Thursday, January 14, 2021

In Defense of Hedonism

"Find your purpose."  

How many times do we hear variations of this phrase in our daily life?  It's rather vague and has become something of a cliche, sort of like "well life is unfair" or "it is what it is".  It's meant to be inspirational but also has a hidden dark side, pushing us toward a life of unquestioning servitude of capitalism.  Hold up.  Maybe it ain't that deep.  Aren't we meant to have a purpose in life?  What even IS life without a purpose?  Why bother getting up in the morning if not to fulfill some mission, whether it be helping people in some social profession or making a shitton of sales at a business?  

No doubt about it:  Checking things off the to-do list feels GOOD.  It reflects success & feeds our confidence by proving that we're competent at something.  And it's necessary to feed ourselves and our families.  There's a lot to be said for productivity and getting things done in the short-term as well as finding a purpose in life in the larger sense.  But that simple idea has been twisted and weaponized by our corporate hustle culture in service of capitalism to make us feel worthless if we're not constantly working and "fulfilling our purpose".  Often to our detriment.  

And is it really OUR purpose at that point?  

In America, we're taught from birth that wanting a life of leisure makes you a bad person, practically on par with a common criminal.  That seeking pleasure outside the 2-day weekend is wrong, lazy, bad.  That using substances other than the legal ones--caffeine and tobacco in the daytime and alcohol at night--makes you a junkie loser who belongs in jail.  That seeking love outside a monogamous heterosexual relationship makes you unethical and shady even if you're upfront about what you want in the beginning.  Ditto for the "excessive" chasing of any hobbies that people view as childish or self-indulgent, be they video games, ATV-riding, playing music or what have you.  If we do allow people to "indulge" in drugs and wild sex, they're expected to "mature" out of these things by a certain age and "settle down" by 35 or 40 at the very latest.  For women the cutoff age is even younger.  In every comment section you can find trolls imploring someone to "get a job" as if it's the ultimate diss--usually while they're exercising their right to free assembly against our shady government or corporations.  

The question becomes, who set these standards for us and whose lives are we really living?  And what's in it for US?  We only get one life as far as we know.  We will all die at some point--possibly much sooner than we would like.  Allowing social norms put in place by ancient Type A capitalists to dictate our behavior in the hopes of fitting in or impressing others is a futile endeavor.  And potentially a huge regret while laying on our deathbed.  Only then will the true value and meaning of life snap into focus for many of us.  But it will be too late.  

The 5 days work-week is relatively new in the history of humanity.  For ages, luxury and leisure were given top billing with work being an afterthought.  The point of technology and industrial innovation is to reduce the need for human labor, yet we keep working people to death.  We talk about the elusive "work/life balance" as if ALL OF LIFE is supposed to be equal to that single element of work.  Family, romantic relationships, hobbies, travel, learning/education, self-care, relaxation and all the rest are to be condensed and balanced against... "work".  Does that seem reasonable?  What if we talked just as seriously about an "orgy/life balance"?  Would THAT seem reasonable or like some obsessed creep invented it for his own shady purposes?  

Why should work be given as much weight as all of "life"?

Maybe for some of us the central purpose of life IS hedonism.  As long as you treat others well, helping them when you're able, isn't that what really matters?  I'd rather have a world of happy hedonists than greedy, road-ragey, burnt out Jeff Bezos wannabes.  I don't personally subscribe to polyamory or some of the other lifestyles mentioned in this article, but much of my life is about feeling good and having fun.  And learning/spreading knowledge.  As somebody with depression, anxiety and many other struggles, just surviving feels like an accomplishment.  Everything else is a bonus.  The bottom line is, everyone has to define what their life is about for themselves and revise the definition as needed...not fit into some identical mold.  If you have looked everywhere for a 'purpose' and come up empty, maybe there's a reason.  Maybe simply being is enough.  

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