Wednesday, November 26, 2008
[a Sabbath table.]
Scientists have discovered a section of the brain which causes intense feelings of pleasure when stimulated, electrically or chemically. Wouldn’t it be great if, whenever we wanted to, we could stimulate that area of the brain and feel intense pleasure, beyond anything normally experienced?
We can. Methamphetamine is a chemical which very powerfully stimulates the pleasure center of the brain. If someone were right now to give you an intravenous injection of about 500 milligrams of methamphetamine dissolved in water you would probably be in a state of euphoria for about the next twelve hours.
So why don’t we all go out, buy a big box of meth and live happily ever after? All our problems would be solved!
The reason is because pleasure is very dangerous. People who actually do go out and buy a big box of meth or similar chemicals end up so absorbed by their euphoria (or “high”) that they forget about everything else – eating, hygiene, working, family responsibilities, everything. They quickly become homeless thieves, beggars and prostitutes before finally dying. (This is why, by the way, you cannot buy meth legally in the United States.)
The same is true of anything which gives us pleasure, whether it may be food, gambling, video games, sex, even exercise. We can become obsessed with anything giving us pleasure and neglect important spiritual, physical, emotional, social and financial needs. Pleasure can be very dangerous. Supposedly, a Puritan is someone who is deathly afraid that someone, somewhere, is having fun. They may have had a point.
So perhaps we need to nip all pleasure in the bud and become ascetics. We must go off to a monastery and avoid all pleasure.
Of course, this extreme could make life boring and depressing plus we would not have children. There must be a better middle path.
I think that the Torah shows us that path. We drink alcoholic beverages, but at home, with friends, in moderation. We have sex, but only with our spouses and only with mutual consent and there are certain periods of abstinence. We have a holiday each week – the Sabbath and many other holidays throughout the year, but we work hard too.
I think this is another example of the genius of Judaism – balance and moderation in life, so that we function to our greatest potential. Of course, what else would we expect from a self-help book written by our Creator Himself?
Posted by jewish philosopher at 2:45 PM