The Daily Stoic for February 20th: “The grand parade of desire”.
“Robbers, perverts, killers, and tyrants—gather for your inspection their so-called pleasures!”
—MARCUS AURELIUS, MEDITATIONS, 6.34
Talking about drugs, alcohol, and these kind of indulgences Marcus Aurelius refers to as “pleasures” is subject to certain social irony.
On the one hand, our society condemns them when we want to show how politically correct we are. Good boys don’t do drugs, blablabla…
On the other hand, the same society presents them as cool, fashionable, and desirable. In order to be a rebel, a rock start, a tormented intellectual, these kinds of pleasures are a must. Having been in bands and music since I was 17, it was like something people expected from me.
This dichotomy is actually quite funny sometimes. While I don’t have a TV, there was one yesterday at the pub where I was having a coffee. An MTV-like channel was on.
The broadcast called my attention because right after a “Don’t do drugs” kind of ad, there was this hiphop video depicting a lot of people at a club heavily drinking, snorting some lines, and all that stuff that makes a Saturday night memorable.
I’m sure the latter has more likes in Youtube that the former. And the problem here is that this model is presented as the summit of entertainment. I mean, that’s what “fun” is supposed to be.
Am I sounding like a priest or Margaret Tatcher yet? I hope not 🙂
Because apart from these obvious extremes, generally, a pleasure is not necessarly evil in my mind.
The Grand Parade Of Desire
I don’t think there’s anything wrong with desires. They make our life enjoyable.
There’s a lot of stuff I enjoy and would call a “desire”. Reading a book in front of a chimney. Writing. Hanging out with friends for a walk or a beer. Having dinner with my partner, or watching a film.
There’s nothing wrong with that. So where’s the problem?
First, the problem is when someone tells you what your desires should be.
Then, the second problem is when those desires are potentially destructive, or can become an addiction.
Simply put, if your desires are simple, harmless and bring you joy, no stoic would be capable of demonizing them.
Today’s Daily Stoic, “the grand parade of desire”, invites us to think if our “desires” can be harmful vices. I personally don’t share this vision. I think there’s nothing wrong with pleasures like reading a book, hanging out with friends, or good sex. On the contrary, it’s in our nature to look for pleasure.
Of course, when you talk about potentially destructive addictions, like drugs or alcohol, that’s true. But I think that generally speaking, most people actually know the difference between a vice and a pleasure.