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A primer for pleasure.

August 14, 2009

I watched TV last night, which is in itself a rare thing. I really wanted to see “Consuming Kids” on the ABC – trailer hereOK, so it’s from the US of A, and a tad hyperbolic. But there was still plenty of food for thought in there.

Impassioned arguments on the evils of rampant consumerism are well articulated almost anywhere you want to look on the net, so I won’t go into much detail here. Suffice it to say I find the “you are what you have / you are what you buy” ideology loathsome. My interest here lies in the developmental (children) and neuroplastic (adult) aspect; particularly in relation to pleasure.

Our brains are constructed for making and experiencing pleasure. It’s why we bother to learn anything – from how to crawl as infants to how to use Facebook as adults. Pleasure is our reward throughout the learning process. And we need to learn – humans have the longest period of helpless infancy – so pleasure is a pretty strong survival necessity.

It’s little surprise then that goods are marketed on the basis of the pleasure gained from consuming them. Pleasure, commodified, is reduced to things-you-can-eat, things-you-can-wear, things-you-can-own, services-you-can-buy. Sensual pleasure is simplified into what you put into your mouth (sugar treats for the family and a variety of alcohols for adults) and what you can entice others to put elsewhere (you’ll look hot in this push-up bra….viagra anyone?).

Well, if you’re reading this blog, you probably already know or at least suspect that pleasure isn’t limited to finance, food, and fornication. It doesn’t need to be heightened, or enhanced, or purchased. It just needs to be found, and that’s getting more difficult in our increasingly branded and commercialised world. I reckon this little book is a great starting point:

Tove Jansson's The Summer Book

Tove Jansson's The Summer Book

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