I used to believe that everything was ultimately motivated by one of two things- the pursuit of pleasure or the avoidance of pain. I thought that on some level, whenever I made any choice, I had decided I was going to achieve one of these two goals through the decision that I’d made.
When I ate a hamburger a McDonald’s, I was either doing it because I was famished and needed the massive boost of everything it contained, or I wanted the happy feelings that came from eating a gigantor Double Big Mac.
When I pursued relationships with others, I was either trying to stave off loneliness, or pursuing the enjoyment of romantic conquest.
I see now that all of my decisions are, in fact, motivated by both simultaneously. It is merely my focus that was different. My focus, I believe, is determined by which result I stand closer to- pleasure, or pain. The reality is that all my decisions, and all my actions, are part of one continuous movement away from pain and toward pleasure.
I heard someone liken time to a wolf, always chasing behind us. I have taken that analogy and used it to describe this single movement inherent in my every decision and action.
In the diagram at the beginning of this post, pain, which comes from unfulfilled need, is the wolf ever chasing behind me. Pleasure, which is the satisfaction of need, is the rabbit I am ever chasing before me. If I stop moving, not only will I never catch up to the rabbit (pleasure), but the wolf (pain) will catch up with me.
If I try to move faster, the rabbit matches my pace, zigzagging all over, impossible to catch and hold. As I move faster, the wolf not only moves faster as well, but I become easier for it to follow with all my clamor. Moving faster is also harder for me to sustain, and wears me down sooner.
If I move more slowly and carefully, the rabbit slows down and it is easier to approach. As I move more carefully, the wolf has a harder time tracking me and stalking me effectively, and slows his approach as well.
If something slows me down, and the wolf is near, it is him that I am focused on. If the wolf is far behind, and I am close to the rabbit, it is him that is my focus.
So, being idle means a quicker death, and moving faster means a quicker death. Moving slowly and carefully means catching up with pleasure and avoiding pain.