Monday, September 23, 2019

Hopeful Thinking - Saturday, September 28, 2019 – Checking the Carrots

What emphasis do you give pleasure in your life? Do you feel guilty about pleasure? A distrust of pleasure is deeply ingrained in our human culture, thanks in large part to the exercise of religion.

You’ll note, I am not pointing a finger at the religion itself but the exercise of it. What I’m commenting on here are the actions a religious person takes as a result of their interpretation of what their religion insists of them in thought or deed. It’s not the faith, it’s the follower. Be extremely cautious of those who cannot, or will not, practice what they preach when it comes to their faith. They make unfortunate ambassadors.

Though many people are not a part of any religion at all, it doesn’t matter. The distrust of pleasure is so entangled with our wider secular human culture it affects us all. We are all subject to the societal meme that pleasure is somehow evil, or intrinsically sinful, or at best, a distraction from “real life.”

The same could be said for junk food. Not so much for vegetables, though. Metaphorically, vegetables are pleasure, junk food is degenerative hedonism by comparison. Be sure to strike a healthy balance in all things.

There are other ways of sabotaging our joy. I personally don’t feel guilty about pleasure, but I do feel afraid sometimes when things are too good. Instead of spending time enjoying the here and now, I am ruminating on what will happen should I ever lose it. How much I value something determines the level of my anxiety. I’m working on it.

So why do we have such distrustful relationships with pleasure? I think the above are compounded by the fact that we always imagine greater amounts of pleasure are only achieved by collecting even greater amounts of stuff, love, money, whatever. We forget that sometimes being quieter gives us more to listen to. Spending less gives us more to share. Owning less gives us less to maintain. That sounds very pleasurable, indeed.

There’s an important rule to the practice of pleasure, however. It must cause no harm. Be sure that carrot you think you’re eating isn’t a Dorito.

While this may be a very basic way of looking at it, I prefer to view all human action as something which has the capacity to ring an imaginary bell in the fabric of the universe. Not every activity rings the bell. I am defining it here as any act which brings pleasure, joy, or satisfaction to ourselves or someone else. The hammer of the bell is the joy itself.

In my mind, sustained joy or pleasure, and yes, even sensual pleasure, rings continuously a vibration throughout the entire universe which effects some unknown—but positive—growth or transformation in corners and dimensions of the universe about which we do not have the capacity to even imagine. The profoundness of the vibration we send out is equal to the profoundness of joy or pleasure we are experiencing at that moment.

I think that is the closest to God we ever get as humans. Which may perhaps be why the leaders of religion have historically feared it so much. As middlemen, they want to keep their job.

But they know not what they fear. Genuine pleasure is both responsible and faithful. ‘An it harme none, so mote it be,’ the old wiccan rede rightly states. The Buddha would concur. So would Jesus. Be responsible and compassionate about your pleasure and it will ring the loudest bell imaginable.

We are beginning to see the early signs of maturity in our human culture, believe it or not. Think of the volume of the conversation regarding the conservation of this planet as compared to thirty, fifty, a hundred years ago. Think of the human accomplishments which have been achieved in that same time. Think of the civil rights issues we have chosen to face as well as the many we never even realized were there. Until now. What shall tomorrow bring? Of course you may counter my observations with negative ones, but even they cannot diminish the forward motion of what we have achieved.

Have a look at our overall intentions. Everywhere, you see evidence of our systematic tweaking of the system toward the right side of history, despite all efforts to prevent it.

That’s great news regarding the respect of pleasure in our society. It’s time to recognize pleasure for what it is: A tool that requires a little bit of maturity to use correctly.

But to do that we first must let go of our ingrained distrust of pleasure and satisfaction. There was a time when that amount of circumspection was useful. But we are ready to take the training wheels off. We are ready to begin to understand the meaning of ecstasy. We are ready to create more of it in the world.

Seek ecstasy. Use your creativity and imagination to cultivate that enhanced level of joy while also causing no harm whatsoever. Don’t expect to find it in substances, thinking that it’s harming no one. Because it’s likely harming you, and you count, too. Try to find it in other ways.

Most important of all, remember that pleasure can occur within even a single, mindful breath. The key is not to seek out pleasure as much as be open to it. Find pleasure in the seat you are sitting in right now. It is there. The act of noticing it rings the bell.

1 comment:

  1. This is such a very illuminating Wisdom. To balance pleasure with social responsibility is indeed an ancient Truth. To hurt no one (including yourself) prepares us to accept the rewards that are pleasureable! Giving Thanks builds a foundation under Joy, and peace and love are the environment!