Appreciation

We think of appreciation as a quality we already possess and argue to ourselves that the only reason we are not experiencing it is because (unfortunately) we lack the necessary things in life that are worthy of it.

Sure, while we may possess, let’s say, the ability to appreciate, abilities themselves can be developed, expanded, heightened and improved. Perhaps what we are lacking are not things worthy of appreciation, but the will and imagination to see how what we have is already deserving of the appreciation we designate to other (more grandiose and fantastic) things.

We can find ourselves being unappreciative for what we have because our sights are set (often much farther away) on things we do not. We fill our hearts and minds with things that are absent. Of course we cannot appreciate what is here, because we are looking at what is over there. We want to adventure around Macedonia, attend events rich with euphoria and bonhomie, and live in a decadent property with marble bench-tops and spiral columns. We tell ourselves that we would rather be there because here is so thoroughly dull, stupid and unworthy of appreciation.

But sometimes, something surprising happens. You chance upon an old photograph of your family and you at the local beach from your childhood, or you see your mum cooking dinner for the family on your regular-not-so-marble bench-top, or you look down and see your scruffy little dog wagging his tail and rubbing his head against your leg asking for a pat. A warm feeling rushes over you and you are faced with a new and perhaps rather counter-intuitive thought: you are already quite rich. There is so much for you to already appreciate. The problem was not that we lacked what we wanted, but that we were unable to draw succour and satisfaction from what we already have.

Simple Things, Carlos Reales, 2014.

Following in the stead of painters such as Manet and Vermeer, Reales is celebrating the unexotic but heart warming satisfactions of daily life. The bread, lovingly prepared, has just come out of the overn and will surely be delightfully crunchy. The jug, while plain, is sturdy. It was perhaps bought by a craftsman who made it with care and affection. The items sit upon a varnished table passed down thorugh generations. While it may not be a celebration of excess like Dutch Pronkstilleven, it is a celebration of simplicity. Reales is communicating to us that even simple pleasures are worthy of veneration, and when taken from the background and made objects of attention, can be beautiful in their own right. Context can change how we appreciate something, as can familiarity.

If I place my hand on your leg, while you may feel it initially, after some time the feeling of my hand disappears and you will only realise its presence once I remove it. This holds true for so many things in life. We ‘get used to’ our parents, our pets, our friends; to warm hugs, kind text messages, and the songs of birds. They move from the foreground to the background, from objects of amazement to simply the fabric of our life. Usually, it is only when they disappear, when a parent dies or an ex leaves you that you realise how much joy they gave you. Like the hand leaving the leg, we often do not realise what we had until it is gone. One of the greatest obstacles to appreciation, therefore, is that we ‘get used to’ the things in our lives and fail to meet them with fresh eyes.

Krishnamurti implored people to ‘die to yesterday’ every single day so that the mind is always ‘fresh, vital, and alive’. There is hardly better advice for cultivating appreciation than his. Because we become familiar, we no longer appreciate the value of a good morning text the way we first did. However, if we can wipe the slate clean, if we can practice ‘defamiliarisation’ than these small things in life take on the importance that they properly deserve.

We have this mistaken belief that appreciating what we already have, like a loving but sometimes grouchy mother, or a soft breeze coming through a window, would be a type of second-best in life, accepting that we will never have a fancy car or a first-class trip to Macedonia. But there is no reason why appreciating what we have will delete the will or effort to have something else. We should simply practice awareness of how rich our life already is. You are already rich in so many ways, and if you cannot appreciate it now, you will be no better equipped to appreciate it when you have a slightly faster car, or more marble-laden bench-top.

Are You A Good Person?

The Taoist philosopher Lao Tzu once said ‘he who knows does not speak, he who speaks, does not know’. Suggested here is knowing and speaking exist in inverse proportion to each other. The more you know, the more you know that you do not know; and if you know little without bothering to learn more, you will think that what you know is all there is. Implied in being knowledgeable is a recognition that there is so little that you actually know, and consequently, humility.

We can use a parody of this logic elsewhere. If you want to know whether you are a good person, it has nothing to do with how many charities you donate to, how much guilt you feel after you don’t call your mother back, or whether you have mastered the art of holding your tongue when someone says something dumb. The answer to whether or not you are a good person comes down to something very simple. When you ask yourself: am I am good person? that your answer is: no.

Lao Tzu might have said: If you think you are a good person, you aren’t, if you think you aren’t a good person, you are.

If you don’t think you’re a good person, it doesn’t mean you hate yourself, it means you’re able to evaluate yourself with a critical and uncompromising attitude. You know that you have not been a perfect human being. You don’t want to lie to yourself about it either. Being able to say ‘I am not a good person’ is not about putting yourself down, but rather, about recognising your flaws and acting upon them.

We are all ‘fallen’ in the classical theological sense. Nobody is perfect; nobody is truly ‘good’. There is always something or other we can improve on. We can always be more gracious, caring, compassionate and kind people.

The person who already thinks they are good will see no reason to change and will never aspire to be a better version of themselves. The person who sees that they aren’t good, however, through self-examination, has opened a space where they can become a better version of themselves. They might not have the willpower to do so, but they have the imagination to conceive it (which is an important first, but by no means only, step).

In his works, Plato emphasised the distinction between the sophist (meaning: wise man) and the philosopher (meaning: lover of wisdom). The sophist believes he possess knowledge, and therefore, sees no reason to learn. Why learn, after all, if you already know? The philosopher, however, is best described as he who knows he does not know. Because he does not think he already knows, a space opens up for learning and the discovery of truth. Similarly, if you already believe you are a good person, you will not adapt and change your behaviours, as you believe they are already how they should be. However, if you think you are not a good person, you open up the space where it becomes possible to think different, act different, be different.

Ironically, the necessary pre-condition for being a good person is to think that you are not. By rejecting the (misguided) belief in our own infallibility, we open a space where we can humbly learn from and forgive our past mistakes, missteps, and misguided judgements, and become better versions of ourselves.

Interpretation & Stockholm Syndrome of the Super-Ego

In Freudian theory, the super-ego operates is something like a judge: adjudicator and discipliner, critic and censor. The super-ego is the authority figure ruling on our thoughts and behaviours. It is the aspect of you speaking when you call yourself a failure, a reject, and a disappointment; it is the voice you hear when you think your work was not good enough, the break up was entirely your fault, and nobody will ever love someone as flawed and broken as you. It can be quite cruel.

What is interesting is how quick we are to agree with its pronouncements. If our super-ego was a person we met on the street, we would quickly tell it that it was wrong, punch it in the face, or walk away. Only the most masochistic among us would allow a total stranger to call us a failure, a bore, or an atrocious excuse for a human being. Yet, in our own minds, we have come to accept this and to a certain extent, rely on it for ruling and direction.

From childhood we submit to those in positions of authority: first our parents (and older siblings), then our teachers (and our peers), then the state (and police). We are brought and raised in a world that demands compliance to authority at every turn. This has, to a significant extent, shaped how we have come to think. It creates a docile, submissive, repressed mind that will not think for itself, but simply do as it is told, with little argument. It is fertile soil for the emergence of a very powerful super-ego.

We are generally unsympathetic to our own situation. While we might look upon others with forgiveness and compassion for their transgressions, we hold ourselves to a different standard. We know all the ‘wrong’ and ‘bad’ things we have done, and as this archive amasses we begin to agree that essentially, deep down, we are criminals and we need this authority to protect us from our own depraved selves.

But we are not bad, this is just the opinion of a single voice and we would be wise not to take it on its word alone.

More appropriately understood as an argument ‘against a single interpretation’, Susan Sontag, in her work Against Interpretation, warns against adopting a single interpretation. A single view flattens a multi-dimensional experience (whether it is art, or a thought or feeling), while saying more about the speaker than what is spoken about.

Echoing Susan Sontag, Adam Phillips in his work Unforbidden Pleasures encourages what he calls ‘over-interpretation’. When the super-ego screams that we are failures or nobody will ever love someone so tragically flawed, we should pause and invite ourselves to think about our predicament from another point of view.

You can only understand anything that matters – dreams, neurotic symptoms, literature – by overinterpreting it; by seeing it from different aspects as the product of multiple impulses.

We should allow another voice to show itself and another interpretation to be pronounced. In doing so, we begin enriching our internal universe, bit by bit, no longer confining ourselves to one perspective and thereby giving ourselves a lot more room to move and think about things.

We could think about what is going on along the lines of Carl Jung and his theory of archetypes. We treat our super-ego as if it is a single god on a throne whom we must submit to. But really, within us is a pantheon of gods, and we all sit at a round table. We have given one voice precedence but there are so many within us wanting to speak, and we can hear them if we take the time to listen. As Phillips notes, without redescription upon redescription…‘the fragmentary repository of alternate selves will be silenced’. Through over-interpretation, we can turn a ‘judgement’ by our super-ego into a ‘conversation’ between our composite selves.

By nurturing the capacity for multiple interpretations, we expand the horizon of meaning we give to certain events in our lives. Maybe we did deserve to be dumped, but perhaps the timing simply was not right, or they weren’t ready to love someone and it has nothing to do with you. By embracing interpretation after interpretation, we can look at things with more discernment and scorn, appreciating that things may not always be as (misleadingly) simple as our super-ego claims them to be. Phillips reminds us that with the ‘shared internal jurisprudence’ of multiple perspectives and interpretations, ‘self-criticism might be less jaded and jading, more imaginative and less spiteful’.

A Little Piece of Earth

When we are younger, we are not quite in the right state of mind to appreciate the beauty of a small garden. Our hearts and minds are focused on much grander projects than a small plot of earth. As young adults, we want to change everything. Our minds are set on transforming society, Marxism, astronomical success in work, and making a name for ourselves in the world. Ironically, how much we want from life often operates in inversion to our age.

As we get older, with the emancipation of the proletariat still generations away, society trudging along almost exactly as it did a decade ago, and numerous fall backs, collapses, and disappointments in our career; we realise we invested our hopes, dreams, wishes and desires in grand projects hoping they would give us the satisfaction and guarantee of a life well lived.

It is then that we begin to adjust our focus. Instead of looking towards (well-meaning but) grandiose and abstract projects, we set our sights a little closer to home and a little closer to the ground. It is after the failure and disappointment of our larger projects that we begin to appreciate the sublime satisfaction of a small garden with some flowers in it.

Once our vision is no longer obscured by our ambitious (yet unlikely) dreams, we can come to appreciate something as wondrously insignificant as a small bed of flowers. We can kneel down in an act of prayer and bury our hands in the soil to plant a small seedling with the knowledge that while we may not be able to change the landscapes of societies, we can change this small little parcel of land right here.

This isn’t about being defeated. It is about rescuing yourself. The small bed of flowers is your way to change the world, to make it a little less troubled, a little more beautiful and to affirm that there is immense beauty to be found if we exchange our grand ambitions for a slightly more humble acceptance, both of the world and our place in it.

A Game

In one of his many insightful talks on the nature of consciousness, self and ego, fear and insecurity, Alan Watts plays a game which he would humorously refer to as ‘chasing the heebie-jeebies’. The point of this game was to reveal the ‘below surface’ thoughts operating when we think.

Take, for example, death. I am afraid of death. It gives me the ‘heebie-jeebies’. Well, what is the problem, death, or the heebie-jeebies? It appears the heebie-jeebies are actually the problem. They make me feel anxious. So being anxious is the problem. Well, I only feel anxious because I don’t think I have been living a full and rich life. So that is the problem. When I think about the absence of richness and fulfillment in my life I run away facing it. So running away is the problem. But, I only run away because I do not know how to answer it. So being unable to answer this existential question is the problem. With each question being another step, as we walk down the stairs we uncover questions we would not originally have asked ourselves.

To take another example: talking to strangers. I am afraid of talking to strangers. It makes me nervous. So, being unable to talk to strangers isn’t the problem, nervousness is. But I am only nervous because I think they will judge me. Okay, so fear of judgement is the problem. I fear judgement because I care so much about what others think instead of what I think. So, my lack of faith in myself is the problem. I lack faith in myself because I focus on my failures rather than my success. Now this is the problem. But I think this way because my failures were always rebuked and my successes were never praised, so I developed a slavish tendency towards self-abuse. So, self-abuse is the problem. Yet, that happened in the past and this is the present, so holding onto my pain is the problem. However, I only hold onto my pain because I cannot think any other way. I cannot think any other way because this way of thinking is known, comfortable, and reassuring. It is all these things because I am afraid. I am afraid of trying something new because I will have to leave my old self behind. If I leave it behind, I become vulnerable and exposed. If I allow myself to do this, I might get hurt. I do not want to get hurt because I am fragile and do not want my security shaken and assaulted. So, perhaps this, then, is the problem.

Of course, you can keep going and going…

The game is insightful, especially when written down, because you begin to see the complex interactions and multi-textured pattern of every thought. While we think in specifics and particulars, behind and beneath (or rather, within and throughout) each thought is a textured and multi-layered process occurring. In the example the fear of death, the fear cannot be severed from feelings (anxiety, dread, disappointment), thoughts (reflections on an unfulfilling present, nostalgia for a lost past, and the expectation of a frustrated future), and bodily sensations (tensing, clenching, restlessness). Everything occurs together in a wonderfully complex process.

The game is a type of hide-and-seek, or rather, a game of chase with yourself, where you try to locate the fountainhead of a particular thought or feeling. Frustratingly, it is like chasing a shadow, no matter how close you get, it keeps getting away. The lesson in all of this is to pay attention, attention to how thoughts are never isolated but imbued with the messages of so many other thoughts in an ever unfolding pattern of complexity.

On Feeling Ugly

You’ve made a point of avoiding it. You consciously avert your gaze. Walking past it one morning, your attention slips, and you come face to face with your reflection in the mirror. The crooked smile, the crippled finger, the attenuated eyebrows. You’ve put on weight, you don’t look happy, your smile doesn’t have the exuberance of photoshopped models on Instagram. Looking at yourself, you can think only one thought: ‘I am ugly’.

Philosopher with Mirror, Jusepe de Ribera, 1600/1652

But there is more to ugliness than meets the eye. We know there are fit people with symmetrical faces, perfect smiles, and voluptuous bodies who think they should live under bridges and demand gold coins from travelers as they pass by; they are trolls after all. And yet, there are people with flat faces, distorted features, and misshaped bodies who consider themselves as Aphrodite’s offspring; the most beautiful creatures to have blessed the face of the Earth.

Believing you’re ugly has less to do with the state of your flesh and more to do with the state of your soul. The difference between feeling beautiful and feeling ugly has, quite surprisingly, very little to do with how we look. Rather, it has almost everything to do with the degree of love and respect we have for ourselves.

In more ancient times, people believed the state of one’s soul was reflected in the state of their body. A leper, therefore, was to be condemned because their physical decay was seen as reflecting the corruption of their soul. A physical deformity was seen as a manifestation of spiritual deformity. Parodying this ancient maxim, our perceived physical ugliness is really a reflection of self-hatred in our soul.

When we say we are ugly, we are telling ourselves that we do not consider ourselves worthy of the love, respect, and compassion we so readily grant to other people. You are not ugly; you are just suffering from a bruised and battered soul. You don’t need plastic surgery, new clothes, or a new haircut. What you need is to feel properly loved and valued, and for someone (else, or yourself) to remind you that you are beautiful, on the outside but more importantly, on the inside, where it counts.

The Brutal Functionalism of the Modern World

The modern world is, in many ways (and with little energy required to find examples), quite ugly. It is not that someone has attempted to make something beautiful but through lack of imagination or lack of will, mutilated the task. Rather, we live in a world that is seemingly unconcerned with beauty altogether.

On the left: the homogenous, grey steel structure commanding every street in Melbourne. It has been designed in such a way that the absolute minimum amount of material has been utilised in order to achieve the goal. One vertical pole, two horizontal joiners for lights, and two diagonal beams for support. It is brutal in its dedication to function and utter disinterest in anything else. This structure is not here to play games, it has a job to do. It is a very serious light. The structure on the right could come from another world, and in a sense, it does. Far more iron has been used than would be necessary to hold up the light. But that is, in a sense, the point, the flourishing waves and curls revel in the excess that is its mark of beauty. It is the very fact that the cascading form of swirls is utterly useless and unnecessary that makes it beautiful. Someone did something entirely unnecessary for our benefit. It is beautiful because it is not just a light; it is a delightful play of contrast between stiff iron yet fragile watery patterns, designed not merely to work, but to be enjoyed.

It is not just street lights that the brutal functionalism of our world reveals itself. Our food is much the same. Think of fast food. The worker might as well be a machine considering how they are treated as mere functions. Mustard, ketchup, onion, pickle, patty. Repeat. There is no love in the fast food experience.[1] It is food as fuel. Food reduced to the lowest common denominator. It is food as input, soon to be expunged as output. One does not savour the flavour or lounge (thus the ‘fast’ in fast-food). Fast food restaurants are devoid of all the things that make eating a humbling and joyful experience because it is not about food; it is about brutal functionalism in the pursuit of efficiency and productivity.

This is not just the case with lights or fast food. One can, with minimal effort, come up with myriad examples. We buy our plants in black plastic pots, devoid of substance and imagination, rather than terracotta or clay. We go to IKEA to buy chipboard furniture rather than visit craftspeople or antique stores.

Perhaps the reason we are all so interested in clothing fashion is because it is one of the few spaces remaining that has not been taken over by zealous devotion to functionalism. The day it is we will all be walking around in grey one-piece suits.

Skyscrapers and housing estates, tables and chairs, dinner plates and cutlery, phones and books; they are all mass produced items like street lights and McDonald’s hamburgers that are devoid of any love, care, and devotion. They are not made with an interest in making something beautiful for its own sake. So, we must ask ourselves, what is it that they are created according to? To what standard? According to what values?

The objects we see are produced according to the standards of efficiency and productivity. These second rate reasons serve a higher value: profit. It is simply more profitable to produce black plastic pots than to invest in terracotta with all the useless (yet wonderful) flourishes. Yet, in the process, something incredibly important is lost: beauty.

Unfortunately, we are not simply buyers and sellers living in a marketplace. We are people, people who wish to live in a world that is inspiring and moving. Art should not be reserved for museums or galleries, art should be a part of daily life, where society itself is a canvas for the flourishing of human creativity.

The notion that we should not or even worse, cannot make our society more beautiful because it would cost too much money is like saying you cannot build the desk you want because it would take too many centimetres. By living according to how much something does or does not cost, we have created a world where efficiency and productivity are the benchmarks for success, instead of how something inspires us, or makes us stop and wonder.

We may have saved ourselves a lot of money in building our street lights the way we did, but we lost something else in the process, something that we will never be able to compute on a profit & loss spread-sheet: we lost an opportunity to make society a work of art.


[1] Like with sex, sometimes we don’t want love, we just want pleasure. It may feel good, but it certainly isn’t beautiful, and there is only so long that pleasure can substitute for beauty.

The Fertility of Silence

Silence is more than a phenomenon marked by the absence of sound. Silence is an ideal. It manifests in at least two forms. The first is what we may call ‘imposed silence’. Imposed silence stems from an inability to speak up. It is the disempowered silence of the listener who is denied access to a voice.

The second is ‘composed silence’. Composed silence is an active process of keeping the busy room of the mind clean. The room of the mind is furnished with things of the past, but composed silence creates a clean slate. As Krishnamurti notes, ‘only an empty cup can be filled’. Composed silence empties the mind so that it may be filled with something extraordinary, fresh, and new.

In the first instance, silence is a negation of possibility. In the second instance, silence is the negative space of possibility. The absence of sound provides the room for the discovery of truth. By virtue of being empty space between speech, silence establishes space for inquiry to occur.

But silence is not an isolated concept. Silence is relational. We cannot make sense of self without other; day without night; foreground without background. So too, we cannot make sense of silence without noise.

But contrasting does not imply opposing. Bad experiences are not opposite to good ones, but are, in fact, the very types of experiences necessary to make sense of good ones at all. Similarly, silence is not opposed to noise, but is rather, the essential ingredient for noise to exist. Silence is the ripening of noise. To take it at its most physical, a sound wave operates in a wave whereby the spaces in between are what allow you to even hear noise.

If all a man did was talk, he would soon run out of things to say because he has given himself no time to think. Silence is not the absence of thought, but the stage of percolating and ripening. In his moving piece on the fertility of silence, Kahlil Girban writes,

You talk when you cease to be at peace with your thoughts;
And when you can no longer dwell in the solitude of your heart you live in your lips, and sound is a diversion and a pastime.
And in much of your talking, thinking is half murdered.
For thought is a bird of space, that in a cage of words may indeed unfold its wings but cannot fly.

In Gibran’s conception, silence is not a state of being mute or dumb but is an active process where we nurture and expand our own potential. It is the silence of a ripening consciousness, brimming with potential only because it was allowed the space to grow.

Our lives are incessantly busy. We have the demands of home, friends, work, and family. We also have a device glued to our body constantly notifying, prodding, poking, and demanding our attention. But in cultivating silence and its twin sister solitude, we can unplug and get in touch with ourselves as we are, and we might find something we did not know was there.

It’s Not About You

We generally think about narcissism in terms of the neurotic tendency towards vanity, selfishness, unbridled self-love, and admiration. To the extent that this is true, it is only partly true.

We can think about this character profile as the positive (as “+” sign) side of narcissism, where someone identifies as all that is truly good and noble in the world. But there is also the negative (as “-” sign) side of narcissism, where someone finds in themselves all that is unquestionably horrid and despicable in the world. One adds qualities to themselves they do not possess, the other takes away qualities that they do.

Two men are vying for a promotion at a prestigious law firm. Both are highly qualified, productive, well-liked and loyal, both having been there for over ten years (and having started at the same time). At the end of the week when the promotions are announced, as expected, only one of them is the recipient. The successful man walks around the office hi-fiving and loudly proclaiming it was a “no-brainer” to hire someone as brilliant and talented as him. His jocular mood takes a pompous and acidic turn as he turns to the other man tells him he lost out because he was less talented, intelligent, and aspirational. This man, in turn, becomes dejected. He spends the night alone at the office drinking heavily, reminding himself every time he passes a mirror that he truly is the pathetic man he was said to be, and he would have gotten the job if he was more capable, clever, and ambitious.

While we are ready to harbor ill-will towards the first man, we are more reserved in our judgment of the second. However, they are both victims of a similar mentality. Neither man, it seems, creates distance between events and themselves. Both define who they are, absolutely, upon what happens to them. Each man’s identity is so porous, that there is effectively no barrier between what happens to them and how they define themselves. Were the tables turned, it is likely each man would have acted in the same way as the other.

Both men forget, in their own way, that we are not the things that happen to us. To the extent that we allow events to define us, we become second hand people. This is narcissism; being a reflection of what happens around you.

In addition to the dejected lawyer who missed out on the promotion, we could include the unfortunate soul who really thinks ‘it’s not you, it’s me’, blaming themselves entirely for a break up; the man who despite his best attempts, receives a cold shoulder from the beautiful woman at the bar and returns home truly believing he is an ugly troll whom nobody could ever love; and the self-flagellating victim of an unfortunate life who only blames themselves for why things have not turned out so well.

In our self-proclaimed meritocratic society, we are told that anybody can be anything and there are no barriers to self-realisation. While it is an excellent belief-system for the winners, the losers suffer not only loss, but the shame that comes with loss being entirely their fault. We live in a world where success and failure are pinned entirely on the individual. We find it difficult to speak about forces outside ourselves that may influence how things turn out because before a conversation even begins, we act as if they are not there.

The ancients understood how little agency we have. The Romans had Fortuna, the Greeks had Tyche, the Etruscans had Norita, and the early Semites had Gad. These gods served an incredibly important function: they reminded people that life is largely outside of our control and we are often the victims of uncontrollable and unforeseeable forces.

Our secular age has no use for deities. Yet, we should take on the spirit exemplified by the gods of fortune and chance. The next time we blame ourselves entirely for something that has happened, we should start an inner monologue and tell ourselves ‘it is not about you’.

‘It is not about you’ is a reminder that we are not the centre of the universe. We are minor actors on a stage whose edges we cannot even see. While sometimes we may feel like everything is our fault (for better or worse), it is absolutely necessary (for our own wellbeing) to remind ourselves that we are like sailors on an ocean and while we can control the sail, we cannot control the wind.

We should try to catch ourselves next time we feel like saying we are the cause of this misery, the creator of that pain, or architect of the agony; and instead recognise that while we may have played a part, to a large extent, there was only so much we could have done.

Reminding yourself that ‘it is not about you’ is not about being deprecatory, but about being humble; it involves recognising how little control over things you have and in turn, opening up a space where you can see that no matter how bad things might get (a painful breakup, a missed promotion), it is not entirely your fault.

Kairosclerosis

Kairosclerosis is the moment when you realise you are experiencing joy, but consciously try to hold on to it, prompting you to identify with it, break it down trying to understand it, and pick it apart until the delicate experience becomes the dust of an afterthought. Essentially, you can’t just be happy, you need to figure out why, but in the process of thinking about it, you kill it.

Those of us who are Kairosclerotic are victims of our own imaginations. It is not that we do not want to be happy, it is that such a feeling feels so alien, so absurdly out of place, that we have to analyse it, to find out what is going on in the hope that we can develop a formula, a procedure, a method, to conjure this feeling once more.

The Kairosclerotic feels joy and sadness like the rest of us, but they feel (perhaps because their minds are more attuned to interpreting things negatively) that life is essentially miserable, so therefore, when they do experience joy, there arises a feeling of indecency and guilt. They believe (perhaps not entirely incorrectly) that life is essentially suffering and they therefore feel indecent or wrong to enjoy happiness when it arrives. It is essentially a melancholic attitude.

The joy a Kairosclerotic individual feels is soon overwhelmed by another thought; one of all the times they did not feel joy. They cannot help but contrast this brief slither of light against the enormous yawning void of misery and pain that had come before and that will surely come after. They cannot en-joy because their mind immediately sets this moment of happiness against all the moments that came before, emptying the present moment of any liberating and pleasurable potential.

We all know a Kairosclerotic person in our midst, perhaps we are one ourselves. A symptom of melancholy, we do not allow ourselves to be happy because we do not allow ourselves to feel. And if we feel, the greater danger is in feeling something we have not before and in realising that this brief moment of happiness is actually that: brief. We do not want to be happy for just the moment, we want more than a momentary spark in a dark chasm; we want to smile and live a life where when we are happy, we don’t need to question what the hell is going on.