I was indulging in one of those innocent pleasures yesterday (Well, almost innocent. If it were innocent I would have already stated what it was). Anyway, I was reminded of a piece I wrote about 15 years ago on the subject. With your kind permission I will post it, hoping no one takes it too seriously. And hoping it brings someone some …er… pleasure.
The Treasures of the Pleasures
All About Pleasure
O.K. there’s sex. There’s food. We know about those. And, if you insist, the fine wine, the good cigar, and all that epicurean stuff. And then there’s the feeling of accomplishment that other people seem to get when they succeed at things.
These prime-time pleasures are well known, they’re well documented. But what about the “little” pleasures? The low-profile joys of our meager existence? The also-rans of the pleasure derby.
For instance? For instance, how about scratching? As in scratching your back, or scratching an itch. Even better, scratching a forbidden itch, an itch that you’re not supposed to scratch. “If you scratch it, you’ll only make it worse”. Nonsense. Why did they always tell us that? It’s simply not true. Indeed this hypocritical prohibition only makes it more fun. So, my friend, “Go scratch yourself!” Not to mention picking that itchy scab (another taboo), or peeling sunburnt skin. These are all bona-fide pleasures. And while we’re on the subject of picking, there’s picking your teeth (O.K., you can use a real toothpick) – getting that last piece of a good dinner out from between those molars. Hard work, but satisfying.
Similarly, picking your nose. One of the all-time favorites, always in disrepute. But ever-popular, especially amongst the kids. Then there are fingernails and toenails to be cleaned (don’t forget to scratch between the little toes). Cleaning your ears, too, one of the sexiest of these “secondary” pleasures. Ahh, a Q-tip in the ear after a shower.
Of course there’s the shower. The hot bath when your back hurts, or even when it doesn’t. How about a good pee? Letting go with a good stream. Watching it pour into the bowl (or listening, for the ladies). Better yet, peeing outside in the woods. Under the stars.
Moving on from the auto-erotic (sorry, we have to move on), let us consider the social pleasures. We all recognize the comfort of a friend. Intimacy. Dare I say it? Love. Still, there are other social pleasures not to be sneezed at. There’s company, plain old company. Some lost souls to wait with you for the bus. A companion in the elevator. Other folks in the movie theatre. Ever sit there in the dark by yourself watching the credits? Weird, no?
Then there’s people to say “Pardon me”, or “Thanks”, as you hold the door for them. Or, “Have a nice day”, smiling inexplicably. How about the cashiers at the supermarket who look up so sincerely from their rubber conveyor belts to ask “Paper or plastic?” Definitely there is considerable pleasure in these mini-interactions.
However, the largest category of social pleasures involves simple gloating. Not just “keeping up with the Joneses”, but thumbing your nose at them. Giving them the rasberrry. A simple example is selecting the shortest line at the supermarket. That’s to say beating out all those ignorant slobs who picked the wrong line.
And herein lies the subtle pleasure of city driving: You get to torture all those other drivers, to mete out punishment and justice. Passing them, preferably on the right. Not letting them in ahead of you. Changing lanes for no apparent reason other than to get their goad. Gesticulating. Honking. It’s pure joy. People like to gripe about city driving, but that’s just another pleasure, perhaps one of the greatest pleasures: complaining. The sly devils, they all love to drive on the streets. Otherwise, they would all be out there on those peaceful country roads they all talk about. But, the country roads are empty, aren’t they? Sure they are. There’s nobody to beat out there.
Another driving pleasure? Listening to those radio updates on the traffic conditions. Why? That’s right, to relish in the misfortunes of those poor slobs wallowing in traffic jams which you, in your unparalleled wisdom, avoided. It’s all gloating, plain and simple.
But now we must consider the spiritual pleasures. We needn’t talk of prayer or meditation, though that’s fun too. Again, it’s the quiet little moments that count. Sighing, burping, farting of course. Humming, whistling, talking to yourself. Yawning.
All the same, probably the greatest spiritual pleasure is derived from just goofing off. Not answering that phone call. Not listening to your aunt’s chatter. Forgetting what you were supposed to do. Forgetting what you were going to say. Saying “well, um”. Ever notice how often people say “um” or “uh” in mid-sentence? They’re just relaxing, and it sure is a lot of fun. TV is popular for the same reason. Obviously no one could possibly be listening to that pulp. They’re just using the TV as an excuse to sit down. Then there’s “easy-listening” radio, Time magazine, network news, and conversations at work. All of these fun things to do are non-mental, non-activities that allow you to….er….um…uh… relax.
However, for those who seek nirvana, perhaps the highest of the spiritual pleasures is obtained when driving the car. First you make one green light. Then another. Then another. Mysteriously, you find yourself coasting, making all the lights. In your piety you make no mention of it. Superstitious, you don’t want to ruin your luck. But it is true ecstasy. Admit it. And you know, deep in your spiritual center, that you are aligned with the universal consciousness. St. Francis of Assisi can go scratch!