There is pleasure in the contemplation of the object one desires; there is a pleasure in tasting, touching, hearing or seeing the object; and there is a pleasure in the remembrance of the object enjoyed. This pleasure, what is it? Is pleasure specific to the object and unique to the person, or is pleasure general and universal. In other words, do we partake in the idea of pleasure, or, is pleasure an object of reality, ontologically. The kiss is to all a pleasure. Then, since a kiss is as a pleasure to all, let a kiss be the focus of our inquiry.
A kiss is produced when the flesh of one touches the flesh of another. Equality between those engaged is not necessary, nor is it necessary that the kiss be of or to one conscious, alive, or human; the kiss of a sleeping child, to one departed or to a beloved pet. These kisses all are of a kind, that of generous love—an affection as unselfish as it is noble, and magnanimous as it is unsolicited; like a gift from nature this kiss passes over the object loved as do the rays from a generous sun.
The kiss of greeting and of parting passes like the moment, sweet in fragrance and brief in time; it passes lightly over the cheek or through the hair. Sometimes this kiss is a hair’s breadth from the hand of the adored or respected object. Occasionally, the kiss is repeated severally upon either cheek and accompanied with an embrace, drawing for a moment the two objects to one, whereon in the instant the kiss dissolves and the friend is gone. This is the kiss of mortals passing on their way through the brief time of life, acknowledging in this little pleasure a joy of life.
Embracing lovers kiss as though they would draw the object of desire into themselves; every part of the flesh swells as a fruit ready to be taken, liquid, plump, yet firm and tasty. This kiss is the most violent as it is imbued with appetite, and like appetite, when the mouth opens it does so with the intention to bite. Watch two lovers biting as though, if they could, they would eat the other up. The eyes of the lovers may at first be direct, but soon they will roll, the lids will close till all the will is lost to the pleasure of desire. Unlike the gentle kiss of kindness or the airy kiss of friendship, the kiss of desire is fleshy and strong.
The kiss of play comes in many forms; the pursing of lips silly or sensual; the bold kiss to the air with both hands, or with one hand thrown gallantly to the side; and the wink is a kiss of intimacy from mind to mind. The kiss of the moving hand is a grand and public gesture, and the play of lips is the pretending of a delighted imagination.
The kiss of power is seldom welcomed, for this kiss commands possession; the pleasure of this kiss is usually acquisitive and as such leaves nothing to the object. It is alike self-loving, and those who take pleasure in the subjective kiss debase themselves in the depravity of soul. But even here the kiss is a pleasure shared.
Of what pleasure is the kiss of a salt breeze, from the shimmering leaves, or from the grasses dancing about the knees. These too are alike a kiss from one life to another, but here a form of pure delight from objects unmindful to one with a mind.
With just a summary view it is seen that all kisses are of the flesh; that kisses are conceived in the mind and performed in time; that kisses are actions from volition in animate objects. Therefore the kiss is of the material world, not of the realm of idea. Yet, granting this, are we any closer to understanding pleasure. Remember, anticipation and contemplation; what are these.
The anticipation and contemplation of any pleasure is like that of the kiss, an association with objective sensation. Although one can have a pleasant thought of a pleasant thought, that former thought itself was of an object. There is no pleasure in the immaterial: Pleasure is sensational first, then perceptive, then rational. All pleasure is in the flesh, whether in the flesh of the lips or the flesh of the brain.
The sum of all pleasure is life; life is the wellspring of joy; and the kiss, well, the kiss is the participation of a person in the delightful reality of existence. This is pleasure.
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Amorem: A History of Love; in III Canto.
There is not in our Literature a history of Love; sure, there is Ovid, though little else. This history, Amorem, is rather more Herodotus than Thucydides, because we shall not begin in prepossession. Instead, we shall tour delights, examine curiosities, tell the episodes of large cultural sweep, as they occur. Amorem hopes to inform, to entertain, and to instruct. As you will imagine, the work was prompted by a gorgeous girl, excellent and, well … as were those books by Dante and Petrarch inspired by fine ladies, though with less touching familiarity. Here, a single lyric in excerpt from the Flourm, recently Valentine’s Day published by The Society of Classical Poets. You might like to know, the work in large is not lyric, it is didactic, biographic, an epic in small. Canto I is scheduled for publication, late 2021.
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“On Pleasure” was composed some twenty-five years ago, kept, along with some hundred other essays, to employ when in need. Now we need. The seven-volume domestic architecture treatise, The Beautiful Home, in preparation these thirty-two years, is nearing completion as a useful, and, God willing, profitable e-commerce site … to launch this April 13, the anniversary of Thos. Jefferson’s birth (1743). Until site launch, you will be treated to sweetly breezy essays. Hope you enjoy.