Pain and pleasure are two of the most basic sensations known to man; but as with so many other things, humans have managed to make them massively more complicated than at first they would appear.
Pleasure itself takes many forms, most of which are exceedingly simple (contrary to the ethos of the consumer-based society we live in).
There is that fondness and affection for young children, usually accompanied by the pure, unadulterated joy of hearing a child's laughter.
The satisfaction of a job well-done, particularly when pain was endured to get it to that state of perfection; the sheer relief of a successful endeavour; that enveloping moment of bliss when you drag your weary body into bed; a cold drink on a hot summer's day, quenching thirst and cooling temperature simultaneously.
A solitary walk in a beautiful area, during which one may find peace within oneself (if only for a few minutes); perhaps the most serene type of pleasure.
The sweet delight of striking a golf ball cleanly; the release of tension after sinking a five-yard putt (the most dangerous type) to win the match. The absolute exhilaration of a down-the-line curve-ball winner on a tennis court; the type of beautiful, unexpected drop shot guaranteed to take a fan's breath away.
The unrivaled thrill of a personal sporting victory; the astonishing wonder of watching the unheralded underdog topple the favourite.
And then we move to the murkier waters of the countless forms of pain: from the emotional agony of losing a loved one, to the physical pain of cuts and bruises, broken bones, and torn ligaments.
Broken friendships deafening with their silence; heated arguments causing more hurt than that old saying, "Sticks and stones...", would allow for.
The massive disappointment of a missed penalty—whether by goalkeeper or striker, the feeling is alike. Recently-healed injuries, and subsequently out-of-rhythm play, the reason for many a frustrated sportsperson; hostile thoughts the product of an unjust result.
Then there is that never-ending torment of what could have been, if only you had done one small thing differently; the refusal to believe that you had done your best, and were just outplayed.
There are uncountable variations of the ways in which humans experience two simple sensations; but with our race, nothing is ever simple. We add into the mix complex emotions and circumstantial arguments, until we forget that everything is easier when we view things in their simplest forms.
Guilt, however, is a difficult word to classify. It is an emotion, but one brought about by our reactions to situations and circumstances; often it is irrational—but then so is a large portion of what humans think and feel.
The combination of guilt and pleasure is an increasingly common one.
There are the stolen moments between close friends, talking over an evening which should be spent studying, late into a night which ought to be spent sleeping; skipping meals just so you can have greater enjoyment of your favourite later in the day; reading just that one extra chapter of your book before turning your light out (which, inevitably, will turn into four or five or six).
And let's not forget that fatal, irresistible enemy of every woman's tastebuds: the bar of chocolate...
Then there are the times we call in sick to work, just so we can watch that big game; or the times we watch the game instead of doing our work, and give feeble excuses the next day for the lack of completion.
Flicking between tabs on the computer—one of the live scores and one of the report you ought to be writing—just so you can appease that esurient need for connection to the world with which you ought to have severed all contact for the day; until eventually, you give in and switch the TV on.
After the match ends, allowing the creative section of your mind to focus on it, rather than that increasingly urgent report.
In each scenario, we attempt to justify to ourselves the action, usually without realising that the justification lies within the action itself. In the words of Bernard Russell, "The time you enjoy wasting is not wasted time."
Nor should we feel guilty for taking time out for pleasure, even when we have responsibilities; for perhaps it is the guilty pleasures, after all, which make everything we do worthwhile...
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