Lifes 10 Greatest PleasuresStephen Farah
A question a friend of mine asked me today, about whether I enjoyed ‘gourmet food ‘ and my answer that I really enjoyed good food , whether it was gourmet or not, got me thinking. It got me thinking about what the greatest pleasures in life are. I know it’s a tenuous link to the question about gourmet food, but hey there you have it .
So always on the lookout for good blog material, this post is about the 10 greatest pleasures in life as seen through my eyes. Pleasure is after all at least one of the essential components of leading a meaningful life.
1. A Good Coffee
My personal favourite is a Cafe Latte from Costa in London. Locally I would rate a cappuccino at any of the Woolworths restaurants as tops. At home we use fresh ground, dark roast, Arabica made with a stove-top-espresso-maker . The milk is warmed for 30 seconds and to this is added one teaspoon of honey (rather than sugar). It is in a word sublime, a way to start each day that actually makes getting up and out of bed worthwhile.
2. Having a Child
Nothing quite compares. Of course it comes with a few challenges and nappies. But witnessing the birth of my three children, I am fortunate enough to have a strict wife who insisted I was present at all the births even after I fainted at the first one, was truly unforgettable. It’s the kind of experience that makes having been born myself worthwhile. It is a bit gory though and not for the faint hearted.
Then beyond the birth, yes I would definitely rate having children as one of the most life affirming, joyful and poignant experiences. Heart breaking at times, but overall an experience which is so powerful and so life changing that even the most frostbitten, secular, atheist is forced to wonder about the mystery of our existence.
3. Being in Great Physical Condition
I have been involved in sport and been physically active most of my life. To be honest there have been times when I strayed from the rigours of athleticism and its demands, but I always come back to it. The reason is simply that being strong, fit and healthy is incredibly life affirming.
Two quotes come to mind from opposite ends of the spectrum one from the obese Greek restaurateur who said to me, in reference to his obesity, ‘Life becomes a mission.’
The other, and opposite, one comes from one of the toughest men I ever met. Lucas, an ex boxer who then was the toughest tough guy in Hillbrow, ‘Stephen there is no feeling quite like stepping into the ring and being top fit’
Sidebar: Lucas met his untimely end at the business end of a 38 special in the bar at the Summit Club not long after this.
Echoing that sentiment, when I was a younger man and at the peak of fitness I felt like a predatory animal , lean, mean, vital and alive! It was a unique and hedonistic pleasure.
4. Good Food
Good food must make a top ten list of life’s pleasures. Too vast a topic to say much about in only a few lines, but yes certainly one of life’s great pleasures. It helps when you have worked up a serious appetite such as one does on a cold day or after some physical exertion .
Good food is of course not only one of life’s great pleasures but also one of life’s great arts. The art of preparing good food, the art of serving it properly, the art of enjoying it in the right surroundings and with the right company.
The way in which we eat and who we choose to dine with are not insignificant things, they are things which say a lot about us as people. Most significant is the thoughts and emotions with which we eat our food, these affect the taste, content and digestion of that which sustains us as makes being sustained a worthwhile endeavour.
5. Stimulating Conversation
The art of good conversation is much neglected and maligned today. And it is so, that what constitutes good conversation differs for different people. Nevertheless it is a rare privilege when one is engaged in truly stimulating conversation, where the conversation becomes a bubble in which you are encapsulated and float above the humdrum of the everyday.
Personally I have only ever experienced this with a handful of people throughout my life and usually in a one on one engagement. Sometimes on a rare occasion this can extend to three or maximum four, I have never personally known it to go beyond that number.
When one does encounter this in a companion, the ability to hold you mesmerised, fully engaged and present, you have come upon a rare privilege. A good conversationalist is much like an exotic bird; rare, endangered and a beauty to behold. They do not do well in captivity and are at their best when encountered in their natural habitat.
6. The Performing Arts
I include in this category all live performances. At its best when one is in the presences of a master of his or her craft, or even an amateur production where for a moment the performers access the genius of performance, one is transported to another realm of experience. The theatre can rightfully claim its role as the birthplace and home of magic.
Someone once said it is only at play that we are truly human and this is nowhere more evident than in the performing arts.
Well movies generally really, but I mention cinema specifically as I think it is the great art form of the 20th century. A good movie be it at the cinema or curled up warmly on your couch at home is hard to beat.
My top five:
8. A Great Book
Little needs to be said here, you either know what I mean or you don’t. If you do you require no justification from me as to why this makes a top 10 list. I will quote a friend though, a man by of Brett Belinsky, who after watching the movie Pass it On, said watching it made being alive worthwhile.
There is no movie that I can say that about with absolute conviction, but I know what he meant. I have read a few books that I could say that about, they made this journey called life worthwhile and I am deeply indebted for the privilege of being able to have read them.
My top five:
- The Magic Mountain ‘ Thomas Mann
- Anna Karenina ‘ Leo Tolstoy
- 100 Years of Solitude– Gabriel Garcia Marquez
- The Natural– Bernard Malamud
- Tropic of Capricorn– Henry Millar
Travelling somewhere for the first time is always exciting. The lure, the mystery, of the unknown is a little scary and usually quite intoxicating. Travelling to a favorite destination that you haven’t seen for a long time anticipating the delights you will encounter visiting favourite haunts- wonderful!
Then nothing better than coming home after being away for a while, no matter how wonderful the destination and the trip, there is something very special, irreplaceable about coming home.
10. A Happy Home
Having a home, living in a home, sharing a home with people you love is a unique and very special pleasure. I think the old idiom; home is where the heart is, is very true. I always look forward to coming home to seeing my family to spending quality time in my sanctuary. And I am very grateful for having a home that I feel that way about.
A few final thoughts
So in conclusion there is my top ten list. I am publishing it as I wrote it, although re-reading I can see there are a few idiosyncrasies, but hey what the hell it’s my list isn’t it?
6, 7 and 8 are interesting; in some sense they could have been lumped together under one heading- The Arts. But I though they each merited a mention and are different enough to be in separate categories.
It is interesting to note that many people live perfectly well without any of these (specifically points 6, 7 & 8), or else experience them in the most moderate servings. Whereas for me they are amongst my greatest pleasures. What does this say? Those who don’t feel that way are more utilitarian or is it something else? I don’t know the answer, but it’s an interesting question.
The one exclusion, conspicuous in its absence is music. I could defend myself by saying that it falls under the performing arts, but in truth its absence is probably a comment on my poor musical appreciation.
This has been a particularly stimulating post for me to write (clearly the hedonist in me coming out ). And I think that I would classify life’s pleasures into three categories:
The list I have given falls squarely into the first category passion. But at a later stage I will say a bit more about the other two categories.
Lastly I left out life’s greatest pleasure and reserve it for its own post in the future; I will call it the 11th pleasure .
So there you are. Have you given any thought to what it is that adds flavour to your life? An important question I’d say, one worth thinking about.