Endless Curiosity

July 20, 2010

Pleasure and Happiness

Filed under: Life, Psychology — Alec @ 6:08 am

I’m sure it comes as no surprise to anyone to learn that pleasure and happiness are not synonymous. Certainly eating delicious food, having a relaxing massage, or sensual lovemaking can leave one happy, but it’s only temporary, and anyway, we get used to it, we habituate.

The interesting thing is that sometimes things that cause us to suffer end up making us happier than pleasurable things. Satisfaction from sometime accomplished is, for many people, a greater source of happiness than is transient pleasure.

I came across a passage that describes this well in a novel called The Rider, by Tim Krabbé. I hadn’t heard of it until I was looking for Mark Cavendish’s book, Boy Racer, but apparently The Rider is a cycling class. Amazingly it’s all about one bicycle race. Here’s the passage.

Oh to have been a rider then. Because after the finish all the suffering turns to memories of pleasure, and the greater the suffering, the greater the pleasure. That is Nature’s payback to riders for the homage they pay her by suffering. Velvet pillows, safari parks, sunglasses: people have become woolly mice. They still have bodies that can walk for five days and four nights through a desert of snow, without food, but they accept praise for having taken an one-hour bicycle ride. “Good for you.” Instead of expressing their gratitude for the rain by getting wet, people walk around with umbrellas. Nature is an old lady with few suitors these days, and those who wish to make use of her charms she rewards passionately.

Of course, the reason I like this passage is that it reflects what I feel. I’d much rather exhaust myself hiking several mountains in a day than savor the delights of a gourmet meal, much rather do the Bicycle Tour of Colorado than spend a week sipping margaritas by a pool next to the ocean. But to each his own. And despite Krabbé, I usually wear sunglasses in the mountains, and have hiked 14’ers with an umbrella in my backpack 🙂

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