As she boarded the luxurious tour bus, Jessica couldn't believe that she was actually taking a day off for herself. It was hard to imagine that a full six months had flown by since she accepted her new position and had moved to this small coastal city. She knew she was going to enjoy what the travel brochure had promised would be a pampered and casual day of scenic wonders. The tour was expensive but she had earned her pleasure and she was going to have it. She sat on the edge of her seat as the bus pulled out of the depot.
Twenty minutes later, over the oohs and ahs of the other twenty-five passengers, the driver was describing the natural wonders of the breathtaking blue and green seascape that spread endlessly beneath them. The promise of a beautiful day sent a wave of pleasure through her and she relaxed in her tufted seat. Just then, one of the passengers in front of her jumped out of his seat, walked up to the driver and said he wanted to drive for awhile. The driver stood up, the passenger sat down, and the bus jerked forward. To Jessica's amazement, no one around her -- including the driver -- seemed to mind this odd exchange.
In less than a heartbeat, the beautiful ocean vista had vanished and now all she was looking at outside her window were old, abandoned buildings and trash-littered streets. The new driver was taking the bus through the slums. No one else aboard looked at all surprised and so she tried her best to relax. The thought came that maybe this was part of the tour, but she didn't remember reading about it. Her thoughts were interrupted when yet another passenger scrambled up to the driver's seat and took over the wheel. Now the bus was racing up and down steep, bumpy streets and over dangerous narrow bridges. Something was definitely wrong. Too numb to speak out and too frightened to move, she sank deeper into her chair as one by one each of the passengers took over the wheel and drove the bus wherever they wanted. Her pleasure cruise had turned into a tunnel of horrors.
She had almost resigned herself to a desperate kind of helpless rage when all of a sudden, from deep within her growing confusion, a thought came that shocked her awake and into a new sense of herself she had never before experienced.
Terrified but determined she got up, walked over to the driver's seat, and said in a shaky but firm voice, "Now it's my turn to drive."
To her surprise, the passenger-driver got up and gave her his seat. She sat down, took the wheel, and drove herself home.
This story contains many higher lessons that we are going to need to understand if we wish to make it all the way to the ever-pleasant life. When we don't know where we are going or who is driving, a pleasant present is impossible. The only pleasure we can have on this kind of ride through life comes from dreaming about where we are going. We must dream while others drive because if our eyes were open, we would never tolerate where we were being taken.
Even when we do run into a nice rest-stop or a pleasant event, there is no lasting pleasure in it for us because we know that we have no real say in how long we get to remain there. These temporary pleasures are usually a strange blend of anticipation and cynicism which we learn to swallow only because we don't as yet know the taste of real pleasure.
Real pleasure in this life comes from knowing that you are in command of yourself now. We like to tell ourselves that we are at the wheel, but no one would purposely drive himself through the mud or off a cliff. Whenever we find that we are feeling sorry for ourselves, or angry, or worried and anxious, this is a sure sign that we took the wrong seat and that someone or something else is busy steering us down the wrong road.
At first it is humiliating to see and then admit that you only thought you were in the driver's seat. This is a necessary shock if we want to identify exactly what is driving us. However, compare this temporary humiliation which eventually places you in command of yourself to the life without it that closely resembles Mr. Toad's Wild Ride at Disneyland.
We live from a bottomless basket of endless wants that drive us everywhere, including crazy! Hoping to find comfort and life-direction in your wants is like trying to find shade under a swarm of stinging flies. While it may be cooler, you also have to keep running. Your pleasure is your pain.
Real pleasure is not the opposite of pain, it is the absence of it. Think about it. What you really want is to be free of your wants. This Higher want becomes an answerable need the more we realize that we do not have to sit by and submit to anything that is not of our own choosing. No one chooses to be pulled apart unless his idea of happiness is going to pieces.
Sometimes a man can get all of his wants pulling in one direction and so he may win his want. Only now his want is his haunt. Too late he realizes he must live with what he has won because he knows he didn't really get what he thought he was after. Now all he wants is to hide from himself and everyone else that he is still not happy.
Here is the key to the ever-pleasant life. Our wants seem to hold the promise of a brighter, more pleasant future when the truth is that it is their very nature that is disturbing the present. Everything is pleasant now. You wouldn't throw a pebble into a pond to quiet its surface. Left alone, the pond reflects the heavens above it. As we learn to leave ourselves alone, the clearer it becomes that we are happier that way. No one likes a nag so it's no small wonder we don't like ourselves.
Don't be afraid to tell a persistent want that you are taking over the wheel. Let it holler. As all of these inner-passengers start to realize that you intend to drive from now on, they will start to exit the bus. At this point you may notice a weird feeling that seems something like loneliness. Believe me, this is just one of the last wants who doesn't want to be ignored. Stay right there in the driver's seat. Even though it may not feel like it at the moment, you have nothing to lose. This is the truth. Don't worry if you aren't sure where you want to go. Stick with your new inner-position and one day you will be happy to see even that worry was just another of the want haunts. Little by little you will discover that you never really needed to know where to go. Now it's pleasant for you wherever you are because pleasure has become your nature instead of your goal.