Tuesday, January 11, 2011

The Wandering Underpants Circus of Hedonism

This was from an email I sent this morning that was a response to an upcoming travel adventure being the beginning of the "wandering underpants circus of debauchery." I'm sharing it because it's something I've been thinking about a bit lately, and because I'm busy with a hundred other things and have nothing better for you today.

 "First: Branding!

"The Wandering Underpants Circus of Debauchery" has one problem. Debauchery has the unfortunate connotation of excess-- it's not self regulating. (Look at the 7 of Cups in Crowley's Thoth deck, sometime. It's all droopy and syrupy and fucked up looking.) 
I propose "The Wandering Underpants Circus of Hedonism." Hedonism, unlike debauchery, puts pleasure as the highest virtue. But one of the variables involved is time as well as quantity. If you drink TOO much, that isn't pleasurable. If you get yourself hooked on heroin, that isn't pleasurable. If you fuck over the people you care about strictly in the pursuit of pleasure, it also won't likely lead you to pleasure. At the least, eventually word gets around and you're drinking alone in a bar somewhere. The most fun is the fun that is shared. And, at least in my experience, the things I can give to other people -- pleasure amongst them -- tend to have a more lasting effect for me than the things that I experience or consume alone. It's forgotten. Just like meals. How much less fun is it to cook for yourself every day? 
Of course, no matter WHAT you do, there are unpleasant things that occur in life. That can't be avoided, and in fact even many forms of discomfort lead to heightened capacities for pleasure -- for instance, yoga, especially at first, can be very unpleasant, but it increases capacity for pleasure. So I'd consider it hedonistic. Avoiding all pain and displeasure compulsively leads to an increase of those things in the future, as well as an increased possibility to run into disaster because you have your blinders on. So increasing awareness is also hedonistic, as is self improvement. However, on the flip side, if you go too far with that, it also ceases to be fun. And so you have a constant self-regulation process, where maybe at a given point you're not necessarily at the ideal "state" but if there are regulation mechanisms in place, short of those things that knock you way outside the range and take a long time to regain stasis (if it ever occurs)-- death, death of a loved one, a horrible disease, etc-- you're always operating in regard to that ideal state. Basically what I'm describing is any basic self-regulating system, like a thermostat. 
Hedonism, in other words, is actually a MIDDLE path. And, though I'm half kidding with all this, the truth is that I'm starting to realize that it's the most simple and direct guiding principle in my life. 
Well. Anyway, that was weird."


  1. I've learned that the word hedonism has negative connotations as well, at least in the Midwest U.S.

    A safer alternative in our society is the snotty "epicurean," but that is like being agnostic to me; it's for pansies.

    I'll stick with hedonism.

  2. That negative stigma is of course one of many holdovers of Christian / Puritan morality. One should let them know, however, that Epicurianism is not nearly the same thing as hedonism. Quite the contrary. For instance, just from the wiki article: "He lauded the enjoyment of simple pleasures, by which he meant abstaining from bodily desires, such as sex and appetites, verging on asceticism."

    FYI, I'd call myself an agnostic. I'm actually fairly sure everyone is in actuality agnostic, since we can't possibly KNOW anything ontological - but the implications of agnostic - a - gnosis - are troubling.



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