Thursday, September 22, 2011

Confessions of an Anhedoniac

According to certain television sitcoms and Jennifer Anniston movies at the multiplex, I am given to understand there are people in the world who derive great pleasure in dimming the light fixtures in their bathrooms and burning a chapel's worth of candles as they lower themselves into over-sized bathtubs filled with oil-treated water and mountains of glistening bubble bath. As their bodies' pores open to the wet heat like rosebuds in the dewy dawn of a summer's morning, they lean back and sip bottomless glasses of wine while generic jazz insinuates itself into the room.

For me, a bath is a squat, a scrub, and a swab; and a quick shower's better.

I have also heard of people who like nothing better than to experience the rush of chemicals flooding their brains as they settle down to expensive meals of rare delicacies, savoring each precious morsel for its flavors, juices, and seasonings. Wine - no, wines go well with this scenario, too.

I'm okay with whatever Mrs. Kim from across the street has decided to cook for today's lunch special.

I don't believe this next thing for a minute, but my friends tell me that it's true, that people exist who can create in life romantic, sensual fantasies never conceived by any of history's great imaginists.

I'm pretty well satisfied with a quick ... well, never mind.

I don't do pleasure.

I have nothing against those of you who do. It's just not a part of my makeup. Don't get me wrong, I'm not asking for your pity or concern. It's not like I miss it, pleasure. You can't miss something you've never had or ever longed for. I don't believe I'm sad or miserable in this life I have.

I am detached.

But I have my moments, things I do enjoy, like looking and listening; although I don't believe my looking or my listening are necessarily like yours. When I am looking at or listening to something, really looking or listening, I disappear. The only thing there is is the thing that I am looking at or listening to, and that is all there is until it's done with me and goes away and sets me back in the room or on the park bench where I was to begin with.

I wonder. What would you call that?


  1. i'd call that franciscan.

  2. this looks like a police photo of that rectory bathroom in detroit where they found the young hustler dead. last call, anyone?

  3. David, as usual, you leave me speechless.

  4. Having gone through episodic states of anhedonia I know the feeling. /There are medications that address this but some of the side effects are a bear. (Anorgasmia combined with a danger of an erection lasting more than four hours? At my age? Are they trying to kill me?)

    From what I have seen of your work on stage and in photographs there is a technical term for that complete moment of detachment: Art. Perhaps that is why you were drown to acting, a native ability to disappear into character and script. Painters often speak of a similar detachment, and I know that some of what I write comes from what I call the Muse Complex, some Odd combination of circuitry in memory and response which, when triggered, creates an output not unlike some meat computer clattering a teletype.

    At the end of the day do we want a cure for Art or Sainthood? Modern pharamcology struggles mightly to produce a safe and effecive Soma which every modern person would demand, but I'll have none of it. I've tytrated off of the AD meds and will take the black thoughts the way Wordsworth took a field of daffodils and make something of it which otherwise might be lost. All of the true beauty in this world is a product of suffering or a detachment not quite Buddhist but entirely human, an ability to step completely into the viewfinder and emerge with something completely beautiful.

  5. I would say that pleasure has something to do with survival, and is relative only to a person's own experiences.    The experience you describe, maybe that's the high level within the experiences you have known in your life-- the way you describe it reminds me of bliss that makes time collapse, lifts us, and allows us to balance out the pain at the other end of this spectrum.    Long-term survival has something to do with a balance.   If someone suffered complete and absolute anhedonia, they would not be able to continue on, and for them, those medications sometimes might save their lives.   Most people don't fall into that category and antidepressants are certainly overprescribed.   People say there is a natural pharmacy inside us, so we can heal.    I think we should enjoy pleasure when it happens.       sp

  6. "The Adventures of Thoreau" Part II.

  7. you're an artist. drawing in the world, the better to give it back as something breathtaking and new. 

    i saw your play. all of your looking and listening came through it. 

  8. Being an artist. First acting exercise, is to observe.

    Anyway bubble baths and expensive is overrated! Also who has the time for all of that foreplay!!

  9. My gosh, I never dreamed I'd get the reactions to this post that I've gotten. I'm just now coming home from a morning at Touro where Bobby had a stress test in anticipation of next week's doctor's visit. Allow me a little time to relax and regain my "at-home" bearings, and I'll be back to respond to your comments. Thank you all.

  10. I sometimes wish I wrote as concretely and clearly as you do with sturdy words and not so obliquely using my own personal shorthand, but, nevertheless, it seems I can be comprehensible from time to time. So many of you saw through the mist to my point.

    I confess, a long time ago, I found myself in a pit I could not climb out of. I had the sense and hope and supportive encouragement to look for help and grab onto the rope. I took the meds (under protest) and eventually saw the light again. But there was a price I had to pay, and when I'd reached a point of clarity, I got myself off the chemicals. By then, I'd developed tools to cope with the recurrent dark nights and have managed to live through them since.

    Like you, I would not want to abandon what some would call the negative aspects of life. They are like the dark side of the moon to me, a part of the whole.

    It also turns out that I really like my crafts. I love them and find them beautiful, each in their own unique way.

    "At the end of the day do we want a cure ...?"

    Of course not.

  11. It had some beautiful moments in it, didn't it?

  12. Glenn,
    Reading post and  comment thread, you strike me as someone who has a lot of  f-u-n in life which so mo' bettah than pleasure.

  13. Well, to be concrete about it, I've been known to derive pleasure from a tubful of bubbles after a hard day on my knees in the garden. But I've never lit candles, drank wine or scattered rose petals. I think that's all movie star bullshit. After thinking about it, I believe I can say that my real moments of pure pleasure have been in just sitting on my own back patio listening to the birds and the fountain. Sometimes people want to make pleasure something complicated and it's just not. IMO.
    Very interesting post, darlin.

  14. I'm with you regarding the patio, birds and fountains. Rejuvenation! Thanks for stopping by ;-)


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