G.K. Chesterton thought that everybody ought to get drunk once a year because if that didn’t do you good, the repentance in the morning would. There’s nothing like waking up to what you’ve done, whether it’s too much to drink or eat, or letting your anger fly. The remorse after a flagrant sin often does bring a sense of clarity and resolution. (How many New Year’s resolutions are made the morning after?) But if we don’t quite overdo it, if we keep our indulgence at a more moderate level, such clarity never comes. We never see it in black and white, for we’re always under the influence. No one stops to think about it. Pleasure isn’t nearly so much about true enjoyment as it is about anesthetizing ourselves. Think about the relief your idols provide: Is your desire truly and deeply satisfied, or does the relief come more through the temporary absence of desire?
I’ve had a nagging sense I was more pleasure-oriented than might be good, but I didn’t see the function of pleasure in my life until I had to face intense grief and loss. I tried every drug I could, and nothing worked. Not food. Not sleep. Not work. Not reading. Not even sex. I could not get away from the pain. And then it occurred to me: If I am trying to use pleasure as a drug in this case, how many of my so-called enjoyments are merely the same thing on a lesser scale?