Lustprinzip, aka the Pleasure Principle, is a Freudian psychoanalytic concept on the instinctive seeking of pleasure and avoiding pain.
No one here is propagating Freudian principles, but when I read this definition, I was immediately reminded of my modus operandi through most of my 20s. While pleasure principle makes it sound very sex, drugs, and rock ‘n roll, it was more about moving toward “fun” and scooting away from experiences that were dull and boring. Working from weekend to weekend and designing a life that pivots on seeking good times.
Picture a cherry blossom tree that blooms for a few weeks every spring. It’s mesmerizing, exciting, and ephemeral. While we eagerly await the fluorescence and marvel at nature’s beauty, we forget that this tree has a complete life of its own, all year round. The similarities to Lustprinzip crop up when we realize that we think of ourselves as this cherry blossom, running from one bloom cycle to the next. We forget that apart from the gleaming moments of pleasure, it’s the less lustrous instances that also count.
We chase the fleeting moments of flowering and are in a constant state of dread otherwise.
No wonder we’re anxious and scattered. If the focus in life is to strategically build toward momentary raptures dependent on external circumstances, then we’re in a constant state of uncertainty as it’s evanescent. Any instance we aren’t working toward gratification is considered contrary to our purpose. If we go from one weekend to the next, solely anticipating our blooms, there isn’t much space to appreciate our silent moments of growth. Instead, we loathe them as the mundane and inadvertently painful.
Don’t get me wrong—pleasure is extremely important in life. And this approach has given me so many unbelievable memories along the way. Think, “How I Met Your Mother”-esque plot lines-legendary. Yet, as the sands of time work their magic, one soon realizes that there may be a change in game plan needed. A more sustainable power source and secure True North required. Instead of the transient cherry blossom, I wish to become sturdy bamboo.
Bamboo is self-sustaining, adaptive, and replenishing. A bamboo plant flowers once in its life cycle. But it isn’t the bloom that is the specialty of the plant, rather its ability to steadily grow with an ever-changing environment. To march on unhindered by surroundings is a superpower, but it is the strong resilience of the plant that is admirable. Rather than hunt for passing pleasure, can we seek joy in stillness?
The distinction between the two approaches is our object of pursuit. When we seek pleasure, we bask in its short-lived ecstasy, but the fugitive fulfillment escapes, and we are soon left feeling restless and unsatisfied. We shape our world to lead us to the next blissful occasion.
When we seek joy, we are driven from within. We know the path is arduous, but our own. Our milieu is constantly teaching us and propelling us to grow stronger. It’s not the seconds of the spectacle, rather the journey of joy that brings us fulfillment. And this road to contentment is one that lasts.
The basic human instinct is survival, not contentment. So operating on primal needs is nothing but natural. However, with the rapid advancement of the contemporary world and extension of human life spans, is this tenable? It requires introspection as trepidation and unease lead to a lack of durability—both physically and mentally. We are at the cusp of choice and can opt to survive from one blossom to the next or thrive as bamboo in perpetuity.
On a personal note, I am left wishing to transform from a cherry blossom to bamboo. Filled with intention and taking baby steps on the road to action. However, if intention is the first step of action, then I like to delude myself into thinking I’m halfway there.
No longer a cherry blossom, not yet bamboo—simply a Cherryboo.