by Alan W. Watts
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"Tomorrow and plans for tomorrow can have no significance at all unless you are in full contact with the reality of the present, since it is in the present and only in the present that you live. There is no other reality than present reality, so that, even if one were to live for endless ages, to live for the future would be to miss the point everlastingly."
Humans seem to be happy just as long as they have something in the future to look forward to, whether this is a good time tomorrow or an eternal life beyond physical death.
In order to really enjoy the pleasures of life, we need to face the painful parts, too.
Pain and pleasure take turns: constant pleasure is a stimulus that must either lose strength or grow. And this growth will either harden the sense buds with its friction, or turn into pain. The more we are capable to love a person and feel good in their presence, the greater must be our heartache and grief at their death, or in separation.
The real problem doesn't come from feeling pain the in moment, but from the way we use memory and anticipation.
The object or event we fear is not always something happening in the immediate future. It may be the problem of next month’s bills, a social or natural disaster, or even death. It may even be something from the past, a memory that torments the present and makes us feel bitterness or guilt.
So, rather than feeling anxious about it, accept this insecurity as a part of life by being aware of the present moment. This will help you find peace and contentment.
We have no reassurance regarding what the future will bring and even the best predictions are still just that, predictions, matters of probability rather than certainty. All we know for sure is that every person will experience some kind of pain and death. If we cannot live happily without an assured future, we are clearly not adapted to living in a world where accidents will happen, no matter how hard we try to avoid them, and where everybody dies at the end.
We think that making sense out of life means we have in some way to fit the sequence of events into a rigid framework.
Life is meaningful to us if we can understand it in terms of fixed codes, rules and law. But if this is what “making sense out of life” means, we have set ourselves the impossible task of "making fixity out of flux."
The brain is in pursuit of happiness, and because it is much more preoccupied with the future than the present, it sees happiness as an assurance of a future with pleasures, that must be cramped into the span of a few years.
And the “brainy” economy is a remarkable vicious circle that need to fabricate more and more pleasures or otherwise it will collapse: it must provide a constant stimulation for the ears, eyes, and nerve ends through neverending streams of noise and visual distractions. These streams of stimulants are created to produce even more cravings, and these cravings drive us to do that has nothing interesting for us, apart from the money it pays (which we use to get more stuff in an attempt to persuade us that happiness lies just around the corner if we will buy one more thing.)
We usually don't trust the “snap” solutions our wandering minds find, but the truth is that these easy and almost unconscious solutions is what the brain is supposed to deliver.
When it's functioning the right way, the brain is the highest form of “instinctual wisdom.” And because of that, it should work without articulating the process or knowing “how” it does it.
There is a viewpoint from which the “rationalization” of life is not rational. The brain is clever enough to see the vicious circle which it has made for itself. But it can't do nothing about it.
You may acknowledge that worrying brings no benefits, but that doesn't stop you from worrying; instead, you worry even more for being unreasonable. Calling a negative feeling bad names doesn’t help you to get rid of it.
If a problem can be solved, to understand it and to know what to do about it are the same thing.
Doing something about a problem that you don't understand is like trying to clear away darkness by thrusting it aside with your hands.
Being aware of life means experiencing it as it is in the present moment, without judgments or ideas about it.
You have to see and feel what you are "experiencing as it is, and not as it is named".
Memories are abstract things: they symbolize knowledge about things rather than of things. Memory never captures the core and the tangible reality of an experience.
"It is, as it were, the corpse of an experience, from which the life has vanished. What we know by memory, we know only at secondhand. Memories are dead because fixed."
Both ways are somehow useful. But they correspond to the difference between knowing a thing by words and knowing it immediately.
Silence is the only way to discover something new to talk about. The person constantly talking, without stopping to look and listen, is repeating himself over and over again.
The same thing happens with thinking, which is really silent talking. Thinking is by nature not open to the discovery of anything new - the only novelties it brings are simply the result of moving old ideas around and rearranging them. When thoughts stop, the mind is open to see a problem as it is (not as we verbalize it) and this opens the path to real understanding.
"If we are open only to discoveries which will accord with what we know already, we may as well stay shut. (...) It is in vain that we can predict and control the course of events in the future, unless we know how to live in the present. It is in vain that doctors prolong life if we spend the extra time being anxious to live still longer. It is in vain that engineers devise faster and easier means of travel if the new sights that we see are merely sorted and understood in terms of old prejudices. It is in vain that we get the power of the atom if we are just to continue in the rut of blowing people up."
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