"One might think that all men desire pleasure because they all aim at life (…). Pleasure completes (…) life, which they desire (…). But whether we choose life for the sake of pleasure or pleasure for the sake of life is a question we may dismiss for the present. For they seem to be bound up together and not to admit of separation (…)." AristotleNicomachean Ethics, X, 4translated by W. D. RossFrom: We cannot deny that most of the great cultures have resorted to the simplistic distinction between soul and body, differentiating them clearly in their essence, even opposing them, and ascribing a lofty appreciation to the "soul," which they contemptuously refuse to the body. And we all know well that many moral ideals are associated with the mortification of the body, with asceticism, with renouncing pleasures in the name of the purifying virtue of bodily pain through privations and even torture (self-flagellation, many forms of penance). Without demonstrating (that would be pointless here), I will assert, therefore I will postulate that body and soul are two faces of the same reality, that they cannot be separated except for an easy discourse and in order to place emphasis on one function or the other of the same self, which is body-soul, just like space and time are space-time. Has it never been appeared curious to you that Dante gives some kind of a body to the souls of the dead, which is not only appearance and simulacrum, since it can feel pain, and, implicitly, pleasure? And that the same Dante feels compelled to explain at length why, according to the Christian faith, we will come before the Last Judgment together with our bodies? Still, Christianity is one of the faiths that has taken the distinction between body and soul to the farthest, favoring the soul. And why is it that, according to the most reliable and proven testimony, certain states of mind provoked by hallucinogen substances are similar with states of ecstasy, up to being identical? But, before we reach ecstasy, pleasure has been given to us mortals made up of soul-body – the entire pleasure scale. And let no one say that pleasure is of the body and that it is a bodily thing. It is as immaterial and invisible as everything that, traditionally, has to do with the soul, like the soul itself. And he who calls his body his "swine brother," distinguishing it from himself and despising it with some kind of a tender and tolerant condescendence, forgets what dejection abysses the "human soul" can include. The body, although it is not pure nature, is innocent like any natural reality. A natural reality without which no soul or spirit, with all their elevations, have yet been seen in the world. And, speaking of nature, it has seeded pleasure and all the suffering of being deprived from pleasure in us, the pleasure to eat in order to stay alive, and the pleasure to love, so as to somehow perpetuate ourselves beyond death. In fact, it is a known fact that, in the history of life, love and death are relatively new inventions, full of felicitous consequences. And man has turned sex and perpetuation into an endless fairytale, which fills up his history. And sometimes he has even turned feeding into a subtle art. Let us also mention here the play of all the children in the world, which, regardless of its biological role, is accompanied by one of the most intense pleasures that can be experienced in life, as we can see just by watching their faces when they play, sometimes up to exhaustion. And we, who have grown up from the joy of this ancient pleasure, passing through days and years, have we not been given the pleasure of hearing the wind stirring up in trees, the coolness of the deep summer shades, the smell of snow, and the view of the unceasing sea? But, even apart from considerations about the degree to which a pleasure is elaborated, we will say that, no matter how pristine the level, pleasure, as it lies at the roots of life, is indispensable to life, and that, above any determined pleasure, the taste of life is given by the pleasure of being per se, which is more than the sum of the pleasures given to us, it is the manifestation of vitality, of the life luxuriance flowing through our veins and linking us to the life of the world. And even in the sphere of action: any action springing from our freedom to choose is accompanied and stimulated by the pleasure of exercising it. And pleasure, a certain intense and decanted form of sensuality, is implicit in the purest contemplation. Even Plato in Symposium, when he refers to contemplating Beauty as Form or Idea, assumes we do not reach it except by passing through an increasingly wide and lofty pleasure zone, which is analogous to increasingly abstract beauties. But we, rejecting Plato, will appreciate the pleasure that does not lead further than the beauty given to us here and now. And beauty, in turn, no matter how we might analyze it, cannot be separated from pleasure. Not even the most abstract beauty, which is apparently far from senses and desires. Without a perpetually renewed capacity for some kind of an orgasm, the world would be uninhabitable and unacceptable. We would be gnawed by boredom, a feeling of malaise, we would be lost in a lethal entropy. Even asceticism is conceived of as a path to ecstasy. And the élan that goes through life (and perhaps through the entire world) is either voluptuous or null. Paradoxically, this leads to the fact that, in certain conditions, pleasure may turn against life. Man, not being pure nature, may fall into pleasure like into an abyss and get lost there. Torn away from their context, which is that of the entire life and of the global pleasure to exist, certain pleasures may become killers, as we know. Only the man who has lost measure and his human wholeness cultivates those, the man whose vitality is somehow damaged, the one who is no longer able to experience the complex music of terrestrial pleasures and sells his soul for only one sound which, increasingly loud, becomes a scream and then death. And, if we think about this really deeply, even vices, to use an obsolete terminology, or at least some of them, are nothing but pleasure out of the context and becoming an excess, a lack of cooperation with the whole of all pleasures, which, well practiced, can become noble virtues, under the scandalized eyes of ascetics. Or noble and lofty assets of the whole man, who is wholly alive. Univers enciclopedic, 1995

by Petru Creţia