The real meaning of pleasure

I love journalism. Wherever I go, whenever I find time, the quest for information is always within me. I don’t mind whether it is daytime or late in the night. I don’t care whether I am in a private function or a public engagement, the insatiable appetite for information always drives my behaviour.

Friends ask me whether I don’t get bored or tired of my work. ‘Don’t you feel drained or stressed out?’ is a question that I am confronted with day in and day out. Frankly speaking, I can’t understand their predicament. Does one get tired after seeing a movie or after freaking out with friends and like-minded people?

Well, they call it entertainment. But my friends often fail to understand that knowing things by reading or interacting with people from different walks of life is ‘entertaining’ for me because such activities invigorate my body and mind.

My understanding of life and entertainment has my own take. It is rather simple. If you derive pleasure from any particular thing you like to do, be rest assured you will never get tired. Pleasure relieves you from stress and strain. What is pleasure? Philosophers have interpreted pleasure in many ways. Pleasure is an emotion whose effect makes you rejuvenated.

The ancient Greek philosopher Epicurus, whose philosophical works are often described as Epicureanism, defined the pleasure as ‘freedom from pain in the body and freedom from turmoil in the soul’. The 19th-century German philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer described pleasure as one that negates the usual existential condition of suffering.

Pleasure not only relieves you from pain and suffering but even gives you success in what you do. Productivity gets a boost like no other. Excellence is not a skill; it’s an attitude, observed Ralph Marston. Joyful work helps you to excel as the eminent philosopher Aristotle noted, “Pleasure in the job puts perfection in the work.”

Of course, at times, the work may not give you pleasure but the result would certainly do. Then, do the work imagining the result. Muhammad Ali beautifully puts it: there are no pleasures in a fight but some of my fights have been a pleasure to win.

Physical exercises are painful, but they bolster your pleasure, both physically and mentally. Therefore, learn to do even painful thing joyfully if the outcome or the end result can give you pleasure.

The French novelist Amantine-Lucile-Aurore Dupin best known by her pseudonym George Sand quite appropriately said, “Work is not man’s punishment. It is his reward, his strength and his pleasure.” Enjoy it. Still there are physical limitations. Stress is inevitable; however, joyfully you transact your work.

It is, therefore, advisable to get relief from stress by doing something pleasurable. Pleasure is highly subjective. Appreciating each other’s preferences for pleasure is obviously a civilised behaviour. But this does not mean that all pleasures have to be welcomed.

The way one derives pleasure determines the personality of oneself. An addict derives abundant pleasure by satiating his craving. But, an addiction to liquor is certainly not similar to addiction to music or reading. The quest for excellence is also an addiction, so to say.

German philosopher Bertrand Russell remarked that there is much pleasure to be gained from useless knowledge. But, such a pleasure leads you nowhere. Great thinkers have always derived pleasure while exploring the world of knowledge. The source of deriving pleasure is more important than attaining the pleasure itself.

For instance, deriving pleasure from nature was always the source of inspiration for many poets. The works of William Wordsworth stand out as a classic example of this genre. Reading nature-inspired poetry provides us with unparalleled pleasure, provided you love poetry and nature alike.

George Gordon Byron, more famously known as Lord Byron, reveals his source of pleasure – There is pleasure in the pathless woods, there is rapture in the lonely shore, there is society where none intrudes, by the deep sea, and music in its roar; I love not Man the less, but Nature more.”

It’s true, even scholarly research shows that a general disconnect with nature deprives you the pleasure of life’s enjoyment. Exposure to nature reduces pain and stress. The study, co-authored by Michigan State University’s Amber L Pearson reveals a positive correlation between health and the visibility of water, which the researchers call blue space. ‘Increased views of blue space are significantly associated with lower levels of psychological distress.’

The quantity and quality of our social relationships affect our physical and mental health and may even be a factor determining how long we live. A paper published in the journal ‘Scientific Reports’ shows that those with higher stress levels tended to have smaller social networks.

Friendship is a treasure and pleasure. Spending quality time with friends could give you pleasure, provided they are good friends. There is a word of caution, though. The instantaneous pleasure you get from bad friends may ruin your pleasure in the long run.

Sigmund Freud and Riviere J in Civilization and Its Discontents posited that people “strive after happiness; they want to become happy and to remain so. This endeavour has two sides, a positive and a negative aim. It aims, on the one hand, at an absence of pain and displeasure, and, on the other, at experiencing strong feelings of pleasure”.

Professional achievements make one happy. But, the process is painful. By running away from this pain in search of happiness, people often fall prey to undesirable pleasures and vices. Pleasures can range from monetary, biological, vicarious, to aesthetic and artistic…

You have to define what pleasure means to you. Life is not a fiction. Life is not elusive. Life is real. The source of pleasure you choose should not collide with the very purpose of life. As the American philosopher and psychologist, William James points out, ‘Believe that life is worth living and your belief will help create the fact’. It’s all in the mind!

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