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The Management of Pleasure Published: Sunday, June 3, 2001 By: Dr. Manuel Ángel Morales

This past weekend I read and re-read a couple of philosophy books, jumping into the ideas of a wise old Frenchman Michel de Montaigne who stated that we must hang on tooth and nail to all the pleasures we take in life, for the years take them from us one after the other. The reasoning is that since time takes from us the possibilities of pleasure, it is not wise to wait too long to enjoy them. If you wait to take your pleasure, time will take pleasure from you. At first, these ideas seem very strong, not to say alarming or confusing… What have I learned from the philosophers?

If you are desperately seeking the good life, you must learn how to savor intelligently the joys of the present. The recommendation is to seize wisely the day. This doesn’t mean that you have to chase after all possible pleasures, but rather that you should take pleasure in the day. One of the surest ways of ruining your enjoyment of the present is to insist of having every kind of odd and improbable satisfaction… Rather than becoming obsessed with pursuing every passing pleasure, try instead to find small portions of pleasure in everything you come across.

Taking pleasure, making good use of pleasure and searching for a good life requires a huge human effort, which means having a certain control over it to keep it from shutting out other elements of your personal life. As I grow older, I find more pleasure of spending time and sharing with my family, finding inklings of simple things that bring us tremendous satisfaction.

In taking pleasure, in making use of pleasure, one has to be careful and not allow any single pleasure to distract us from all the others, or to obscure the whole context of our personal life. That is the difference between the use and abuse of pleasures whose principal attraction seems to lie in their danger. It is one thing to die of enjoyment, and quite another when the pleasure involves dying or at least risking death. When pleasure seems on the point of almost killing the human being, it is punishment disguised as satisfaction, another deception practice by the phenomenon of death.

The courage to live as a human being means deciding always that life is worth the trouble, that even the troubles we have in life are worth the troubles; and they are worth the trouble because it is through them that we can attain our pleasures, which are always in the other side of the pain. That is why, when some one asks: What business are you into?, I say, I am in the trouble, pressure, problem management, teaching and researching business. This is what makes life more intense and pleasurable. It is about desperately seeking the good life. This is what constitutes the complex experience of the joy of living.

Joy brings a justification to everything, and anything that separates us from it is misleading. Joy is a spontaneous Yes to life that emerges from inside, sometimes when we least expect it. Whoever feels joy has already gained the greatest reward.

Pleasure is more desirable when we learn how to make it serve our joy in life, not when it confuses us. The negative side of pleasure is the absence of joy. Managing joy is an experience that embraces pleasure and pain, death and life, an experience that accepts them one and for all.

Today is Sunday, and after finishing the coupling of these reflections, I rushed to my daughter’s bed and enjoyed the pleasure of kissing her for a few minutes…


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