Why don’t we feel more simple pleasure from being alive and conscious in a fascinating world? That has to be one of life’s great enigmas. We can feel pleasure easily enough when we’re stimulated by art, literature, movies, sports events, relationships, sex, food, alcohol, and racy cars. We have a hard time, though, feeling pleasure from everyday, moment-to-moment experience.
Plain, old everyday moments are often taken for granted. Or they’re overcrowded by worries and considerations, regrets and fears, toils and troubles, and desires and cravings. We chase after stimulation, catching speedy roller-coaster rides while missing the magical-mystery train that thumps out of our station every morning.
Basically, we block access to everyday pleasure because, unconsciously, we’re producing too much displeasure. (I described in some detail how that happens in an earlier post, “Mark Twain’s Mysterious Misery-Machine.”)
We automatically start to feel more pleasure from daily life as soon as we stop producing displeasure. The displeasure is produced when, unconsciously, we recycle and replay old unresolved emotions. Once we turn off this inner misery-machine, we enhance the quality of our consciousness and we can feel a higher degree of moment-to-moment pleasure. We also stop taking life for granted because the quality of our consciousness attunes us to the richness of the here-and-now.
Stephen Pinker, Harvard psychology professor and author, put it this way: “I would argue that nothing gives life more purpose than the realization that every moment of consciousness is a precious and fragile gift.” In this statement, replace the word purpose with the word pleasure. Also, consider Pinker’s use of the word “realization.” The word denotes an awakening to consciousness and an appreciation of it for its own sake. [Read more…]