Pleasure

20170401_190211

Latin again? 🙂 Well, yes, although English just mangled a French version of it. But oh, just the research of it was indeed its name. I have read about Hedonism, Schopenhauer, Buddhism and I have just scratched the surface of a word expressing something that is so intuitively normal that one has to wonder at the amount of paperwork that exists in order to analyze, explain, opine or otherwise debate the subject. Basic or elevated, frowned upon or exalted, pleasure has baffled many and upset even more 🙂

And isn’t it ironic that what I heard about people like Schopenhauer, while remaining true or at least truthful, comes nowhere near the begrudging agreement with some of the ideas of the man himself 🙂 Out of my comfort zone? Well, yes, I am an agnostic, compassionate, cynical humanist, of course some of those ideas take me out of my comfort zones. It is easy to call him a mysoginist when I was born so deep in my century that I have no idea about his world. Anyhoo, back to pleasure…

Besides being normal (not only in the absence of pain) pleasure is of course individual. De gustibus… and all that. And I have always enjoyed hearing about but have never practiced the list making of pleasurable things, to be taken out and explored when the road ahead of us is rough. I never practiced it because I seem to just do it. Like the baby of the zodiac that I am, I do not have to learn to be in the moment, because that is where I am 🙂

If you have been in pleasurable contact with babies and animals, then you know all about the luxurious stretching, the trusting floppiness that signals impending sleep, the silly expressions and strange positions that seem to give them an inordinate amount of pleasure. But even for me (self described as happy) it is easy to differentiate between happiness and pleasure. Different ends of the spectrum, different stage of being, different intensity and emotional involvement… really, more differences than similarities!

Bone tired and snuggling into a warm bed is so pleasant I wriggle about trying to feel it with all my body. But learning a new thing or having old things rearranged into a new scenery raises that pleasure into happiness.

A song heard for the first time and immediately liked can keep me humming for hours, even days. But a piece of music that reminds me of a friend, of times of joy, of love requited, albeit lost… ah, that is treasure indeed, and so much more than pleasure.

The little things that children do, making something with my own hands (jam, a scarf, a puzzle), a plant that was almost dead but in the spring pulls through, “these are a few of my favourite things” 🙂

But seeing the little one grow, writing a poem or cooking my own produce… these I put on the same level as those dreams I have of travelling and absorbing art and walking with a friend through rain and wind while discussing the state of the world as we know it…

I guess what I am trying to say is that pleasure can make life bearable. But for true living, it is not enough, not even nearly…

Innocence

20160306_172654

No surprises there, it comes from Latin… I really feel I am shortchanging the other beautiful classical languages, so I will keep it in mind and try to balance things out.

But innocence, well, it is a dangerous subject, it needs all the weight of history to keep it in its place.

Literally it means “without harm”. Not harmless per se, but one who has not been harmed yet. Is this an indictment on our way of life, that we consider children to be innocent but then we put away childish things when we grow up? As if life itself is expected to harm us not in the natural progression towards death, but in the stripping away of a protective covering we are born with.

But wait, don’t we grow defensive walls around ourselves against exactly this? So we first strip ourselves bare in the name of growing up then spend a lifetime trying and failing to return to that state? What are we doing to ourselves? And why do we praise the loss of innocence as a sign of maturity? Do we just want to remain children forever or is there something else?

I don’t know if I can answer that, but there are some observations to be made. First of all, innocence is expected, appreciated and protected when it is evident in children. Most adults are sad, angry and positively vengeful when children lose their innocence at the hands of other adults (most abuse does that). Innocence is also tolerated in those society discriminates against (think disabilities and race). The link there seems to be trust, for what it’s worth when the price is discrimination.

There is also the acceptance that innocence lost can never be retrieved. And this we sometimes do to ourselves. Whether as experiments or because of circumstances, we sometimes strip the innocence ourselves. But you cannot unsee, unhear or unfeel those things. So even later, when we have chosen perhaps a different pathway, those things remain tucked away in us, not enough maybe to ruin new experiences, but enough to give a somewhat bitter aftertaste to them.

It seems we can’t really avoid the loss of innocence, but then how can we use that loss to still continue to grow?

I would go for trust again. Being with people you trust can show us that beyond innocence lies not a wasteland, but a place of opportunity and beauty. Being able to trust allows us to lower our defenses so that we may share. Trusting others not to harm us means that any experiments we do can be at least fun and at best transcendent.

Now how do we get to trust? Or, to ask the better question, how can we become people others can trust? How do we go beyond cynicism (that’s hurt optimism for the lay people 😛 ) towards a state of… not ignorance, but of harmless curiosity? How do we, in truth, come back to innocence?

I’ll ponder this, the next time I will look at a baby.

Free

20151101_170345

See, temptation should really be indulged more often… When I ponder a concept I like researching the origin of the word as well as the current meaning. And while I was pondering the word “independent” it was just a bit too unwieldy, just a tad too grounded… and just a little inaccurate. One of the partial synonims though was “free”, and I like that one better. Then I checked the word origin and I figured out why: it comes from the same ancient word that gave us “friend” and it means “to love”. Now tell me, given what I have written on this blog so far, how could I have resisted this? And more to the point, why should I have resisted?

My preference for the word “free” over “independent” comes from a few life choices I made that are currently paying off and hopefully will continue to do so over the years as well. Let’s examine some:

Financially independent (one of my goals) – if you take the literal meaning it means that you have money that is yours alone, when the actual meaning is that you (not your money) do not depend on someone else for your living expenses. There is a difference. Money will circulate. Utilities that you pay, food that you buy… money circulates, you just don’t need to trade your time/energy/knowledge for it. That means that you are free. And your money isn’t independent, either (think of any investment you like), it’s free.

Self-sufficiency (another one of my goals) – the literal meaning would have you believe that you produce all your own food/shelter/clothes/energy so now you are independent from others. Whilst there may be people like that, I regard them as free rather than independent. The closer people get to self-sufficiency, the more they seem to want…not dependency, but maybe inter-dependence: working bees seem to be the norm, barter/trade/swaps seem to be the norm, community reliance also seems to be the norm.

Child care – ask any parent about some of the things they try to do and sooner or later they will come up with a version of “raising independent children”. Toilet training, feeding and dressing themselves, needing decreasing adult input is a rule of childhood. Yet sometimes I feel we have taken this to extremes and we fear “spoiling” the child so as not to engender dependency. How many parents even now are listening to their child wail in bed alone in an attempt to get them to sleep “independent” of the adults that child depends on for everything in the first place? And yet any zoology (better yet, anthropology) book could reassure those same parents that co-sleeping will not mean a child continues to be dependent on you when he/she is – insert any number here.

The same thing applies for old age. We praise the elderly who live alone in their homes (they are so independent!) and yet the biggest problem they face is not health but loneliness. If you believe the media, this also extends beyond the elderly.

There is, of course, no one answer, merely rules of thumb with as many exceptions as there are people. It seems to me though that we live in a world that by and large allows us to live with a greater degree of freedom than most of “civilization” has ever had. So it would make sense to at least have a look at the rules we live by and check them for any signs of life and meaning.

As for me, free to decide and freedom from judgement trump independent any day of the week. 🙂