Thursday, 21 November 2013

It's still a pleasure even if you just think you're enjoying it

‘What is all this swimming business?’ a friend asks me, after reading my latest dirge on how ghastly the whole experience is.

Well, I should perhaps set the record straight. It isn’t, in reality, anything like as bad as the impression I may have given of it. In fact, there are occasions when I derive great enjoyment from ploughing up and down the pool. Even at one of those horrifying times of day when the only kind of water that seems remotely attractive is the kind that fills a steaming bath, and even that prospect barely tempts one away from a sheet and a toast-warm duvet.

Just the other day, the pleasure practically tipped into triumph. I was racing up and down the pool, eating away the lengths as though there was no tomorrow, far more quickly than on any yesterday. I was achieving a staggering increase in pace. OK, I knew that the kind of speed I was managing was probably little better than what you might call sedate, but that was a huge step up from my usual performance, best described as downright laggardly.

In fact, the improvement was so colossal that it did occur to me to wonder whether it could be real. But I drove that unworthy thought away and enjoyed the pleasure of the moment. Isn’t that what the best philosophers always recommend?

Unborn tomorrow and dead yesterday, why fret about them if today be sweet?

So I rose from the pool, shoulders squared, chest puffed out, full of my sense of accomplishment. Only then did I notice that the partition, which usually splits our 50 metre pool at the 32 metre mark, had been placed bang on the centre point.

I stood stupidly staring at this chastening evidence of my own vainglory.

The pool had been super-short. I’d been racking up the lengths, but they were just over two-thirds of my normal ones. Even a swimming-atrophied brain at a mind-numbing time could work out that far from achieving anything out of the ordinary, my performance had been right down there in the bargain basement I generally inhabit. There’d been no improvement at all.

No, it wasn't me.
However much I'd have liked to believe it was
So it turned out that the one time my swimming gave me tangible pleasure, it turned out to be entirely illusory.

But, hold on, that’s not really right, is it? It was the perception on which my enjoyment was based that was illusory. The pleasure itself was genuine. Now that’s got to be worth celebrating.

After all, how many of the pleasures we enjoy have any stronger basis?

No comments: