Pleasure and Meaning

Taking my own photo during a 5 minute break – meaning?

Today, I am at the EA PA Forum (I’m a Conference Producer by profession) where, one of the speakers made a point about pleasure and meaning. According to her studies, we have become a pleasure seeking society, but on the flip side, the pleasure we seek often lacks meaning. In Sydney apparently, the main pleasure seeking channel is cocaine. Well it is, for those who can afford it, the ones we are conditioned to think of as being “successful.” Unfortunately, as one of my beloved Gurus, Michael Ross would say “what goes in must come out and sometimes it hurts when it comes out.”
Listening to this today, I wonder if this speaker is right. Have we got more pleasure in our lives but less meaning? And why do we need extra substances to find pleasure? As children, didn’t the simplest thing fill us with pleasure? When did we lose it? I say we because I am not an island in this case. How bad was I? Well, I’ll share this – the first time my last partner wanted me to meet his friends was for a movie. I flat out refused, and honestly said that I couldn’t meet new people while I was sober. That’s how bad it was.
I thought I was bad, but I know people who need weed when they have to go out and meet people. Meeting people, socialising, a thing that should be pleasurable for us as social creatures, has become something we can’t do without stimulants. So we have alcohol, and drugs, to facilitate meeting 50 people a night. We add them to our Facebook and LinkedIn accounts via our mobile phones right then and there. We promise to catch up for drinks, which we do, when one of us needs something from the other. However, while we are high on some form of stimulant or another, what do we remember of these meetings? Or does it not matter as long as we remember their distinguished job titles? Is the meaning of our lives made out of the most expensive bottle of champagne and the job titles of the people we know?
Currently, I am also reading a book written by Michelle Berman Marchildon entitled “Finding More on the Mat.” Yes, the book speaks about her yoga journey, but she also speaks briefly about how she suffered from post-natal depression and was on anti-depressants. Michelle speaks about how she gave up the anti-depressants because although they stopped the depression, they also made her numb.
Thinking back to the days when I was a stimulant junkie, I remember the part of me that was seeking pleasure, but there was also the part of me that was avoiding pain. What did I find out? Well, for one thing, Michael was right, and sometimes when your body is trying to push out the things that don’t belong there, it hurts, not just physically, but emotionally as well. For another thing, there is something bigger than you, and this thing wants balance. Extreme pleasure is balanced off by extreme displeasure. Some people just live through the displeasure and discomfort, and move on, but others hold it off by adding more stimulants, and more, and more after that. Then one day, you take it all away and the world comes crashing down.
I would love to lead a meaningful life. By that I don’t mean I’m going to get everyone into a debate about the meaning of life. From my elders I have learned that life is pleasure and pain. Life is nothing without feeling. I’m not the kind of person who jumps off planes or rides rollercoasters (I found out the hard way when I got off a rollercoaster and ended up riding the porcelain bus the next half hour), but one thing I would like to work on is to be brave enough to feel. Not feeling things superficially, but really feeling things, and not limiting my feelings to pleasure, but expanding them to include sadness, anger and pain. Hopefully, someday I will be brave enough to let go of my pursuit of pleasure and just feel everything. Why? Because yin without yang creates nothing, light without darkness is not light and pleasure without displeasure is a journey of emptiness.
Some questions that remain; Where are we now as a society? Where is our pursuit of pleasure leading us? What will we do for the pursuit of pleasure? And most of all, where is our conscience? When all the drugs are gone and the parties are done, when there is only silence, how well do we know the people in our lives? And most of all, while our brains are engaged and we’re in the who’s who of social circles, in silence, are we at peace with ourselves? I know I am not, not 100% but hopefully someday I’ll get there.


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