Sensualism is the idea that you should just live life without worrying about the future, drinking and eating whatever and whomever you want since you only have one life with which you can enjoy all the finer physical pleasures. The most famous fan of this belief was Oscar Wilde, the legendary Irish playwright who ended up being one of the most quoted people on the planet (not counting all the fake Einstein memes).
Wilde believed in sensualism to the point he based a whole book, The Picture of Dorian Gray, on it. Sure, in the end this leads Dorian Gray straight to hell, but that doesn’t take away from the fact that this was one of younger Wilde's beliefs, that life was best spent indulging in whatever made you feel great; wearing the softest silks while surrounded in the richest aromas and eating the most extravagant food.
There is a problem with this theory, though. No matter how expensive and fine the wine, it will never taste as good as water to someone who’s thirsty. Which means, strangely, that to really enjoy the physical pleasures of life you need to hold off from having them very often.
This isn’t a mind-blowing concept. There are books and books that talk about the benefits of restraint. But, instead of just looking at its benefits in terms of health or lifestyle (which are both obviously huge) you can also see restraint as increasing the pleasure - so even from the perspective of a gluttonous aesthete it makes sense.
Restraint can apply to anything: food, drink, partying, sex (that's what I told myself in my teens). Being forced to wait with any of these helps make it even better because it feels more earned. It's tough but luckily the brain has a built in mechanism to help you restrain yourself, the Snooti-Thalamus. Thats the fictional part of your brain that makes you feel good for not being a disgusting pig like other people. Thanks to the ST, you get extra pleasure from not indulging as you look down on all the people that do. Just think of vegetarians/gym junkies.
There's no denying the joy of a binge - its a good way to get so much of something into your system that you get any desire for it out of your system. You don’t actually care about the taste of the garbage you eat or the quality of the filth you watch, you’re doing it just to be a pig. That's great. But by the sixth menulog order of mudcake and icecream dessert and the third season of Pawn Stars you have to start wondering whether this life of excess is the best thing for you. You can just be so much better.
Even if the restraint is forced on you it still works to make you a better person. A classic example is the idea of Sydney versus Melbourne. Sydney has great weather and beautiful beaches, which sounds great. We all want to go to the beach in the sun every day (why wouldn’t we?) but in Melbourne we can’t because we live in an actual genuine swamp that had a city built on it. This means that instead of going to the beach we have to sit in bars and pubs in our filthy swamp and find other things to do. This forced us to develop into the iconic cultural capital of Australia. Unlike those poor Sydney-siders.
Its the struggle of living in Swampville, being denied what you would prefer, that made Melbourne more cultural, just like how denying the easy wins can make anyone a better person. That's why the best taste you can ever have isn’t at Vue De Monde; its when you don’t eat for a day or two.
At least, that's what I’ll tell my kids.