What is Pleasure
Most people would assume the opposite of pain is pleasure. Although the abstinence of pain isn’t pleasure, it’s comfort. In reality pain is the consequence of pleasure. If you want to get fit or a degree you have to undergo some form of pain. Mistaking pleasure for comfort is counterfeit, you’re only fooling yourself. Besides, if you can identify which challenges and nature of struggle you’re optimized for, you can learn to enjoy adversity. This approach inclines you for a more meaningful life. Enjoying pleasure is a talent and skill. What brings more joy? Guzzling a fine wine or sipping it tastefully… The more you can come to appreciate, the more abundantly you will experience pleasure.
“Learn to appreciate the small things, the big things will take care of themselves”
Levels of Pleasure
In order to experience something to the fullest you need to atleast have some understanding of it. There are different levels of pleasures we can experience. Each one being exponentially more satisfying to your soul. Meaning two level 1 pleasures don’t equal one level 2 pleasure. It’s like two economy tickets don’t equal a first class ticket.
Explaining these we’ll split each up into 3 sections:
Phony – The fake way to achieve this pleasure that will have a negative result
Price – What you have to do to achieve this in a positive way
Key – The steps to paying the price to achieve the pleasure
Pleasure: Physical / Material
Engaging the 5 senses
Over Indulgence & Instant Gratification
Discipline & Appreciation
Being conscious of what you are undertaking allows you to control it. Eating is amazing until you’re in physical (or emotional) pain from overeating, or even mindlessly eating in front of the TV the pleasure can go to waste. While also being mindful that receiving something you didn’t deserve also may not be as good as it seems i.e. ’12 minute abs’, ‘2 minute meals’ or ‘Most drugs’
Lust & Infatuation
Positivity & Commitment
It’s easy to become quickly infatuated with someone. However after a few months or sometimes years of marriage you realize you don’t connect. Kids are also usually the greatest pleasure and pain of a parents life. You can focus on the pain of parenting and have a terrible time. Or see the impact you have in the raising of a life you’d have a more joyous time. Understanding how to grow and have a relationship with someone makes the difference.
Pleasure: Being Good
Having a Cause
A lot of the time doing good isn’t a pleasurable experience however in hindsight it will be a highlight. Jumping into filthy water and ruining your clothes in order to save someone from drowning may ruin that moment you were enjoying on holiday. Although after it will be the highlight of the holiday. Learning to enjoy being good is extremely difficult, especially today. Today there is so much weight on looking good we often describe ourselves by our profession and even if you are a good person you won’t have value if you don’t have money and status. Having courage to do the right thing even if it goes against the majority or won’t get recognition may be tough although it has a soul fulfilling outcome.
Pleasure: Creative Power
Developing an Idea
Key: Positive Control
A dictator or a strict boss may have control over their people however it is only illusionary control. Bringing up a loving family or being in charge of a collaborative team brings real pleasure and positivity. Even an artist or a musician has control over their hand and instrument. That could be used to illustrate a destructive idea promoting separateness, or a loving idea creating unity. Bringing forth real power creating something amazing in the world.
Peace in the Moment
Ego & Escape
Humility & Gratitude
Key: Awe in the Eternal
Seeing the birth of a child, looking at stars, watching a lightning storm or even gazing at a campfire can make you speechless. These moments make it easier for you to connect to the source of life. Imagine someone that has a loving family and a creative job giving them a cause, yet they still feel something is missing. Having gratitude for where you are and that you’re breathing can make you feel bliss at any moment. This is connecting to a higher power and can make you fulfilled at any moment. All the other pleasures can be taken away or perish however connecting to a higher power can’t be. And the closer you get the happier your life will become.
It’s interesting that in a survey one of the most common regrets of old people was; “They didn’t allow themselves to be more happy”. That is the price you have to pay for transcendence, humility & gratitude.
Knowing Your Life
Having an understanding of pleasure or what truly makes you happy you’d think is common among everyone. It’s actually very rare. People can cheat themselves out of genuine pleasure their whole lives and only look back at it only to live a meaningless life or worse a life filled with regrets. Regrets often come from what you didn’t do. What you didn’t do is the price of whatever pleasure you wish you had.
Don’t live a phony life, pay the price to live an enjoyable one!
This teaching was originally from Rav Noach Weinberg at Aish. You can read up a more detailed description here [aish.com/five_levels_of_pleasure] or checkout either of these videos for a rabbi trying to explain it. Levels of Pleasure or Lessons on Pleasure.