Henry VIII

“They are inexperienced in pleasure and so are deceived when they compare pain to painlessness, just as they would be if they compared black to grey without having experienced white.” Socrates, in Plato’s Republic

It is hard to imagine what it would be like never to have seen the color white. One thing seems clear: such a person could not see grey for what it is. Colors that in reality are dark would seem to be bright, given this person’s inexperience in color.

Socrates thus offers an analogy for the condition of most humans: we are inexperienced in pleasure because we have not really experienced the highest and brightest. This inexperience discolors our perception of all pleasures. Even the pleasures we’ve known we do not see for what they are.

The idea is arresting. Who of us have the self-knowledge to consider ourselves inexperienced in the pleasures of human life?

The lower pleasures are low-hanging fruit–they are quite readily available. The higher, or we could say deeper, pleasures of life are not so ready-to-hand. They must be cultivated. And in one of the most dramatic paradoxes of life they can only really be tasted by those who have learned to say no, to wait, to put other people first, and first things first. Daily. These people taste, and they see. They are experienced in pleasure.

Home life should be a school in pleasure. This school will unite a disciplined rejection of a myriad of pleasures, from the evil to the banal, with a cultivation of higher pleasures, from the wholesome (such as family games) to the sublime (such communal reading of great texts, or prayer). We adults must take the lead in pleasure-training, for ourselves and for our families. If we don’t, the degrading forces of our culture will.

Plato (427-347 B.C.), a student of Socrates, and teacher of Aristotle, is considered one of the greatest philosophers of all time. The Republic is one of the most widely read and influential of all books.

Image: Henry VIII


The Ability to See with Our Own Eyes

“Man’s ability to see is in decline. Those who nowadays concern themselves with culture and education will experience this fact again and again. We do not mean here, of course, the physiological sensitivity of the human eye. We mean here the spiritual capacity to...

read more

Saying No to Alexa

“Man is the only animal nature has endowed with the gift of speech.” Aristotle, Politics It is estimated that almost a quarter of American homes have a voice-enabled ‘smart speaker,’ and experts predict that over half of households will within a few years. The lion’s...

read more

In Defense of New Year’s Resolutions

“For not to go only, but to enter there, was naught else but to will to go, but to will it resolutely and thoroughly; not to stagger and sway about this way and that, a changeable and half-wounded will, wrestling, with one part falling as another rose. The mind...

read more

Pin It on Pinterest