The Hedonistic Life

Walking on Saturday night in Jamaica Plains after a night of drunken drama ( my attempt at a hedonistic life), feeling tired of the snow and the city that makes it (and sometimes me) so ugly.


The whiteness of the snow

turns black in the city.

Where can I rest?

“ The blossoms of the heart are scattered; by evening the tree itself has been turned to firewood. Who can escape?” [ Saikaku p.154]. There is no escape from the evanescence of reality. The hedonist realizes this and instead of seeking a way out, I would say like the Zen Buddhist, plunges head first into life’s physicality. If we are stuck, why not make the best of it and immerse ourselves in pleasure? While I see the draw to this, I do not buy it. Making the pursuit of pleasure paramount in life seems like a way of distracting ourselves from many truths. Mainly, that all things end, all is sadness (mono no aware), and that the self is not. People who constantly pursue pleasure cling to the notion that this pleasure will continue to give the good feelings, the fulfillment, that it has given them in the past; They in turn forget that all is change. These feelings do not continue, they become dull and can even end up hurting you, like they did Saikaku’s prostitute. I believe that the Hedonist runs away from his sadness or at least tries to over-compensate it. I think we have to embrace the sadness of our existence so that we can see the whole beauty of it. As Momokawa puts it, “ [mono no aware] is a sadness that is constantly evolving towards gaiety”[p.11]. Finally, hedonistic living, by its very essence, is self centered as it is fueled by the desires of the individuated self. This kind of living sees everything as a dichotomy; there is pleasure and pain, good and bad, and I only want one side of the story. I think this fundamentally stems from the notion as self as separate from other; I want that. When really it is I am that; thus there is no need to seek or to pursue. When we live from emptiness, we transcend the dichotomy and we are freed from desire and the attachment to those.


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3 Responses to The Hedonistic Life

  1. I really, really enjoyed the last part of your piece, talking about the notion that the self is separated from the other, and that there is no “other”. However, once we accept that everything is change, isn’t there a sense of joy in the realization, and a push to being part of that change? I don’t know, I see Hedonism more in the sense of enjoying that moment, that second, and then it all fades. We really don’t need to pursue, we need to be open to the things around us.

  2. Yeah I agree that Hedonism can be just simply living and enjoying the present moment. Like really paying attention to chewing our food for instance. But theres a difference between this and seeking pleasure, in which i don’t know if one necessarily does lives in the present moment

  3. I commented on someone else’s saying a similar thing in that often chasing pleasure can blind you to the pleasure you could be soaking in at the very moment–it can lead to you simply chasing an idea that cannot be caught, and fill you with frustration instead.

    But for some reason, I’m rather into this hedonistic response to evanescence. Maybe for some acting hedonistically means fucking everything in sight and attending constantly to our primal urges with little awareness of the effect it might have on others around.

    But then there’s us dancing (and probably getting drunk) in the Crafts common room with all our friends instead of being locked up in Tisch across the street. Here, it might seem like we’re in denial about how much work we have or feeding a shallow desire, but I think it’s also an awareness that life is short and we should enjoy the moments that we can. I think it’s more about the mutual unifying feeling we are all experiencing–losing Self in the mass. Of course, we can’t always just be partying, because then we’d become degenerates unable to experience other forms of pleasure in this world. So I think understanding and accepting the underlying brevity of pleasures is key– don’t become to attached to a certain idea of pleasure, let it go when it ends, for another will follow soon enough.

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