Pleasure has taken a sinful tint, sometime in the past few centuries. Perhaps it has to do with the whole sinful movement to begin with, but I’m not here to preach to the preachers, I’m here to redefine pleasure.
In the english language, it almost always brings to mind the thought of sex. Even webster defines the verb pleasure as: to give sexual enjoyment or satisfaction.
Of course, english was not where pleasure originated. Late English took it from Old French which was plaisir (to please) and added -ure as in the measure of. Pleasing is, simply put, something that is satisfying or a way to reach homeostasis. Latin has placeo which can mean placate, or to sort of subdue any negativity to bring things back on an even keel.
Somehow, what once meant satisfying and balancing, has becoming only sexual and smacks of superficiality. Just saying the word feels a little dirty, doesn’t it?
Is this a product of our modern culture where true pleasure has become scarce and is replaced with quick, short-lived sensual satisfactions like sex, drugs, and food? (I sound like a preacher, I know.)
Pleasure is so much more than instant gratification. It’s hard to see that with a world of fast food, instant facebook notifications, email pop ups, Snapchat, Instagram, tweets, and the ever increasing ability to escape anything uncomfortable by looking at your phone. It’s hard to escape instantivity altogether.
To me, pleasure is earned because it first takes the cultivation of appreciation. To actually feel satisfied there has to be a level of mindlessness, of unified consciousness within yourself so that you can avoid the distractions and be content. The moments that contain potential for pleasure are often fleeting, but we all have the inherent need to be satisfied, to feel pleasure on a primal level. At one time that was simply shelter, food, water, and a few other elemental creature needs. But, over time, we’ve exceeded our basic needs with a plethora of available sensory masseuses, and it’s not the lack of resources that prevents us from being pleased, as it once was in a time of drought or famine, but the lack of focused capability. We have forgotten that we once had very little and so cannot remember how it feels to be surprised with abundance.
There’s no great revelry or transcendental experience when it comes to pleasure; those are mystical experiences saved for words like heavenly, magical, and compelling. That for is another post.
Instead, pleasure is an amazing moment minus the seriousness. It’s simple joys like suddenly realizing it’s autumn because of the smell of the air. Or the way sunshine feels on your skin when your drying out after jumping in a creek, or the first sip of a hot cup of coffee. It’s anything like this, coupled with the ability to appreciate, to be pleasured.
If you’re sitting on a box filled with money but only see the box as something to sit on how could you ever realize the wealth right beneath you?
“Yes, I am pleased.” These were the words of Reverend Maclean, perhaps one of the most touching moments in A River Runs Through It.
What made it so touching?
Throughout most of the movie, Reverend is stark and strict, with emotional display left to a minimum. For the father of the Macleans, finding out his oldest son would be a professor was indeed pleasing: satisfying because he’d spent his life teaching his sons the importance of discipline, firm doctrine, and character based on higher knowledge. It came full circle for him as he realized it wasn’t just something his son chose for selfish desires (the way the younger Maclean lived) but that his eldest son was pursuing a life of virtue and wisdom, something the Reverend must have decided to do for himself at some point. This was the balance he desired, the sort of redemption he wished for because younger Maclean was destroying himself.
I mentioned in a previous post that I find pleasure to be a worthwhile endeavor, and I worded it with pleasure because I meant to redefine it here. I’m saddened when words are misused or skewed into a vulgar term meant for penthouse entries or locker room banter. Some words carry lots of weight, some are becoming worthless because of their overuse.
I’m making a stand for pleasure not to be a grammatical martyr, but because the concept itself has lost it’s beauty. Beauty doesn’t fade, but the seer loses his fastidious vision: the beholder has on tinted shades and the tint is the color of the modern, digitized, fast-paced world.
I find pleasure in a good beat, a friendly smile, listening to someone laugh, seeing a sunset, or komorabi – sunlight that filters through the leaves of trees and onto the forest floor.
I also find pleasure (perhaps great pleasure) in writing. It’s because I learn so much as I express myself through the written word. It allows me to focus my attention to a single point while still being aware of what’s around, simply absorbing what’s important in my peripheral by osmosis without ever losing my focus on the word here at hand. This word holds the key to my one-pointedness. And this is where I feel pleased. Because, in a way, I’m the man who has found his rock face to climb, the athlete in the zone, the teacher doing her best in every moment with every child, the pilot who lands safely on the tiny helipad. I’m losing my ability to worry what’s around the thing that needs me most. This moment, this word, holds me closely, like a mother and her newborn. I have no desire to leave, even when the instantivity tugs at my mind with pleas for what might be waiting for me in my email box, or who might have said what in the group text. I know, because I’ve experienced, what it means to hold myself accountable for what matters most: this moment. And I know the pleasure that comes with it, because I’ve decided it is my path.
You can live a million different lives, but there’s one choice that will determine the speed and quality with which you arrive on the path you’ve decided on: whether you will live your life pleasurably, attuned to the moment, the step of crunching leaves and gravel beneath your boot, the pitter-patter of rain on the roof, the steam of tea that hits your nostrils just before you drink, the word at hand, the note at ear, the eyes of he who speaks to you… or will it be spent distracted, multi-tasking yourself to a divided state of being, stressing yourself to shambles, missing moments that you deserve to experience, only to arrive at your destination bruised and battered, realizing that you missed the whole point, that you spent your life being drug along by the instantivity of our society, kicking and screaming your way through hell on earth.
Maybe I’ve said too much, that pleasure is such a beautiful, simple thing, with all of these words. But it’s important to build my life’s work one block at a time, and I’ve put off expressing the importance of pleasure for too long. So here it is. Please, let me know, what pleasure means to you.