Enchiridion XXXIV


If you are dazzled by the semblance of any promised pleasure, guard yourself against being bewildered by it; but let the affair wait your leisure, and procure yourself some delay. Then bring to your mind both points of time—that in which you shall enjoy the pleasure, and that in which you will repent and reproach yourself, after you have enjoyed it—and set before you, in opposition to these, how you will rejoice and applaud yourself if you abstain. And even though it should appear to you a seasonable gratification, take heed that its enticements and allurements and seductions may not subdue you, but set in opposition to this how much better it is to be conscious of having gained so great a victory.

This is especially excellent advice for those considering an extramarital affair, I think. 

There's a problem here with some pleasures, though, which are not obviously semblances in the sense that he has been using the term. A good drunk gets in where you live; it's as real as any other internal experience, an elation of the mind whose activity and experience is our proper business. A woman (or man, for some of you) might seduce by outward semblance, and bewilder the mind with her beauty; her attention might be thrilling and exciting in the way he is discussing here. A drink isn't like that. There's no excitement to be had in looking at a bottle or a glass; a good Scotch tastes good, but some of it doesn't even do that. The whole experience is in the mind.

You can still easily do what he's talking about: delay, and then think through two potential tomorrows. Wouldn't you rather wake up early, feeling good physically and also good about your virtue in having done the right thing? Wouldn't you rather avoid a day of hangovers and reminding yourself that you only feel bad because you didn't stop yourself from feeling bad? The advice is still worthy; I just question to what degree it counts as a semblance. That may be why drug and alcohol issues are so difficult for people to overcome; it's a thing that lives in one's own proper seat of power. 

1 comment:

douglas said...

Perhaps this juxtaposition you raise brings into question the degree our physical selves and our true selves are united or separable. By that I mean that drink affects your physical being, but as you rightly point out, it also affects one's true self, or consciousness. Is some physical thing really a semblance to us if it has that kind of power? To be able to reach into our consciousness like that?

I feel I'm saying this a bit sloppily, but I'm trying to get some work done, and that is definitely within my power.