Over the last two weeks we considered this principle in general: what it means, how it fits in with the others, etc. We also looked at how we did, or didn’t use this principle in past situations. This week we’ll try to understand how we are applying the principle in the present.
General Considerations and Personal Reflections:
Here are some personal reflections. I offer them in the spirit of dialogue and exchange, and look forward to hearing your thoughts about, and experiences with, this principle.
First a word on teamwork:
The interchange of ideas, approaches, and experiences with other people who have a diversity of points of view is, I think, a useful and necessary help in advancing our understanding. We easily become complacent to the assumptions in our own thinking, especially with things we (believe) we know well. One of the things that really surprises me with about this principle is that it calls on me to fully enjoy (“without inhibition”) the pleasures that come to me. And that takes me to thinking about — not only what pleasures I’m pursuing, but also what pleasures I am unnecessarily denying myself. It may be a trivial example but it really struck me when discussing this last week, Roberto pointed out that I was quoting the principle incorrectly. I said the second part states: “…enjoy without inhibition and in this way you liberate yourself”. That phrase is the ending of principle 7 and while, as Roberto noted it is arguably true, it isn’t what was there in the text, which simply ends: “As long as you do not harm your health enjoy without inhibition when the opportunity presents itself.”
Even more interesting to me is that I’m pretty sure that a year ago he had pointed out that I was misquoting this principle in the exact same way!
Last week we also noted that on one hand the pursuit of pleasure seems natural, and automatic, on another if we don’t pursue what we think is pleasurable how will we ever accomplish anything. Certainly if our goal is to overcome suffering than pursuing an absence of pleasure, or worse pursuing pain seems the wrong direction.
All of this seems to suggests that there is another way of doing things, that there can be another approach to navigating “the world of people and things”, an approach very different than my habitual one. More on that later but first, I tried to understand this more clearly by giving some order to what would be pleasurable (what I desire in) my current situations.
Take a Couple of Minutes and Try This!
In order to help think about the principle of pleasure in reference to the present moment, I listed a number of ambits, things like: home, friends, work, etc. I then (very) briefly considered how the principle could apply to the present situation in that context or environment. So rather than trying to mull the principle over in general terms, I asked myself particular questions, for instance: What would bring me pleasure during the disruptions caused by the pandemic? What about in regards my work? What are the things, situations, or outcomes that I desire in relation to my job? What would be the pleasure I seek there, and how do I relate to it? Or within the ambit of my friends: Is there a particular outcome that would give me pleasure? How do I relate to that “end” to that desired situation? Am I running after a particular end-point and hence stuck on the outcome, or am I doing the things that would lead to that result (e.g. doing my job well, communicating directly my colleagues and friends, paying attention, etc)? And what about Peace, Force, and Joy surely those registers are among the most pleasurable. How do I approach them without pursuing them?
As with so many things the answer doesn’t seem to me to be about absolutes but of working tangentially. For example, setting up conditions that seem to encourage those results but not focusing on the outcome. Once again “the magic of the co-presence” comes into play. That’s a theme that is often overlooked or underestimated and one with which we are far from done.
XII. Compensation, Reflection, and the Future
1.Hunger dreams of satiety, the imprisoned yearn for freedom, pain longs for pleasure, and pleasure wearies of itself. Could it be that life is nothing more than action and reaction?
2.If life is but pursuit of security for those who fear the future, self-affirmation for the disoriented, the desire for revenge for those frustrated with the past—what liberty, what responsibility, what commitment can be held aloft as an unvanquished banner?
3.And if life is but a mirror that reflects a landscape, how will it ever change that which it reflects?
4.Between the cold mechanics of pendulums and the phantasmal optics of mirrors, what do you affirm that you can affirm without denying? What do you affirm without regressing or with more than arithmetic repetition?
5.If you affirm that which searches for itself and whose nature is to transform itself, that which is never complete in itself and whose essence opens to the future, then you love the reality you build. This, then, is your life: the reality that you build!
6.And there will be action and reaction, as there will be reflection and accident. But if you have opened the future, there will be nothing that can detain you.
7.May life speak through your mouth, and may it say, “There is nothing that can detain me!”
8.Oh useless and wicked prophecy that proclaims the end of the world. I affirm that the human being shall not only continue to live but shall grow without limit. And I say, moreover, that the deniers of life wish to steal all hope—that beating heart of human action.
9.In the darkest moments, may your future joy remind you of these words: “Life searches for growth, not for the compensation of nothingness!”
Internal Landscape XII