[Today is part 1 of a 3-part blog on pleasure and it’s place in our lives]
As I write this blog, I’m enjoying my day immensely. It’s one of those Joyppily* days that you just can’t get enough of. It’s 92 and sunny, there’s a slight breeze blowing out of the west and the pool water is perfect. My kids are playing games in the water with my oldest brother, my wife is soaking up some rays and I’m finishing off an ice-cold Mountain Dew and still tasting my toasted turkey sandwich from lunch. Today is a very Joyppy* day.
Pleasure is a funny thing and as I think about today I realize there are two extremes when it comes to our views on pleasure, and both of them are detrimental to the Overboard Life.
Pleasure at all costs:
Making pleasure the highest good is an easy extreme to pursue. When we make every decision about whether or not we enjoy an activity, a job or a relationship, we fall into the trap of pursuing pleasure at all costs. It’s absolutely unreasonable — and ungodly! — to make our pleasure the highest good. I am confident God wants us to enjoy life, but that does not mean making happiness our primary aim.
My six-year-old daughter Celina illustrates the folly of this principle well. Right before we were leaving on this amazing vacation, Celina and her siblings were asked to do some packing. She did so happily, knowing that packed bags were the first step to being able to enjoy our vacation. However, when she was asked to clean up her room before our departure, she actually burst into tears and cried for ten minutes before following through. When I asked her why she was so distraught over cleaning her room, she said, “because it’s not fun!” Pleasure is her mark of whether or not a projects or event is worthy of her involvement.
Not only can we not enjoy every activity we choose, there are also circumstances that take place that should not be pleasured in. Peoples’ lives are broken, shattered and placed in pain every day. Taking pleasure in some one else’s pain is a sickness, not something to be sought. And it’s not to say that we can’t enjoy how God works out details to bring beauty from ashes, but pleasuring in a loved one’s loss is not the sign of a good and healthy life. It’s a sign of life out of balance in the pursuit of pleasure.
Solomon had a lot to say about the pursuit of pleasure, as he spent two decades of his life refusing himself nothing. He was the Bill Gates of his day when it came to money, and a the Hugh Heffner of his day when it came to the pursuit of feel-good activities. He had the drive for fun, and the money to fund it. At the conclusion of his chasing after pleasure at all costs he says this:
“I will test you [my heart] with pleasure to find out what is good…laughter is foolish…I tried cheering myself wine and embracing folly…I undertook great projects: I built houses for myself and planted vineyards. I made gardens and parks and planted all kinds of fruit trees in them. I made reservoirs to water groves of flourishing trees. I bought male and female slaves…I also owned more herds and flocks than anyone in Jerusalem before me. I amassed silver and gold for myself, and the treasure of kings and provinces. I acquired men and women singers, and a harem as well as the delights of the heart of man. I became greater by far than anyone…I denied myself nothing my eyes desired…I refused my heart no pleasure…I took delight in all my work…Yet, when I surveyed all that my hands had done and what I had toiled to achieve, everything was meaningless, a chasing after the wind; nothing was gained under the sun” (Ecclesiastes 2:1-11)
The pursuit of pleasure at all costs will not result in pleasure: It will result in pain. It will result in a life of emptiness and vacancy. It will result in expensive vacations that leave families further apart, not closer together. It will result in beautiful homes whose exquisite exteriors are warm, inviting and envy-causing, but whose interiors are cold, empty and full of unresolved grudges. Pleasure at all costs will put the nicest car in your driveway, bigger numbers in your bank accounts and facebook pictures with thousands of “likes” and “wish I was there” comments, but it’s a life that won’t allow you a good night’s sleep. And it’s not that it’s wrong to have money, to vacation richly or to create memories in your home, on the road or while traveling around the world — it’s that making those things the highest good will never quench our ultimate desires or our biggest need.
Pleasure isn’t the highest aim of the Overboard Life, but like it’s counterpart, sorrow, it’s cousin, laughter and it’s step-brother, heartache — pleasure is a component of the journey. God longs for His children to enjoy the life He has given, He just didn’t intend for us to make pleasure the ultimate goal of our daily, weekly and yearly existence.
In next week’s blog, we’ll talk about the other danger related to pleasure. In the meantime, go ahead and take the plunge — life is always better on the water!
*Joyppily: A joyous and happy event. Whereas happiness is a temporary emotion related to our pleasure in a specific circumstance, joy is a longer lasting choice we make regardless of our circumstances. Happiness can be taken away with a stubbed toe, joy can only be taken away by our own poor choices. When you experience Joppily (see also: Joyppy, Joyppyously and Joyppying), you are both happy in the moment, and joyful at heart.