The Peril in Pleasure
Today’s column is a summary of a very lengthy study recently published by The Smedley Institute for Conscious Karma (SICK), its author being the only person in the Institute and is none other than Sigmud Smedley, already known to folks here in the Bay as somewhat of a crackpot. But let’s hear what the old geezer has to say just in case something of value might ooze out.
Smedley begins his analysis by exploring the drive(s) for pleasure that each human being is born with. Baby needs to be held. Baby loves milk. Baby needs to suck. Baby needs to be changed. Baby loves to be rocked. Baby needs to hear comforting sounds, to see bright colors, and be dazzled by movement. Baby needs to be loved! Without these needs being met, baby will not thrive and may grow up strange, unattached, perhaps even feral as what happens to children who are left in the forest and raised by either wolves, apes, or boars.
For the most part, these basic needs and pleasures are met by a devoted parent, hopefully two, as God has given a love for the baby to its mother and sometimes the father, but not always. (He can be a problem as he can become jealous of the baby and angry at the mother/wife as the mother gives attention to the baby that might otherwise go to the father/husband.)
As the child ages, he becomes more conscious of what gives him pleasure and signals to his caregiver/parent to deliver whatever it is he is needing at that time. The pleasure-seeking child screams bloody murder demanding that someone, somehow make his discomfort go away. Mom, and once in a great while, Dad, get up, walk the child around the house, plop him into his carseat and take him for a ride in the middle of the night. They have been known to pour paregoric down his throat to hopefully quiet the suffering child. (This opiate works, as baby mellows out. Smedley says this often generates a tendency toward addiction. This is what he claims happened to him.)
Smedley says there are several types of pleasure: the first is short-term or momentary such as enjoying a chocolate milkshake, the buzz from drinking a double martini, or a brief romantic intimate encounter (sex). Then there are pleasures which may last hours, such as watching a movie, reading a good book, or listening to a symphony. These are soon forgotten, however, and the search for a new pleasure begins immediately. And finally, there are lasting pleasures – better described as contentment or satisfaction which can endure for days, even weeks, months or a lifetime in some rare instances. This latter kind might be found in loving relationships, or in spiritual peace, or in ongoing creative endeavors, or ministering to meet the needs of other people.
The initial experience of pleasure creates both a conscious and an unconscious need to repeat it. Have you ever said or thought,“That shake (or beer or martini, or sex act or golf shot – you name it) was so good, I’d like more of that!” And this is the point where pleasure plants its noxious seeds. Smedley declares that there is an immutable law governing the universe that says that the intensity of the initial pleasure cannot be reproduced by repeating the act. In other words, the second time or the third, ad infinitum can never match the original “buzz” or thrill of the first experience.
Talk to any one who has or had an addiction, whether it be to alcohol, drugs, gambling, sex, eating, thrill-seeking, etc., and they will tell you that the pleasure they experienced in their first encounter was so enjoyable, that they were driven to chase after that same buzz or thrill or euphoria every time afterwards.
And here is where it all starts to unravel according to Smedley. A corollary of the Original Pleasure Maxim is that more fails! This axiom is similar to the concept of diminishing returns, only in the case of pursuing pleasure, more not only diminishes, it can lead to destruction! If the first time you get a pleasurable buzz from alcohol or meth or sex or gambling, you will soon discover that it takes more of the same substance to come close, but never reaching, the original high. Worse is that each subsequent attempt requires more but still it all fails, and fails completely, bringing no buzz, no thrill, but only the excruciateing pains of craving and addiction. Smedley warns: This is the Peril in Pleasure!
(Editor’s note: For more of Smedley’s analysis, the reader can find him sitting on his usual stool at the VFW every afternoon around 4:30.)