Lurching. Lurching. Lurching.

We are ever in the process of creating and repairing a world that our minds want to be in. And wherever we look, we see the evidence of our successes and our failures. Unfortunately, failure enjoys a natural advantage. Wrong answers to any problem outnumber right ones by a wide margin, and it seems that it will always be easier to break things than to fix them.

Despite the beauty of our world and the scope of human accomplishment, it is hard not to worry that the forces of chaos will triumph —not merely in the end but in every moment. Our pleasures, however refined or easily acquired, are by their very nature fleeting. They begin to subside the instant they arise, only to be replaced by fresh desires or feelings of discomfort. You can’t get enough of your favorite meal until, in the next moment, you find you are so stuffed as to nearly require the attention of a surgeon— and yet, by some quirk of physics, you still have room for dessert. The pleasure of dessert lasts a few seconds, and then the lingering taste in your mouth must be banished by a drink of water. The warmth of the sun feels wonderful on your skin, but soon it becomes too much of a good thing. A move to the shade brings immediate relief, but after a minute or two, the breeze is just a little too cold. Do you have a sweater in the car? Let’s take a look. Yes, there it is. You’re warm now, but you notice that your sweater has seen better days. Does it make you look carefree or disheveled? Perhaps it is time to go shopping for something new. And so it goes.

We seem to do little more than lurch between wanting and not wanting. Thus, the question naturally arises : Is there more to life than this? Might it be possible to feel much better (in every sense of better) than one tends to feel? Is it possible to find lasting fulfillment despite the inevitability of change?

Spiritual life begins with a suspicion that the answer to such questions could well be “yes.” And a true spiritual practitioner is someone who has discovered that it is possible to be at ease in the world for no reason, if only for a few moments at a time, and that such ease is synonymous with transcending the apparent boundaries of the self. Those who have never tasted such peace of mind might view these assertions as highly suspect. Nevertheless, it is a fact that a condition of selfless well-being is there to be glimpsed in each moment. Of course, I’m not claiming to have experienced all such states, but I meet many people who appear to have experienced none of them— and these people often profess to have no interest in spiritual life.

~ Sam Harris, Waking Up: A Guide to Spirituality Without Religion. (Simon & Schuster. 2014)

You can accomplish the strange feats of arguing with yourself, cursing at yourself, and cajoling yourself

The American neuroscientist David Eagleman writes that ‘brains… are machines made of conflicting parts’. The decisions our unconscious makes can be seen as the outcome of a kind of fight between these parts; ‘as a result,’ writes Eagleman, ‘you can accomplish the strange feats of arguing with yourself, cursing at yourself, and cajoling yourself to do something…

But when we behave in ways that conflict with our heroic fantasy of ourselves, we suffer the discomfort of cognitive dissonance. We pick away at what we’ve done, over and over. Our internal monologue hunts for a way to justify our behaviour, to reconcile the regrettable act and the blameless actor.

~ Will Storr, Plot Twist - How a Hero Narrative Can Transform The Self

Just keep your foot on the gas until you run out of road

No, nothing is more profound than repeating one’s pleasures and avoiding one’s pains; nothing is more profound than seeking satisfaction— sensory, emotional, and intellectual— moment after moment. Just keep your foot on the gas until you run out of road.

~ Sam Harris. Waking Up: A Guide to Spirituality Without Religion (Simon & Schuster. 2014)

Herb Alpert: Honesty and passion are everything

Herb Alpert: Honesty and passion are everything

imageHerb Albert Readies New Album by Marc Myers

Herb Albert, 79, is still at it today. At the end of 1965, he went head to head with Bob Dylan and the Beatles. His album climbed to No. 1 in 1965 and his albums in each of the next three years topped the charts.  More than 40 years later (January, 2014), he won his ninth Grammy for…

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Our needs and desires seem to multiply by the hour

The problem of finding happiness in this world arrives with our first breath— and our needs and desires seem to multiply by the hour. To spend any time in the presence of a young child is to witness a mind ceaselessly buffeted by joy and sorrow. As we grow older, our laughter and tears become less gratuitous, perhaps, but the same process of change continues: One roiling complex of thought and emotion is followed by the next, like waves in the ocean.

~ Sam Harris. Waking Up: A Guide to Spirituality Without Religion (Simon & Schuster, 2014)