How many of us are letting life whiz by? How many of us are letting irretrievable time pass us, as we continue to look over the horizon, waiting to live for that magical wonderland which is to come? How many years will be wasted before we are enlightened and realize that our waiting-to-live is such a tragic farce?
Stephan Leacock’s Famous Quote
An explosive illustration of the above can be seen in this quote by Stephan Leacock: “How strange it is, our little procession of life! The child says, ‘When I am a big boy.’ But what is that? The big boy says, ‘When I grow up.” And then, grown up, he says, ‘When I get married.’ But to be married, what is that after all? The thought changes to ‘When I’m able to retire.’ And then, when retirement comes, he looks back over the landscape traversed; a cold wind seems to sweep over it; somehow he has missed it all, and it is gone. Life, we learn too late, is in the living, in the tissue of every day and hour.”
Life is a Movement We Must Capture
Life must be captured in its movement. Life lies in its progression, not after the fulfillment of goals, because once all goals are fulfilled there is no more life.
Enjoyment is the Core Concept of Life
Implicit within the concept of life is its central purpose: enjoyment. Every activity a human being engages in is goal-oriented consciously or unconsciously. Therefore, everything one does should be either potentially or immediately directed to enjoyment.
Life’s Panoramic Journey
Life is like a trip on a train. We either look out the window and enjoy the colors, sights and panorama of the landscape as we pass them by, or we sleep throughout the entire ride, only to awaken at the end of our road. Is it that the trip is as important as the reaching of the destination?
Savoring Life Moment by Moment
Life is like an exquisite and sumptuously prepared banquet placed before us. The individual who races through the appetizers and entree, to be able to quickly get to and finish with the dessert, has overlooked that the pleasure of the banquet, and that life is in the savoring of it, bite by bite, each and every part of it. We cannot listen to a completed piece of music – all at once; we can only enjoy it as it moves through us – note by note. Fulfillment should not be exalted to the near exclusion of the progression. Progression and fulfillment should be considered as one on an ever intensifying continuum, that is, fulfillment is progression at its highest and most glorious stage.
Present Moment Living
We should try to approach life as a never-ending progression of enjoyment. We should think more of the present moment. We should begin to live more within the present moment. Since the progression or movement toward a goal is usually longer than the experience of its fulfillment, then one should be aware of and try to experience the joy of the progression as well as the fulfillment.
The Concept of Stimulus Variation
An important concept to the understanding of enjoying the progression of life lies within the concept of stimulus variation, or simply “experience”. In 1954, a group of scientists, by the names of Benton, Heron and Scott, did an experiment at McGill University where college students were paid $20.00 a day (a lot of money in 1954) to do absolutely nothing.
The Benton, Heron and Scott Experiment
For 24 hours a day, the participants of the experiment laid on comfortable beds in a room kept at an even temperature. Their eyes, ears and hands were shielded to minimize stimulus variation. Whereas some individuals chronically complaining of the drudgery of having to get up and go to work every morning would consider this situation a Utopian means of making a living. The fact was that under the conditions of the experiment, few subjects could endure more than 2 or 3 days! The craving for stimulus variation was overwhelming!
What is Stimulus Variation?
Stimulus variation is anything that can be experienced. It could be eating an ice cream cone, being depressed through a love lost, attending a church revival or meditating on life. Stimulus variation means experience. Experience is the synonym for life, for living implies experiencing. Life should be a continuum of achieving higher and higher levels of experience. Variety is indeed the spice of life, and stimulus variation is necessary for the emotional satisfaction and happiness of the human organism. Inertia is anathema. One is happiest when he is vitally absorbed in something which interests him. Even pain can deepen and mature, sometimes opening consciousness to a more profound understanding of life.
A World Without Problems?
I often thought that a world completely without any problems or needs would be Utopia, but now I wonder. If there are no problems or needs, there can be no goals. If there are no goals, there is no life, activity or stimulus variation toward its fulfillment. If there is no stimulus variation, as was noted above, there will be no emotional satisfaction, therefore no enjoyment, therefore no happiness. Is then suffering, pain and problems a reflection of the infinite intelligence and benevolence of the universe?
To Enjoy Your Work is to Enjoy Your Life
Since absorption and activity are so vital to the emotional well-being of the individual, we are naturally led into what forms the core of all our activity: our daily work. Alas, far too many people find their daily “work” a less-than-enjoyable or just a very unpleasant experience. As I once read: “Nothing is really work, unless you would rather be doing something else.”
How Do You Choose Your Life’s Work?
Too many jobs are ill-chosen on the basis of the salary alone. Sorry is the man or woman who lives only from payday to payday at a job which he or she despises. The majority of our lives are spent on the jobs or in the careers we have chosen. Can we really afford such a waste? For all we know the life we have may end tomorrow.
Sporadic Living is Not True Living
I find that sadly too many of us live sporadically and in pieces by finding life only when we “go out and have a ball” instead of also living, enjoying and experiencing life – right now.
What Price Success?
A happy gardener who enjoys the jokes, laughter and conversation of his co-workers, the beauty of the landscape and has the appreciation in his heart of being able to express his joy through his work is much more “successful” in life than the pressured executive who has gone for the third time for the treatment of his stress-induced ulcers.
Mindfulness of the Present Moment is the Key to Enjoyment of Life
So let us stop putting off the living and loving of life, for living and loving and enjoying life can only be in the present moment. Let us capture it. Let us awake from our stupor. Let us at last silence the echoing laughter of the tyrant Time, who devours our lives as endlessly wait for him to bring us into an impossible experience of the receding future.