Words have a subtle way of changing their meaning, especially as the speed of our culture continues to exceed any sort of presumed speed limit. The instantaneous communication devices that we hold in our hand or have sitting on our lap make us immediately familiar with thoughts, phrases and ideas from sources far and wide, be it a company, celebrity or completely obscure individual that gets noticed by millions of people for something quirky or embarrassing that got caught on video.
Case in point; I remember a few years ago seeing the film, Napoleon Dynamite, thinking somebody should make a “Vote for Pedro” shirt. I should have counted the number of shirts I saw the week following. From ones that were obviously homemade to those professionally created and sold in joints like Wal-Mart and Spencer Gifts, it did not take long for that phrase to become a nationwide fad, only to turn into a cliché in the same amount of time.
Familiarity breeds contempt. That with which we are most familiar is what can become taken for granted and eventually mistreated. This is why we hate that pop song they play on the radio over and over and over again. This is why we can be the meanest to people in our own family. We become so familiar; we eventually start taking them for granted and ultimately forget their importance.
Food falls under this category, and I believe it is our tiresome familiarity with what we eat that leads to trouble.
Eating is the most basic of human functions, and its beauty and importance can be as easily disregarded as the sun that rises every day.
So can the meaning of pleasure.
The title of this post contains a word that I think is severely misunderstood due to its current familiarity. The word pleasure has become attached to a certain meaning that I think needs reinterpreting. That meaning has less to do with any type of profound satisfaction and more to do with simplistic relief. I would wager a big stack of chips on the pass line that pleasure is not automatically considered a worthy end as much as it is a gluttonous one. Let me contrast the two ideas.
Gluttony can be thought of as a form of reward that has a short term payoff. Its interest is immediate satiation, but typically it has some form of regret attached to it. Drinking too much can seem like a good idea at the time, but the recovery required to assuage the hangover will have to be paid like disconnect notice from the electric company. You can’t put it off. The price will be paid or else.
Pleasure on the other hand, should be thought of in more noble terms. Pleasure that has its mind set on long term dividends takes care to not put those dividends in jeopardy. Pleasure keeps a portfolio of experiences and adds to the balance sheet, never wanting to debit the account for a frivolous withdrawal that may take a long time to recapture.
Often we refer to yielding to indulgent impulses as a moment of weakness; giving in to that bit of chocolate or second helping because “I couldn’t help it.” But counter intuitively, pleasure can ultimately lead to strength over weakness, because when pleasure is taken very seriously, care is given to guard it.
Have you ever had a perfect evening, or moment with someone special and find yourself thinking, “This night is so perfect; I wish it could go on forever.” Your sense of pleasure is heightened and you feel the thrill that it is intended to deliver.
What’s the second thought that comes through your mind?
“I don’t want to do anything to screw this up.”
In this way, our pleasure serves as sentinel for continued and future experiences because its outlook is beyond the immediate horizon.
This is why I believe pleasure, not guilt, rule, diet or duty, is our best bet against gluttony and overeating. Eat better, more flavorful, meaningful food. Take time to savor, and take pleasure in the preparation, the setting, and the people you are with. Slow down and cherish everything about the moment and safeguard it so there can be many more like it in the future.