Pursuit of Pleasures

By Dr. Henry Wong Meng Yeong | Tuesday, April 1 2014

We continue our discussion on identifying trustworthy people.

3. Examine what gives that person rest and pleasure

This is the third point for identifying the trustworthy.

If Voltaire is right in that “the pursuit of pleasure must be the goal of every rational person”, then examining the nature of the pleasure will reveal one’s character.

According to Confucius, a 君子, which describes an aristocracy of nobility of character, seeks to perfect the admirable qualities of men and does not seek to perfect their bad qualities. A knave does just the opposite.

Does the person derive pleasure and rest from helping build the character of others and help those in need? Or does he derive pleasure in selfish and greedy pursuits, coveting possessions of others to satisfy his own hedonistic and self-indulgent ways? Is he happy having helped the poor or does he celebrate after having obtained benefits through ill gotten gains, deriving perverse pleasure from cheating? Does he get pleasure from giving or receiving? These clues invariably reflect a person’s pleasure.

Gandhi deems pleasure without conscience one of the seven deadly sins.

Confucius was asked by his pupil ZiLu what he thought were the qualities of a complete man. “To have the wisdom of ZhangWuZhong, the austerity of Meng GongChuo, the bravery of BianZhuangzi, the talent of RanYou, add to these the rules of rites and the accomplishments of music. Such a person he reckoned was a complete person” However, he added, “in the present day, I will be content to find someone who can resist the temptation of ill gotten gains, who in the face of danger is willing to sacrifice his life and who honours an old agreement however far back it extends, such a man may be reckoned a complete person.”

It is recorded in the book of Proverbs that ill gotten treasures are of no value. Craving for satisfaction will only leave one craving for more. Theologian Charles Spurgeon enunciated it elegantly when he said “You say, 'If I had a little more, I should be very satisfied.' You make a mistake. If you are not content with what you have, you would not be satisfied if it were doubled.”

If we were to

      1. See and observe a person’s conduct and actions.
      2. Discern a person's ulterior motives
      3. Examine what gives that person rest and pleasure

Confucius submits that the person cannot conceal his character and we will be able to identify the trustworthy.