Monday, February 22, 2010

The Nature of Pleasure

“More! More! More! is the cry of a mistaken soul; less than all cannot satisfy man.” – William Blake

Occasionally I will meet people who operate almost exclusively on sensation and pleasure. Sights, sounds, tastes, textures…all are very vivid to them, almost all the time.

Most of us would probably be envious of such a life. Yet, the people I know like this, do not have good lives. In fact, most of them are in a kind of hell.

The nature of pleasure is that it goes up and down – it’s transitory. You eat something, then you’re full. You can only eat so much. You can only have sex for so long, then you’re satisfied.

Since the people I know like this operate almost exclusively on pleasure, they are never satisfied. Everything is always up and down with them. It’s as if it’s a form of manic-depression. It’s an addiction with them – More! More! More! And it’s never enough. They never understand that enough is as good as a feast.

They are often aggressive in their pursuit of pleasure, and aggressive to other people. Since they know the source of pleasure comes from the outside, from other people, they can be aggressive with these people because they need them for pleasure.

Pleasure, though, is not emotion. That’s the rub. These people really don’t have much strong, deep, lasting emotion. I almost never hear the word “love” from them, and usually it applies to their pets or babies, Concerning people, though, I have never heard them use the word.

These people are not only aggressive to others, they are impulsive, because they have to immediately grab all the pleasure they can. They see someone they like, they have to have sex with them. They’re always looking for that next new experience.

I can’t remember which ancient Greek said it, but he noticed that those people who devote them lives to pleasure, become degraded. It’s because they cannot interiorize their pleasure and make it permanent, along with emotions.

I find it a sad life, one not to be envied.

We should know that too much of anything, even a good thing, may prove to be our undoing ... [We] need to set definite boundaries on our appetites.
- William Bennett

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