Pleasure vs. Enjoyment
Though we often confuse these two distinct emotional states, there is a huge difference and relationship between them. Pleasure, a source of arousal, is the product of the human desire for love, power and money, which all too often seem to be the grand dance and preoccupation of our egos. Our lust for more love, power and money is often our undoing. Joy, or enjoyment, on the other hand, is the result of connection. It is the result of deep satisfaction. It is the result of our gnoses with the spirit, a communion dance of the mind, body and spirit .Joy often leads more directly to happiness, than does our the temporary indulgence in pleasure, which is the allowing of our ego to be in charge. Both emotional states intertwine, which is confusing to even the most pious of humans. Pleasure and joy also show up as relative states, in varying degree ranging from acceptance, enjoyment to enthusiasm. Both pleasure and enjoyment can feel like, be taken for, or even lead us toward, love. But only joy feeds and nurtures our relationship with God and with others. Pleasure leads to addiction, which keeps us separate from one another and from God.
Bracketing, or temporarily removing, any moral codes we may have been taught, is there a healthy time and place for pleasure? Do they cancel out one another or are they separate and distinct functions of the human experience? Can our urges and desires lead us to a deeper need for spiritual meaning and human contact? Can titillation be a substitute for love? Can ruthless ambition for power and money not also be a positive force for good? And once one has found real love (acceptance, connection, peace of mind), does that necessarily eliminate the need for pleasure? Does pleasure take away from the deep satisfaction only true love can provide?
Running the Risk
When pleasure becomes associated with shame and fear, where risk and sinning leads to lust, ambition and addiction, how do we separate them? Sexual taboos are attractive because of the risks and sinfulness associated with the activity. Likewise, the lust for power and financial supremacy blinds us to the harm we may be causing. Sometimes we gamble the possibility of pleasure against the people and things we value most. Consider the amassing of money and the emptiness of “having it all” compared with the deeper meaning only joy can bring. Just ask the many fallen heroes, sung and unsung, who’s careers or marriages were ruined by a momentary fling, the itch for having just a little more power or a little extra cash.
“Be moderate in order to taste the joys of life in abundance.” Epicurious
What about the bit about God taking away our guilt, fear and sin? As children of God does that mean we are somehow absolved from our choices? Christians certainly aren’t immune from the consequences of our actions. Or by engaging in activities which are associated with those darker feelings, are we not moving further away from God? How far does one dare move from God? Even if you are not a believer in a supreme power, how far away from the true happiness and peace of mind that joy or spiritual ecstasy are you willing to go? By His absolution, does that not mean we are free to engage in taboo behavior without the associated guilt and all those pesky negative consequences? Would we choose taboos if there were no shame or guilt? Would they have as much power to excite us if they didn’t?
I apologize I can’t provide the answer, even though Christ’s teachings, as well as the other major religions and philosophies, do so well. I think we have to balance our desire for pleasure against our conscience. Although I’ve noticed, not everyone has the same idea of right and wrong that I have, whether they are Christians or not. Morality is a very tricky thing. It doesn’t work when it’s imposed on others. I suppose we might do well to settle for a simple dose of do no harm or the golden rule, as I have found, freedom from consequences is not really freedom at all. True freedom is freedom from desire.