Friday, October 31, 2014

Drawing pleasure from the simple fact of existence

If all thought is based on analogy, if we create our understanding of the universe by comparing each new situation brought to our attention through our senses - the means that have evolved which enable our bodies to cope, survive, reproduce - to situations previously encountered...

If all our personal experience of the universe is in a very real sense only within our minds (for what other experience can we have?)...

If pleasure is a state of mind to be sought, one to be valued (even if displeasure is a sometimes necessary and often useful state of mind that among other things gives value to pleasure, and also prods us to actions that allow us to continue living and pursuing pleasure)...

Then should we perhaps recognize that a primary source of pleasure derives from the simple fact that we exist and have some means of exploring what exists (ourselves and everything else), creating richer analogies, making further sense of what we perceive?

Each intelligent being has different capabilities and tendencies of thought, but all can experience the complexity of existence and enjoy it in their own way.  I am not ignoring the fact that many people are forced into life circumstances that make it almost impossible to enjoy even the most basic facets of existence.  I suspect this may be true in similar numbers for many other intelligent animals.  My point is perhaps akin to the phrase "pursuit of happiness" in the U. S. Declaration of Independence, in that I think it would be a laudable goal to seek this as a right for all sentient beings, even though it is likely virtually impossible in an animal kingdom that has evolved through ceaseless competition for survival.  Predators are not going to lie down peaceably with prey, but people do not need to mistreat animals that they consider inferior, or have decided have no sensibilities and exist only for our purposes.  Even more certainly, people do not need to mistreat other people.  Of course, they will - we too have evolved characteristics that tend toward our own preservation at the expense of others - but we have the intelligence to see beyond this, to see above this.  An idealist's goal has to be to work toward a world where those who are able to make judgments rationally can exert more influence than those whose every action is dictated by aggrandizement and individual self-preservation instincts born of a time long past.

I was thinking of these things as I watched our young dog Ziva clearly deriving enormous pleasure from simple acts - running, eating, gnawing, smelling, looking at new objects, playing tug of war, resting on a soft surface, and so forth.  I would like to think that I have taught myself to enjoy much of what life has to offer, but there is still much for me to learn from a fellow traveler like Ziva.  Along the way, I find that I greatly enjoy sensing her happiness.  Sharing positive emotions can increase their power for both parties!



  1. Ziva is gorgeous!! There is something about her that is so warm and full of life and love. I'll go back and read all that you wrote later but I get the gist of it: Ziva is Zen!

  2. Strenuous activity
    can lead a person
    to quiet contemplation.

    The thrown rock has many thoughts, if it can be said to have any.
    ("Lava, lava, I have escaped, thank you pocket of steam in the magma plume of my birth!")

    1. Perfect! Where else can anyone find a photographer with such a great sense of humor and intelligence?! You and Ziva are such a winning pair (do you take her on photo shoots with you?)

    2. Ziva hasn't been to any photo shoots yet, but once she has matured a little I could see her being a helpful influence at certain kinds of portrait sessions. As for accompanying me when I'm trekking in search of personal subjects...well, in time it may be possible. I would enjoy it if it were safe.


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