Friday, June 20, 2008

Dirty word

I've been really busy catching up work and staying cool (temperature-wise) and haven't really had the energy to post. I'm back.

This has been a difficult week with Paul's funeral, my beautiful flat panel monitor dying and work, work, and more work, but I did have time to earn the title of evil incarnate, as I have been dubbed in the past. This time the evil comes in the form of a discussion about the meaning of life. Everyone knows the answer and it's different for everyone, at least on the outside. At the heart of the matter is one simple and basic truth: Life is pleasure and experience. Everything, no matter how different people are and what they choose to do with their lives, boils down to pleasure and experience, and that's where the evil part comes in.

Sid prefers to take the high road and believes that for some people the meaning of life is selfless service to others and to the community. I maintain that even those altruistic individuals do it for the experience and for personal pleasure. Sid sees pleasure as a hedonistic abandonment of moral values. I see pleasure as simply satisfaction. And so the debate continues.

Last night Sid offered the story of a young soldier who threw himself on a grenade tossed into his vehicle. He died but he saved the lives of his buddies. Sid sees this as proof that life is not about pleasure but about selfless service to others. I beg to differ. Even though the soldier died and had a split second to act, he had probably thought about that particular scenario many times during his training and military life and decided that it was his duty and even his privilege to give his life for his buddies. There should be no doubt in anyone's mind that the soldier experienced a flush of satisfaction and even pleasure that he could save his friends so that when the time came he didn't think but acted and did what he had envisioned doing so many times -- saving his buddies' lives by giving his own. He may even have thought briefly about how proud his parents would be and how the story would be told that he so loved his buddies, and his country, he gave his life for them. That momentary satisfaction, all the hours and days he thought of giving up his life for others, was pleasurable.

We do nothing for very long in this life that doesn't afford some pleasure. Even people who prefer pain get pleasure out of the pain. People who gripe and complain, criticize and denigrate their fellow men get satisfaction from their misanthropy and satisfaction is a form of pleasure. People who work in soup kitchens, donate time and experience and money to various charities, become public servants, and perform a billion other tasks and follow a trillion other hobbies do so because it gives them pleasure. They may work at mind numbing jobs that suck the life out of them but they get something for being drones: money, benefits, something to gripe about. The sum of all these things is pleasure, satisfaction for doing something for themselves or for others, and satisfaction is pleasure.

Experience speaks for itself.

You may disagree, as Sid continues to do when he offers his altruistic bromides, but the fact remains that life is pleasurable, sometimes for a lifetime and often for fleeting moments, but it is still pleasurable. Consider pleasure hedonistic, but you lie to deny the pleasures and satisfactions derived from living, however brief.

I don't know when pleasure became a bad word, something consigned to the evils of abandoned morals and wanton behavior, but pleasure is not synonymous with evil. When we enjoy the aroma and sight of a beautiful flower, the sound of children playing, birds singing, a warm cat purring in a lap, a gift, a sunny day, a thunderstorm with lightning crackling and flashing, a television program, a child's first tentative steps and then the child's wedding day or first love it is pleasure. It is those moments, those precious memories and sensations that remind us we are living. Disasters come and go and some disasters remain in nightmares and haunt moments of weakness, but even those give way to a fond memory or something that brings laughter and smiles.

Life is pleasure and experience and pleasure is not a dirty word.

No comments: