Sunday, February 24, 2008

Pleasure versus Fortitude

by Suzanne Jacobson

Suffering stems from desire, but the entire premise of modern life is built upon want. Want for a better future, want for a career, want for material goods. The Tao masters suggest to just be, the Nike copywriters to just do. Is there a middle ground to be found among extremes?

Surrendering one's life in pursuit of fulfilling a want is not necessarily self-centered. We, as humans, are irrelevant. The only thing we have to offer is that which will supercede our lives. Love left in our loved one's hearts is irrelevant because they too, will die.

This is not advocating for self-centeredness, this is an acknowledgement of what Americans will never admit — our lives mean nothing; unless we abet in a cultural evolution. Such an evolution is the only way to live forever.

That notion could be construed as nihilistic, but if one takes the equal and opposite stance, the sacrifice could be freeing.

Could. Because should one submerge the self in pursuit of something greater than themselves, then the self is lost and so is any chance for enjoyment. Yes, perhaps there are beers to be drunk after a long day of building something outlasting the evaporating human spirit, but then a life lived without regard to evaporating life, the human spirit forgets its chance to prosper. Without proper indulgence, there is no energy left to build that which lasts forever. But with too much indulgence, the goal is forgotten in the midst of enjoyment, an enjoyment that can be more detrimental than if it never existed. Because enjoyment can be distracting.

Few people have the temperament or desire for such a path. 'Why?' they say. Life is fleeting and should be enjoyed. And that is 100 percent true.

So what if you find yourself on a path with little enjoyment, but it is the only way you can conceivably begin to build something that lasts beyond death? What if pursuing the one thing you enjoy means forgoing opportunities for pleasure. Does this mean that the path is wrong? Does this mean one should return to the path of pleasure and forget that of service? When we, in America, have such freedom and such opportunity to sit at a desk for eight hours a day and cash a paycheck every other Friday with no outpouring of self or sacrifice, why would one pursue the other path?

Is it ego-ism that would allow one to preposterously perceive notions of contributing something useful to society? And then there are those that seem to do exactly what it is what you want, but effortlessly. Does this mean you are not meant to act in the capacity you see as your destiny?

But then if destiny is a choice, is the only choice between pleasure and work? And perhaps pleasure will come at a later date, after trees are cleared for an easier passage. But somehow, the further I travel along this road, the further I become from what I want to be. Perhaps this is untrue in ways cloudy from proximity, but that I cannot see yet.

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