2 min read

can't get no satisfaction (on satiety)

Samuel Johnson used to say that the mind is shackled by the body and the laws of physics, because the mind, in an instant, can imagine a castle where there is nothing, but to bring such vision to reality takes much energy and time.

For as long as the mind functions, it will not cease to imagine the future. And we will find pleasure in the pursuit of many of our curiosities, no matter how much or little time we have left, as no man thinks he will live a short life.

”The natural flights of the human mind are not from pleasure to pleasure, but from hope to hope.” (The Rambler, No.2, March 1750)

There is a state, however, that can be experienced when the immediate availability of resources is severely limited. I am yet to understand whether it’s an abnormal and therefore temporary state, or a step to a more enlightened and permanent condition.

It is the state of satiety. It straddles saturation and satisfaction, and is neutral and colorless in sensation.

The resource that must be in short supply is time in our nearest future, which might be the oxygen that the mind needs to take flight.

Imagine, for a moment, a man (and his wife) that had two kids in quick succession. One is now a toddler, the other an infant. He hires a nanny, but she can only be there from Monday to Friday.

The brutality of weekends without help, the exhaustion of involuntary polyphasic sleep, and the knowledge that sixty minutes of quiet time will not be found for another two years, takes him to satiety.

The dribs of quiet he can gather are used to maintain a website alive or to exercise. Thoughts of purchasing nice things are instinctively rejected. There’s no excitement about researching the thing, and much less getting it. Small and large items endure the same treatment: tech and photo gear, a new car, handmade boots.

There may be wisdom in this sensation, for those are things he doesn’t need, and a new perspective has arisen with the arrival of children.

But he would feel wise if he felt satisfaction, not satiety.

Portrait of Samuel Johnson by Joshua Reynolds (friend and founding member of The Club), c. 1772