Settling For Sensation

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We lose touch with our senses when we settle for sensation alone, or when we content ourselves with the fantasy of something, rather than with the thing itself.  We can be so absorbed in our image of the pleasure of chocolate, for example, that we lose all contact with our body, and do not even know whether it actually considers chocolate pleasurable or not.  Consumerism is not a result of the body's appetites; it is sustained by the artifical stimulation and creation of desires. If we allowed ourselves to savour more, we would undoubtedly buy less.

We would buy less because a genuine pleasure is full-filling, it is the perfectly natural and healthy satisfaction in the exchange between the senses and the surrounding world.

When Psyche left the Valley of Paradise and returned to earth, she gave birth to the child of Eros, Pleasure.  Pleasure is an awareness of the passage of Eros.  It is an erotic response to life, onethat is physically moving.  The body shudders, quivers, and trembles with leasure.  Like 'Erotic', it is a word that has lost its original savour.  The litmus test for a sin in the Catholic Church is still the question, 'Did you take pleasure in it?'

Pathos and pain are as much a part of an erotic life as joy and pleasure.  Eve took on the responsbility for her consciousness and suffered the pain of childbirth and eventual death.  There is reat pathos - a richness of feeling that could be passion as well as suffering - in every transition from innocence to knowledge.  Many of us suffered the passion of moving from the bliss of romantic love to the more sober work of forging an enduring relationship. Suffering of this kind has vitality; it can help the light of a person to shine more strongly.

Both pathos and pleasure are bodily knowings.  They are sensous and sensual experiences, living proof that we are alive, and in touch with the rest of life.  This is the case if Psyche's lamp is shining.  If the heart is alseep, pathos becomes sheer pain, and pain and pleasure remain at the level of sensation.

When the heroines in the film Thelma and Louise decide to break out of the stifling conformity of their small Southern town in the United States, leaving no note and not knowing where they will end up for the night.  They soon find trouble, and one trouble leads to another.  The excitement of trouble can be addictive, and during the course of their journey Thelma and Louise metamorphose from dumb blondes into wild and reckless women on the run, with several state police departments on their tail.  The flm ends with the ultimate wildness of driving their care over  a cliff.

Thelma and Louise took their courage in their hands, and like Eve, they defied husband and lover, and went in the face of law and order.  However, the joy of their liberation soon turned to violence and they eventually turned their violence on themselves, taking their own lives.

The unfettered aliveness of the erotic current will turn to violence, madness, or death, if it is without any guiding light.  Irrationality, it turns out, is no valid replacement for rationalism.  The film is profoundly moving in a tragic way.  It seems to show no alternative to stereotypes of male abuse of power vervus the female furies.

Thelma and Louise were desperate to feel life coursing through their hearts and minds.  Like drug addicts and alcholics - like all of us in our own less obvious ways - they were longing for the ecstasy of a full-blooded life.

Sensation on its own - however orgasmic - ultimately fails to deliver the goods.

One reason we seem to be such a pleasure-hungry society is that we are habitually looking for it in the wrong places. The shiny surface of life will always bounce us from pain to pleasure, rationality to irrationality, good to bad, and back again.

The deeper connections and currents between things takes place below the skin, and they are illuminated by the softer light that Eve brought into the world - not the power of a spotight, or the cutting edge of a laser beam, But rather the more feminine light of a candle, or a lamp, such as Psyche shone on to Eros.  This light from the erotic heart is more diffuse, altogether softer, letting things remain in their surroundings rather than picking them out.  Instead of being judgemental, it is receptive and discerning.  Instead of destroying, it warms the world.

This is the light that connects us to life's intelligent ways.  Rather than being something we turn on or off at will, it is a knowing that we can participate in.

We tend to live collectively in the myth of self-determination, with the idea of ourselves being in control, and at the helm of our lives.  But Eve did not rationally choose her way as a conscious ego; she let life choose her, seeing that it was good.  She willingly played her part in the unfolding of a larger story which had its own intentionality and logic. We are part of the same story now, as it is unfolding in our time.

At a more local level, we are part of a network of lives - our family, friends, enemies, and colleagues - that make up own own personal story.  The erotic soul is not something we have; we are immersed in it.

Excerpt Soul and Sensuality by Roger Housden

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