Do humans live for pleasure? Do we actually crave it? Or is it the little bonus we get to remind us to keep on doing the good things. Little more than a complex version of a dog cookie? Did other creatures live for or crave pleasure? We seemed to experience it so rarely and want it so often. Our dogs get treats for sitting, laying down and shaking paws. Humans weren’t rewarded with pleasurable things for this. Sit and lay down was supposed to be frowned on, not rewarded. Shaking hands was really just the unsavoury part of introducing yourself to another human, always hoping the washed their hands after their last shit. Trying to remember if we washed our hands, for that matter.
These thoughts swirled around Kevin’s brain as he sat in his house, alone. He was taking stock of his life. Here he was, in his mid-thirties trying to think back on his successes and mostly coming up with failures. He thought back to the words of an old hockey coach “Potential is the best and worst word in the human language. It is good to have potential but potential is always standing in the way of success. Without reaching potential it never means anything.” Kevin’s life was littered with examples of this. His sports life ran its course pretty earlier, athletic enough to be competitive but never really reaching an elite tier. At best, the middle skilled player on his teams. Happy to go unnoticed, as opposed to noticed for costing the team a game. He had been a good student but allowed his natural born skill for learning and memorization to carry him through school. This lead to the ultimate failure in his life. Having never really faced adversity, he stumbled through a couple years of University. Not knowing when to ask for help and allowing himself to wallow in a depression that would end his academic career. He had picked a lower level school to fly under the radar. Not have to worry about competing with the best students. And still he hadn’t been able to pull his boot straps up and get the job done.
Kevin left university, incomplete and feeling embarrassed he had allowed potential to get in the way of success; be his barrier. He went to work in construction right away, and learned to love it quickly. The ability to see the result of days work with his own eyes had brought him what he thought was pleasure. He spent his money on toys and didn’t really save it, but he thought these things brought him pleasure. As the years passed he settled into a position at work, had a management title but not really the responsibility. He didn’t push for success there, he was comfortable and he figured he could spend more time with those things he enjoyed away from work.
Now sitting in his room he thought about the fact that he had these toys that had once brought him pleasure but was now the shit that reminded him he didn’t have anything else. Others had reached their potential, with degrees on their walls, growing families, great jobs and large salaries. Kevin sat with none of these things. He sat with little moments of pleasure. And that made him wonder why humans craved pleasure. It seemed like pleasure was part of the barrier to him reaching his potential. He had traded success for pleasure without realizing it. Allowing himself to hang out with friends in university to bury his depression. Allowing his comfort for work to reward him with the little pleasures in life but those pleasures took away from his focus on moving forward in his profession.
At this point the self -pity was a little out of control and Kevin wondered if he was ever going to amount to anything. As that happened his phone made a noise, a text message. He flipped the phone over and a name popped up he hadn’t seen in a while. It was the name of a young man who he had coached in hockey many years ago. The message was to inform Kevin that he had signed his standard player agreement with a major junior team.
Kevin came out of the darkness right away and into the light. He realized that all those things that were small pleasures may not mean much to him, but he had one pleasure that few would ever experience. In his short number of years as an elite level hockey coach, he would meet young men who grew up to be elite players and even better some who would become upstanding citizens in other paths of life. They reached their potential and those that remembered him always had kind words to say about their seasons together. All those little things, the toys, the friends and the good work days were just happy moments but never pleasure. No, his pleasure came from the moments he was reminded he had an impact on other peoples lives and for a fleeting moment helped them climb their mountain of potential. Maybe he would never conquer his mountain but that was ok, not everyone got to the top of Everest but the guys at base camp still got to share in the journey and the celebration.