I’m fascinated by a story recounted by the Roman philosopher Cicero. He notes of Xerxes the Great that he “was not contented with…the infinite weight of his gold, but offered a prize for the man who could invent a new pleasure.”
Inventing a new pleasure seems like an impossible task—how could such a thing be done? Though, true, I’m old enough to remember when Cookies’n’Cream ice cream was introduced. That was indeed a new pleasure.
I thought about Disneyland, but then decided, nah, Disneyland was just an old idea executed very, very well.
But an even newer, more novel kind of pleasure?
It occurs to me that social media is a new pleasure. Tools like Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, Snapchat, TikTok, and Instagram give us new ways to mainline our fascination with other people. Sure, in the past, we could read magazines about celebrities, or watch newsreels about royalty, but now we can read about the people we know (or used to know) as well as the famous.
For us people, one of the most important forces in the world is—other people. Other people represent safety, and they represent danger. And for that reason, we have an insatiable interest in them.
Nature makes it pleasant to follow her commands. We love stories, gossip, biographies, memoirs…anything that lets us look more closely at other people is immensely interesting. What are they doing, what do they say, how do they look? It’s almost impossible to look away.
If you were going to try to invent a new pleasure, what direction would you go?