10.31.16 | Pleasure
Think of the word pleasure and the mind looks for context. Left to itself the word may conjure something akin to decadence, suggesting perhaps earthly excesses and sensual indulgences with all its fleshy titillations. The very term epicurean delights seems to capture it. There’s the whiff of puritanical hell fire.
Now emerging from his hiatus we have club member Dr. Jia Gottlieb to join our session and help us work through the subject. Jia, our guide at the club’s previous monthly Health and Spirit Circle, has spent more than a decade thinking about and writing on the subject. Chapter One of his forthcoming book is attached (below) as this week’s discussion article.
One major take-away (for me) from the past Health and Spirit teachings, in fact, relates to the throwaway reference to epicurean delights. Spoiler alert: Epicurus gets a bad rap. This ancient Greek philosopher’s concept of pleasure was in the satisfaction of man’s natural and necessary desires. The essence of pleasure, thereby, turns on the distinction between the natural desires — e.g. food and the company of good friends — versus the unnatural variety.
It is the unsatisfied desire for the unnatural kind — perhaps the preoccupation with such false beliefs as luxury, excess, or even the romantic ideal — that is the main cause of pain and anxiety. Chief among them is the desire for immortality which, per Epicurus, is bound to go unsatisfied.
Well, Epicurus doesn’t have the last word. We do. Let us reflect on those moments we have experienced supreme, uncomplicated bliss. What was that all about? It need not be the same as something momentous as, say, the birth of one's child.
My own signature bliss was the Calvin and Hobbes feeling each and every time school was closed on account of snow. That was all about freedom. Let others decide whether a mere mindset qualifies for inclusion and, if so, to what astral plane it is assigned. Nothing beat a snow day.