On Pleasure

I spent three weeks alone in Europe in January of 2000.  Yes, I did a lot of tourist things – I climbed the Eiffel Tower, skied the Alps, toured the Vatican.  But do you know what the best part of the whole trip was?  The day I decided to take a day off from being a tourist.

I wandered into an English bookstore, purchased a book that I thought I’d enjoy, then found a spot in the sun in a piazza and read – for hours.  Every once in a while, I’d look out into the square and think “I’m in Florence, and here I am doing something I could very well do at home.”   But then I realized this was my trip, and I could do whatever I pleased.  Besides, though I could read for hours in the sun at home, I could not find a square as pretty as this one in which to do it.  (If you know of any great squares in the US like the ones in Europe, pass them on!)

This memory came back to me as I was re-reading Elizabeth Gilbert’s Eat. Pray. Love. I rarely read the same book twice.  However, in an unusual turn of events, I picked this one up again.  I find it’s one of those books that, depending on where you are in your life, different cords may strike you at each reading.

Last night I fell in love with chapter 21 again.  For those of you that were under a rock when this book came out, the author decides to take a year to pursue pleasure in Italy, prayer in India, and the intersection of both in Indonesia by spending four months in each country.

In chapter 21, she’s in Italy and gets to the heart of what pleasure is – and tries to figure out why it’s so hard for us Americans to simply enjoy life.  She says we’re quite good at finding things to entertain us, but that’s different from finding things that bring us genuine pleasure.

So how did she do it?  She simply asked herself, “What would you enjoy doing today, Liz?  What would bring you pleasure right now?”  And that’s exactly what I did that day in Florence.

I think I’ve done it a lot more since that day, but certainly not as much as I could.  And it was good to be reminded last night of how much joy comes from something so simple as a day in the sun with a good book.

So think about it – what brings you pleasure?  Have you done it lately? If not, please do – for no other reason than “just because”.

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