Slide Show - Images (mostly) from The Illustrated History of Painting


Sunday, January 20, 2013

Fifth Labor

The pursuit of pleasure is fraught business.  Unlike work, pleasure allows little resort to edit or restart. Of unsuccessful first tries. False starts rarely afford pleasurably cathartic outcomes.

Because of its convulsively short and/or zipless long-form character – the release of laughter, a good nights sleep, the poor man’s opera of sex – the pursuit of pleasure is unforgiving. To repeat, to try again, is to eat the bitter pill of diminishing returns.

The phenomenon of diminishing return is the surest evidence of the unlikelihood of intelligent design, or compelling testament to universal governance by malignant demiurge. Take for example pain relief or intoxication. And for example opiates – which fills both bills. Remedy for real somatic agony and relief from the existential pain of intolerably persistent consciousness. In both cases the more one doses the less effective the anodyne.

The solo pursuit of pleasure presents less risk than dyadic attempts. No witnessed doubling down on dumb or disappointment shared in lone failure. Disappointment squared is more than twice the sum of its perceptual parts and twice the moral stupefaction. The pursuit of delight in groups is mostly outside my experience … but I would imagine, with groups, that joy and disappointment are both dilute. 

Work, brought to the party in the first paragraph is, to my mind, the more reliable vehicle (with its historically generous accommodation of false start and edit) of temporal gratification – of compensation for our subjection to time-bound existence. As in anticipation of pleasure one doesn’t so much long for work itself as much as pine for labor’s reliable production of contemplative time - time-suspension, engendered by work’s absorptive possibility. Granting probation from the bondage of self – a concordant precinct of pleasure - and the near-miraculous millisecond of gratification upon work’s provisionally successful completion.

Unlike our organism, our self’s, incessant longing, demand, for pleasure … with its commensurate program of  waning yields … the desire to work (when pursued with something less than obsession and something more than moderation) is positively diametrical to the parlous Fata Morgana of pleasure seeking.

I do realize that I habitually contradict myself and talk shite in these, my serial blog-ditherings. But some Bizarro-World Hercules has got to shovel still-steaming bullshit (or is it horseshit?) into the Internet’s cavernous Augean Stables. And I’m just the redemption-through-work, recovering-Calvinist, for the anti-heroic job. Amen, and pass the mixed metaphor ammunition.