Thursday, March 12, 2015

The Meter

Ed's pleasure meter stood at slightly below neutral. He looked up from the dial on his wrist and shook his head. He had tried everything he could think of, and it had barely moved. He had thrown himself into his favorite vids, activities, and hobbies, even pornography. Almost nothing. Maybe he needed a vacation, but the thought of a vacation bored him. He supposed he could go to the doctor and have him prescribe some sort of happy pill. But that did not feel like what he wanted. He did not get it. He had an interesting and well-paying job. He had a nice house, a sporty hovercar, and most of the toys he wanted. But they did not seem to make him happy.

The front door opened, and Sandy came barging in. She was his current significant other, but all the excitement had ebbed. Maybe that was what he needed, a new significant other. But the whole idea of going back into the dating scene left him cold.

"Joe and Sue are having a party," she said. "Why don't we show up?"

Not another monotonous party, Ed thought. "So we can see if Sue has developed any fashion sense?" he asked.

"What do do you mean, she has no fashion sense."

"She dresses like a color-challenged hobo, and we will be regaled with every moment of their last vacation that they posted on facebook. We'd do better just getting drunk here."

"They are not that boring," she returned.

"Sure they are," he replied. "And Joe will probably start talking about golf - as much fun as watching paint dry."

"Sue and Joe are my friends, and I'm going to their party without you, if that's the way you feel," she said, stomping out.

He had enjoyed that. He looked at the meter, and it had spiked higher than it had in a long time. But he also saw the red warning dial blinking angrily at him. The dial was designed to promote the greatest pleasure for the greatest number. It blinked red when you caused pain to someone else. Was that what he enjoyed - hurting people? He thought of things he could do to irritate other people, and it made his meter go up. What was he, some sort of sadist? He went outside to clear his head.

Most of the people he passed seemed to be just like him. They had a vacant look in their eyes. He peeked at their meters, and those he could see were just a little off neutral. This was not how the meters were supposed to work. They were meant to maximize your pleasure without hurting others. The idea was that if you could accurately measure it, you could achieve it. Granted, it sometimes created paradoxes. He remembered the woman he knew some years ago who was way more committed to him then he was to her. But knowing exactly the pleasure produced by something ought to make it easy to maximize pleasure. It did not.

As Ed walked along, he noticed a man walking forward in confidence, with a spring in his step. And as Ed was looking closer, he noticed something almost unheard of. He was not wearing a meter.

"Excuse me," said Ed, "but I notice you are not wearing a meter."

"You cannot truly gain pleasure by pursuing pleasure," returned the man. "What gives us pleasure depends on our philosophy of life and our attitude toward life. If we make pleasure our goal, it loses all its significance."

Ed walked away, shaking his head.

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