I’ve been giving a lot of thought to why I enjoy the things I do. Pleasure inducing activities seem to fall into two, sometimes overlapping, categories: Vacation and Transformation. Vacations are the things that recharge us and allow us to relax. They are comfortable and stress-free. In some ways they are like a physical therapist, but for our motivation. They help us return to a healthy state when we are worn out and tired. The benefits from the vacation rarely last long once the vacation is over.
Transformation, on the other hand, are experiences that encourage us to grow and alter our behavior once the event is over. They are like personal trainers for the mind that make us stronger and happier for a long time, even if progress is slow in the beginning. These experiences are often extremely pleasurable, but they are fundamentally about growing and learning first.
Some events and experiences can fall into both categories, depending on the person. You can go to Burning Man or take MDMA and have that be a vacation. It can be about the moment, the pleasure, the recharge, but it can also be more than that. It can be Transformation when you take what happens during these experiences and use them to alter your behavior and mind once you leave. I don’t think Transformation comes naturally though, it takes some work.
To take an example that is close to me, let’s look at MDMA. While rolling you often are much, much more open to things like cuddling, touch, discussing painful issues, and new experiences. It isn’t like being drunk where your inhibitions go down and you do things you regret, instead it is like tearing down artificial or unnecessary walls to become the person you want to be deep down. The experience can be incredible, but once the day ends and you start to recover then you run the risk of it being a vacation instead of a transformation. You may not feel any regret for what happened and you may logically desire to do those things again without drugs, but there is still a block. The experience becomes an excuse not to change your life, you think “yes, I did that and I liked it, but only because I was (at Burning Man, on Molly, backpacking Europe, etc)” instead of acknowledging that you did it because those are things that you fundamentally want to do, they are part of the person you want to become.
Moving past that barrier is difficult, even when you recognize it. I don’t think I really have any solutions to it. I’m sure there are steps you can take… for example, if you want more platonic cuddling in your life you can actually schedule cuddle sessions with a willing friend. Or if when you are at Burning Man you are inspired to create art then when you get to the “default world” (which is burner talk for life off outside of Black Rock City) you can join an art class and find a way to keep yourself accountable.
It seems that the default position is vacation instead of transformation, at least for me. It is easy to conserve, rest, and be comfortable, even if it isn’t going to help fulfill your life. I guess that is part of what makes humans unique, we can recognize these higher goods and pursue them, even if they are in conflict with our evolved urges. It is never easy, but in my experience transformation is always worth it.