Hedonism

 

This week I was walking back from Olin at night, and I noticed a large sheen of ice sitting amidst the snow in the center of the residential quad.

 

Snow melting

 

The ice shines

 

Reflecting yellow lamps.

When the lecture involved a group statement of “we all suck”, I knew I was in for an interesting topic to think about.  This week’s concept of embracing hedonism through the acceptance of the sadness of things, mono no aware, made me sad for reasons unrelated to accepting that life sucks and we should celebrate its suck-ish-ness. Hedonism in a western context usually brings images of sexual debauchery and general selfishness to mind, and the week’s readings did little to assert the contrary.  Starting with Saikaku’s the Woman Who Loved Love I began to look for positives within the effects of hedonism. I unfortunately found few. Instead of that I saw one of the classic consequences of embracing pleasure as a means towards life, blatant irresponsibility and selfishness. Saikaku’s narrator acts as a professional seductress, an escort, and in her haughty success she becomes selfish, “Moreover I took money from guests I didn’t like, and then refused to sleep with them” (Hibbett 179). Basically, she acts as both a con and prostitute, and it is no surprise that her status and prestige rapidly slides, but her attitude stays roughly the same no matter what level of class she arrives at. She also makes a point to deny responsibility for many of her actions, and instead celebrates the tragedy of her predicament (though at least part of her stature is legitimately out of her control, as a slave, she has a sad life). Personally speaking, I see great danger in throwing off all responsibility in exchange for pleasure, as one may mistakenly accept their failures under the lens of being a part of life. I find this as being partly justified in the ideological shift that occurs in the Meiji, Taisho, and early Showa eras, when this passive philosophy was overturned with nationalism, Japan became a global power (Inouye 84). While it had led to disastrous consequences, things got done. Admittedly the ideas spawned by mono no aware would lead to an increased diversity in the art of painting (the practice of European style perspective), or theater through the spreading and popularization of Kabuki (Lecture 2/21), I am of the belief that any change in ideology would lead to a more diverse culture by way of simple entropy. Now having studied this concept, I can’t help but wonder if Japan’s ongoing problem with suicide has to do with a romanticization of death and suffering.

 

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