Happiness versus Pleasure

This is something that has been on my mind lately, but I don’t want to take credit for it.  In fact, the person from whom this idea was conveyed escapes me at the moment (though I strongly suspect it was Richard Wurmbrand, writing in one of his books).  But it’s the idea that keeps creeping into the forefront of my mind, especially as I see so many people chasing after what they think is Happiness…but is in actuality, merely Pleasure.

The way the observation was presented, as I recall it, goes simply like this.  We, especially here in America, but as human beings also, have unwittingly (over time) come to view Pleasure as Happiness.  And while there is little question that pleasurable activities often do bring genuine feelings of happiness, they are, ultimately not one-and-the-same.  It is so easy to engage in momentary acts of pleasure, taking a hot bubble bath, getting a massage, flirting (or being flirted with), eating delicious dark chocolate, having a steamy cup of rich coffee, sex, playing or beating a great video game, a peaceful stroll through the park, buying something nice, earning good money, spending good money, achieving a little fame or notoriety, having something others can’t afford…

But what invariably follows from any, every pleasurable thing is only what was there before, which (it turns out) may be a general sense of Happiness, or a pervading sense of Unhappiness.

I think it’s a worthwhile notion to ponder.  Because what if, at the end of it all, so many of us are running around chasing after temporary (and often expensive) moments of pleasure in the pursuit of something these devices cannot ultimately deliver?  What if some of us are spending years, or a lifetime, or our sense of self, pursuing Pleasure in the false hope of attaining Happiness?  It’s a sobering thought, for me especially as I look at the world and see so many doing this or buying that and trying so desperately to convince themselves (and others) that they are happy in the doing or having done.  I’ve spoken of Ultra-Consumerism before and that is certainly a factor to be sure.  And I do wish we could make a dramatic turn in another direction (same too for our obsession with pop culture, celebrity worship and reality television).  But I digress…What if we could step back away from it all and look at this thing called life, and take a harder look at all these pleasurable things available to us, and come to the realization that maybe, just maybe, Real Happiness has little to do with Pleasure at all.  What if we thought about it and realized that we could be Happy in spite of Pleasure, in the absence of Pleasure, in the midst of Pleasure, and even when the Pleasure has ended.  What then?  Then I think some of us might really, finally be getting somewhere.

Published in: on September 30, 2009 at 10:51 pm  Comments (2)  
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2 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. Thanks for an interesting article about happiness vs. pleasure. Unfortunately, people in today’s world are too often obsessed with what will give them pleasure for the moment. And looking at TV, magazines, and newspapers, it’s all about what new things will bring us pleasure if we buy them or obtain them. So, our “I want” valves get turned on. But true happiness is only going to come within–and, if one is a Christian like me, that’s from the eternal rather than the transient! I’ll look forward to reading more of your blogs in the future.

    You might like to visit my inspirational blog, too:

    and/or sign up for my non-participatory motivational

    I think you’d enjoy them both.

    Alexis Wingate

  2. Very interesting and thought provoking article; I think we all just need to take a step back and re-assess what we do and why we do them as well. You can also visit my blog at http://toluwalola.wordpress.com/ .

    God bless.

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