~Abraham Joshua Heschel from "Children and Youth" in The Insecurity of Freedom: Essays on Human Existence
I want a lover I don't have to love
I want a girl who's too sad to give a f---
Where's the kid with the chemicals?
I thought he said to meet him here but I'm not sure
I've got the money if you've got the time
You said it feels good
I said, "I'll give it a try."
~Lover I Don't Have to Love by Bright Eyes
And in this we know the difference between pleasure and joy.
Pleasure is that in which we do not invest. Pleasure occurs when I indulge in something I enjoy, something beautiful and wonderful, that ensnares the senses and allows me to fall deep within a kind of whirling vortex of absolute darkness, speckled with dazzling bits of light that glitter and delight the eyes. Pleasure is a total, drugging indulgence of the senses, so that I am sated in every single way, and my every sensation is one of total decadence and sweetness. Pleasure is soma; pleasure is what one experiences at the feelies where "every hair of the bear is reproduced." Pleasure is tactile; it is physical, it is a sensation that numbs, soothes, indulges and drugs. To engage in pleasure is to invite ecstasy, the kind of physical bliss that binds and comforts and leaves no ill after-effects.
Except that is not joy. And there is an emptiness to pleasure because it is just the sheen, the iridescent sheen of the multilayered bubble that floats upon the wind, a breath pushing it in one direction or the other. Pleasure swiftly seduces the senses but then she is gone, and when she leaves, she leaves one feeling empty, lacking, desirous only of more so that I might be more firmly enthralled, that I might worship her further and fall before her, begging to please her so that she might please me as well. Such is pleasure; she is a mistress with flashing green eyes and long black locks that twine around her copper arms. Pleasure appears in the form of the sorceress, and she takes but does not give.
For all joy there must be investment; for any investment, there must be pain. To feel joy is simultaneously to feel pain, to be able to experience any emotion to the extent that one must in order to be raised to the highest of heights, to the pinnacle of all that moves and enchants, that delights and horrifies, one must have given his very soul. To feel joy is to have given so much that one is not empty, but yet full with the golden delight that he has given, that there is another who profits by his work. Can there be any who remains sad when he has given to another, and that other grows healthier before his very eyes through his efforts, takes on another form and changes, so that his sickly features change and become whole; his skin darkens as his cheeks flush with warmth and his very eyes radiate kindness? There is no more giddy astonishment and power than the power to have given and to have given well, to have invested in another, in an idea, virtue or principle to the extent that one might feel joy.
But the investment must be pure. One cannot be a conniving tradesman, come only to give if he makes a profit. One must give purely and must give totally, with no hope of return, desirous only of aiding the other in his lot if it is possible, and it is only then that he falls within the province of joy. For joy is a woman, and she guards her doors closely. Pleasure is not a strumpet so much as she is a temptress, elusive and ever-present, winking to one while beckoning to another; joy is nothing if not constant, a kind of golden glow that overpowers and overtakes, like rich wine that has aged to perfection and now causes a simple spate of happiness, but not of foolishness. Joy is a deep and mellow feeling, an ecstasy encompassed by the rightness of the world, by all that exists in nature. Joy is the rainbow emerging from beneath the clouds, the sun blazing its path against the water ripples, the fire consuming all in its path. Joy, like any other truly intense expression of the self, consumes, but what it consumes is merely the fuel one has provided, and nothing more.
Yet there are few who can dare to risk enough to achieve joy. For we are frightened, in part because of our need to be in control. We must be in control of those who see us and what they know, the way in which they approach us and the way in which they know us. We must present ourselves in a manner that is understandable to them, that is in all ways discreet and proper; our reputations must be pristine and sparkle like the infequently used crystal we keep in the cabinet for show. This is what we create; these painstakingly inaccurate selves through which we may see the world, but despite this, we know there is something beyond which we have experienced, a kind of surrender that we have not known. And though we long to surrender, we cannot bear the thought of being so exposed, so naked and so vulnerable, to erect no guards and simply to be, for a moment...and so we resort to pleasure, for we do not have the courage to seek joy.
Pleasure is seductive and she is sweet; there is much to love in her. But she saps one's strength and does not return it, acting instead as the Lamia who steals one's life because she herself is cold. She can only take; she feeds off of what she is given, but slowly the one who gives becomes a shadow of himself, empty, having realized there is no meaning in the feeling that he has found. And yet he cannot, cannot let himself go; he cannot surrender, he cannot be as he truly is and so he laments- for he wants a lover he does not have to love.
Who is this lover one does not have to love? Truly a lover, and not simply a succubus! A lover who would love you while you yourself need not make yourself vulnerable or in any way bare that which is precious to you. She is a giver who will give despite your not having given in return. Who does not long for such a lover? Does not everyone desire a lover whom one does not have to love, someone who will unconditionally support, love and strengthen them even as one feels no emotional attachment to her? Such a person provides one with everything one needs, and there shall be no pain felt should she ever disappear or suffer, because you do not love her; it is only she who loves you....
Does not everyone cry out in despair, at one point in their lives, for a lover one does not have to love? One desires what is true, one desires the joy, but without the price, without the pain. We have tired of pleasure and the shallow mockery that it is; we turn instead to joy! And yet we cannot bear the price of joy, to lay all else to rest and to simply be, to turn aside our masks and refrain from acting, to exist, for a moment, without the shadows that conceal us- to be all this and simply to trust to the other to do the same- and not to hurt you. Who can do such a thing? What person can expose himself so nakedly, so honestly and so truly? It is only those who are willing to risk the most, those who can reach further than what there is at the moment, those who are willing to bear the pain- and it is for this reason that we thank God for gifting us with the pain, as it teaches us how to endure. And it is in this manner that Richard Rahl thanked Denna for the pain with which she gifted him, for it taught him- and it did not teach him fear or anguish, but rather how to love Kahlan.
It is when we have tired of what is meaningless, when pleasure holds no allure because we are empty, drained, shells of ourselves, that we struggle to reach for joy. But o, it is difficult! And how one must reach, and how one must train oneself to so perfect a surrender, to so utter a loss of control. I can hide nothing. That is the path to joy- to hide nothing and to be nothing other than the self, to surrender totally and to forfeit control- in order to earn the joy of being able to stand as oneself, and to find another who stands as wholly as himself. But it is a long path and a difficult one, and there are those who shy at the pain, or who have been betrayed, or worst of all, who have mistaken pleasure for joy...
I want a lover I don't have to love. And who does not? We all despair; we all desire such a lover, whether he be human or come in another form. And yet we do not truly want him; we want the control he affords us, control over our emotions, control over ourselves, control over the fact that we do not want to hurt and we do not want to feel. We don't wish to feel as though we have no control and there is nothing that can be done and so instead we cry for one whom we do not have to love and create a perversion, in which hurt is love and love is simply another form of hurt. The crime is when this perversion endures instead of being lifted aside, gently, when the proper time has come, so that joy, transcendent and effervescent joy, may take its place...