A Meditation on Modern Life and Pleasure

Following my recent comments on the nature of stress, here’s a similar analysis of pleasure and how not understanding what makes us happy may be making us unhealthy.

Like stress, pleasure is divided into three phases. – surprise, anticipation and denouement. Let’s take the example of your other half deciding to give you a treat.

Surprise – you get a text message at work, “I’m home early and preparing your favourite meal” or “The kids are staying with Grandma and I’m not wearing any underwear”. Hey – whatever floats your boat.

Anticipation – you spend the afternoon daydreaming about the evening awaiting you at home. (Probably not doing your job very well, but at least you’re happy.)

Denouement – you get home from work and…


But what we forget is the pleasure of the first two phases. Many of us are so focussed on the final stage that we fail to see what we’re missing. Is this why people overeat? Are we stuffing our faces with fast food, when what we really want is the smell of dinner cooking for an hour before we’re able to sink our gnashers into it? Is this why courting is out of fashion? Why no-one saves for anything? Perhaps this explains why we make impulse purchases we later regret. Food for thought indeed.

There’s a lovely line in Jurassic Park (book and film) that sums this up. The scene centres on a goat being staked out to attract a T. Rex. Dr Alan Grant (Sam Neill in the film) observes, “He doesn’t want to be fed – he wants to hunt.” Prophetic words in the story – but maybe that’s the root of our unhappiness about food. We don’t want a double-mega-stackhouse burger with gigantic fries, onion rings and full fat cola. What we really want is a house full of the smell of a pot roast in the slo-cooker. Or bread baking. Or sizzling bacon.

Maybe there’s something to be said for satisfying our appetites with anticipation as much as the end product. Maybe the best diet is one that includes enjoying the preparation of our food as much as eating it.

Right – I’m off to the kitchen. I’ll be the one frying onions.

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