Anchor for this item posted by Bernard Tremblay at Tuesday, March 26, 2002; Tuesday, March 26, 2002

* Re-reading this old piece,Hurting and Confused, I though back through the forest of motives and am moved to believe that confounding pleasure and happiness is the epistemological error. What has escaped me all these years is hidden behind the Protestant Work Ethic's dogmatic requirement that gratification must be put off, delayed indefinitely, if it is considered at all. The opposite of this has taken us like an epidemic and serves still as the focus of our deliberations: instant gratification. At best gratification is slightly delayed in order to be amplified, where an immediate pleasure is passed by in favour of one that is greater. And yet the distinctions are only between varieties of pleasure, large and small, immediate and at one remove, but never does happiness come into the picture except as a false wrapping for what is in the end only yet another variant of pleasure.
Pleasure's relation to happiness is paradoxical in the same way that the impulse to enlightenment relates to the practices; striving too compulsively for the goal forecloses the processes by which the goal is reached. There is necessarily a pleasurable component to happiness, in that happiness is a desire to be fulfilled, and yet happiness surpasses pleasure in that it is more than the simple fulfillment of desire. Focussed on what is merely fulfillment of the will, we are most likely to engage in activities that preclude the entirely realistic foundation that gives happiness its robust stability. The opportunistic nature of pleasure seeking results in a dissipation that undermines whatever might serve as a base for happiness. Whether addicted to the thrill of the video gambling machine, the euphoria of a drugged state, or the titillation of aclaim, the momentary only barely balances the short-term cost while the longer lived consequences remain to fuel the initial desire in a never lessening frenzy. There are those who are frantically in search of their fix, and those who are complacent in their momentary enjoyment of their most recent. In neither case is there the confident stability that allows the individual to survey the breadth and depth of their situation.
In the land of such pleasure-centered people, isn't the sane human being necessarily out of step? Is our present modern situation really other than that cosmology that describes the human as born on a plane between that of animals and of warring gods? This one is morose and abject in his pessimism, that one is bridling with menacing pride and paranoid greed, and neither wants of hear of anything but gratification in the short term. So there, then, is the challenge: how to formulate justice, compassion, solidarity, and happiness so that it is sensible and meaningful and moving for those who are desperately on watch for relief in the moment?