I vaguely remember from Great Books (that was 25-odd years ago now) that some Greek philosopher or other described pleasure as being the absence of pain, and one of the thoughts I had in the class (can’t remember if I brought it up now) is that so often in the modern world, we now define “pain” as the “absence of pleasure” — that is, if you’re not actively enjoying yourself, you consider it painful. (“Math is hard,” said Barbie.) And a lot of people do seem to have forgotten that there’s a joy in good old hard work and that even stuff that isn’t fun at the time can teach you something.
That was Epicurus, who in contemporary times seems to have acquired a reputation for being something of a swinger, or at least advocating being something of a swinger. In fact, he did nothing of the kind; what Epicurus advocated was striving to rid ourselves of pain and suffering, which would perforce leave us in the pleasurable state of ataraxia, defined spiffily as “robust tranquility.” I could definitely go for some of that.
But, last night, as I got into bed, I thought, yeah, when you’ve been in pain for a while and that pain goes away, it IS pleasure. And it’s something to be grateful for, and I was.