Long Form, Photo

Happiness and Ephemeral Pleasure

According to Kierkegaard, “many of us pursue pleasure with such breathless haste that we hurry past it.” If I ate this 1,200 calorie slice of cheesecake, would I be happy the next day? Is all pleasure ephemeral, lasting but a short moment?

I had a conversation the other evening with my friend Ward, and I mentioned that I find the pleasure derived from eating food to be ephemeral. (It would have been cooler, if I managed to actually pronounce ephemeral (“əˈfem(ə)rəl/”) properly.)

Ward astutely mentioned that all pleasure is ultimately fleeting. I agreed with him but later started thinking more about the idea.

Upon a bit more reflection, I can say that I find some cases where pleasure does last longer. For example my recent trip to China brought back memories of my trip to visit the Taj Mahal back in 2003.

My photo of the Taj Mahal from 2003*

I remember that during my visit, I smiled so much at the beauty of the building that my cheeks hurt for an hour after the visit. And the memory of that visit still brings me pleasure.

Yet, the memory of a great meal, like that of eating bistecca at Florence’s Buca Lapi or suckling pig in Madrid at Restaurante Sobrino de Botin — both great meals with good memories — doesn’t bring back any pleasure. Actually, both memories are making me hungry right now.

From our wonderful meal at Buca Lapi (Via del Trebbio, 1r). We need to return soon.

You know how people say that you should give experiences instead of objects because the pleasure lasts longer? Perhaps there is something in play here like that. And perhaps thats why we take so many photographs of our experiences, not of material possessions.

Pretty much the only photo I could find of “stuff”. Flickr needs to introduce a feature for that.

Then again, I have pretty good memories of my Mini Cooper, which I drove for about 12 years. Or is it the experience of driving the Mini that is bringing me pleasure now? Very hard to separate these issues.

While I enjoyed reading Kierkegaard in college, I’m not sure the author of The Sickness Unto Death is really the person whose lead I want to follow about pleasure.


(* Boy, digital cameras have come a long way since 2003. It’s always amazing for me to look back and see how photos from today’s iPhones take better photos than actual cameras from just ten years ago.)