Most people want to feel pleasure. All day. Every day.
Most people do not want to feel pain. At all. Ever.
Pleasure, Duality and You
We cannot escape duality: pleasure and pain, hot and cold, ease and discomfort, sweet and sour, excitement and boredom, compassion and aggression, birth and death, peace and violence, love and hate.
Existence means you will encounter one and the other.
Question: Why can’t life be full of pleasure and only pleasure?
Answer: If you never experience pain, how will you recognize pleasure?
If you have only pleasure in your life, never an instant of pain, how can you appreciate pleasure? How will you know and truly experience the depths and heights of pleasure, unless you experience ‘not- pleasure’.
If you have an abundance of everything on Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, what would be your purpose? Why would you be here? To my mind such a life of pleasure would engender inertia.
On this plane of existence, the purpose is to experience one to appreciate the other. Compassion can be an excellent teacher. And so can aggression.
If you only know pleasure why would you pursue more pleasure? Duality must exist for you to determine which emotion, feeling, or thought generates the most benefit.
Life is not either/or: either sweet or sour; either pleasure or pain; either birth or death. Life is both/and: both birth and death; both compassion and aggression; both love and hate.
The Pursuit of Happiness
We must keep in mind pleasure is an experience, not an identity. Pleasure like pain is impermanent. It is not a fixed place, time, or state of mind.
Marketers/advertisers, the capitalist tools used to sell us goods and services, discovered a long time ago people want what they believe they do not have. Marketing executives and the psychologists, who advise them, imply through their advertisements if you buy product X you will be prettier, sexier, happier, better, more. The product can be material or an experience. For example, an annual vacation in the Bahamas or Hawaii or Greece will bring you pleasure with the extra added benefit of showing your friends and neighbors you can afford the good life (i.e. you are better/richer/happier than they are).
But in order to maintain this experience of pleasure and superiority, you have to take a vacation to some distant locale every year. If you don’t have the cash to buy your happiness/superiority, you put it on plastic and place yourself and your family in debt.
Here’s the duality of the situation. You have the temporary pleasure of a seven-day/six-night trip to Hawaii and the long term pain of paying the debt down over the next three or four years. Not to mention all the other debt you and your plastic pleasure machine created in addition to the trip to Hawaii.
Is the pursuit of happiness really about living above your means, constantly stressed-out over the amount of debt you owe?
You are enough.
As you are.
Everything else is window dressing. The car, the house, the clothes, the schools, the clubs, the trips, the whatever-other-crap-you-think-of is all unnecessary stuff. None of it is coming with you when transition to the next phase of your journey. It all stays here.
Do yourself a favor and start divesting yourself of your attachment to material things. Heck, do yourself a favor and divest yourself of non-material status symbols. It’s all non-transferrable anyway! Unlike your 401k, there is no rollover!
Am I suggesting that you stop striving for a stable financial situation for your family, safer neighborhood to live in, better schools for your children and a secure retirement fund? Uuummm, no! I am suggesting however, driving yourself into debt for non-necessary items like a high-priced/over-price car, handbag, shoes, smart phone, designer clothes, and trip to the all-star basketball game when you can’t afford it is counter-productive at best; self-destructive at worst.
Remember, 2010 is the year to stop doing stupid stuff! Been stupid, done stupid, moving on!
This year put your money and energy where you will reap the most benefit….and no I do not mean a new (insert designer name here) handbag!
I mean invest your money into a stocks, savings account, money market, bonds, or a 401K.
I mean paying down whatever debt you owe (credit cards, payday loans, etc.).
I mean track you spending so you will see where you spend your money and what you spend it on.
I mean stop pursuing superfluous, empty pleasure when you know the pain is just around the corner!
If you are going to endure pain make the pleasure something more tangible and long lasting than a trip or clothes.
If you are going to endure pain, endure it for a home in a safe neighborhood.
If you are going to endure pain, endure it for a college education for you and your children.
If you are going to endure pain, make it meaningful and worth the sacrifice.