EP&M Online Essay



Michael Curtis

        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 of the idea of pleasure, or is pleasure an object of reality.  The kiss is to all humanity a pleasure.  Then, since a kiss is known as a pleasure to all, let it 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 from 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: the kind, generous love -- an affection as unselfish as it is noble, and magnanimous for it is unsolicited.  Like a gift from nature, this kiss passes over the object loved as does the rays from a generous sun.
        The kiss of greeting and 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 breath from the hand of the adored or respected object.  Occasionally the kiss is repeated severally upon either cheek and accompanied with a hug, 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 the joy of life.
        Embracing lovers kiss as though they would draw the object of desire into themselves; every part of the flesh swells, as does 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 above the nude and extended 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 subject.  It is like masturbation, and those who might take pleasure in it consider themselves so base that their pleasure is in the depravity of the 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 like 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 was itself 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 in 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 reality of existence.  This is pleasure.  

                                                                                                             Michael Curtis

"On Pleasure" © 2006 by Michael Curtis
Michael Curtis is a poet, sculptor, professor, and architect who has appeared on these pages many times.