“I should like to like Schumann’s music better than I do; I dare say I could make myself like it better if I tried, but I do not like having to try to make myself like things; I like things that make me like them at once with no trying at all.” Samuel Butler. Here in lies the largest part of men’s dissatisfaction with life; we don’t like having to try and make ourselves like things. Be it asparagus or algebra, prayer or Pilates, we don’t want to cultivate ourselves but would rather dine on spiced sauces and cheesecake.
This comes from an essay titled, “On Knowing What Gives Us Pleasure.” He considers the importance of putting a sufficient value upon pleasure, and there is no greater sign of a fool than the thinking that he can tell at once and easily what it is that pleases him. To know this is not easy. Please understand me to mean pleasure that is life giving, love expanding, holy and just, found in God and in the vast abundance of good things He has provided in creation.
Much of what we consider to be pleasure we learn from our ancestors and we adopt these without question. The reason this interests me is I see in the men and women I minister too, as well as myself, a contentment with less: less spiritual life, education, fullness, less of life in general, much less.
We adopt routines, accept things as they are and make little effort to change, and when we do seek change, we may pursue it as a blind man launching out in any direction hoping to stumble upon and find pleasure without sacrifice. I agreed with his advice about seeking methods to obtain pleasure --
“To those, however, who are desirous of knowing what gives them pleasure but do not quite know how to set about it I have no better advice to give than that they must take the same pains about acquiring this difficult art as about any other, and must acquire it in the same way--that is by attending to one thing at a time and not being in too great a hurry. Proficiency is not to be attained here, any more than elsewhere, by short cuts or by getting other people to do work that no other than oneself can do.”
I think the Bible teaches us that life is strategic and deliberate, if we will find gold we will have to roll up our sleeves and dig because few are the nuggets found on the surface. In 2 Tim. 1:6 Paul stirs us by saying, “For this reason I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you…..” My library has many books, which inspire and encourage people to press in and take life in earnest. I’ve read much and even seen in a few movies that offer encouragement to expand our horizons, on whatever level. The Dead Poets Society comes to mind. Being a child of the sixties, it left its mark on me as well, to question, to think and look beyond the borders was the mantra of the time.
I thank God for all the influences that have come into my life and inspired me to reach out for deeper meaning, deeper relationships and brought greater and lasting pleasures as well as interests that are meaningful and help keep life new and fresh.