What greater subjects are there?
I’ve been saying over and over in past journal entries to ‘follow your bliss.’ Bliss is an infinite subject for each individual. Let me explain.
Notice the keyword I (and Joseph Campbell) use: ‘follow’ your bliss. Bliss is in the distance, and you come closer and closer to it. As you find yourself closer to it, you find yourself experiencing more and more of it. As you come closer to bliss, that experience of happiness and joy intensifies. Also, you have to follow bliss, meaning, you never quite make it there. There’s always some distance between you, and bliss.
In a dictionary you find a definition for bliss as follows:
Bliss: a state of extreme happiness.
Bliss: 1. perfect happiness: perfect untroubled happiness
2. spiritual joy: a state of spiritual joy
These defintions are correct, yet easily misunderstood. Encarta’s 1st definition is the best one of the three. Let’s now examine the mindset held by near everyone you will encounter. Before we do so however, I wish to state at the outset that what I’m about to say, I don’t actually believe people hold to these beliefs. I believe their mind has not caught up with their intuitions that their thinking has to be wrong. You’ll see what I’m saying here shortly.
It’s often believed by people that they are content and or that contentment is a good thing. From this line of thinking, they come to strange conclusion which they don’t really believe. They believe that wanting things – wanting to improve themselves, wanting to succeed, being ambitious, etc – is an evil they need to avoid. They need to be ‘happy’ where they are. They need to be ‘happy’ in their small house, ‘happy’ with less than enough money…’happy’ with where their life is at this very moment.
Oftentimes they struggle with these seemingly conflicting concepts. They think ‘I need to be happy with myself, even though I’m overweight’ — then again, they want to exercise and lose the weight. They think ‘I need to be happy with my house’, even though they would like a better home. They think, ‘I need to be happy with my spouse’, even though they would like it if he or she would change in such and such an area. They believe contentment to be this unchanging state that they need to go for, or that they believe they’ve attained, then yet seem to desire things which most common sense people would say – ‘Yeah, but if you want that, aren’t you discontent?’ (This same line of reasoning exists among Buddhists)
Now comes in the second subject you hear frequently – the concept of thankfulness. They believe that if they will be thankful where they are at this very moment, they will experience the ultimate intensity of happiness. They believe material things do not bring happiness. They believe knowledge does not bring happiness. They believe a significant other does not bring happiness. They believe only by being thankful wherever it is they are, and being content with that, they will find happiness.
Is this wrong? Yes, and no. They have the idea partially right. They’re simply confused on some things and need a little more understanding of thankfulness. Let’s examine thankfulness and contentment closely and see where it takes us.
First off, thinking minds easily see that something is wrong somewhere. It seems conflicting. Contentment means to not want anything – but it seems common sense that everyone wants something. Isn’t self improvement good? Isn’t education good? Isn’t getting a nice home and car good? Yet they find themselves tangled in this web of confusion generated by their conceptions of thankfulness and contenment.
Since the confusion seems to be located in thankfulness and is heavily tied with their conception of contentment and bliss (perfect happiness), let’s examine the definition of thankfulness.
Thankful: feeling or showing gratitude
Gratitude: A feeling of thankfulness and appreciation
Appreciate: 1. To Increase the value of
2. Gain in value
3. Be fully aware of; realize fully
4. Recognize with gratitude; be thankful for
5. Hold dear.
TheSage defines thankfulness in terms of gratitude, gratitude in terms of appreciation, and finally we seem to get to something with the definition of appreciation. Appreciation means ‘To Increase the Value of’ – ‘Gain in value’ — normally when speaking of investments but, actually, as we’ll see, can equally apply to other things as well. Definition 3, To be fully aware of – realize fully. Wow, an interesting one. Definition 4, gets back in our circular loop – goes back to definition in terms of gratitude. Definition 5, ‘To Hold Dear’.
Neat, neat. Defintion 3 of Appreciate just slammed me in the face. If you’ll listen closely, I’ll clear up the confusion and problem we just stated.
The problem with this dilemma is the same as the philosophical problem of certanity. I spoke on ideals and contentment just the other day in my last journal entry. I mentioned my friend’s quote that:
“I believe a person should be content (and happy) wherever they find themselves in life at that moment. If I never achieved another goal of mine in my life, I would still be happy.”
This is paraphrased as best as my memory can recall. Then the seeming difficulty arose (in my mind) — how can she say she’s reached the ideal state of happiness (or bliss). Has she reached bliss? Can she just say to herself ‘I’m going to think differently today about everything’ and start experiencing perfect bliss?
She really is a great girl, and I don’t doubt she’s a happy individual. Is she experiencing perfect bliss? It’s possible, but unlikely. I think when we’re all honest, we’d all admit the likelihood any of us are experiencing perfect bliss is not very high.
Then I brought arguments to which I felt showed that none of us are in perfect bliss. I tried to explain, that as I’ve gained more knowledge, I’ve found myself more happy. The more I learn about reality, the more I appreciate it. And we just talked about various common sense conflicts people have with themselves. Weight, Nice home, Education, etc.
We just saw that thankfulness eventually breaks down into ‘Be fully aware of; realize fully’. To be thankful for something, means to be fully aware of, or realize fully, what that object entails. To be thankful for your wife, means to fully realize her value, and to be fully aware of all that she is. To be thankful for your job – to fully realize its value, and to be fully aware of all that it is.
Now that’s a new way to think of things. That seems a good conception thankfulness. Now notice thankfulness – when you say ‘I’m thankful for my wife’ — do you really fully realize her? Are you knowledgeable of very aspect of her value? If you say yes, I’d say you’re pompous. You’re not God. You don’t know everything there is to know about her. You don’t know everything there is to know about your job. I don’t think you know all there is to know about anything. If you’re honest, I believe you’ll say the same thing.
Now where does this leave us? If you have to be fully aware of, and realize fully every aspect of an object, to say ‘I’m thankful for such and such’ — how can we ever do such a thing? Appreciation (same as thankfulness or gratitude) comes only by knowledge, and knowledge comes in degrees, or pieces.
This shows that thankfulness, like knowledge, is a thing of degrees. The degree in which you will appreciate, or be thankful for, an object, will be the degree in which you understand it.
This seems quite right to me. The architect notices various aspects of the buildings around him, and appreciates, and finds great pleasure, in things another person would not even notice. The historian, who knows much about the history and stories of the objects around him, has more understanding about that object, than someone who does not. The same applies to anyone who has knowledge in any other particular area.
Let’s go back to the common mindset found in so many. Is it evil? Is it completely wrong? Well, the admirable thing about the contentment / thankfulness combo is to kill the thrill seeker. The thrill seeker needs more and more intense experiences just to feel that buzz that comes entirely from their emotions. What they learn from this combo is a valuable lesson, and that is to take a pause, take a closer look at your life and where you are now, and learn more about it. Then people start looking at their own life, and realize it isn’t near as bad as they thought, and come to appreciate (or understand) it more, and this new understanding brings them to a higher level of happiness. In this respect, the combo is great. I’m all for learning more about life.
Now what I don’t care for about the combo (contentment/thankfulness) is the natural inclination you find in so many to stop where they are, and stop moving foward. The contentment tends to go too far, and their life goes on hold. They misunderstand things, and tend to think, “I need to be happy just where I am” and stop moving. In fact, the person who puts their life on hold to examine their past and present condition futhur tends to eventually regress into unhappiness as they stop progressing in life.
Contentment does a good job stopping them from killing themselves thrill seeking, but then, when taken literally, puts them at a standstill. The real virtue the content man found was not contentment really, but the new extraverted tendency to examine life more closely. Once this new found interest in life’s subtle pleasures has been found, there’s no more need for the contentment. The extraverted interest in things outside yourself, and the happiness that this generates, is the real value that was acquired.
You may recall in a past journal entry I spoke on ‘the secret’ and the first step in the secret was gratitude. I said to be thankful for everything. And now with our new found knowledge into thankfulness, we can reword this another way ‘to acquire as much knowledge into our world, and fully realize every aspect of it.’ In other words, let your interests in the world and the things around you be as wide as possible. The more you open these floodgates of knowledge into your life, the more you will fall in love with life.
I spoke on introversion/extraversion just recently. Introverted people notice nothing about the world. They have no desire for anything outside of themselves. They are not thankful for the world around them. They are the opposite, they are thankful for themselves. Change ‘thankful’ into our new found meaning: ‘be fully aware of’ and you’ll see what I mean. They are fully aware of themselves, but are completely unaware of the world around them. The degree on which they focus on themselves, is the same degree in which they will be unhappy and bored.
I had another article in the past on what a person will or will not notice. I said that a person will notice, what he has knowledge in. What a person comes to have knowledge in is based on what he desires. He has to first desire to acquire the knowledge before he will attain it. This directly ties to thankfulness and introversion/extraversion. Introverted people desire themselves, and only come to knowledge of themselves. I tried to show that the self, was either a very narrow scope of things that exist, or possibly nothing at all, which is why they are unhappy focusing (or desiring) themselves. This was how I tried to approach the problem of introversion/extraversion, and why those who are introverted are unhappy and bored.
Extraverted people desire the world outside of them. This desire for something outside of themselves leads them to knowledge of the world. This knowledge, which, as we have just seen, is the same thing as thankfulness. You will be thankful and appreciate the things you understand, and you will come to understand what you desire. In short, desire is everything, and what you chose to desire in life will determine everything you experience. That’s why I came to say, ‘desire is everything’ and I said belief and knowledge are secondary to desire. I said to desire things which are extraverted.
Next you found the pinnacle of all my thought – ‘How to choose your desire’. I gave the criteria to determine your innermost desires which will take you where you wish to go. The criteria which was given was:
“If you would pursue something, even if it was socially unacceptable, even if you ridiculed for its pursuit – if that object is pursued for itself and is not a means to any other goal, that object is an object of your bliss”
Notice I said AN object. As in singular. It is NOT your entire bliss. It is a piece of your bliss. You acquire the objects of bliss one by one, and the criteria I gave is the best I’ve found to determine which objects are those which bring you closer to your bliss.
I showed in other journal entries, that this mindset eliminates all paralysis from fear of indecision. You have a criteria. You know what to go after. You don’t have to worry “Is this the right girl?” or “Is this the right job”…
Would you date that girl even if your entire family threw a big fight over it? Would you date that girl if everyone in the entire world screamed obscenties as you walked her down the sidewalk? Would you date that girl even if she wasn’t pretty (means to sex/impressing friends) and had no money (means to your other desires)?
In other words, if you’re not out to get anything from the girl, actually want to be with her, and are not out to impress anyone by being with her — being with her will add to your happiness.
Maybe another example will help.
Would you work a job, even if everyone heckled for working it (not out to impress)? Would you work a job even if you weren’t paid to do so (means to something else)?
If you would work a job simply because you find a greater reality in that room where you work, as opposed to not being in that room (not working) – that job is an object of your bliss.
Success is acquiring as many of these objects of bliss as possible. A person is successful in the degree as to how many of these bliss objects they’ve acquired. Their happiness will reflect in terms of bliss objects. You will see happiness bubble over in them as they reveal each bliss object they’ve acquired. People love to show you the new car they’ve always wanted. People love to walk around and show off the spouse they’ve finally found and are in love with. People will love to come and talk to you about the new knowledge they’ve acquired in some area.
I say, when someone acquires a bliss object, Rejoice and be glad. Bliss objects are custom tailored to each individual, that is why we are not to envy them. When you find that special someone, invite me to come to lunch with you both so I can meet them, and be glad for you. When you get that new car, take me for a ride, and we can both be glad. When you learn something new, come tell me about it, and we can share our new found knowledge talking in the bistro.
What I just said is incompatible with the conception of contentment. If you’re content, and feel you’ve reached bliss, no more bliss objects will be acquired. I believe contentment to be an evil mindset because it keeps people back from acquiring the life that will bring them closer to their bliss. It makes people feel they’ve reached an ideal state which they have not really reached.