Enjoy yourself, it’s later than you think…

Looking back at the postings on this blog, the anthropopper must ruefully admit that he takes life a little too seriously at times. This po-faced quality is one of the things I would most like to change about Me. Lighten up, I tell myself, but my default personality position seems to be set at Earnest & Responsible and this is what keeps the Inner Scintillating Me from coming to the fore. I spot my Earnest & Responsible side coming out in all sorts of circumstances and situations. As an example, a song by the late Prince Buster came on the radio and, listening to the lyrics, I found myself feeling just a tad disapproving of the sentiments expressed:

Enjoy yourself, it’s later than you think

Enjoy yourself, while you’re still in the pink

The years go by as quickly as you wink

Enjoy yourself, enjoy yourself, it’s later than you think!

prince-buster

Prince Buster, pioneer of ska music. (Photo via The Guardian)

Life is not about enjoyment, I thought, although joy can be part of the story. Nor is the implication that we have just the one life a sound concept on which to base one’s actions. No, life is about discovering and fulfilling as far as possible your purpose for this lifetime. It’s about opportunities to burn off some of your bad karma and wherever you can, helping to build up some good karma for future lifetimes through behaving with kindness and unselfishness to those whose karmic paths cross with yours. Hedonism and living for the moment, I told myself, are not compatible with Taking Responsibility for One’s Soul Development.

Well, I’m sure you can tell from this that I’m hopelessly inept at letting my hair down and having a good time; but then I started to wonder whether my default personality position has been reinforced by my interest in anthroposophy. Rudolf Steiner, after all, frequently tells his followers to become aware of the seriousness of our age – “serious” and “earnest” are two words that I always associate with him.

There’s no doubt, of course, that more than ever we do indeed live in serious and challenging times – so is it frivolous and trivial actively to seek enjoyment in life? “Eat, drink and be merry, for tomorrow we die” sort of thing? I’ve just seen an interview with the Buddhist Pema Chödrön, who was interviewed at her home, Gampo Abbey, in Nova Scotia:

pema-melvin-liza-matthews

Pema Chodron being interviewed by Melvin McLeod (photo by Liza Matthews)

Melvin McLeod: I notice there’s a sign in the entrance to Gampo Abbey that says “Enjoy Your Life.” We don’t usually think of that as a spiritual teaching, but as we noted in a recent issue of Lion’s Roar, enjoying your life is really a transformative practice. But it’s hard for many of us to do.

Pema Chödrön: It’s a great sign to have in a Buddhist monastery. Right away, it presents a paradox: Aren’t you here to escape all that hedonism? Aren’t you here not to seek enjoyment from outer things?

The answer is yes, that is why you’re here. So in that case, what does “enjoy your life” mean, if it doesn’t mean getting your pleasure and sense of wellbeing from external things, including people and relationships as well as material goods?

You know who said it best? Leonard Cohen. He meditated all those years at Mt. Baldy Zen Center, often for twelve hours at a time. In an interview, he said his storyline just wore itself out. He got so bored with his dramatic storyline. And then he made the comment, “The less there was of me, the happier I got.”

That’s the answer to how to enjoy your life. It’s to show up and have a sense of curiosity about whatever might appear that day, including it all in your sense of appreciation of this precious human birth, which is so short. I don’t want to call it delight, although it can feel like that. It’s more curiosity. Some people say, I know what’s going to show up today—the same old thing. But it’s never really the same old thing. Even in Groundhog Day, every day was a different experience for Phil, until finally he learned that caring about people was the answer.

This is actually a big point, because the less there is of you, the more you’re interested in and curious about other people. Who you live with and who you rub up against and who you share this world with is a very important part of enjoying your life.

Sartre said, “Hell is other people,” but this is the other view of that. When people irritate you, when they get your goat, when they slander you, whatever it might be, you still have a relationship with them. It’s interesting that of all the billions of people on the earth, they’re the particular ones who came into your world. There’s respect for whatever happens, and this is only really possible if you’re not rejecting whole parts of your experience.”

Well, I can go along with that. Caring about people is the answer for anyone who has a problem in enjoying life. Rudolf Steiner, of course knew all of this and in ways far more profound than I will ever know, but I can’t help thinking a disrespectful thought: that he might have enjoyed life more (and lived longer) if he hadn’t taken life quite so seriously. Our karma determines the way our life unfolds, and enjoyment of it is usually not the point. But was it really essential for Steiner to work himself into the ground and wreck his health for the sake of his mission – which in any case it seems all too likely he didn’t manage to complete. Is there a lesson there for me? After all, each one of us has got more than just this present incarnation to get things right – or is that a cop-out?

14 Comments

Filed under Anthroposophy, Enjoyment of Life, Rudolf Steiner

14 responses to “Enjoy yourself, it’s later than you think…

  1. Sophia Smith

    A medieval French poet concluded:
    “L’important, c’est la rose.”

    Jeremy, enjoy your gardening, and all those climbing roses and ramblers sending shoots up the pergola and the fences!

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  2. dear anthropopper I do love that spirit of humour in the statue representative of Man at the Goetheanum

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    • Indeed. It is even said that Rudolf Steiner fashioned that solemn face on his own model.

      https://s-media-cache-ak0.pinimg.com/236x/c7/b5/71/c7b571b8b3e3c62a6 fcc495056672cd7.jpg

      Personally, I don’t think that Steiner could help being serious and rather solemn throughout his life, considering that he was born “out of due time” for the express purpose of bringing spiritual science into the world about a century earlier than it was supposed to occur. And, just like Saul of Tarsus, who became Paul, and who was also born “out of due time”, they both suffered greatly at the hands of those in powerful positions of authority.

      Yet, they have both given us coordinated legacies which will last long beyond the external authorities that exist today. Why? Because in their respective domains of responsible action, they have served to instigate the Consciousness of Mankind. They suffered, and had their lives cut short, but look at what it means. Paul and Steiner died at the same age. And they both advocated the Etheric Christ about 2,000 years apart. Very important.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I’d say that it’s possible to be serious about serious things and enjoy yourself at the same time. Whether Steiner’s seriousness contributed to his early death would depend greatly on whether he was indeed poisoned a year before his death. I used to doubt that, but since it became clear that the first Goetheanum’s destruction was indeed due to arson (according to the Swiss fire investigators) the poisoning theory has become more reasonable. Anyway:
    http://southerncrossreview.org/111/where-or-when.html

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  4. Anja Hovland

    It helps if you define that which gives you enjoyment and next wonder why.

    Sent from my iPhone

    >

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  5. Feeling tired of all that seriousness? Just ask if you did not have seriousness in you, would you have even glanced at something like Anthroposophy?

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  6. Eva Davies

    Dear Jeremy – this blog gives a very new perspective on the USUAL anthropopper….what has brought this on? I ask this question because it happens to me often…this looking at life through a different keyhole. Like today’s a wet start to the day made me think: – if only the sun would come out that I can do LOTS of work in the garden. Now the sun is OUT and I am on my bed feeling pensive and lazy….. Warm regards, Eva

    | |

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  7. Well, Jeremy, here’s where my Irish Anthroposophy (aka Blarneyosophy) can really help you out in restoring the proper equanimity between gravitas and levitas.

    First I offer you my rendition of the Gilbert and Sullivan classic which I have re-titled as:

    I am the very Model of a Modern Anthroposophist.

    https://tmasthenes.wordpress.com/2012/12/25/model-anthro/

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  8. One of my favourite anthroposophists, Norwegian author Jens Bjørneboe, wrote: “Laughter means distance. Where laughter is absent, madness begins. The moment one takes the world with complete seriousness one is potentially insane.” I believe that is true.

    Liked by 3 people

    • The paradox of Jens Bjørneboe is that he took life all too seriously, and finally killed himself. People need to practice what they preach, and that means seeing life for what it is. We are here to evolve through tremendous difficulties, owing to what spiritual evolution means in our day and age. One earns the right to laugh, enjoy, suffer and despair, and smell the roses all at the same time.

      The gnosis of spiritual science only helps to make it more logical as the way it is for the discerning spectator. Just enjoy every day, and play your part. Responsibility will add up over due course. The balance-sheet is what worries people, and Jens Bjørneboe was one of those who felt he was too much on the deficit side.

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  9. “Say that life has endowed us with this or that virtue; for spiritual training it is the virtues we ourselves have cultivated that are of value. Are we by nature easily excitable, it is for us to rid ourselves of this excitability; are we by nature calm and imperturbable, we must bestir ourselves to bring it about through our own self-education that the impressions we receive from without awake in us the right response. A man who cannot laugh has just as little control over his life as a man who without self-control is perpetually giving way to laughter.”
    Rudolf Steiner

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Midnight Rambler

    Here are some examples of RS having fun and making jokes. Taken from “Reminiscences of Rudolf Steiner and Marie Steiner-von Sievers
    By Ilona Schubert
    Temple Lodge Press, London 1991”

    Maybe it was his disciples who were too serious ?

    “And what fun we had on the long train journeys! Dr. Steiner visited the other compartments many times inquiring how we all were, made jokes and encouraged us. On one occasion we arrived in Prague fairly well exhausted after an over-night journey and were received by our hosts and hostesses in the usual way. After a ceremonious greeting the latter wanted to take their guests home with them but Dr. Steiner said, ‘Wait a moment, first of all we want to have a good breakfast. I invite you all for that. The eurythmists must discover what a good Bohemian breakfast of coffee in the Kipfeln [croissants] is like.” So this huge party sat down in the station buffet and enjoyed a very happy and comfortable time together.”

    “I was at the theatre with Dr Steiner an another occasion. It was a most amusing episode. Die Fledermaus was being performed in Mannheim which we heard of while we were sitting at lunch ­rather like on the previous occasion in Stuttgart. Dr Steiner was enthusiastic about it straight away and suggested that we should all go to see it. He even started to hum some of the tunes and said, `Are you as fond of Die Fledermaus as I am?’ Whereupon I answered that I did not know it, for at that time I felt myself far too superior to go to an operetta! But Dr Steiner was of the opinion that one simply has to know it – ‘It is a classical piece of music.’ So again there was a large party assembled that evening in the theatre and we were all very happy. The one who enjoyed himself most was probably Dr Steiner. His Viennese nature with its familiarity with and love of the Strauss waltzes came to the fore. And how well he knew his Strauss! During the intervals he prepared us for the humorous bits that were to come and I noticed that during the performance he occasionally looked our way to study our reactions.”

    I don’t know if there is a section in the archives on RS jokes, but here’s one that you probably all know that he may not have cracked.

    Question: How many anthroposophists does it take to change a light bulb?
    Answer: No one knows. Steiner never gave an indication.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Saul Bellow opined with a mix of humour and existentialism about Steiner here in his Pulitzer and Nobel Prize work, “Humboldt’s Gift”, from 1976.

      https://footnotes2plato.com/2013/06/16/saul-bellow-on-rudolf-steiner-boredom-and-sleep/

      I remember that Kafka attended those lectures in Prague on Occult Physiology, and it didn’t help him a bit. All he remembered when graced with a meeting with Steiner was how he [Steiner] had a cold and was continually shoving a handkerchief up his nose. Good stuff for a diary of remembrance 😉

      Indeed, Rudolf Steiner was very light-hearted; else how could he do it? All of his lectures contained at least one joke/jab at his opponents. Turning the light bulb joke against anthroposophists is really unfair, especially with how much this blog should be seen as a serious attempt to further the cause of understanding some 92 years since Steiner’s death.

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  11. Gudrun Veronica Lillekroken

    Thank you for this essay. I have the same inner conflict. Is it frivoulous to enjoy myself, or is it necessary to live as a fully rounded human being?

    Liked by 1 person

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