Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Net Pleasures, Growing Relationships

Is a paradise beyond one’s level to absorb pleasure a paradise at all? Maybe, it’s actually the opposite of a paradise? The reason I bring this up is because the texts I study often discuss levels of paradise. They say that there are those who enter lower levels and those truly worthy who enter higher levels. Yet, do those on a higher level actually receive more spiritual pleasures or have they simply built up their their capacity for receiving spiritual lights to such a pitched level that their tolerance for divine lights has also increased? Therefore, maybe it takes more spiritual lights to provide them with the same pleasures as lower leveled souls experience with less lights.

We see similar phenomena in this realm. I was thinking of using drug addiction and tolerance buildup as my example, but let’s stick with a healthy example. A middle class person enjoys an occasional fine dine as a treat. Maybe, two to four times a year, on special occasions, s/he’ll visit a restaurant offering fine cuisine and really take in the flavors, textures, fragrances, refined atmosphere and company. To a fairly wealthy person, visiting such a restaurant might be something s/he does every week or two. Clearly, the very wealthy person does not derive the same pleasure per visit as the middle class person does. To derive the same pleasure, the wealthy person needs to visit a much more exclusive restaurant; one even more refined and cultured.

Whether or not I am correct, I don’t fully know. However, following the principal “the heavenly kingdom is like the earthly kingdom” or “as below, so above”, it makes perfect sense to me that the same pattern applies to pleasures in paradise. As the levels of pleasure we receive on earth are largely shaped by our capacity to receive pleasure, so too, with the pleasures offered in paradise. The more developed one’s capacity to receive, the more spiritual lights are needed to achieve the same level of pleasure. This reminds me of the saying, “Little children little toys, big children big toys.”

If this is the case, why grow, when the same net pleasure can be provided for less just by being less? Perhaps, an answer can be found in the phenomenon called, “Been there, done it!”. After enough repetition the old level gets boring and loses its capacity to provide pleasure. Constant pleasure is not pleasure at all. The lights it provides cease to excite. How many times can a studious first grader find excitement in the ability to put together the letters “c”, “a”, “n” and spell “can”?

When the old level is worn out, listless and boring, new capacities need to be built to receive new lights. This is what gets the growing going. This all explains why the “pleasured” wants to grow. However, it does not explain why the “Pleasurer” creates the need for growth to begin with, if there’s not necessarily a net increase in pleasure at all.

Think about it. In such a scenario, the only thing really increased is the dispensing of the substance which creates pleasure (i.e. spiritual lights), but not the pleasure itself. Perhaps, that’s exactly the point. Ultimately, what the Creator seeks is a relationship. The pleasure is only one factor in the relationship. What the relationship really centers around is the “substance” which creates the pleasure rather than the pleasure itself. The first set of ten commandments offered a deeper relationship than the second set. The ten commandments are a “substance” or spiritual light around which a relationship with the Creator is formed . The higher Garden of Eden represents a deeper relationship with the Creator than a lower one. Again, the revelations in each Garden form the substance which the relationship is formed around. They are mediums of relationship, not unlike an activity shared by a loving couple.

Interim levels of pleasures just create the incentives to grow and build up soul/body units to the levels where their relationship with their Creator deepens. The more developed the person, the more of the self is invested and involved in the relationship. So while pleasures are important, they’re largely in service of the actual goal, the relationship.

This also changed the way I understand one of the central teachings in Rabbi Moshe Chaim Luzzatto’s “The Way of God”.  He assures us that the Creator only wants to impart goodness and benefit humanity. I usually understood this to mean that the Creator wants to endlessly pleasure us. However, now I understand the Creator’s “doing good” in a different way, i.e. building an ever growing and deepening relationship with us.

No comments:

Post a Comment