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Thursday, September 8, 2011

The Intersection of Pleasure and Joy

After starting this blog I have found myself in many conversations with friends about food and nutrition. Most of them start out wondering about this whole 'paleo thing' and many of them continue on to the discussion about all the things you can't have or give up or any number of terms signifying a great loss of some kind. While I can't answer many of the questions people have and I am not a shining example of the primal lifestyle, this has left me thinking quite a bit about my real motivation and why I do what I do. Over the course of this year, I have made a multitude of changes and many of them can seem downright diametric to my former lifestyle. While I cannot pinpoint the exact moment it happened, somewhere along the line I had a radical paradigm shift. I can finally recognize the relationship between pleasure and joy. They are so similar and yet can be quite contrary. Webster defines them both as such.

plea·sure \ˈple-zhər, ˈplā-\
1 : desire, inclination
2 : a state of gratification
3 a : sensual gratification
b : frivolous amusement
4 : a source of delight or joy

joy \ˈjȯi\
1 a : the emotion evoked by well-being, success, or good fortune or by the prospect of possessing what one desires : delight
b : the expression or exhibition of such emotion : gaiety
2 : a state of happiness or felicity : bliss
3 : a source or cause of delight

As you can see, they are so similar that they even contain the same definition. They are both defined as a source of delight and joy is even used in the definition of pleasure. For the sake of this discussion, I am going to focus on the short term connotation of pleasure with regards to its frivolity and the long term connotation of joy implied by a state of being. What I have come to realize is that while pleasure can be a source of joy, it can also be its detriment. There are pleasures that give short lived gratification and there are others that lead to a long lasting feeling of accomplishment and satisfaction in your personal success. These are not mutually exclusive by any means. You can gain a great deal of immediate satisfaction from things that also contribute to your long term joy. And there will always be measures necessary for long term success and happiness that give no immediate gratification by any stretch of the imagination. In my mind, it kind of looks like this:
I am currently pursuing a lifestyle that is solidly in joy and limits the pleasures that don't fall in the middle. This is not to say that they are not pleasurable or satisfying in any way. But I have found that when I choose pleasures from the list that also contribute to my long term joy, my pleasure lasts longer with less of a hangover. It's like a happiness binge with no horrible blood sugar crash afterwards. I mean, who doesn't want to be happy all the time?

This is certainly not a simple quest. It is an interesting challenge to assess the value of every choice and place the result on the spectrum from pleasure to joy. But I am enjoying my life more consistently and thoroughly than I ever have before, so I will call it a win for now.

May you have all the pleasure and joy possible.

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