How to Maintain a Relationship Between Aesthetic Sense and Pleasure in "On Beauty"


In this book, Mr. Zhu Guangqian discusses his understanding of "beauty" and "pleasure": beauty is unrelated to practical activities, while pleasure originates from the satisfaction of practical demands, and they are not the same thing.

The most typical example is when you have an erection because of the beauty of a woman, and then you can't help but fantasize and masturbate. The erection is triggered by the beauty, and the pleasure comes from the satisfaction of the "desire" to have sex with her.

From this, we can see that pleasure often accompanies beauty. The pleasure can take many forms, such as feeling happy from a beautiful piece of music, feeling excited after passing an exam through hard work, or feeling satisfied from delicious food... all of these can be collectively referred to as pleasure. The condition for experiencing pleasure is usually the satisfaction of a certain need.

At the same time, we also find that pleasure does not always come from beauty.

For example, in the case of masturbation, after holding it in for a month, you decide to release it, and maybe a completely unattractive video can make you feel relieved. A more straightforward example is smoking a cigarette after masturbating, which can also make a person feel very comfortable, even though it does not involve any beauty.

If this inference is correct, it can guide many of our behaviors or change our views on certain things.

A couple with an unattractive man and a beautiful woman may seem mismatched, but they are exceptionally loving. Perhaps the man's humor brings joy to the woman, and the woman's beauty attracts the man. Both parties are satisfied with different demands and obtain a certain degree of sustained pleasure, thus maintaining a loving relationship. This brings up my point: pleasure is a condition for maintaining a good relationship.

Why? Because a relationship consists of two individuals, and if they don't need each other, the relationship cannot be established. However, if they need each other, it will create a sense of satisfaction and pleasure.

This leads to another topic: Is beauty enduring or is pleasure enduring?

Mr. Zhu Guangqian did not discuss this topic, but in my opinion, beauty is more enduring, while pleasure, as its name suggests, is a feeling that comes and goes quickly. Although its original meaning is "a pleasant feeling," I believe every man would agree that pleasure is "quick," unless he has no experience at all.

From daily experiences, it is easy to understand that pleasure is not long-lasting. Once a need is satisfied, the pleasure quickly disappears. As the saying goes, "What you can't have will always be on your mind, and what you have will always be taken for granted." When pursuing a girl, the pleasure of pursuing her quickly disappears. When hungry, the pleasure of eating quickly disappears... this is a common occurrence.

So, if pleasure is not long-lasting, then a relationship based on pleasure alone would be short-lived, right? Actually, it is not the case, because although pleasure is short-lived, there are always needs that can never be fully satisfied, and once a need is satisfied, new pleasure is generated. Therefore, if a relationship is based solely on simple pleasure, such as sexual activity or money, once both parties become accustomed to it, the relationship will be on the verge of breaking up. Therefore, we need continuous surprises to bring continuous pleasure.

In addition, let's not forget that beauty often accompanies pleasure, as mentioned earlier.

And beauty is not related to practical activities, which means that beauty is a product of "doing nothing." Space and time can create beauty, as can external and internal factors.

How do we understand that space can create beauty? There is a saying that sums it up well: "Distance creates beauty." When the subject and object maintain an appropriate distance, the best aesthetic effect can be achieved. Su Dongpo once wrote in a poem: "I don't know the true face of Mount Lu, but I'm in this mountain." It can be regarded as the best interpretation.

How do we understand that time can create beauty? For beautiful things, we quickly feel their beauty in a short period of time, but as time goes by, the beauty gradually fades away, just as Confucius said: "Enter the room of the orchid, but after a long time, you no longer smell its fragrance." However, interestingly, the present experience may become the source of beauty in the future. For example, when we recall the past, we often feel the beauty and pleasure, even if some experiences were painful at the time, but when they become the past, they become beautiful memories, such as the experience of taking the college entrance examination.

How do we understand that external factors can create beauty? This understanding is easy. Artworks such as Leonardo da Vinci's "Mona Lisa," Michelangelo's "David," and Wang Xizhi's "Preface to the Orchid Pavilion Collection" easily evoke a sense of beauty in people. Additionally, the well-known golden ratio can also create a sense of beauty, as proven by experiments.

How do we understand that internal factors can create beauty? This brings us to the powerful force of association. Association allows old things to interpret new things, and most people find something beautiful because it can evoke pleasant associations. As the saying goes, "Remember the green silk dress, everywhere cherishing the fragrant grass."

Because of these common and easily understood factors that evoke beauty, beauty is not far from our daily lives. On the contrary, it is everywhere, at all times.

Therefore, whether we generate sustained pleasure or diverse beauty that leads to pleasure, both can help maintain a good relationship.

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