“Just think about the things that make you feel good,” she suggests. “Like taking a bubble bath.” “This isn’t Ms. Magazine,” I protest. “Oh,” she says, “you always have to be philosophical.” “Philosophical? We don’t even have a bathtub.”

 

But she’s right. I have too much to say about feeling bad, about frustration and sadness and hopelessness and pain. And about bogus spiritualism. It’s easy to criticize. It’s safe; glamorous, even. But what about feeling good?

It’s hard to say. Consider making love. Making love to someone used to make me feel good, until I realized that making love with someone made me feel even better, until I finally understood that I wasn’t making love at all, but confusing love with the giving and receiving of pleasure.

Or war. Being against the war used to make me feel good. Then I learned that being for peace made me feel better. Until one day it occurred to me that being for or against anything made me war with myself, and the world.

Alas, conflict and contradiction, again. Why couldn’t I just say it simply, like David: “Feeling good is feeling God. There is no other definition of feeling good that is not ultimately reduced to ashes and dust. If you do not have a living knowledge of this in your heart you know nothing.”

Or like Judith: “Feeling good has nothing to do with eating or sex or whether you keep you room tidy. It’s got to do with right thinking. There’s nothing good or bad, only infinite possibilities. It doesn’t matter if you eat scrambled eggs or brown rice or make love or make the bed. Understand?”

 

“Just say what makes you feel good. Why is that so hard?”

“You mean what gives me pleasure?”

“Yes. What’s wrong with that?”

“I wanted to explain how pleasure and pain are opposite sides of the same coin, that wanting to feel good, to hold, possess, recapture a person, or a moment, or to be different, better, smarter, more happy, puts us in conflict. As long as there’s a should and a shouldn’t there’s conflict. As long as we think we need to feel good, instead of whatever we’re feeling, there’s conflict.”

“There’s no conflict in a bubble bath.”

 

She wins.