This is the latest installation of a 27-part series, featuring my book, Chasing Unicorns. To read the previous installation, CLICK THIS LINK. For the next post in this series, CLICK THIS LINK. To start at the beginning, CLICK THIS LINK. To read the entire book at once, tap the book cover. Thanks for reading!
RECAP: Yesterday I had all the gall to assert that life is automatically enjoyed, but that not all life is automatically experienced, and so this is why you might be feeling like a total piece of shit right now. Or words to that effect. The final paragraph read as follows:
“I hope the way I’ve explained this has been as obvious as a cinder block falling on your foot. If so, then you now know why you’re feeling miserable. It’s because you’re not experiencing as much life as you otherwise could. Trust me, this is the reason.”
Zombie Theory, Part 3
When Bad Things Happen to Good and Bad People
But you don’t trust me. And not because of my shifty eyes. It’s because from you’re current perspective, life really sucks.
Okay, so your husband’s cheating on you. Bill collectors are pounding on your door. You have swollen corns on your feet. And when you try to win commiseration from others they just tell you, “that’s life.” Some will even say, “life’s a bitch, and then you die.” Aren’t they good friends? Nice to receive such well-intentioned sympathy, isn’t it?
But the Buddha himself said that life is suffering. So even he believed that life was a bitch. Actually there’s a bit of controversy to that, and some scholars say the Buddha didn’t quite mean it the way it came out in translation some 2,500 years later when his words were converted into English. In fact, I’ll bet this translation is making him roll over in his stupa right now.
But needless to say, the Buddha certainly perceived some challenge to life that could lead to suffering. And he should know. With all the walking about he did, preaching his message, he probably had plenty of corns on his feet.
Are the bad things that happen to you, life? Of course they are. Because bad things are change, just like good things. And life is change (remember Zombie Theory). So why don’t you automatically enjoy bad things?
Well actually you do. If your neighbor’s house catches on fire, that’s a bad thing. But that won’t stop you from running out of your house so you can gaze upon the beautiful pyrotechnic display bursting into flames before you. And all that excitement with the fire engines and stuff. And then there’s the emotional drama, watching your poor neighbor crying and carrying on. Pyromaniacs just eat this stuff up, but so do regular folks, just like you and me. Well at least I do.
Come on, admit it! You do too.
Unless of course, it’s your own house. When a bad thing happens to you, that’s when you stop automatically enjoying a bad thing. It’s just like amusement. We all love humor except when we’re the butt of someone else’s joke. Then we are not amused at all. But the reason is not because of the bad thing itself. It’s because of what your mind does with it.
How your mind perceives the things you experience determines how much life you are able to experience. This is an important concept, so I’m going to repeat it. Besides I’m getting old so I’m allowed to repeat myself:
How your mind perceives the things you experience determines how much life you are able to experience.
A CUTE DOG STORY
I’ll show you what I mean with this cute dog story:
Suppose you are strolling along, just as happy as can be, picking wildflowers in the sunshine and whistling a tune. Suddenly you spy a big Doberman Pincer running toward you. If you perceive that the dog may attack, your happiness will end abruptly. Now how can you be happy one second and scared shitless the next? The Doberman couldn’t be the cause. For all you know it’s a friendly dog that just wants someone to pet it and throw a ball.
The cause for your abrupt change in mood is your mind, not the dog. First your mind is perceiving a leisurely stroll, beautiful wildflowers, warm sunshine, and a snappy tune. But suddenly your mind’s attention is captured by the perception of imminent attack. That perception turns your mind’s focus from the many things you were enjoying and concentrates it upon one thing: preparation for an incoming attack. It’s red alert time!
Your mind becomes like a laser beam. Its focus becomes so strongly concentrated upon dealing with the imminent destruction to your physical body, that it no longer can perceive anything else. This is why we call this blind fear. Blind fear happens when your mind cannot perceive anything else except the threat you are facing.
The amount of life your mind is able to experience declines like a decelerating bullet striking a New York City phone book. No longer can it experience the life coming from the exercise of your legs while strolling, or from the wildflowers, or from the sunshine, or from the tune. Now it can only experience the life coming from the approaching, possibly vicious, dog.
Thank evolution for this. The narrow beam of focus is caused by a survival mechanism nascent to the workings of your brain. It happens automatically, and helps you to concentrate all of your energy into dealing effectively with an imminent danger. But at the same time, it robs you of your happiness by depriving you of the ability to experience normal amounts of life.
Thus the wildflowers, warm sunshine, snappy tune, etc, are elements of life and change that are not automatically experienced. Aha! You see?! This is why I state in the opening paragraph of this chapter, “not all change is automatically experienced.” Sometimes shit happens. And when it does, it diverts your attention away from other changes occurring in your environment, and directs it squarely upon the shit. And this prevents you from experiencing those other changes. And this bars you from automatically enjoying them. Follow the logic? Isn’t that clever?
This is why I also stated in the opening paragraph, “the key to finding more enjoyment in life is to discover how to experience more change.” Yup, I don’t miss a lick.
Now one way to experience more change is to make wiser decisions. For instance, had you been more wise and chosen to take your stroll in a public park rather than in a private compound guarded by specially trained Doberman Pincer attack dogs, you would have experienced more change, life and enjoyment during your little nature walk. All the little natural processes that form happiness from within would have fallen into place, as swiftly and surely as cotton candy melts in your mouth.
So if you get attacked by a dog in the near future, don’t say I didn’t warn you.
[Tomorrow I’ll wrap this chapter up, and introduce a brand new theory. And then you’re going to ruin everything with a tricky question that I’ll try to weasel out of.]