One result of the consumer economy has been a weakening of desire and a diluting of pleasure. This may seem counter-intuitive at first because desire is all around us after all—from lotion ads in magazines to juicy hamburgers on TV we are invited to enjoy this product or that, or as the latest business lingo would go, this solution or that. But for all of these enticements, the desire for any one thing is weakened—spread over wanting this or that or that. We do not want one thing deeply; we want many things weakly.
And because we do not desire one thing deeply we do not experience the authentic pleasure of anything. We buy books rather than reading them; we spend long hours on social networks rather than in long conversations; we eat cheap food quickly rather than less food, slowly. G.K. Chesterton expressed it well in his book Orthodoxy when he said, “A man is a fool who complains that he cannot enter Eden by five gates at once…Surely one might pay for extraordinary joy in ordinary morals.” Eden is a difficult pleasure; it is a pleasure that takes work and patience and time without immediate rewards. To pursue Eden our desire must be deep and strong—we must really want to be there. It requires the denial of small pleasures for deeper ones.
What we need now is radical hedonism—the pursuit of deep and difficult pleasures driven by strong desire. We should be profligate in our enjoyment of what is good and leave aside the unfulfilling amusements of an economy that stands in the way of true enjoyment. But for this pleasure we must be willing to pay what it costs, whatever it costs, even if it costs us everything we have—we have good reason to believe we will not be disappointed.