By Rafael Stumbo Tarasco – Quality of life is what we say we want. A successful life we may think is one with no seeds or pits. Nothing to spit out. A Perfect luscious mouthful of joie de vivre with every bite, each and every time you dig in. Take me to a place where there are no winters of discontent, wicked months of August or seasons in hell. You have thought this through.
Where does one need to go, what pilgrimage is required, to which imaginary friend must one offer their allegiance or sacrifice another’s imaginary soul to achieve such bliss on earth? The digital pages of Lonely Planet may have directed you to Central America for a variety of reasons.
Some offshore soothsayer may have seduced you south of the border. Botany, booty or a tax haven may have been the initial motivation or you just got here by chance. I did, and I chalk it up to determinism. For whatever reason, now you find yourself here. You live in Costa Rica. You have taken time to settle in and you are wondering, when does the fun start?
Disgruntled though not yet defeated you commiserate with others that are in the same situation. Tired of fishing and tired of golf, tired of infamous watering holes and tired of not being able to communicate you start to develop a bad attitude. Is the place the problem, or is it you? Perhaps what you need is good advice, but where to find it? How does a stranger in a strange land know who to trust? When I found myself mired in existential self-doubt, I consulted my pre-Google analogue question and answer device. This machine requires complete and unequivocal attention. If you wander or drift off during a session, the prize is eluded, the Sphinx shrugs and the ball slips away. You Tilt. It’s a fortune telling course for dummies. The answer to every question can be found in an old school pinball machine. Let go and play.
The goal is to feast on the seedless grapes of a life without ever having to think about it. To do this you need to let go of being conscious of the fact that you are conscious. Stop thinking about thinking. Get out of your mind. When we think too much about thinking we become trapped in a nutshell, confined by the limitations of our thoughts and by our own volition we are under house arrest. All exits are guarded and blocked by fear and the limits of our imaginations. That being said, anti-intellectualism is not the answer to living in the moment or living well in Costa Rica. In fact dumbing things down results in neo-populism and we know that is a rough and rocky road.
We are living in paradise in the here and now, and we want to have fun and be happy, right now. So what’s key, the clue to the password to get out of our own minds? What we need is to be aware of what is around us, the things right in front. We need to be in tune with the information or things that are made of information to keep us rooted in the present. Listen to the information being transmitted to you by words. The highest form of words being poetry and the highest form of poetry, let’s say haiku. What else is made of information? Software.
The Waze app on your phone. It’s the thing that gets you from here to there, and in fact it is the thing that gives you an idea of physically where you are, but that’s not the problem. What we want to do is experience the journey in the now. Change your focus from the destination at some other point, your experience is in the NOW. Eckhart Tolle admonishes us to be aware of the Power of Now. Live in the moment. If you are depressed it’s because you are thinking about the past. If you are choking on an anxiety attack, your focus is on the future. Now is now, so let’s have some fun.
Think of yourself as a Gazelle. You have seen them on The Discovery Chanel. They have a little move called “stotting”. They spring into the air lifting all four feet off the ground as if to say don’t bother chasing me. You can’t catch me and I’m right here. Now. This is an action that does not require the understanding from the bottom up. No reasoning required. The gazelle is in the moment. When challenged its reflex is to stot. Daniel Dennett describes this type of behavior as “free floating rational”. It is the reason why we do the things we do without knowing the reason. We cough, we blink and we shiver. We can also stot. Are you feeling enlightened? The Buddha defined enlightenment as the end of suffering. Saṃsāra is the Sanskrit term for the endless cycle of suffering. How do you end the torture and get off that ride? In the west, we say “just let that shit go.”
The Buddha tells us that Dharma is that which teaches the method for bringing about mental happiness, and that’s what this whole deal is about, being happy. Let’s face it; we are insubstantial, impermanent and insatiable. Stick with me for a minute while I take a Western twist on a Zen theme.
If you have followed me this far, you expect that I’m probably going to reference Alan Watts, Sam Harris and Christopher Hitchens any minute now. I’ll contain myself and continue with the triage that will help you recover from your Pura Vida stress. With that in mind I would like to plug a young blogger that has done a lot of the work for me.
I have been following Mark Manson for the past few years. He comes up with an occasional pearl of wisdom from time to time and it’s not because he’s a philosopher prince, it’s because he’s well read and prolific. His new book “The Subtle Art Of Not Giving A F*CK” may be just the thing you need to listen to on Audible. The title of this book alone is both a philosophical position and advice on how to be happy in Costa Rica at the same time.
Back to my original question, “when does the fun start?” The answer is as soon as you stop giving a fuck. Just let it all go, right now. Each of us is responsible for our own happiness. Everything is our fault, but that is not our fault.