There is little doubt that our consumerist and materialist culture offers us what appears to be the dominant choice available: Sensual hedonism. To consider a life that rejects sensual pleasure as the key ingredient to the happy life would, to the minds of many, seem like counterintuitive nonsense. But if we think about this a little, I believe we can unmask the deceptive potency of sensual pleasure.
We all know that pleasures are not created equal. Some are fleeting, while others possess staying power.
There are pleasures that find their terminus in our sense organs (think of cotton candy on the tongue), and a kind of pleasure that penetrates to the depths of our being. Under further examination we notice that we must forsake certain pleasures for higher, more meaningful ones. The student who desires the pleasure of achieving an outstanding academic record – a pleasure, comparatively speaking, that is longer lasting – must learn how to forsake the fleeting pleasures of sensual delights offered in the dens of frat houses and pubs. Obtaining the pleasures that accompany being a parent requires setting aside lower, base pleasures that are present at every turn to the one with less responsibilities. Pleasures that possess the potency to elevate the heart and mind, and make their home in the soul, as it were, appear to the rational mind worthy enough to sacrifice lower, transitory pleasures since these base enjoyments don’t seem to carry the promise of happiness as the weightier ones do.
However, these transitory pleasures are powerfully efficacious in ensnaring us.Their deceptive quality lies within the fact of their immediacy.
Procrastination (and the accompanying vices of laziness and slothfulness) give the immediate pleasure of comfort and ease. And who doesn’t desire comfort? The pleasure extracted from pornographic viewing can be intensely present, as is sexual engagement in general. And with this immediate bombardment of delicious tantalization comes the false promise of happiness. We tend to conflate immediate pleasure with the real promise of happiness; and this is the essence of the deception. There is something within us – we fallen creatures – that cause us to gaze at the immediate and lose sight of the substantial; something within each of us that draws us to foolishly hunt down the easy and forsake the wise consideration of consequence, true joy and real satisfaction. But until we learn the grammar of wisdom, we will continue to find ourselves enslaved to the lie.