I have an inordinate amount of pleasure when eating basil. Every bite of a dish flavored with basil leaves makes me want to do a play-by-play of the rich flavor that I experience through this incredible herb. This morning I put approximately twenty leaves of basil into my egg whites, and it was heaven. I don’t just feel this way about basil, I feel it about the sensation of running, the color of pink, the smell of coffee, the sound of words being typed on a keyboard, the opening of a wine cork, the excitement of travel, and the first sip of a Vietnamese iced coffee.
Enjoying good things magnifies and shines the life in us. The things that I enjoy make me come alive. Oscar Wilde, the 19th century poet, would have agreed whole-heartedly with me. His words speak louder than mine: “An inordinate passion for pleasure is the secret of remaining young.” He notes however that most people don’t know what their own passions are, for they do know yet know who they are.
Passion for pleasure is exactly why I have such an affinity for France and all things French, for it was in France that I first learned that pursuing pleasure was a good thing. Moreover, it was in France, and during this pursuit of pleasure, that I actually starting understanding who I am. Americans fear pleasure; our puritanical roots have taught us that too much enjoyment of anything must be a bad thing. Our roots have betrayed us and confined us to mediocre living. Do not be afraid to be full of life, do not be afraid to passionately enjoy pleasurable things, and do not be afraid to be different. These are the exact things that make our lives shine brighter, and subsequently enable us to light of the lives of those around us.
This ability to enjoy good things is exactly what keeps us actively engaged in life and in others, it is what keeps us young. Your specific passions and pleasures are part of what make you so uniquely you. As Wilde wisely said, “be yourself, everyone else is already taken.” So, be yourself. Know what you love. Know what brings you an inordinate amount of passion and pleasure, and if you don’t yet know that, start figuring it out.
To live is the rarest thing in the world. Most people exist, that is all. -Oscar Wilde