Choosing Higher Delights

Task 10

Then Peter said, “See, we have left all and followed you.”  So he said to them, “assuredly, I say to you, there is no one who has left house or parents or brothers or wife or children, for the sake of the kingdom of God, who shall not receive many times more in this present time, and in the age to come everlasting life.  Luke 18:28-30

Cease from anger, and forsake wrath; do not fret – it only causes harm.  Psalm 37:8

We have physical sensations, emotions and deep feelings. We are multi-leveled beings. This gives life richness and depth.  Most of the time these different levels coexist inside us without problems.  They can support each other.

Imagine going out to a fine restaurant with a dear friend.  Besides the pleasures of the environment and the taste of the food, there are the enjoyments of conversation and friendship.  On even deeper levels there may be feelings of well-being and peace.

There are other times in our life when these levels are in conflict with each other.  We find ourselves in at a wedding reception.  The decor is beautiful.  There are fine music, delicious refreshments, and people having a good time.  If, for some reason, we are depressed inside, we feel empty and lonely even in the midst of a crowd of people.  The inner feelings and the external situation do not match.

There are other times when we get caught up in some external pleasure at the expense of higher delights.  We might  find ourselves choosing a lower delight instead of a higher one.  We can even do so at the expense of a higher delight.

Since each level of our life has its own pleasures or enjoyments, we can find ourselves choosing between lower and higher delights.  One of the great problems with negativism is that we get so much enjoyment out of a lower delight that it blocks us off from a higher one. The lower delight eclipses the higher one. There have been times in my life when I have wallowed in self-pity, feeling sorry for myself.  I have allowed the negative enjoyment of self-pity to get in the way of making a move to be with other people and to enjoy their company.  I preferred my own miserable company to the pleasure of being with other people.  I can also think of the many times in my life in which I made that little bit of extra effort and found that in doing so I experienced a much higher level of delight.

Late one Christmas afternoon our family was gathered around the house.  We had just finished a big meal and were all feeling lazy and lumpy sitting there, and wondering what to do.  It would have been very easy to switch on the television, watch some mindless show and fall asleep.  But somebody in the family suggested that we should go out for a walk.  The initial response was very negative.  There was tremendous resistance.

After some discussion we realized that you don’t get much fun out of life unless you make an effort and so we piled into the car and drove to the trail head about six miles away.   Soon we were on the trail as the shadows were lengthening toward evening.

The air was crisp and clear and the golden setting sun was casting a wonderful light on all the saguaro cactuses decorated with newly fallen snow.  Yes, it snowed that Christmas, which was very unusual for Tucson.  We were walking among the cactuses watching the warm colors of the sunset reflecting off the snow.  Our hearts were full of joy.  We had a beautiful, refreshing walk.  When we got home, we congratulated ourselves on a wise decision.

We compared the invigorating experience of the beauty of nature to the numb pleasure that we would have enjoyed if we had stayed at home.  We couldn’t believe that we might have missed that opportunity.   It is not that there would have been any serious crime in lazing around.  It is just that we had chosen a higher delight, and we felt good about it.

Lower delights have their place in life.  We need times of external pleasure.  After a day’s work it is good to put our feet up, relax and just enjoy the sensual part of life.  If that were all we ever did, our lives would be lacking in the deeper pleasures.

Once I was sitting in a restaurant.  I looked over and saw a person near me eating an enormous meal.   The food was piled high on his plate.  After the main course, he ordered a horrendous desert, and I thought to myself: “This man is choosing the pleasure of taste over the delight of having a healthy body.  The external, physical delight of eating, is getting in the way of the superior delight of having general good health.”

Then I noticed that I was choosing the lower delight of criticizing my neighbor, passing judgement on someone I didn’t even know, over the higher delight of loving and honoring him.  The part of me that enjoys being contemptible of others and feeling superior was overeating its own particular delight.  It was a very low level of pleasure.

Once, when I told this story, a friend of mine said:  “You know, I had a situation just like that, only I sat and talked to the guy.  He was terribly overweight and was eating a huge meal.  After getting to know him, I really came to love and honor him and I thought if this is the worst he does, he’s doing OK, considering the various things he has to deal with in his life. It was nothing compared to some of the other things that came out when he told his life story.  I got to experience love for this person.”

Some people get caught up in promiscuity.  They have many different sex partners.  One reason people do this is that they enjoy it.  But compare the delight of making love to a series of strangers to making love as part of an ongoing commitment to someone you love!  One of the problems of promiscuity is that external delight robs people of  higher delights.

There is something very addictive about lower delights.  Many teenagers get caught up in shoplifting.  Why do they do it?  They do it probably because they enjoy it.  There is a rush of excitement.  There is a feeling of glee because of getting away with something illegal.  Plus there is the enjoyment of having things that they might not otherwise be able to afford.

There could be all kinds of pleasures in shoplifting.  This is not to recommend it!  People who do “bad” things, do so because they enjoy it.  So what is wrong with that?  There are two obvious answers:

  1. By stealing they are hurting other people.
  2. By indulging in the lower delights associated with stealing, they are missing delights of a higher order.  They are blocking the satisfaction that comes with making an honest living.

People who have moral standards and try to live honestly have a satisfaction in their lifestyle that is on a higher level than the joy others experience in deceit and fraud.  They are more at peace with themselves and they experience higher levels of delight.

Why do people yell and scream?  No doubt there are many reasons, but a very simple reason is that it is fun to get mad!   If the other person has done something outrageous that makes the screaming seem to be justified. It’s even more fun.  So what is so bad about that?  It robs them of the deeper satisfactions that come with living peaceful and sensitive lives.

I know people who are chronic fighters.  It seems that there are always reasons to be in a fight.  If things get too calm, they stir them up.  Why do they do this?   I think it’s because they enjoy it.  They might even say: “What’s wrong about this?”  And the simple answer is that by indulging in their love of upset they are robbing themselves of higher pleasures.

When the state you are in is negative, notice whatever enjoyment you may be having from it. What higher enjoyment is being blocked by the negative delight? Let go of the negative and allow the positive to take its place.