Why have we been taught over and over again, particularly in religious circles, to avoid at all costs the so-called sinister human experience of pleasure? Even the word “pleasure” is treated like some contagious disease ready to cripple and spoil. Are we espousing some kind of large-scale orgasmic excess? Of course not, but lets face it, nothing debilitates this perfectly natural human tendency more, than those obsessive and inflated notions of duty, responsibility, and rightness.
There are two reasons pleasure has been so demonised and maligned. First, it has been ripped out of its common essence with goodness itself, and made to stand in opposition to it. When two things meant to be together are placed in opposition to one another, a balanced and holistic view is no longer possible. The pursuing of one to the detriment of the other is always the natural and deformed outcome.
Second, we fail to recognise that pleasure has its own built-in little restraints, responsive to sensitive souls, which naturally curb excess. Have you ever felt yourself to be overly dressed, or seen it in others? Have you ever been to a party where the food and the partying has just been a bit over the top? Have you ever been in a context where it’s pretty obvious that pleasure is being heightened and prolonged and it’s just not working?
All these telltale signs of pleasure’s little built-in restraints go a long way in reminding us that it’s precisely excess that is the enemy of true pleasure. Therefore, and we tend to forget this, at the very heart of all pleasure is the beauty and boundary of simplicity.
What then has to happen? Well, we need to help pleasure make the long journey back in to the fold of goodness, and then, to trust her enhancing gift by curbing our obsessive denials and allowing ourselves to feel again her sensual and life-giving touch. If this doesn’t assist in restoring her to her rightful place in human experience, nothing will.