A MAN IN WHITE

“Man spends his days chasing after balls or hares, and that is the pleasure even of kings.” (Pascal)

If we analyzed everyday life with more objectivity, we would discover that there are many simple pleasures we don’t take into account when we weigh pleasant things against pain. Simple pleasures such as being thirsty and finding water; being hungry and finding a bowl of soup; needing to urinate halfway through a trip and getting home in time; having an urgent need to defecate when waiting at the bank and finding the restrooms. These last two mundane pleasures are taboo because of our unexpressed belief that, although we do those things, we don’t mention them, much less reveal the need to do them. However, they are among the most essential aspects of each human being’s life. It’s curious that in the Encyclopaedia Britannica there is no entry for the term “scatology,” only for its etymological relative “eschatology,” i.e., the one that refers to the study of the doctrines dealing with the end of the world.

A man called Schurij dealt with this theme and wrote four books on it: one dealing with urine, one with bile, one with perspiration and the other with faeces. The book about perspiration doesn’t attract me in the least. I’m content with the memory of the occasional violinists I have come across who certainly radiated an unmistakable and indescribable orchestral air of that nature.

Pleasure and pain, like other simple ideas, can be neither described nor defined. Experience is the only road that leads to knowledge about them. Pleasures are neither good nor bad, since pleasure in itself is morally indifferent. What could be classified as good or bad are the consequences of pleasure. Instead of using judgmental terms such as “good” or “bad,” it would be preferable to substitute “inferior” or “superior” for them, because they are, in effect, pleasures of an inferior nature and others of a superior nature.

Hundreds of years ago the Chinese wrote in the I Ching, “True happiness should spring from one’s inner being. But when one is empty inside, to the point of abandoning oneself to the attractions of the outside world, illusory happiness asserts itself from without. This is what many call entertainment. Those who, because of a lack of inner strength, feel the need for distraction will always find a way to entertain themselves. Due to the emptiness of their nature, they will always act as a vacuum for outside pleasures, becoming even more lost. In this case it is no longer a question of bad luck, misfortune or calamity. They have lost control of their lives and whatever awaits them now depends on chance and external influences.”

One has to bow one’s head before such wisdom, because unfortunately in this century spiritual matters are of the least importance — the pace of life doesn’t seem to allow for them. One has such a struggle just for material survival, that the little time remaining is dedicated to effortless pleasure.

I have been gradually getting away from my real objective, which was to write about the relationship between pleasure and alcoholism. Two factors are fundamental: social conditioning and the search for pleasure, although pain should not be eliminated as a motive for drinking. It’s a difficult chain to break, because the interests created by drinking generate such exorbitant profits. The media respond to those interests because they translate into enormous profits for them too.

There may not be much to eat in a house, but there’s certainly a television and, who knows, maybe a VCR too, so people waste all their free time watching programs and commercials where there’s a girl dressed in black with white shoes getting out of a white car with a black chauffeur, and a man dressed in a white suit with black shoes who comes to pick her up. Together they sit at a little table in the moonlight, while a blond man in a black tuxedo serves them a drink of the finest distilled whisky and she touches his hand and looks at him seductively, and at this moment the man dressed in white tastes his drink, throws out his chest and gives a roar like a lion, then stands up, takes the girl by the arm and gives her a kiss that leaves her in a daze. Since the lady of the house has seen on TV how servant girls can make big leaps in rank if the right man falls in love with them, she is sure to swallow the whole commercial.

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Psychiatrist & Writer — Writing and meditating at the intersection of psychiatry, philosophy, Buddhism and the arts. More information at www.lidaprypchan.com

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Lida Prypchan

Lida Prypchan

Psychiatrist & Writer — Writing and meditating at the intersection of psychiatry, philosophy, Buddhism and the arts. More information at www.lidaprypchan.com

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