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Jan 16

Unlightenment: The Power of Not Taking Yourself Too Seriously

“People suffer only because they take seriously what the gods made for fun.” ~Alan Watts

It turns out that enlightenment is just having a really good sense of humor. We are all merely punchlines to a terribly funny cosmic joke.

But the real question is this: what do we do about it? Do we have hard feelings about it or do we cultivate a disposition of lightheartedness? Do we take it seriously and tighten our grip or do we take it sincerely and loosen up a little? Do we curl up into a ball of existential angst and cry ourselves to sleep or do we have a sense of humor about it? Do we tremble, tremble, tremble or do we laugh, laugh, laugh?

The path to enlightenment was never meant to be easy. It’s an arduously Herculean task, a painstakingly Nietzschean mission, a laboriously Promethean undertaking.

Hell, life is difficult even if you’re not seeking self-improvement, Eudaimonia, or enlightenment. It’s hard if you’re sitting on your ass wasting your life half-alive, and it’s hard if you’re on your feet kicking ass and living life to the fullest. The latter may be more fulfilling, but it’s also riskier, more challenging, and more painful.

But this article isn’t about enlightenment. This article is about unlightenment. It’s about laughing at all the bullshit. It’s about pulling the overreaching Guru’s pants down. It’s about knocking the holier than thou plastic shaman off his high horse. It’s about blowing smoke up a haughty nun’s skirt. It’s about cultivating a good sense of humor while in the trenches of enlightenment. It’s about painfully rolling over in the gutter and still managing to be awestruck by the stars.

To breathe or not to breathe, that is the question:

“There is but one truly serious philosophical problem, and that is suicide. Judging whether life is or is not worth living amounts to answering the fundamental question of philosophy.” ~Albert Camus

Sometimes feeling better is just a matter of acknowledging how awful you feel. Sometimes self-improvement means sidestepping self-preservation. Not acknowledging how you feel can lead to repression, psychosis and suicide. By acknowledging it, you give yourself a way out. Acknowledgment is the safety line that you can use to climb out of depression.

Rather than sugarcoating shit, own your shit. Rather than blowing hot hair up your own ass, just acknowledge that you’re full of hot air. Just admit that you’re more than likely full of shit. Then let that shit go. Release it. Surrender your ego.

It’s okay. It turns out that we’re all full of shit to some degree or another. As Scott Adams poignantly surmised, “The human mind is a delusion generator, not a window to truth. The best any human can do is to pick a delusion that helps him get through the day.” But accepting it, embracing it, then letting it go, sets you free.

If you are ignoring your own unhappiness, pain, and anger, and then covering it up with a pretend smile, a fake laugh, an insincere self-affirmation, or some pseudo-enlightenment bullshit, then you’re going nowhere real slow. In fact, you’re slowly imploding. You’re inadvertently regressing. Your repression of your emotions is slowly transforming you into an emotional wreck.

You’ve got to own your shit. Be unhappy with your unhappiness. Hurt with your pain. Seethe with your anger. Roll with the punches. Then let it all go with a deep breath and a fuck you. Embrace it. Own it. Release it. Repeat. It’s so simple it’s stupid.

Okay, maybe it’s not so simple. But it beats the alternative: stagnation, regression, psychosis or suicide. Only after you’ve owned your shit should you dare to don other masks. Before enlightenment, unlightenment; after enlightenment, more unlightenment.

Get out of your own way:

“There are plenty of difficult obstacles in your path. Don’t allow yourself to become one of them.” ~Ralph Marsten

If enlightenment is having a good sense of humor, then unlightenment is the sense of humor. In this sense, unlightenment is the heart and soul of enlightenment.

There will always be speedbumps and setbacks along the path. Similarly, there will sometimes be smooth spots and cloud-nines. Mostly it’s a rollercoaster ride. There will be waves and there will be troughs. There will be ups and there will be downs. When we’re up, we need to guard against haughtiness, arrogance, and dogmatism. When we’re down, we need to guard against nihilism, depression, and suicide. Humor helps with both.

Humor helps us get out of our own way both when we’re high on life (on cloud-nine) and when we’re down on life (in the trenches). It’s the ultimate existential salve. It cuts through the high and mighty bullshit just as it parts the watery shit in the sewers. It knocks makeshift gods off aggrandized pedestals just as it transforms demons into allies. It tricks our fixed mindset (whether pessimistic or optimistic) into flexible mindfulness.

Indeed. A good sense of humor can get you through just about anything. And even if it doesn’t, at least you’re laughing. At least you’re not taking yourself so damn seriously that your heart wants to punch its way out of your body. At least you’re not so hung-up on whatever that your soul wants to kick your head out of your own ass.

There are no answers, but change is an absolute:

“To change one’s life: 1. Start immediately, 2. Do it flamboyantly, 3. No exceptions.” ~William James

If you’re on the path toward enlightenment for answers, then you’re on the wrong path. The path is more about questions than it is about so-called answers. The journey is the thing. Even when answers happen to arise, they should be a reason to question rather than an excuse to settle. That’s what the following Zen proverb is hinting at: “If you meet Buddha on the road, kill him.”

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