Thursday, May 26, 2011

The Lotus of Pleasure

The trees around them all their food produce:
Lotus the name: divine, nectareous juice!
(Thence call'd Lo'ophagi); which whose tastes,
Insatiate riots in the sweet repasts,
Nor other home, nor other care intends,
But quits his house, his country, and his friends.
- The Odyssey, Homer

We need a new car.

Well, need is a strong word. But here, you be the judge. On our 2000 Dodge Grand Caravan, there is a huge crack in the windshield. The CD player is broken. Right turning signal doesn't work. Driver and passenger side windows do not roll down. (The passenger side window is kept up by two sticks lodged at the base. That's right, sticks.) The tag light is out (I know because I recently got pulled over for that one). Now the passenger side door interior is falling off the metal frame when you open the door. My patient wife has driven this van for about 9 years, and we claim to hold on to vehicles until they fall apart. Well, it's falling apart.

Anyway, the worst part is that we have no way to signal a left turn since both the blinker and the window are broken. I joked to a friend who was riding with me recently that at least the air conditioner works. I quipped that if I had to choose between the blinker and the AC, I would choose comfort over safety. My friend wholeheartedly agreed, both of us laughing at the silliness and inevitability of our choice.

The truth is, we choose comfort and pleasure over lots of things. Not only do we sometimes choose comfort and pleasure over safety, we often choose them over more difficult options. It is much more pleasurable to take a short cut to what we want or need than to take a route that is more costly or demanding. Often, however, it is the demand and cost that makes the obtaining worthwhile.

Many times, we also prefer comfort and pleasure to what is right. Not that comfort and pleasure are wrong in themselves, but often they will make us avoid the moral question altogether. Almost everyone wants to live morally, but almost no one wants to give up comfort or pleasure. What happens when doing the right thing conflicts with our desires? It's the choice between a turn signal and air conditioning.

In Homer's The Odyssey, a group of warriors journey back to their homeland after years away in battle. They want nothing more than reunion with their wives, children, and loved ones until they discover a land filled with mysterious lotus plants. The men eat the lotus plants which drug them with comfort and pleasure until they forget all else. Falling to the seduction of the lotus plants, many of the warriors never return to their beloved homes.

Pleasure is a powerful gift from God, but it is a powerful drug as a god. It may have a stronger hold on us than we think. Are we unable to do the difficult thing? Are we unable to do the right thing? Have we been drugged into apathy? If so, who or what is dosing us?

Choosing comfort and pleasure above all else is dangerous. The body is enraptured, but the soul becomes numb. We had better wake up, however discomforting, however painful. Otherwise, we might never make it home.


  1. Does this mean you are keeping the van?

  2. No, it does not. But I will lead safety as a reason for something newer. : )

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