finding pleasure
November 5, 2011, 6:07 am
Filed under: the sweet life | Tags: , , , , , ,

Sometimes we think pleasure is narcissism.  I’m sure we may not in our day to day lives, but the din of the popular culture pushes getting mine and getting more.

Pleasure has been neatly tied to money.  In Philip Larkin’s poem, money becomes a man – an understated incarnational event – that chastises him for not living his life:  Quarterly, is it, money reproaches me: / “Why do you let me lie here wastefully? / I am all you never had of goods and sex. / You could get them still by writing a few cheques.”  Clearly this poet is not convinced that pleasure should be quite so tied to acquisition and consumption.

There are of course other more hopeful routes to finding pleasure.  Here is one written by a disciple of the stoic Lucretius.  For him pleasure is found in a restrained, measured life; the diametric opposite of a life of narcissism and consumption.  He adds that pleasure comes from taking risk, making friends and helping people.

Here is his path:

[It is impossible to live pleasureably] without living prudently and honourably and justly, and also without living courageously and temperately and magnanimously, and without making friends, and without being philanthropic.

Lucretius’ disciple

Stephen Geenblatt, The Answer Man, The New Yorker

not having a career
October 22, 2010, 3:12 am
Filed under: the sweet life | Tags: , , , ,

Here’s a description of a fulfilling work (and living) from someone who made self aware and intelligent decisions early in life and went on to reap the benefits:  focus on life (rather than just career); match what’s out there with what’s in you; surround yourself with family and pleasure, and friends, colleagues, acquaintances; pursue work that includes challenge, pacing, intellectual engagement and a worthy goal.  It’s a still point idea in a landscape of ideas that is trecherous, acquisitive and maybe a little hollow.

By now I was beginning to formulate what exactly I wanted from life. Not from a job or even a career. But from life itself. And I discovered that the ingredients actually lay all around. They just needed to be combined in the right formula to meet my own temperament and abilities. They are not obscure and elusive. They are the very things most of us want: a happy family life focused around good relationships; congenial surroundings both at home and at work, that make life pleasant. I am not talking some ambitious make-over nonsense here. Think instead of being able to watch a particular tree round the seasons, coming into bud, flowering, turning to golden leaf and then fronting the winter with stark, dramatic branches. That seems to be a good ambition to have. Then there are friendships; bosom pals for intimacies and advice; working colleagues for sustaining each other with laughter and encouragement; acquaintances met at odd moments, introduced by others, casual encountered at the school gate. All these friendships settle and regroup over the years, some coming to the fore, others lapsing with time. Yes, the encouragement of friendship seems a worthwhile way of spending time. Finally there is the work itself. My own needs are for a variety of tasks within and possibly at the limit of my capabilities, periods of heavy effort interspersed with more reflective times; intellectual engagement with ideas, and a sense of something worthwhile being achieved.

On Not Having A Career, BY JOAN BAKEWELL, the Idler