Easy pleasure, little reward. Demanding pleasure, greater reward. I’ve continuously noticed the prevalence of this maxim in my day-to-day living.
More so, if you opt for the ways of the easy, the little reward there is has that tendency to later result in severe frustration.
Examples are numerous.
Most of the developed world feeds on much processed and refined foods. And most of this group looks the part.
The only reward in it lies in the brief passage of chewing, swallowing, and imbibing the happy chemicals. Later ensues a series of less-than-pleasing factors among insulin spikes, diabetes, cardiovascular problems, low energy, resignation and, well, a lifetime of frustrating health issues.
Less pleasing it is to consume sour citric fruit, dark-green foliage, unprocessed meats, unsweetened fermented beverages, pure black coffee, seeds and nuts. Better yet, it’s not immediately pleasing. But the body and the mind gratify you long term.
Watching a trendy action/adventure/slasher/comedy film enables immediate excitement. But then follows that empty sensation and the desire to consume more easily pleasing content. It’s analogous to that insulin spike effect following a refined-carbohydrate, high glycemic index rich meal.
It demands increased patience to digest an abstract motion picture of imagery, allegory, symbolism, the surreal and the subconscious. Watch anything of Tarkovski, Bunuel, Bergman, Fellini, Sukurov or Kurosawa.
It’s these types of works that germinate over longer periods, extending the neuron pathways, fostering greater artistic appreciation, and generally cultivating patience for the less accessible but more rewarding.
Easy it is to consume information in tiny snippets: tweets, podcasts, social feeds, blogs, catered articles, televised programming. But it’s shallow, like this essay.
To limit your erudition exclusively to such content causes the attention to scatter, robbing you of the fortitude for extended focus on the more demanding and deeper content.
Don’t settle with the shallow-lane. Explore classic literature. Or classic philosophy. Read Moby Dick, One Hundred Years of Solitude, Brothers Karamazov, or the likes. Don’t read bestsellers and pulp.
A pleasant melody may sound catchy and rhythmic. It’s familiar. It’s also cliché. There lies no greater reward. You acquire nothing new.
Why not expand among the myriads of cross-cultural music traditions? Why not challenge your cognition with Indian Ragas, African rhythms, Swedish folk songs, the Baroque, or Free Jazz?
I tend to always allude to the latter, for the avant-garde Jazz forms became my predilect outlet for musical growth. However, one of these days it would behoove me to set course towards other horizons.
Let’s take yet another detour.
Consuming alcohol is easy and pleasing. How goes the common wisdom? It lowers our inhibition? And certain beverages consumed in measured doses even render health benefits?
Except that these benefits pale in comparison to abundant exercise and proper nutrition of natural ingredients. Alcohol also creates dependence. You become accustomed to associate social experiences with alcoholic beverages. The two fuse into one.
And then follow the short-term collateral effects the day after. And the long-term impact to the overall deteriorating health. Alcohol also drains finances.
On the other hand, why not exercise your authentic self in social spaces? Not resort to easy escape mechanisms, not fall victim to peer influences?
Be in the moment. Ride the wave of all those emotions inherent to social atmospheres and anxieties. Flirt with social invariance. Or take a hike.
You can choose to reach the mountaintop via a taxi, followed by a ticket kiosk; then a van, and another ticket booth; lastly the cable car; with notable inter-station delays; to then be consumed by mounds of selfie-photographing tourists as you intake the vista for 15 minutes.
Alternatively, you could simply hike the mountain at your own pace, leveraging your natural faculty, appreciating the depth of each feature. Near the peak, you might not even care for the vista, for the journey has already proven rewarding.
In addition, the journey also renders long-term physical and mental health benefits. It also weeds out the tourists.
You could indeed limit your touristic excursions to botanical gardens, guided tours, saturated museums, and cute mountaintops of those selfie photographers. You could hop from one pretty visual to the next.
Alternatively, you could emphasize one experience and consume it to the rim.
Meet a local and immerse yourself in a different lifestyle. Adapt a different language and entertain a three-hour conversation. Head to a natural park and rest on a stone for hours. Absorb all manner of vivid and subliminal imagery across the expanse.
Extract beauty in the simplicity and in the less conventionally beautiful visuals. Explore Patagonia, the dunes, the muddy docks, the marshes, the plains, the arid landscapes, the homogeneous forestry, or the favela.
It comes down to the following.
You could settle for the packages: the diploma, the frozen dishes, the automobiles, the three course meals of high glycemic index apperatives, the lifetime debt, the cruises, the six-point guided excursions, the group language courses, the glorified coffee cocktails, the unsolicited presentations, the five-piece bedroom sets, the multi-vitamins, the fully equipped kitchens, the Netflix subscriptions, real-estate full-service brokers, the career-boosting certificates, the 3-year warranties, the expedited delivery premiums, the corporate group lunches, and naturally, the gym memberships with personal training discounts.
You could also disregard much or all of the above.
Ignore social networks. Reject the 25-function mobile devices. Sell your own product, even if that product is yourself.
Or don’t sell anything. Likewise, don’t purchase anything. Lighten your baggage.
Take year-long ‘vacations’ with a backpack and no plan. Hitchhike from time to time. Walk around with empty pockets. Enter a new country with no accessible source of finances.
Count on nothing but your inner-faculty. See what happens. Just remember to live in accordance to your nature, as the stoics tend to say.
Questions, comments? Connect.