Mature Pleasure

"The five principles of aloha, when practiced together, awaken our awareness of our human potential and the sacredness of our life. We taste the profound and lasting joy this awareness can bring, and we begin to actively seek the things and lifestyle that bring us this type of joy. We forsake empty, momentary thrills for whatever brings deeper, lasting, meaningful pleasure.

"To fully appreciate the Third Way of thinking that underlies the pleasure prescription, you must understand the concept of Oceanic maturity. Healthy pleasure is an experience beyond brief intense, uninhibited, and childlike stimulation. To live by the pleasure prescription is to develop a maturity that transcends socioeconomic security, social approval, or private success. Healthy pleasure requires much more than the economic ascendancy emphasized by Western psychology or the spiritual transcendence stressed by Eastern psychology. It requires the type of emotional maturity understood and practiced by the Oceanic cultures.

"In Western culture, adulthood is defined by independence, and cleverness in acquiring, keeping, and protecting assets. In the Eastern paradigm, maturity is based more on individual spiritual criterion. Introspection is emphasized and acquiring individual wisdom and knowledge is a major focus. The Polynesian definition of maturity — being in a growing relationship with others and the world — is seldom a criterion for status in the East or job advancement in the West.

"The Third Way, living by the principles of aloha, emphasizes tolerance and forgiving interdependence. People are of the world, not in it, and so a person is judged adult by behaving responsibly and caringly for the world and by being able to take great pleasure from small things. The enchanted view of the world held by children is seen as the way to adult maturity, not a distraction from it.

"Maturity is a pleasurable life based on daily balanced, respectful interaction with the earth, and a freedom from needing some thing or some insight to flash us into happiness. Unhappiness is not to be avoided but learned from; happiness is to be appreciated but never taken for granted. And, pleasure is a natural gift for caring, not an entitlement. Pleasure is the experience of living life to our full potential without diminishing — but enhancing — others' potential for a joyful life.

"If we view pleasure as a reward for doing and having, we will forever seek it, but never truly possess it. This is because it is based on 'things,' fulfilling internal desires with outside rewards. All desire states are by their very nature temporary, and desire causes desire. Thus, when we have everything we want, we always seem to want more. Progress, development, and change can be highly valued, but only serve to stimulate the drive to more 'getting.'

"If we take the view that pleasure is to be found in self-knowledge and individual insight, too much contentment becomes suspect as indicating worldly rather than spiritual involvement. Like the happiness derived from consumerism, joy from personal discovery is also transitory. The brain never says 'that's enough,' because the brain is wired to pursue never-ending self-preservation.

"Both these approaches stress the importance of not being happy with what you have or how you are. The Third Way of the Oceanic cultures teaches the exact opposite. Instead of always going somewhere, Polynesian culture understands being here. Pleasure comes from joining and helping more than from competitive winning or comparative individual wisdom. It is enough to fish today, to talk to the ocean and its inhabitants, and to share the catch of the day with your neighbors even if you give all your fish away before you get home. They are involved in the joy of sharing all aspects of their existence. What is acquired along the way of the Polynesian path is a true feeling of belonging.

"Buddha taught that 'the cause of suffering is desire, and the antidote to suffering is the cessation of desire.' We are often directed more by our desire for intensity and things than the soul's need for beauty and shared delight. We think that having what we want will bring us joy, but the pleasure principle teaches that true happiness comes with wanting what we have.

"We spend about 15 percent of our waking life eating and taking care of personal bodily hygiene. The health terrorism has taken much of the fun out of even these activities, almost ruining what I call our vegetative joy. We are told that taste is secondary or even a distraction from our health and that we must eat only low fat, high fiber, low cholesterol diets. We have little time to linger in the shower or enjoy a leisurely tooth brushing without attending to ridding ourselves of deadly germs and dental plaque. We seldom even have time for a slow, restful, contemplative bowel movement because we are thinking about our next obligation or attending to the texture and consistency of our waste as another possible health alarm. We are given more and more medical self-test kits so we can detect the earliest possible warning signs. Like people with overly sensitive home security alarms, we end up prisoners of our own fears. As if the purpose of life itself were to be healthy, we lead our lives not knowing that the purpose of health is to find the higher purpose in life — mature, shared pleasure."