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The Battle of the Generation - Day 8

Our weekly excerpt from the book "The Battle of the Generation"

Chapter 3 - What Really Makes Us Happy

Before we begin, we must remember that what we experience in the battle against desire is normal. Hashem created us with these tendencies for a reason. We must not fault ourselves for these desires, and we must not be overly harsh with ourselves if we fall for some of the yetzer hara’s tricks.

It’s time for the million-dollar question: Can physical pleasure make us happy?

Although it’s difficult to see at first, when we think about it rationally, we will realize that chasing physical pleasure as a goal in itself brings us little satisfaction and plenty of pain. Even the greatest physical pleasures cannot make us happy. To understand why, we must examine our emotions at each stage of desire.

The first stage begins with a jolt of excitement at discovering something amazing that we hope to attain. Quickly, though, the excitement fades, and we find ourselves feeling that we need what we desire and cannot be happy without it. It hurts that we don’t have it. Of course, everyone knows that this pain comes with desire; we just assume that the upcoming payoff will be well worth it, because if we desire it so strongly, attaining it must yield incredible pleasure.

The second stage of desire comes if we give in to temptation. We find out the hard way that too often, the strongest cravings don’t live up to the hype. No doubt, we feel physical enjoyment during this stage. However, the pleasure is lacking in that it does not give us the emotional kick we seek. We might feel physical enjoyment, but we don’t feel good. Physical pleasure leaves us feeling empty and unsatisfied, as if something is missing. We feel, “Is there really nothing greater than this? Is that all there is to life?”

Even worse, giving in to our desires only strengthens them. The nature of desire is that it makes us urgently want even more. Because we feel this urge even while we are indulging, it hampers our ability to enjoy the pleasure. We feel unfulfilled and long for something better.

Constant longing for a higher level of pleasure is the essence of desire. Even if we would experience the pinnacle of whatever pleasure we seek, it would not satisfy us. No matter what we would attain, we would still want something even greater. This can be compared to a thirsty man drinking salt water. The more he drinks, the thirstier he gets. Similarly, a person’s desires grow stronger and drive him crazy the more he chases them. The overwhelming desires that can’t be satisfied doom the person to be miserable.

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