I settled down in Japan for an extended period after years of living a hand to mouth existence in the developing countries around the world. My hand to mouth living habits slowly waned as I began to enjoy the comforts of wealthier circumstances. For example, I began to treat myself to a weekly can of peaches. This was utterly delightful so after some months this turned into a biweekly splurge. Then, by years end I’d dropped all limitations. I’d buy a can of peaches anytime I desired. Whoopee!
This experience opened my eyes to the relative nature of pleasure. What initially was a truly pleasurable treat revolved into a take-it-for-granted routine. Not surprisingly, this drove me to up the anti and seek out ‘a real’ treat. Essentially, I had destroyed the initially divine luxury of peaches.
Lesson learned: There is a fine balance in chapter 1’s, Hence always rid yourself of desires in order to observe its secrets; But always allow yourself to have desires in order to observe its manifestations. The better that balance is, the more pleasurable life actually turns out to be. In this case, sticking to one can of peaches a week would have been more satisfying overall. On the other hand, I would have missed out learning this important lesson. This corresponds to an essential fact of nature pointed out in chapter 36: If you would have a thing laid aside, you must first set it up.
How can we tell when we are going overboard? Strong emotion serves as my warning bell… my canary in the coalmine. When we lose balance in ‘allowing ourselves to have desire’, the result is gluttony, obesity, addiction, gambling, meddling, lust in general… sex, drugs and rock and roll. Noticing imbalance in ‘ridding yourself of desire’ is more subtle. Feeling compelled to abstain from ‘allowing desire’ is a sure sign the pendulum has swung too far the other way. Tick tock, back and forth — we are clearly not biologically set up to stay in the middle.