English – Reading Comprehension – Once, during a concert of cathedral organ music


XAT 2020 Exam Paper – English – Reading Comprehension – Once, during a concert of cathedral organ music

Once, during a concert of cathedral organ music, as I sat getting gooseflesh amid that tsunami of sound, I was struck with a thought: for a medieval peasant, this must have been the loudest human-made sound they ever experienced, awe-inspiring in now-unimaginable ways. No wonder they signed up for the religion being proffered. And now we are constantly pummeled with sounds that dwarf quaint organs. Once, hunter-gatherers might chance upon honey from a beehive and thus briefly satisfy a hardwired food craving. And now we have hundreds of carefully designed commercial foods that supply a burst of sensation unmatched by some lowly natural food. Once, we had lives that, amid considerable privation, also offered numerous subtle, hard-won pleasures. And now we have drugs that cause spasms of pleasure and dopamine release a thousandfold higher than anything stimulated in our old drug-free world.
An emptiness comes from this combination of over-the-top nonnatural sources of reward and the inevitability of habituation; this is because unnaturally strong explosions of synthetic experience and sensation and pleasure evoke unnaturally strong degrees of habituation. This has two consequences. First, soon we barely notice the fleeting whispers of pleasure caused by leaves in autumn, or by the lingering glance of the right person, or by the promise of reward following a difficult, worthy task. And the other consequence is that we eventually habituate to even those artificial deluges of intensity. If we were designed by engineers, as we consumed more, we’d desire less. But our frequent human tragedy is that the more we consume, the hungrier we get. More and faster and stronger. What was an unexpected pleasure yesterday is what we feel entitled to today, and what won’t be enough tomorrow.


Question 1
Which of the following options BEST reflects the author’s understanding of human perception of pleasure?

  1. Pleasure comes from whatever we are exposed to for the first time
  2. Pleasure comes from what we are deprived of
  3. Pleasure comes from what appears to be a valuable discovery or invention
  4. Pleasure comes from what is perceived to be extraordinary
  5. Pleasure comes from what we are accustomed to

Answer: D

Question 2
Going by the author, which of the following options BEST answers the question “how can one sustain the pleasure derived from any experience?”

  1. Training to appreciate sweet whispers and fleeting moments of joy to sustain pleasure
  2. Periodic displeasure with synthetic experiences leads to sustaining pleasure
  3. The harder to replicate, the more sustainable the pleasure from that experience
  4. The closer the experience is to nature, the more sustainable it is
  5. Awareness of a habituation moment helps sustain pleasure

Answer: C

Question 3
Which of the following options BEST describes “emptiness” as described in the passage?

  1. A feeling, evoked by the carefully designed commercial foods, alluring us to them
  2. A feeling of absence of sources of pleasure when extant sources are in abundance
  3. Yearning for newer sources of pleasure when extant sources are in abundance
  4. A feeling of weariness around extant sources of pleasure that are in abundance
  5. The inevitability of habituation that one gets from repeated consumption of man-made foods or drugs

Answer: B



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