I was at Lenny T’s garden party more than ten years ago talking to an old Channing Club friend, when she asked me if I was enjoying the party. Without thinking about it one instant I said, “I’m not much into pleasure.” It flabbergasted me that such words could come out of “me,” especially when I was enjoying the party. I’ve wondered many times since then why I said that, what did I mean, was I serious or just being flippant? I do remember having a flash of something the instant later and apologizing for saying such an un-garden-party-like thing. And yet, there is an element of truth in my not being much into pleasure.
I do enjoy my life, although sometimes I’m not my usual exuberant self, and I really do take great pleasure in good quality chocolates. Debbie and I eat a small chocolate ball after most midday meals. Lately, it has been the Costco Kirkland Chocolates of the World mix. We cut two different ones in half and each eat a portion. That way we each have two unique high-end chocolate bites, which we savor in silence. To really enjoy good chocolate you must savor it in silence, without swallowing, for a minimum of thirty seconds. It takes that long to be chewed properly, to melt and to sink into one’s taste buds. We then secretly rate each bite on a ten point scale with a mental bell curve over five for “high-end chocolate” before revealing our opinion to the other. Our results are usually within one point. The balls are about the size of the last joint of my thumb, and the recommended serving size is three balls, so functionally between the two pieces we only have one-third of the recommended serving, but it is plenty. This last week I have been adding about a tenth of a teaspoon of fresh butter to my bite and usually it gives a one point boost to my rating.
So, how can I claim I’m not much into pleasure? That previous paragraph is an example of a current practice, but I’ve been doing pleasurable experiments for many years. But first another example that we currently do, at the Bend, Oregon, First-Friday Art Walk. We visit about five different exhibits and view the artworks as most normal people would do, but just as we are about to leave one of them I say, “What were your favorite three things?” We probably looked at, say forty items, but we usually have a lot of overlap in our choices. We both have college degrees in “art” so there is a Western art basis for our critiques that might be different if we came from different backgrounds.
What is it about experiencing a pleasure that I find questionable? … I think that it is the unearned quality about it. Sure, I paid some price for eating a chocolate or viewing a picture, but the thing was created by someone else, and I am merely experiencing what that other person has created. They put in the real work of creating something and now I, without much if any effort, get to experience their work.
We must do some form of personal work to experience the pleasure it creates!