Innocent pleasures

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by L. G. William Chapman, B.A., LL.B.

When was the last time you had an ice cream cone? Or an afternoon nap?  When did you last listen to the rain fall? The defining ticks of life chronically center upon its more remarkable occasions, things like births, engagements, weddings and funerals, graduations, or a new job, house, car, jewellery, furniture or high-tech device, and – for some – retirement.  Such noteworthy incidents are irregular though their prominence tends to diminish the value of the pint-sized things in life. When however we have at last exhausted these significant opportunities of commitment, obligation, success and diversion (either because our appetite for transformation or our resources for perpetuating it have been fulfilled or expired), we resume that blameless state of nature in which we came unadulterated into this world, guiltless of excess, extravagance, indulgence or any other layered feature.  It’s just us and the world, our rude landscape up against creation.

Facing life without its peripheral components is at times disquieting.  It is perhaps easier to measure our evolution if we have the external indicia as milestones.  This begs the question:  By what standard do we calculate our life?

Removed from the traditional paradigms there happily remains a world of innocent pleasures.  Invariably the innocent pleasures are not costly and often hearken back to the days of our childhood, perhaps associated with some other harmless activity.  Such goings-on may include those for which there is no charge, the by-product of nature’s beneficence, like watching a setting sun or a rising moon.  The fruition of our existence may ascend from within, such as the advantage of a good night’s sleep or the stimulus of a hearty meal or a strong cup of coffee.  There are the unexpected blessings of friendship and charity, and sometimes just a good laugh.

Even in moments of distress there can be relieving incidents, awakenings to wisdom, insight and compromise.  These are not products available for purchase nor are they social customs to be enacted according to routine.  These innocent pleasures merely percolate with the effluxion of time though we must be open to them and not shroud ourselves in actual or metaphorical curtains, disguises and deliberate – and sometimes disabling – commotions.

The innocent pleasures are of intrinsic value.  They do not depend upon other standards for their worth.  We do not own them.  We do no wear them.  We do not acquire them or adopt them.  On the one hand they are not part of us yet they express our experience and sense of personal fulfillment.  Mastering the talent for appreciation of the innocent pleasures is a life-long process.  The attenuation of life’s complexities is at last replaced by the intensification of its simplicities.

The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock

T.S. Eliot (1888–1965)

I grow old … I grow old …        
I shall wear the bottoms of my trousers rolled.
Shall I part my hair behind? Do I dare to eat a peach?
I shall wear white flannel trousers, and walk upon the beach.
I have heard the mermaids singing, each to each.