Pleasure is an aspiration. Not unlike fear, a topic the Napoleons already talked about, pleasure is a transitory state of conscience that keeps us alive. While fear is a defense mechanism, pleasure taps into the domain of voluptuousness. Pleasure is an admission of weakness, of temptation. “The hell where you are, shall be paradise; the sight of you is more charming than that of God!” cried Frollo to the beautiful Esmeralda before damning himself. Pleasure is a suspicious thing. It carries the weight of the original sin just like the seven deadly sins. It’s a weakness of the body and of the soul, a drive for individualism. It’s ok to seek pleasure, but not just in any way.
Hence the question: is it reasonable to talk about pleasure in these times of sanitary crisis, as we count our dead? Can we serenely approach this topic when communities turn in on themselves, when the environment is collapsing? Is it morally acceptable to look away when the house is burning?
We, Napoleons, think that reminding everyone the virtues of pleasure has never been more crucial. First and foremost because renouncing pleasures equals giving into a nefarious self-censorship right when we need to share them. Also because pleasures are precisely what allows us to extract ourselves from the purely functional aspect of our quarantined existences. To log out of our connected routines, to find new perspectives again. Could pleasures be something incongruous in these uncertain times? So be it. « Nothing is more necessary than the superfluous » : that’s Roberto Benigni’s line as Guido, when his character is deported to the concentration camps in “La Vita e’ Bella”. Pleasure is, in our opinion, the best way to “Always look on the bright side of life” to quote the humourous song of the Monty Python. Surprises. Hope, Action… Pleasures are the last resort when everything else is questioned.
Naturally, we all share that same collective subconscious perception of pleasure as something excessive. But excess, debauchery and profusion are off-topic luxuries in a world where the minimal social conditions are confiscated from us. However, we want to reinstate pleasure with humility as a fundamental emotion. An emotion within our reach but that we lost track of in a convenience society allowing pleasure to be ordered through apps. Let’s go back to basics of those « tiny pleasures », delicate pleasures, those small impressionist moments where time stretches and our senses awaken. Let’s celebrate Proust and his search of lost time.
We should not think that such a definition of pleasure is less noble than another, that a dandy pleasure would naturally than more trivial pleasures. On the contrary. Going back to basics means looking at pleasures from a universal angle, one that affects us all. We need to understand why we need social interaction, contacts; why we miss those discussions around a coffee on café terraces so much; why informal exchanges, small talk or conversations by the coffee machine are vital moments of pleasure as much as social bonding. What are the physiological causes for the ecstasy you can experience in front of a Van-Gogh painting or a riff on a Stratocaster? Why is pleasure necessary in the learning process and how does society banning pleasure will drive us toward conditioning and in fine to endoctrination? We can also think on how the conditions for pleasure can evolve with ideas. « Live relentlessly, enjoy without restriction » those were the slogan in May 68 in France, beside “It is forbidden to forbid” and “My body is my own”. This evolution of morality is interesting to probe in the age of #MeToo.
We, Napoleons, decided not to renounce on pleasures, especially not the pleasure to celebrate « those small magical moments » sung by Alain Souchon, those moments we hope to enjoy again with our community. Soon.
Pleasures will be the topic for our Summer session in Arles from July 21st to 24th. We hope to meet you there healthy and full of projects in mind, to share the pleasure to be together again.