your idea of your character, your idea of heaven, your idea of simply the moral life, the kind of person you insist on being in the long run… (it) is a budgetary skill” (p. 173).

There are two aspects to enjoyment: (1) to have awareness of reality as it appears and not the way you want it to be, and (2) to use this awareness of reality to take action and by so doing increase your feelings of happiness and decrease your feelings of suffering and distress. A rampantly selfish campaign of self-interest is like focusing only on the left shoe (your self). To do that is the metaphorical equivalent of hopping around on one foot. If you focus only on yourself, you'll find that hopping around is not only tiring, it can lead to a tumblewhich may or may not be enjoyable, depending upon the hilarity of your tumbling and the injury. 

Every creature wants to avoid suffering and be happy, but happiness and suffering are interconnected. We know this. With imagination and those mirror neurons, you can see from another person’s perspective and make the right choice knowing that another person's well-being is as our own. Kindness towards another is advanced self-interest.

Train yourself to enjoy like it’s an Olympic event and you’re an enjoyment athlete. Even when you lose, you lose well. Enjoyment hangs like grapes picked like California Stars. See humour in oddities, as if from above. Will enjoyment to rock and then let it roll. Just imagine. Practice emotional self-control and let go. Notice your surroundings and contemplate them. You are as one with them. You are the surroundings for another person. Contrary to what you may have been told, you are not that special and those who think they are probably aren’t. Humility is a key to enjoy ability. The trick is to enjoy a space between, to float and to feel at home in yourself as an aspect of the world.

Published by Philosophy of ENJOYMENT

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