Pleasure from a thing is based either on knowing the thing or it isn't. If pleasure does not arise from knowing a thing, it comes from something the self having the pleasure brought to the thing at the expense of what that thing was. The thing is then either underestimated or overestimated. In neither instance is there that being at one with, or accurate relation with, what's real; which, I have said, is of pleasure itself.
The word appreciation has quantity about it in the prec part—having to do with the Latin for price. The price of a thing is concerned with what a thing is worth; and we are asking what things are worth all the time.
Appreciation can be said to mean seeing a thing at its true worth; "pricing" it right. However, we can't see a thing at its true worth until we really see it; that is, know it. But as we see it, we also get pleasure or pain from it. Not to know that a thing can give pleasure or pain is not to know that thing. So appreciation comes to mean—in the positive sense—enjoyment of a thing through knowing it, or knowing it through enjoying it. Then we have the true worth or value of a thing; then we have been usefully critical.
Everything presents a problem of appreciation. Certainly if we could have enjoyed something and didn't, there is a mistake somewhere. The biggest thing in existence is existence. So the first problem of appreciation is the appreciation of existence as such. All other appreciations fall under this universal mode of appreciation.
It seems difficult to appreciate existence as such. It's a big order. We may not know where to begin. So we have to take specimens. Still, it is well to remember—indeed, it is necessary to remember that in appreciating samples of the universe, the big Exemplar is around waiting to be appreciated for itself. When we intensely and comprehensively appreciate something, there is a tendency to raise joy from the specimen into a general, ardent appreciation.
Our tendency towards the necessary appreciation of Existence as such—the great source of joyful specimens—can be measured by the depth with which we appreciate a single specimen, and the satisfaction or rapture with which we make such an appreciated specimen diverse, many sided.
The general trend of unconscious and conscious appreciation is from narrowness of the self to grandeur, from skimpiness to multiplicity. The trend is towards Existence or the Universe itself.
It is easy for a baby to appreciate warm milk. Warm milk is so close to it. When, however, the baby can, perhaps, many years later, appreciate a combination of warmth and white and absence of milk, and a land far from the Omaha of its birth, and a time in the 9th century B.C.—that's going pretty far, and wide, and deep, and diversely in the job of universe- appreciating. This appreciation, still, is wanted by mankind; that is, it is necessary to mankind.
© 1945 by Eli Siegel