Believe it or not, there are some folks in the world who actually believe that things that bring us pleasure are not worthy of our time or attention! I know! I was surprised to discover this as well. There was a person in University that I encountered who was brought up in a very strict religious family. According to their teachings, things that bring people pleasure are of “the devil” and should be avoided at all costs. Hmmm. Who knew?! Imagine her response to some of the art that I shared with a group that she was in. There was everything from erotic art to horror based art and everything in between because I am as eclectic in my art as I am in my life. She made a big deal about it all being the “Devil’s work” and was basically laughed right out of the gathering. I was quite surprised by her reaction, so the next day I asked her to please explain to me where that was coming from. I did not agree that people should have laughed her away, and I wanted to know the root of her perspective. When she explained it to me I got a clearer understanding of where she was coming from as well as what she had been through with this type of hyper-religious upbringing. She was in a “recovering cult member” state and was in that in between land of leaving the old ways and discovering what is actually true for her. This discussion actually brought us closer together because, even though I was the artist who created the work that she reacted to, she now saw me as safe and someone in whom she could confide. After her degree she moved away and I have not heard from her since, so I have no idea how she is adjusting now…40+ years later.
It is not just religious folks who can fall into that enlightenment trap of thinking that pleasures are unimportant. Think about a person who does not appreciate, say, interior design. They would see things like color selection for rooms, themes, decor and so on as frivolous. Put them in a stark white room and they are fine because then they don’t have to even think about things like that. For the rest of us that stark white room would drive us mad. We would be mixing paint as fast as possible!
Sometimes people get overwhelmed by any more than just one plant in a room, thinking that it creates clutter that is completely unnecessary. But for the person for whom plant life brings peace, calm, and pleasure, a number of plants in a room is absolutely essential. Without them, this person can actually slip into depression and feel disconnected from Nature and the world around them, including the people in that very room.
When it comes to food, there are actually some folks who just don’t care what it looks like and tastes like because they simply have to eat for nourishment and that is all. So there is no real appreciation for what goes into the meal or the presentation of the food on the plate. Just shovel it in and get on to the next task at hand. Needless to say, I am not one of those people. Food has always been very important to me. I love how it tastes, looks, and feels after the meal is done. Complete satisfaction is something that can easily be attained through food. When my children were quite little they would prefer to snack through the day as opposed to sit down and eat a meal at the table. At that time, I happened to watch the movie Spanglish, which had a character in it who was a Spanish chef and he would create amazing meals that looked like works of art. That character inspired me so much that my children’s snacks began to transform. Instead of just a bowl of nuts or berries, I would creat a three tier platter of snack foods that they liked. I would even turn the food into an image, such as the Sun or the Moon, or hands holding each other. My eldest would say, “Oh, Dad! I don’t want to eat this because it is so beautiful!” I would let them know that there will be another tomorrow, so eat up and enjoy, and enjoy they would! Family dinners in our house are something more than just throw some food on the table and dig in. I like to dress the table, set it with dinnerware and cutlery, crystal glasses and so on. After all, food without the proper setting is simply sustenance. There really is no joy in that at all.
I read an article a number of months ago in a science and medicine journal (I wish I could find the source now to share, but it is lost to me. If I find it I will add it into the blog post.) that said that, according to medical science, nipples on males have absolutely no purpose whatsoever. According to them, the nipples are formed on the fetus before the sex organs form. As such, it is only the female nipples that serve a purpose, that being the feeding of future babies through breast feeding. Now, I am not one to scoff at science all that often, except when it claims to have discovered something that shamanic practitioners have known already for the last few thousand years (okay, perhaps I do scoff a bit more often than I like to let on). However, I nearly snorted my coffee out my nose when I read that the male nipple serves absolutely no purpose! Yes, there are some men in the world who either don’t have sensitive nipples or try to say they don’t due to toxic masculinity in our culture. However, the vast majority of men on this planet actually do have sensitive nipples and that is a very erogenous zone on the male body. It is what can actually drive some men to ejaculation. And considering that ejaculation is required for reproduction, this “scientific” claim is completely bogus. And even if it is not about procreation, the fact that this area brings pleasure is still not invalid and is quite important to understand. Many women have sensitive nipples, so much so that breastfeeding sometimes gets replaced with formula feeding because the overstimulation is so painful that the pleasure aspect is completely ruined. Some, however, find that it brings even more pleasure sensations and, well, needless to say, some women have reported having orgasms from breastfeeding alone. Now, I am not trying to sexualize this essential act of feeding a baby, so please don’t go there. I am just reporting what I have been told over the years and what I have also discovered in my research as a young expecting father. This is in literature, so don’t shoot the messenger!
So my question is this. Why is pleasure not considered to be a practical thing? What would our world be like if we did not experience the pleasure and expansion of the human spirit through music, art, and anything else that stimulates any of the 5 senses? Why should we consider these things to be “of the devil” or, at the very least, unimportant? As an artist, I cannot fathom what it would be like to lose my sense of sight or hearing. And every day that I see a sunset, or a flower bloom or hear my partner play his guitar, or experience the pleasure of making music myself, I am incredibly grateful for the experience. These are the types of things that make life worth all the other inconveniences and struggles that go into just surviving.
I encourage you, the reader, to reassess what is considered “practical” in your life. Look for the things that bring you pleasure and accentuate those instead of tucking them away in the back of a closet in an abandoned room. Allow your inner child to run free and experience the joy and wonder of life. Allow your inner adult to catch that bug and dance!