Friday, April 20, 2012


"Feeling lurks in that interval of time between desire and its consummation." ~Aldous Huxley, Brave New World

Is there a point where indulgence detracts from the experience of consumption? I used to think value came from the will power to practice restraint. Later in life I realized that I was taking this idea too far, that the value of the human condition comes from experiences. What we do seems to hold more value than what we refrain from doing. 

I just finished reading Brave New World, Huxley creates a society based on indulgence and it is a boring, predictable place where everyone gets what they want when they want it. They indulge in beauty, in youthfulness, in travel and sex with whomever and whenever they want. The Savage in the story introduces the concept of work and wait and earning a reward. He says that if the New World had a god they'd have a reason for self-denial, seemingly implying that this is where the human life gains the feeling that lurks between desire and its consummation.

In some ways I suppose this is true, yearning is what makes consummation so delicious. But is a concept of God really necessary for self-denial? Perhaps...I mean if it weren't for fear of judgement why else would anyone withhold from themselves all their corporal desires?

In many ways I think the world of Aldous Huxley has arrived. Without regard for an all-knowing being who has our best interest in mind, and who ensures just punishment for those who stray from the straight and narrow, we do indulge; indulge in consuming material goods without the toil of work, in consuming technology that makes our lives easier, consuming sex without restraint, alcohol as often as we like, sweet foods at the instant we crave them...nothing is forbidden.

Is it our personal responsibility to practice restraint; as an act of respect to ourselves? Simply in order to ensure the consummation is that much sweeter? Is that a good enough reason? Perhaps constant satisfaction, although weaker on impact, is greater in total than a few intense experiences. But then how do we avoid entering into the bleak, predictable, emotionless culture of the Brave New World? Are some forms of restraint more valuable than others? For example the wasteful consumption of material goods versus the satisfying consumption of sexual desire? Is restraint necessary in order to experience that feeling of intense fulfillment? And is it possible that the 'feeling' produced in the space between desire and consummation is partially responsible for the human tendency to submit to an idea of 'god' in the first place?

I don't know the answers to these questions. However at this point in my life I tend to lean toward indulgence and experience. Perhaps its my youth or the security I feel about not going to hell for my transgressions, but I don't think feeling and indulgence are mutually exclusive. The Brave New World is still a world of blind obedience to a higher power. And although I'm not sure that we can ever think solely for ourselves, as there will always be societal influences, maybe the key to uniting indulgence and feeling lies somewhere in consciousness and self-awareness of our choices. 

Thoughts on this topic are welcomed and greatly appreciated.