An Alternative to Pleasure Seeking


We all seek to profit from one another. It is the very nature of the capitalist system we live in. On an interpersonal level, we seek the comfort of others, because in the best moments they make us feel good. While this, in and of itself, is OK, we see that in spite of our best intentions, our desire to feel good and to make those close to us feel good, does not profit society or ourselves. While some people are for the most part happy, for the majority and even for the seemingly very happy people amongst us, to live is to suffer. What if the reason for our suffering is merely our desire to feel good?

What people fail to understand is that they are operated by something called a will to receive. The current configuration of our will to receive is what results in our lack of fulfillment in all aspects of our lives. This is precisely why most of us come to a point where we begin to feel like we are missing out on something in life. Which is why we find ourselves asking, is this all there is? Wasn't there supposed to be more to life?

Since we are wired by a desire for pleasure, we are eternally slaves to the way we feel. This is the reason we do not have control of our lives, and are really not all that different from animals, except for our capacity to reason. Our reason, unfortunately, is used exclusively to weigh this dilemma of pleasure and pain. And the truth of the matter is that we cannot be fulfilled by life when we are operated by our will to receive. Every action we make is solely for us to feel good, whether it be making a charitable donation, or murdering someone for the thrill of it.

Conversely, every time we experience pleasure, our desire for pleasure grows and it becomes harder to fulfill. If you travel First Class to Cabo, you're not going to be as excited about flying Coach to Phoenix. It's our wiring. Some people will just give up, realizing the work is not worth it, while others will exhaust themselves with work to try and feel the same pleasure, but really lack for a private plane.

We're all like drug addicts looking for the pleasure of that first hit, in every single facet of our lives. There is a constant negotiation of pleasure and pain in our senses and we always choose the maximum pleasure with the minimal amount of effort. We strive for comfort constantly. Even the act of adjusting the way we sit down is really a desire for a more pleasurable state. The consequences of our actions become less and less important when we are driven by our desire for pleasure. Even if we are unaware of the harm we are doing to others, we are harming people with our innate selfishness.

A friend of mine told me a story that illustrates our nature and the nature of the society we live in. He offered, "I have a wealthy landlord who chooses to raise the rent every month. I need to ask my mother for help, who also doesn't have the money. She is suffering to help me. He doesn't have any bad intentions other than profit. However, because he wants to receive money, he is harming me and countless others." This creates a cycle of harming individuals in the search for profit in both a literal and metaphorical sense.

There is however a solution to our lack of fulfillment. If we could nourish ourselves with different values, it would be impossible for us to feel a lack of purpose. We need to fulfill the other person's desire to the same extent as our own. This will allow us to achieve a different kind of fulfillment. If we were to make an unnatural effort to think of others before our self, we could temper the never-ending cycle of suffering. When we think about other people, we see that everything we felt we were missing is now fulfilled inside of us. This is the means of building an environment based on connection and mutually beneficial values. If society were to begin to think this way, we would be free of the slavery of thinking only of ourselves and achieve a new sense of freedom.

This post was co-authored with Shay Raviv, a music composer and producer.