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Being Joyous In A Hopeless World
Finding balance on the see-saw of denial-based positivity and "reality-based" nihilistic depression.
How can we look at the world as it is without being completely sucked into the hopelessness and despair that generally accompany the reality of the present condition? Can we be joyous no matter the state of the world? Is the apocalypse/climate crisis/economic crisis/social crisis, a reason for despair, or just another phase in a world that has always been troubled?
You can also watch the related podcast episode “The Infinite Mindset: Joy & Hopelessness”.
@Lesa commented: A great article, if people make it through the entire read. In todays world, you’ll lose most people in the first minute, if not sooner. Your thinking is worth the time, but I worry people who need to read it won’t make it to the end. Which proves your point but only to me who read it through. Great thinking! 🙏
Looking at the world and interpreting the condition of the world are two separate things. Positive thinking tells us we must only think positive about whatever is going on. Don’t entertain negative thoughts. But this kind of denial of the reality is what allows darkness to thrive. Dismissing and disqualifying the problem doesn’t make it disappear. People have not understood the difference between positive thinking and accepting the reality.
Positive thinking has its place, but making that the only state of mind you are allowed to have is putting yourself in a prison. Positive thinking can replace the speculative negativity you create within you, when you disparage and doubt yourself unnecessarily. But looking at an uncomfortable and unpleasant situation and having “negative” thoughts about it is not “being negative”. It is simply acknowledging the reality for what it is. And from there we can do something about it. But if you are not allowed to think clearly about the situation, you are not able to do anything about it. The movie “Don’t Look Up” captures the zeitgeist very well.
The movie captures several attitudes we are witnessing today. The absolute hopelessness and depression that accompanies “bad news”, the anxious over-reaction to things that are absolutely out of our control, and the constant need to numb that pain and anxiety through pills, drugs, illusions, and nihilism. And it ends with the solution: acceptance and celebration.
To realize it is our beliefs and conditioning that are controlling our perception and experience of life is the ultimate power we can have.
Our self-importance forces us to believe that the present condition of the world is way worse than ever before. Nostalgia is an antidote to the anxious-depressive condition this world creates. But if we think clearly we can realize that there have been times of much greater despair and crisis, and humanity pulls through. The high is followed by a low is followed by a high, the waves keep crashing on the ocean of Consciousness.
Realizing this is the key to break out of the mindset we are trapped in today. Hopelessness and despair is based on the belief that there is no way out. History shows us repeatedly that we always find a way out. And if there is truly no way out, why be depressed? Isn’t it better to enjoy the last few moments we have before everything goes to shit? Enjoying doesn’t mean bingeing and satisfying every hedonistic impulse that arises within. Joy is not simply about things being right, comfortable, pleasurable, or conforming to our wildly unrealistic expectations.
Change what you enjoy to change how you enjoy
Changing the meaning of joy can open a completely new world for us. And this is not “cheating” (and if it is, what is the problem?). Our current definition of joy has been given to us, but we have never really questioned it, we just quietly accepted it. And this definition keeps us suffering endlessly. Because when life is not conforming to our definition of joy, we have been conditioned to be miserable. When culture gives us the definition of joy, it also tells us how we should feel when we are not in joy.
You can enjoy anything if you are flexible with your inner definition of joy.
There are numerous ways in which culture kills joy. Just have a look at the dictionary definitions of joy:
the emotion evoked by well-being, success, or good fortune or by the prospect of possessing what one desires
a feeling of great pleasure and happiness
If you silently and mindlessly accept this definition (read: if you are one of the sheeple), you will believe our world is rapidly progressing to a joyless doom. Although material desires are being fulfilled faster than ever, our psychological needs and spiritual desires are reaching greater and greater levels of dissatisfaction as we “evolve”. Fulfilling our material desires may give us a degree of joy, but it cannot fulfill the deep emptiness a lot of us are feeling from unfulfilled immaterial desires.
Where is the “Amazon Prime for the Mind and Soul”?
The good news, finally: fulfilling these immaterial desires can give us joy even in a society/world that is imploding into a toxic mess. Getting in touch with your authentic desires and pursuing your passions, fulfilling your deeper needs and desires is an endless source of joy. And what better time than when you believe it is the end of times?
Developing the mindset to enjoy in any state is to develop the mindset of infinity. In this state you realize that life never ends, it just changes. Realizing that hopelessness is just a cultural program, that there is always a way out, is when you can develop an infinitely joyous mindset. It’s only beliefs and stories that keep us trapped in hopelessness, there is no such “real” thing that is telling us it’s over. “Facts and proofs” of despair-creating events are just focused on a particular set of data that doesn’t consider the possibility of [radical] change. This is what has always taken place at extreme moments in history, and there is no reason to believe it will not repeat.
A Drug Called Certainty
There is also the possibility it may not repeat. And here comes the choice and realization: choosing our beliefs decides how we will feel about anything. People think “believing” in something that is not based in “facts” is delusional. But they don’t realize that the facts they believe in are also creating delusions because these facts are based on partial sets of data that can never account for every possibility. It’s all just probable, and even a high probability of complete annihilation is not certain.
People crave certainty, even if it is absolutely depressing.
They would prefer to choose a hypothetical depressive outcome that is “certain” rather than a reality that is uncertain.
Religion and science are both based in the mindset of certainty. And neither has any real clue of what is happening nor what is going to happen. No one knows. And only those who can grasp, accept, and live in that uncertainty will be able to free themselves from the depressing shackles of certainty, and only then can we realize a joy that transcends circumstance. The joy of being truly alive in the novelty of uncertainty. The joy of facing challenges, of life being a perpetual adventure.
Take a pause. Let that sink in. Read that last paragraph again.
What is the point of getting depressed when we can’t be certain that everything will turn to shit? If we don’t know, why enter in the despair when literally anything can happen? Why not enjoy what we can while we can? If things do go to shit, we can feel the pain, but isn’t there still beauty in the world? Isn’t there a beauty in the end of times?
Perhaps what depresses us is that what we enjoy today may not be available to enjoy tomorrow. But what’s the problem with that? Shouldn’t that raise our appreciation for that which we enjoy today?
And when the reality changes and our source of joy disappears, all we have to do is find a different way to enjoy. Adaptability and resourcefulness are the keys to developing trust in yourself to navigate uncertainty. As long as you have those, you will not feel hopeless, because you trust that you can navigate through whatever reality you are in.
Culture is your enemy, my friend
What is stopping us from enjoying whatever is happening? In my opinion, it’s our internalized rules, stories, beliefs, programs, or in one word: “culture”.
Culture tells us when we should feel happy and when we should feel depressed. It gives us the rules of how we are supposed to live life. Essentially, it controls our thinking, feeling, and doing, rendering us slaves to circumstance. Culture gives us meaning (and takes away our power to create meaning, more on that soon). And when we are done with culture, when we realize it’s all a hoax concocted by depressed and fearful ancestors… Culture presents it’s ultimate offering: Nihilism.
Nihilism may sound rational and all too real, but it too is based in the certainty that there is no purpose. Again, choosing a depressive certainty is more comforting than being uncertain.
Even if it were true that nothing matters, we have the power and ability to make things matter. Why do that? Nihilists will say we are deluding ourselves. But that is based on their assumptions and beliefs. Making things matter makes us feel
better alive. And, in my opinion, this is what nihilists want to avoid. The pain that follows the joy of attachments like love and purpose.
Making meaning is a power we have. Even if it means nothing to others, what matters is what it means to the meaning-maker. Nihilists say they don’t believe anything has meaning, but they do believe that nothing has meaning. We can realize that everything is based in a belief in something: science believes in rationality/facts/proof, religion believes in a higher power, and nihilism believes in meaninglessness.
Even to believe in nothing is a miracle, how can we not realize this? That is the beauty of free will, of real power. We can believe whatever we want. And realizing this, we can start becoming aware what our beliefs are producing within us. If religion produces joy, great, if it produces fear and disgust, find something else. If science produces joy, great, if it produces depressive skepticism, drop it. This doesn’t mean religion and science are not valuable. But you don’t need to “belong” only to that school of
thought belief. If Nihilism has you wanting to kill yourself, why stick to it?
The reason people probably stick to these institutions is that they all offer certainty; some offer a depressing certainty, others are more uplifting. But your challenge, young padawan, is to find joy in uncertainty. And then you have a perpetual source because the reality is eternally uncertain. No matter the claims made by the pop institutions of religion and science, the only certainty is change, the only certainty is uncertainty. So making that your source of joy makes it eternally available. This means that we learn to enjoy whatever life presents, because what we enjoy now is not the superficial happiness of comfort and pleasure. What we enjoy is that life is always changing. It’s always different. And it is always going to challenge us to find something to enjoy.
Remember: Change what you enjoy to change how you enjoy
There is a lifestyle called Comadism or Consciousness Nomadism, where you don’t need to belong to any fixed belief system. Instead you choose your beliefs as per your preference and convenience, as per the needs of the moment. Comadism is based in uncertainty, it realizes that there is no way to pre-decide how to deal with constantly changing circumstances. It acknowledges that life is fluid and finds a way to navigate uncertainty. Note the difference: it doesn’t give you a way, it tells you that you have to keep finding your way.
I came up with this term before I discovered that there were ancients doing similar things with different names such as Eclecticism or Syncretism. The difference is that many of them were still just theoretical and idealistic. For me this is an experiential philosophy that can be applied practically in everyday life. It’s not about giving a way to fix the collective world, it’s about individuals finding a way to live harmoniously. It doesn’t hold onto rigid moralism applying the same dogmas and ideals for every situation, rather it is fluid and dynamic to adapt to the present situation. It empowers me to find joy in whatever life serves.