“Pleasure has the power of transforming the particularity of a thing into something limitless”


The essence of life and the joy or pleasure of life are the two sides of the same thing; they are not separate entities.

The essence of life is in pleasure and the primal, basic pleasure is life itself. 

For this does man toil and labor. 

He does so to live or, rather, to enjoy life. 

Just as a person engages in bargaining in order to make a profit, so does man engage in struggle for the sake of the pleasure that life affords. 

What is paramount here is the fact that joyfulness and the recognition of what constitutes pleasure are not the same for everyone. 

The person whose chief delight lies in wealth lives in order to make money but, in point of fact, his aim is pleasure and not money. 

The money is only the means. 

Similarly, for one who strives to obtain wisdom, the aim is really the inner joy that comes from knowledge and a measure of sagacity. 

The difference between the two is not a difference in the basic aim.

It lies in the mode of feeling about the way to obtain it, in actions that are more preferable, in simple human terms of like and dislike. 

A person chooses to invest his energies in that which ultimately is most pleasurable to him. 

The higher the level of pleasure the more superior the aim of one's life. 

The extent of one's capacity for joy is the chief instrument for achievement at all levels, higher or lower, and may even be considered the primary root of all action. 

This is the vertical line of joy, its height and depth, whereas the breadth and horizontal expanse of joy may be seen as the many-sidedness and broad range of the possibilities of pleasure, in the senses, the feelings, the mind, and the spirit. 

A whole world of opportunities for pleasure lie in food and drink alone, and not only in taste and smell and in the many social aspects of the table, but also in all that is offered as variety. 

Taste itself is a pleasure that exceeds very many gastronomical possibilities. 

One can enjoy such an enormous range of beverages, wines, and drinks, it staggers the imagination. 

Even in the more subtle sense of smell, the pleasure derived from a vast range of odors and scents is different for each one.

Similarly, there is the delight in speech–in communication, articulation or study of language, logic, grammar, eloquence, and the like. 

It is not necessarily an intellectual pleasure connected with the meaning of what is said; it can be an esthetic delight in the beauty of speech. 

In certain countries, it often does not matter what a person is saying but how well he says it. 

For a rather special pleasure is to be found in the purity of a verbal communication, in the exactitude of grammatical forms or the precision of a sentence. 

Another sort of pleasure comes from the telling of a joke. 

And then there is the simple satisfaction in talking–simple conversation or sharing thoughts and feelings, expressing worry and getting rid of a burden on the soul. 

There may not be a solution to the problem, but the speaking is a release and a pleasure of sorts.

Seeing and hearing are the more obvious and constant sources of delight. 

Besides the harmony of music or visual beauty, the unimaginable extent of the things enjoyed by the eyes and ears of man cannot be expressed. 

Besides all this, which we may see as the mechanism of pleasure, we are aware of an inner world of intellectual and spiritual content behind all sensation. 

These higher delights of the mind appear first as accompaniments to emotion or thought. 

Thereafter, the nature of mind is such that it expands the pleasure derived from the senses, enhances the delights of the emotion and intellect and as we have said, provides height, depth, and breadth to the pleasurable, transforming it from something tangible and carrying it to another dimension, to that of infinitude. 

That is to say, every object in the world can be enjoyed and it makes no difference what it is; pleasure can penetrate anything. 

And beyond the sensual, pleasure has the power of transforming the particularity of a thing into something limitless. 

Enjoyment, therefore, can proceed beyond the personal which is its essential root and become a general or universal factor taking one out of the specific into the unbounded. 

What is implied here is that delight, in all its forms, is more than a particular quality; it belongs to life itself, capable of adhering to anything in the world. 

It is also far more than anyone kind of action or anyone aspect of life; it is at the core of all aspiration, purpose, and human direction. 

The difference between the courses of behavior people choose lies in the pleasure they get (or hope to get) out of their choices.

Moreover, pleasures of whatever variety also serve to educate and nurture pleasures of the same kind. 

Indeed, all training is based on this principle: listening develops the pleasure of hearing music, observation enhances the powers of vision, and so on. 

And there are many things that have to be learned in order to be enjoyed, whether in art or technology. 

To be sure, technical learning does not, in itself, harbor pleasure for everyone.

One often misses out on an essential delight by failing to "educate" the capacity to appreciate the enjoyable in something.

–Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz 
 
Freom "Hidden Aspects of Shabbat" in The Candle of God by Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz

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