Personal manifesto: Pleasure – engaging beauty

Last week I posted the introduction to my personal manifesto. Please read this for context if not already. In this post I’ve included some notes on the first of “three drivers”. The “drivers” are the three key motivations that shape our living. Psychologists vary in how they describe these; my framework draws mainly from the work of Martin Seligman.

My understanding of the place of pleasure has changed a lot over the years. Knowing deep down that pleasure doesn’t offer deep and lasting satisfaction, I had mistakenly not given it a healthy place. I now appreciate better the relationship between pleasure and beauty. Elevating pleasure has helped me embrace the incredible beauty on offer in the natural world.

Pleasure: engaging beauty

I define pleasure as being associated with the five senses. I am a physical being, I live in a material world. This is not about materialism or sensuality in the way those terms are normally used, it is about the enjoyment I get from experiencing the beauty of the world via my senses.

Beauty, as they say, is in the eye of the beholder and that holds true here too. Whether it is the feel of a new car, a breathtaking vista, the taste and smell of an exquisite meal or favourite tea, or a long slow embrace with Maria, I am buoyed by great sensual experiences.

My drive for pleasure

I have a natural drive to maximise my pleasure, and I do not think I am alone: it is an unusual person who actively shuns opportunities for pleasure. In some communities of which I have been a part, there has been a high value placed on sacrificial service, the drive for pleasure may not have been immediately apparent and was certainly not overtly encouraged. Austere living or choosing socially or environmentally challenging contexts masked, at least for me, what a little scratching below the surface revealed; a consistent drive to ensure I was being sustained by sensually pleasing experiences.

The connections between pleasure and feeling good about life

The pursuit of pleasure alone leaves me unsatisfied. But my desire for pleasure is insatiable.

It is not that the overseas holidays are not satisfying, even exhilarating. In fact some of the genuinely best times of life have been when in strange and distant lands. The point is that if I expect my holiday, my new jeans, or new home alone to deliver me deep and lasting contentment, I know I will be sorely disappointed. However, nearly every media message I consume lies to me that maximising pleasure is what life is all about. So instead of the pursuit of pleasure contributing to a well lived life in concert with other elements, despite it continually failing to quench my search for satisfaction, I keep going back to the well in pathetic addiction.

Pleasure is a fundamentally important part of being fully alive, but it must be pursued in concert with other drivers.

Questions that help me understand what gives me pleasure

1. What gives (has given) me pleasure? What are those daily or special things that warm my soul and make me thankful I’m alive? Not only the routinely ‘pleasant’ things, but those things that really enliven me.

2. To what extent are these things part of my life in this season? (Not at all / every now and then / frequently / my life is full of them)

3. What will I do to inject and integrate more pleasure into my living?

Next post: betterness: competent participation