Purpose and Pleasure

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“Everything exists for some end, a horse, a vine. Why do you wonder? Even the sun will say, I am for some purpose, and the rest of the gods will say the same. For what purpose then are you? To enjoy pleasure? See if common sense allows this.”

Marcus Aurelius — Meditations Book 8

Why not post after, oh, about a year…or more really? Today, I really need it so here goes.

Is pleasure to be pursued? Does it bring happiness, or is it just a drug, something that you need more of?  Something that requires a higher dose each time.  In living, will a new house or new location make me happy?  I’m not reflecting here on the size or beauty of the house, but rather the novelty of having a new one…something different.  How does one fight becoming bored in their situation? Eventually, would I become bored of a gilded palace with flowing streams and servants waiting on me hand and foot? Without a doubt, yes, if I let it.  Can I find contentment in a cardboard hut? Yep, if I decide to.

If you are not in survival mode, that is, if your life is relatively comfortable, there is a tendency to be “on to the next thing.” A new environment, a new girl, a new car, an exotic vacation.  Desire is an interesting thing. We’re wired for pursuit…it helps when we are in survival mode. For the most part, I know I’m wired for action, to not sit still for long. But the wanting, the pursuit can be harmful.  The things we enjoy are “indifferents” when it comes to living the good life, no?

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Desire…then boredom?

Does my common sense tell me that “enjoying pleasure” is my purpose. Certainly, our purpose certainly should not be the pursuit of pleasure. I think this is what Marcus is trying to convince himself of. Is he right?

Or is he just coping? “I have no pleasure now, so obviously I can live without it”–is that what he’s doing here in his meditation? I really don’t know. For me, I return to an acknowledgement that externals are neither good or bad, but our judgment is what makes it so (Yes, I know, I’m stealing from Epictetus here).

If only I had this view...

If only I had this view…

If the judging of externals is what determines my happiness, then necessarily my contentment resides in my decision to be content right now.  Decide now if you will be content, and you will be content.  Easy, right?

Update on Me

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The only thing you can control, which is your own perception and attitude (very stoic, BTW). While I was fairly happy before, I very recently had an “A-ha moment” of realization that happiness is about deciding to be happy. Years of meditation/philosophy led me to it, but it doesn’t have to be that way, I was just ready when I was ready, I guess. Not tomorrow, not when I get a raise, not when I’m out of debt, not in Hawaii, not flying, not when I get a favorite meal, or when any other needs are satisfied, right NOW. And now I see and feel the dance every day.

Just Being…No, Really…Just Be

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Don’t just do something, sit there!

I mean really, really sit there. No thinking, no judging.  No naming, categorizing.  Just be. Feel the wind, but don’t say “that is the wind.”  Don’t wonder if it is a sea breeze or a land breeze.  Don’t measure…gail, breeze, 10 knots, 4 mph…just feel it.

Feel the warmth of the sun.  No judging….it’s too hot.  Hotter than yesterday (comparing).  I wish it wasn’t so hot. I wish my son could be here with me in the sun.  I wish I had spent more time outdoors with my wife.  I wonder if my daughter gets outside. Don’t do that! Just–feel–the–sun.

Sense your breath. Don’t name it. Feel. Lungs filling with refreshing air.  Expelling CO2. Refreshed.  New Oxygen, refreshed. Wonderful breath. Two working lungs above the Earth’s surface. Someday those lungs will be nothing but carbon below the surface…good to know…now back to just breathing…so content.

CN Tower, Toronto

CN Tower, Toronto

 

 

Beautiful Doubt

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“Either there is a fatal necessity and invincible order, or a kind Providence, or a confusion without a purpose and without a director. If then there is an invincible necessity, why dost thou resist? But if there is a Providence which allows itself to be propitiated, make thyself worthy of the help of the divinity. But if there is a confusion without governor, be content that in such a tempest thou hast in thyself a certain ruling intelligence. And even if the tempest carry thee away, let it carry away the poor flesh, the poor breath, everything else; for the intelligence at least it will not carry away.” Marcus’ Meditations Final Book.

So many of us want a sure bet, a final answer, a dead ringer for the truth. Continue reading