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Pleasure can be a boon or a burden, depending on our relationship to it. It can leaven laborious days or lead us to waste them. The pleasures of a mild stimulant such as caffeine can be harmless or even beneficial, but the pleasures of amphetamines can be deadly.
This creates a puzzle for the happiness seeker, who must navigate between the twin perils of puritanism and indulgence, leading to the much-dreaded rule of moderation, which is more or less the philosophy of leaving any party as soon as it gets really good.
Fortunately, there is a better way to solve the puzzle: To stay at the party without letting it get out of control and choose enjoyment instead.
Enjoyment is better than pleasure because it is more conscious and permanent.
Everyone gets pleasure from eating when they’re hungry, but it takes some knowledge and cultivation to enjoy food. After you finish lunch, the pleasure is gone, and in fact, the idea of eating is no longer appealing because your physical need has been satisfied. Meanwhile, the memory of a meal enjoyed with friends transcends the immediate experience and can bring good feelings long after it is over.
Opting for pleasure is a mistake for happiness. But even if we choose enjoyment, other barriers can make us less likely to get the satisfaction that it can offer. Some people ruin their enjoyment of life by using it to show others how happy they are.
Enjoyment can also be ruined by a worldview that is excessively practical, in which we feel our time and energy should never be “wasted.” This is particularly true in the case of leisure, which is often viewed as a misuse of time, because it is not productive in an economic sense. Such an attitude lowers your enjoyment of leisure.
Enjoyment of life—whether that means spending “unproductive” time with others, reading a good book, or taking a long walk—has a loftier significance than good feelings do. It is important for human agency, a life lived on purpose.
Enjoyment means refusing to be managed by pleasures, nor subjugated by joyless drudgery. Pursuing it is a declaration of independence from your base impulses, be they licentious or despotic. It is a key ingredient in creating the life you truly want.
Solve the problem or leave the problem. But…… Do not live with the problem.
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