“Life is to be enjoyed, not simply endured. Pleasure and goodness and joy support the pursuit of survival” (Willard Gaylin).
WHAT IS YOUR BASIC ATTITUDE: DO YOU SEE LIFE AS SOMETHING TO BE ENDURED OR SOMETHING TO BE ENJOYED? Granted, there are some things that have to be endured, but the endurance of these doesn’t mean there aren’t some pleasures that can be enjoyed along the way. It comes down to a choice as to where we’re going to place the emphasis: on the unpleasant side of life or on the pleasant? I am no hedonist (pleasure in this world is definitely not the summum bonum, the ultimate good), but even so, I want to recommend pleasure to you as a good thing that is to be appreciated.
Before we go any further, we should be reminded of one thing: unprincipled pleasure is not a good thing. We must not seek pleasure at any price, for whatever honest and honorable pleasures there are in the world, these must be enjoyed within the boundaries of justice, goodness, and rightness. Cicero said it well: “If you pursue good with labor, the labor passes away, but the good remains; if you pursue evil with pleasure, the pleasure passes away, but the evil remains.”
Yet when it can be enjoyed rightly, pleasure should be . . . enjoyed! We err foolishly when we let the joyous aspects of life slip by untasted and unappreciated. But if some of us are guilty of this, others are guilty of seeking pleasure too deliberately. “Pleasure is seldom found where it is sought,” wrote Samuel Johnson. “Our brightest blazes of gladness are kindled by unexpected sparks.” And one other thing that would enhance our pleasure in life is to put more emphasis on the giving of pleasure. Pleasures given are often the most pleasant of all.
Søren Kierkegaard said, “Most men pursue pleasure with such breathless haste that they hurry past it.” If there is one tendency we all share, it’s the tendency to ignore the enjoyment of pleasure until something big comes along or until some idyllic period of perfect pleasure arrives. But if life is to be tasted with any joy at all, it must be tasted daily — in the unexpected and unplanned pleasures of home and hearth and honorable work. These pleasures are not unmixed with sorrow, but they are very real. And they were meant to be enjoyed.
“Think big thoughts but relish small pleasures” (H. Jackson Brown Jr.).