“Indolence is, in fact, the curse of man. As the Irish peasant and the cosmopolitan gypsy dwell in dirt and poverty out of sheer idleness, so does the man of the world live contented in sensuous pleasures for the same reason.”
The problem is thinking that there is a point that one can stop at when one feels satisfied. But one is mistaken in thinking that this satisfaction will last.
“There can be no final point, for life in every form is one vast series of fine gradations; and the man who elects to stand still at the point of culture he has reached, and to avow that he can go no further, is simply making an arbitrary statement for the excuse of his indolence.”
Of course there is a possibility of declaring that the gypsy is content in his dirt and poverty, and, because he is so, is as great a man as the most highly cultured. But he only is so while he is ignorant; the moment light enters the dim mind the whole man turns towards it. So it is on the higher platform; only the difficulty of penetrating the mind, of admitting the light, is even greater.
The man suffers the final penalty for his persistent ignorance of a law of nature as inexorable as that of gravitation, — a law which forbids a man to stand still. Not twice can the same cup of pleasure be tasted; the second time it must contain either a grain of poison or a drop of the elixir of life.
There is actually little difference between coarse pleasures and more refined ones. The same sense of attachment pervades them all.
“Like the boor he is deluded by a mirage that oppresses his soul; and he fancies, having once obtained a sensuous joy that pleases him, to give himself the utmost satisfaction by endless repetition, till at last he reaches madness. The bouquet of the wine he loves enters his soul and poisons it, leaving him with no thoughts but those of sensuous desire; and he is in the same hopeless state as the man who dies mad with drink.”
A serious crisis occurs when the body begins to falter and one cannot keep on the groove one has set for oneself. Here the author describes what could now be termed the mid-life crisis – one realizes that the body can no longer has the vitality and capacity it used to, and so a yearning to try to maintain the previous levels of sensual pleasure occurs.
“Then comes the barrenness and lack of vitality, — that unhappy and disappointing state into which great men too often enter when middle life is just passed. The fire of youth, the vigor of the young intellect, conquers the inner inertia and makes the man scale heights of thought and fill his mental lungs with the free air of the mountains. But then at last the physical reaction sets in; the physical machinery of the brain loses its powerful impetus and begins to relax its efforts, simply because the youth of the body is at an end. Now the man is assailed by the great tempter of the race who stands forever on the ladder of life waiting for those who climb so far. He drops the poisoned drop into the ear, and from that moment all consciousness takes on a dullness, and the man becomes terrified lest life is losing its possibilities for him.”
All of this results from getting attached to sensual pleasures and thinking these to be the goal. Whereas one would do better to keep on and strive to find pleasures that have lasting, edifying value. Further, the problems of aging are outlined. By clinging to material comforts and refusing to accept the process of ageing, one enters into a continuing state of denial and delusion and the anxiety increases when faced with the prospect of dying. However, at this point, an opportunity for spiritual growth arises as well, the concluding section explains how to deal with this.
Related passages from Light on the Path
If grief, dismay, disappointment or pleasure, can shake the soul so that it loses its fixed hold on the calm spirit which inspires it, and the moisture of life breaks forth, drowning knowledge in sensation, then all is blurred, the windows are darkened, the light is useless. This is as literal a fact as that if a man, at the edge of a precipice, loses his nerve through some sudden emotion he will certainly fall. (Note 1)
Those who are the subjects of Time, and go slowly through all his spaces, live on through a long-drawn series of sensations, and suffer a constant mingling of pleasure and of pain. They do not dare to take the snake of self in a steady grasp and conquer it, so becoming divine; but prefer to go on fretting through divers experiences, suffering blows from the opposing forces. (Note 1)
In the same way that "tears" in the language of occultists expresses the soul of emotion, not its material appearance, so blood expresses, not that blood which is an essential of physical life, but the vital creative principle in man's nature, which drives him into human life in order to experience pain and pleasure, joy and sorrow. (Note 2)