Nothing is more individual than what I define as pleasure.  In the poem  “The Heart asks Pleasure — first — ” by Emily Dickinson, there is a perfect balance evoked between physically letting go and being contained by individuality. 

The Heart asks Pleasure – first –
And then – excuse from Pain –
And then – those little Anodynes
That deaden suffering –

And then – to go to sleep –
And then – if it should be
The will of it’s Inquisitor
The privilege to die –

My emotional or moral “heart” as distinguished from intellectual nature determines my disposition and all that it implies about my choice of pleasures. “Heart,” my innermost character, feelings, or inclination is as individualistic as my preference for chocolate, sex, walking, meditation, reading.  “Cannabis? Queen Victoria took it to relieve her period pains. Cocaine? Freud prescribed it to patients and used it himself for relief from migraines. Opium? The users range from Marcus Aurelius to Robert Louis Stevenson. Alcohol? Churchill routinely drank a bottle of champagne a day, whereas Hitler was teetotal – nuff said.” more»

The phrase “letting go” is often taken to mean a spoiled refusal to accept limits on behavior. Although I may never achieve such a perfect balance as the poem accomplishes, “those little Anodynes” are also created by my choices “That deaden suffering — ”

Suffering plays a role if I fail, say, to acknowledge how much “home and hearth” satisfy my deepest feelings. Then, if I cling to some contradictory prescription laid out by others for success, an inner “Inquisitor” will cause me, time after time, to seek “The privilege to die —”. Probably because somewhere, sometime, somebody convinced me it was unworthy of my supposed best interest. Say a born actor is told by the most influential people in his or her life that it is shameful to seek the spotlight.

But, even if this is the case sufferings will be deadened by my particular choice of comfort. As long as life continues, I will need to find pleasure. How much I learn to listen and act with discretion accordingly is a matter of balance.

Digest A Poem A Day — Accept What Comes Your Way

 

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