FREEDOM AND PLEASURE
One shares in the joy he imparts.
One’s pleasures are promoted by the participation of others.
A dainty delicacy is a delight when shared by others.
A beautiful scene is much more enjoyed in the company of other admirers.
The love of approbation is one of the social pleasures.
Courtesy is the result of intercourse. Even the recluse sometimes finds comfort in company.
The worst society slave sometimes finds pleasure in solitude.
Happiness is the aim of life. Pleasure is the road to happiness. Conduct that contributes to happiness is moral, or good. Conduct that detracts from happiness is immoral, or bad.
As pleasure is the greatest contributer to happiness it should be encouraged, not discouraged.
The pursuit of pleasure develops most that is worth while in character. It is the incentive to enterprise; it is the driving force to invention; it is the impulse that develops scholars, the impelling tendency to heroic deeds, and it engenders refinement and nobility.
Life contains more pleasure than pain, or it would have become extinct.
Love was a pleasurable emotion, or there would have been no union. The act of procreation was pleasurable, or there would have been no offspring; nursing gave pleasure to the mother, and thus the life of the child was continued.
The taste of food gave pleasure or there would have been no nutritional growth.
If these statements do not appear to be self-evident, the opposite view will show them to be so.
If life-destroying poisons had been pleasurable, mankind would never have been. If love had been painful and every touch a torture, repulsion and not attraction would have resulted. If digestion had been a disgust, the beginning would have been the end.
It ought to be plain to everyone that these functions were pleasurable and were performed to gratify the senses: without gratifying the senses they could have given no pleasure – and without pleasure there can be no happiness.
There are three kinds of pleasures: the material, the ideal, and the social. The material pleasures consist almost solely of the appetites, and the desire for the comfort of clothing and shelter. Art, poetry, music, books, travel, reason, knowledge, etc., yield the ideal pleasures. Social pleasures include love of esteem, mutual help, and social contacts generally; most enjoyments are derived from agreeable associations.
Every enlightened individual has passed through these three stages of social development: First, a savage; second, a barbarian; third, a civilized man. The civilized man is distinguished by his preference for ideal pleasures; the non-civilized, by his adherence to material enjoyments. That is, you can recognize the intellectual growth of a man by the pleasures he likes.
While these distinctions hold good, still the civilized man cannot dispense with the instincts, the natural appetites, for they cannot be denied without injury. When the natural appetites are sensibly gratified, there is an increase of vigor, a more acute sensibility, a more vivid fancy; discernment becomes more sagacious and impressions are more refined; sympathy is developed and extended.
It is to the interest of each individual to seek pleasure. In doing so, he is most likely to bestow pleasure on others; but he should seek it for his own sake first, for sensations are experienced by oneself: one cannot feel for another. If it is not to one’s interest to seek his own pleasure first, whose shall he seek? and who shall seek his? The man is best served who obtains what he wants himself.
Picture the reverse of this. Just imagine a scholar and an ignoramus each selecting pleasure for the other; or of a dunce and an artist, or a lady and a prostitute! The other person does not know what is needed in order to make you happy. The fact is, one serves others best by serving himself.
These statements are not only true, but they are generally accepted, and lives are directed by these natural impulses where there is no external interference. But there are now, as in the past, people who do not accept these truths or admit that the instincts or appetites are of service to man; they deny that pleasure is a good thing. Such is the attitude of the Puritan. To him the expressions of pleasure are evidences of evil; the twinkle of the eye is a sign of degradation; if the pleased smile, the Puritan scowls; if the joyous laugh, he growls, and to him a hearty shout is a passport to Hades.
Now, the modern Puritan, like his predecessor, would taboo the most innocent amusement as sinful worldliness, and he thinks the next thing to hell is a pleasure resort. He would dull one’s sight to keep him from enjoying the beautiful. He remains ignorant of art without any sense of privation. The Blue Law Puritan says:
“It is your duty to forego these pleasures. They were provided for your temptation,
so do not indulge; the way to be happy in the next world is to be miserable in this one.”
He wants you to be tantalized by the sight of pleasure that you dare not enjoy.
Prohibition in every line is his great remedy. A general denial of life is his policy. He would destroy the flavor of food to prevent gluttony. He would prohibit cordiality to prevent orgies. He would remove all the fervor from love to prevent debauchery.
The Blue Law Puritan has already made himself felt in many of the states. The editor of the Centerville (Calif.) “News,” of April 23, 1923, sums up a batch of Blue Laws under the heading:
“In Utah, you cannot buy, sell or smoke cigarettes in a public place.
“In Iowa and Georgia, you cannot tip a servant.
“In Texas, you are not allowed to preach or teach evolution.
“In Oregon, children are not allowed to attend private schools.
“In South Carolina, you cannot play pool or billiards.
“In New Jersey, you are obliged to dance under censorship rules.
“In North Dakota, you cannot buy or smoke a cigarette.
“In Massachusetts, according to law you cannot whistle on Sunday.
“In Kansas, it is a misdemeanor to be found in possession of cigarettes.
“In Arizona, you cannot get a shave or hair-cut on Sunday.
“In Nebraska, all skirts must be not more than eight inches from the floor.
“In Washington, you are not allowed to make unnecessary noises.
“In Philadelphia, you cannot playa washboiler in a jazz band ..
“In due course of time, some of these things will be remedied.”
In order to enjoy a thing, one must possess the capacity to enjoy. Enjoyable things mean nothing without pleasurable sensation, for pleasure presupposes sensation. The capacity of the Puritan to feel is dead or very weak: like the blind, he is not enraptured by the most charming land-
scape; like the deaf, he is not thrilled by the sublimest melodies. Let us pity these defective ones; they have not been properly endowed. But these defective ones must not be permitted to run this country as they once did. The same class also blotted out all that was joyful in some other countries.
It was bad enough when they imposed their deprivation on themselves only, as in one instance, that will be cited: History tells us of a period when abstinence was practiced on an extensive scale and of course led to grave abuses; large bodies of both sexes abandoned the pursuit of pleasure of civilized life and plunged into a condition of self-denial and gloom; from a condition of action to one of torpidity, from luxurious couches to pallets of straw, from delicious dishes to the coarsest foods. They believed that discomfort was more beneficial than ease; that frowns were better than smiles. This mental and physical attitude brought its reward. Refusing work, they became beggars. Men went nude and lived in caves. Some of the women, history records, “roamed in solitude with no covering except their exuberant hair.”
This is what the denial of life leads to.
This shows very clearly that abstinence is an extreme that is as harmful as overindulgence. Underindulgence as well as overindulgence is an abuse of the natural appetites. Abstinence and gluttony are the thinness and thickness of vice.
A natural appetite seldom induces dissipation, as a normal indulgence bestows satisfaction. It is deprivation that causes excessive indulgence. A perverted appetite produces vice, so that underindulgence as well as overindulgence is censurable conduct.
From these causes commonly grows the use of alcohol and narcotics. And as the taste for those is acquired, it must under no circumstances be mistaken for a natural or instinctive desire. There is always an underlying and extraneous cause that creates the drunkard or the drug addict.
The case of the total abstainer is worse than that of the overindulger. The second is curable, the first is hopeless. The first condition is mental, the second is physical and curable. An insane man learns nothing from pain or torture; a sensible person will avoid the painful thing the second time. The painful lessons of excess are learned by the freedom of indulgence. A penalty is paid for the abuse of an appetite. The gormand finds that gout follows gluttony. A night of dissipation is succeeded by a day of regret. Recklessness in business results in bankruptcy. Caution is acquired through the pain of excess. Knowledge is imbibed through mistakes. Foresight is developed by painful experience.
A sensible man will not need to experience these extremes to learn the lessons of caution. A slight pain will warn him of an excruiating one. A fall off the fence may prevent a tumble off a tower. But this natural method does not suit the Puritan. He has a superior way-and he is the superintendent. His profound plan is to suppress the instincts and appetites and to remove all temptations. This is some task, but he is some personage. Some of the great temptations are the automobiles and the boulevards; they tempt people to run over each other: remedy, remove the automobiles and the boulevards. The same is true of street cars and railroads, and the remedy is the same. Many people are tempted to commit suicide by jumping into the ocean: remedy, remove the ocean. The women have proved to be quite a temptation to men,-even Puritans have fallen for them: remedy, remove the women.
The Puritan would never think of strengthening character so it could resist evil temptations. He has the same aversion to strong characters that he has to strong minds; he believes in force, not reason. When he creates fear he thinks it is a virtue. When he compels obedience he calls it morality.
His attitude is renunciation for himself and denunciation for you. He makes every new truth run the gauntlet of censure, invective, imprecations and menaces. He believes that God implanted the instincts and desires in man, but that to gratify them is wrong and to crush them is right; to be happy is wicked, to be miserable is righteous.
His own personal restraint is prompted more by his bigotry than by his judgment. He measures the morality of an act, not by the pleasure it gives, but. by the pain it causes. He is so constituted that the misery of others is his delight. He is elated at the dejection of others.
It is fortunate for mankind that his gloom is not as contagious as cheerfulness, or this country would be a place of despair.
The reason the Blue Puritan must be resisted is that he is a menace to the people and the Nation, because he is a character destroyer. People are not made good by making them slaves. The proper way is to teach them to love the good and hate the evil. To regulate a man’s actions is to dethrone his judgment, Judgment is not acquired by slavish obedience. JUdgment and not Blue Laws is needed in avoiding harmful temptations. Normal indulgence and not total abstinence is the preventive of vice. So, if any are to be banned, let it be the extreme products of prohibition: the ascetic and the debauchee; the recluse and the profligate.
Generally speaking, people tend toward the right. They are not inclined to coarseness if they are capable of appreciating refinement. Obscenity is not indulged in by those who understand the attractiveness of purity. Vice is not chosen by people who know the superiority of virtue. It is not ignorance of evil that saves one from wrong, but knowledge of the good. It is not lack of power, but love of justice, that prevents the commission of crime. People are not virtuous because they could not be vicious, but because they prefer to be noble.
This all seems to be beyond the conception of the Blue Puritan. He does not comprehend that a person can best take care of himself. Men’s desires are safer guides that a reactionary’s rigid rules; they will make mistakes, but where they make one, the dictator would make ten. Where they would injure themselves once through freedom to act, the inspector would do it ten times by intolerance.
The Blue Law Puritan does not seem to know that vigor is lowered by denying desires; that character is degraded by thwarting a taste; that restraining actions prevent development; that disappointing people is not the way to refine them. It were much better for the Puritan to practice refinement himself than to abuse others for its lack.
THE PLEASURES OF ART
Musical art, with its glories of melody and harmony, enraptures the normal person, but if rendered on Sunday it enrages the Puritan.
The sculptor who chisels a perfect human form excites the commendation of the pure, and the condemnation of the prude.
The art of painting brings to the fireside enchanting scenes of the out-of-doors, but the naked limbs of trees make the Puritan unhappy. A savage prefers a red handkerchief to a masterpiece of Rembrandt.
There are many pleasures in this old world if one has the capacity to enjoy them. Those who have no capacity to enjoy things themselves should not have the power to hinder those who have.
The pleasures of life are largely realized through the activities of the mind and body, which need freedom and room to function.
Grant Allen says: “The old asceticism said, ‘Be virtuous and you will be happy.’ The new Hedonism says, ‘Be happy and you will be virtuous.’ ”
Different men have different forms of pleasure, and each man must have the freedom to enjoy such pleasures in his own way, provided only that he does not injure another or violate the law of equal freedom.
Pleasure is not the end sought; it is the means to the end, which is happiness. Many people get no further on the road than pleasure, but that is all the more reason why they should not be deprived of it. A smile is a contagious thing; try it once on your neighbor. Real friendship results from a reciprocity of kindness. Good will springs from mutual services. A well-developed people have mutual interests that create social sympathy. A highly civilized people suffer pain when pain is inflicted on others, and they are joyful when pleasure is bestowed on others.
Kindness paints a picture on a face that artists try in vain to portray.
Every beautiful view adds to the totality of our happiness. You don’t need to own the mountain to enjoy its majesty. Memory repeats the pleasures of past enjoyments. Beauties and delights are all about, ready to be enjoyed .. There are innumerable means to gratify the most exacting, if there is freedom to indulge. This old world is not naturally “a vale of tears,” as the Puritan says, but a panorama of wonders for the entertainment of all. Some can best enjoy solitude, while others find that social relationship is an inexhaustible fountain of joy. It is the right of each to partake of pleasure in his own way.