You’ve got a warm bagel with cream cheese, a hot cup of coffee, and a seat by the window. Circumstance and opportunity: you have an hour to yourself, and you haven’t eaten yet. Morning light turns overnight puddles into silver pools on the pavement, and the clouds overhead are still hanging like drapes not yet pulled open. Your smart phone sleeps in your pocket, and you don’t consider reaching for it. The morning stretches open like a poem.
There’s nothing particularly remarkable about the moment except the unusual luxury of time. To steal a famous phrase, that makes all the difference.
Pleasures are different than getting what you want. Finding a parking place in a busy lot is about getting what you want. Pleasure is about appreciating the grace of successfully backing in to that space on the first try.
It’s one thing to pursue pleasure, it’s quite another thing to appreciate it. Hearing music and listening to music are not the same thing, and the choice to fill intangible space with music does not always yield pleasure, even if you like the song.
Pleasure often intersects with time; the two require each other. Pleasure is not the principal engine of creativity, I’m sorry to say, but as I age I find that it can be a powerful spark for creative discovery.
Navigating the double doors of the glass vestibule to the bagel shop, a middle-aged couple lost in private flirtations drift in, thinking less of breakfast than going to get it together. Each dressed in cozy fleece and blue jeans, they project a sense of being right where they want to be, immune from time’s relentless erosion. Their arms seem to wander in and out of entanglements around waists and elbows as they wait at the counter. Their eyes drift back into each other’s faces again and again, a private conversation continuing without words even as they place orders. They collect their bags in paper sacks at the register, pull handfuls of napkins from dispensers, and drift back out into the rising light. I cannot know their stories, of course, but I know enough to recognize the pleasures that attend them at this moment.
A lack of fulfillment often motivates people to create things. Artists remake the world by creating new realities; business leaders lean in to their plows to create new revenue streams; scientists gather data and explore the universe to create new understanding. Pleasure brings its own reward. It begins and ends like a thief, sneaking in to consciousness unannounced and disappearing like a shadow in sunlight. It’s never false, even if it’s sometimes short lived, and it can reinvest a person in the best reasons to stay engaged in the short, often challenging lives we all inhabit, no matter how fortunate or unfortunate we may happen to be.
I’m sitting in a bagel shop, a simple breakfast on the table in front of me. The cream cheese imparts its familiar tang against the chewy sweetness of the bagel’s interior. Vapor rises from the coffee like a a languid chanteuse. I take my time, listen to sounds around me, watch cars through the glass like a wildlife photographer spotting rare birds through rushes.
There are no greater pleasures than experiencing ordinary things with adequate time and undistracted attention. It’s rare, perhaps, but not so elusive as one might think. But taken as sparks for energizing creative souls, genuine pleasures should never to be missed. Sunlight shines warmer, music sounds soulful, and kisses can stop time.