Monday, June 2, 2014

C.S. Lewis on Two Kinds of Pleasures

Might I attempt to not bore you with excerpts as long as a book but I am reading "The Four Loves" by Lewis and I have suddenly had that "ah ha" moment when you stumble upon the exact words you've been looking for for months, words to perfectly define a thought you've been unable to properly gather.

While pondering what delight one may find in a life of frugality and simplicity; noticing the little things and being happy with them I still have yet to come up with my own words to explain why simple can be so grand.

Now it is a very old discovery that pleasures can be divided into two classes; those which would not be pleasures at all unless they were preceded by desire, and those which are pleasures in their own right and need no such preparation. An example of the first would be a drink of water. This is a pleasure if you are thirsty and a great one if you are very thirsty (need-pleasure). An example of the other class would be the unsought and unexpected pleasures of smell - the breath from a bean field or a row of sweet peas meeting you on your morning walk (appreciation-pleasure). You were in want of nothing, completely contented, before it... an addiction may turn what was once a pleasure of the second kind into one of the first. For the temperate man an occasional glass of wine is a treat... but to the alcoholic, no liquor gives any pleasure except that of relief from an unbearable craving... Need-pleasure is the state in which appreciation pleasures end up when they go bad. -Lewis

He is certainly not calling need-pleasure bad but that an appreciation-pleasure can be ruined is indeed fact. I'd like to hypothesis that in our society many of the appreciation-pleasures have gone bad and they've turned to need. So many of us need to go shopping for shoppings sake, need to redecorate our homes (lavishly), need to acquire new clothing (for fashions sake), need better and nicer food. We are very in need as a society when it comes to pleasures; not very easily satisfied, if ever. I think one of the main goals to frugal/ simple living is to need little. And in needing little our appreciation-pleasures abound to greater lengths. There is something so incredibly beautiful about appreciating tiny things because your mind isn't bogged down by an ever increasing list of wants/ needs unmet. Truly the more one "needs" the more unsettled one is.

I may be stepping out on a limb but I don't think I'm wrong in stating that our society has turned many an appreciation-pleasure into need. We need so much more these days to be contented. But do we really? That is what simple living is about; needing so much less than the average joe and appreciating so much more.

Need-love says of a woman "I cannot live without her"; Appreciation love gazes and holds its breath and is silent, rejoices that such a wonder should exist even if not for him, will not be wholly dejected by losing her, would rather have it so than never to have seen her at all. -Lewis


  1. I love C.S. Lewis such a wise and gentle man. His writings are so inspiring.

    1. I think inspiring is the perfect word. His works are so great!