|W.B. Yeats (photography by Alice Boughton)|
Certain sensations produce feelings of pleasure, but it’s purely personal. As a child you may remember dreading liver or Welsh rarebit and loving fried chicken and hamburgers. You may have been one of those kids who hated school regardless of how you performed and loved vacations. But things change. School can become a remarkably friendly place, especially if you're in your later years and voluntarily enrolled in a continuing education course which fills you with ideas say about Dostoevsky that make you feel youthful again. You may even have developed a taste for liver and Welsh rarebit while finding yourself particularly disinclined to greasy fried foods. One of the many pitfalls of age is of course the dulling of the senses that runs hand in hand with the lessening of libido and desire. However some general rules and problems seem to apply no matter what age you may or may not have attained, with those activities that are less pleasurable actually turning out to be easier to handle. No one likes an invasive procedure, like a root canal or colonoscopy. If there is any pleasure associated with such activities it lies in getting them over with. Blatantly pleasurable activities pose a totally different problem to the extent that they end. What's the point if gobbling down a delicious meal if it has to be over? What's the good of a wonderful sexual interlude if it has to come to an end, hopefully with mutually mind blowing orgasms for the participants. You want pleasurable activities to go on forever and they're unfortunately characteristized by an intrinsic finitude. The last lines of W.B. Yeats’s “A Man Young and Old” may be applicable when it comes to the conundrum of pleasure:
"Never to have lived is best, ancient writers say;
Never to have drawn the breath of life, never to have
looked into the light of day;
The second best's a gay goodnight and quickly turn away."