Week 5: Hedonism

I was walking through campus when a bunch of Canadian geese flew over my head in a perfect V formation.

clear blue sky
dozen winged geese
perfect formation


The discussion and readings about hedonism this week really emphasize the role of mujo (evanescence) in everyday life. Ukiyo, the world of pleasure, focuses on pursuing these fleeting feelings (Inouye 70). These feelings of pleasure are always changing and disappearing yet we spend so much of our time chasing them. What’s better: eating a donut now or enjoying a healthy body? Finding someone to have sex with for a night or putting the time in to form a long term relationship? So many people choose the former for the quick pleasure when arguably the latter brings more pleasure. I was a little amused to see that these dilemmas were prominent in 17th century Japan when Ihara Saikaku wrote The Woman Who Loved Love. Not only do we see her constantly change partners, we also watch as her beauty, like the cherry blossoms, quickly becomes “rather wilted” and she no longer attracts suitors (Saikaku 210). Not only are our pleasures temporary but our ability to enjoy them also cannot last. For me, remembering silly fun I’ve had with friends is almost as enjoyable as experiencing it. However even memories of pleasure fade and we have nothing left of the moments that gave us such joy. It’s crazy how I think back on my life and have very few select memories from childhood. There are entire months of my life where I don’t have a single memory. In ten years I might not remember a single thing that happened this month. Or even worse I can be like the woman in Saikaku’s story and be haunted by my pleasures as she was forced to see reminders throughout the world of her “whole turbulent course” of her life (Saikaku 216). It seems like a pretty delicate balance. Overall I still believe that youth brings a “sense of urgency to the pursuit of pleasure” that I feel compelled to follow while I still have the opportunity to (Inouye 70). Too much pleasure, like in Saikaku’s tale, leads to regret, but I think also not taking the chance to pursue pleasure while you had the opportunity brings its own set of equally remorseful regrets.

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2 Responses to Week 5: Hedonism

  1. Hi Adrienne,
    I enjoy your mentioning of the delicate balance that a pleasure seeking lifestyle needs to be wary of. In class our discussions of hedonist ideology were kind of extreme. If we all lived this way we would be destitute and addicted to drugs by the end of the month. Instead, in practice, there truly needs to be some balance. Nobody can be a pure hedonist, rather they show hedonistic tendencies in the way they approach life.

  2. I thought it was interesting how you talked about how we remember so little about our childhood. While yes, its true we may not remember the “silly fun” of years past, I do feel as though there is some indelible mark of that memory that remains. I hope to look back on college not necessarily through specific memories but also my general feeling towards it.

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