The Benefits of Hedonism
"Only what is pleasant or has pleasant consequences is intrinsically good"; that's how philosophers define hedonism. For the hedonist this means, many activities we mostly consider as good are evil, when they are not done for pleasure, such as work, study, charity, prayer, raising children, helping others, defending a country, etc. In other words, if a man does any of the above for any other aim than pleasure (fulfilling a sense of duty, following a habit, pleasing someone else, etc.) he commits a sin. A sin, not in the common religious sense, but the broader secular one, simply means harm. He and those he is duty-bound to help are being put in harm's way, only because he does something he doesn't love!
It may not sound so problematic, but in the long run it will. We all do things we don't enjoy (nay, we deeply detest) sometimes, but to continue doing them, or worse, to choose doing them is a fatal sin. Then, to repent, become better persons and return to the right path (with the flock of faithful life-lovers), we must regret our sinful acts and start a new life: one full of pleasures, thus worth-living.
Pleasure comes first, before duty, like energy and motion. Yet, the wise hedonist is far-sighted enough to know that some duties are pleasure in disguise. Not only today's duty paves the way for tomorrow's pleasure, but "anticipating" future happiness is a pleasure now; and some duties are simultaneously pleasurable: a job as a hobby, a game as a lesson, etc. They still fit the hedonist because they are for pleasure's sake albeit differently. Many duties are harmless if not useful (at least exercising one's perseverance), as long as they are done out of a "temporary" obligation to ourselves or others. But, when such obligation lasts longer without achieving any foreseeable pleasure, problems begin to arise. Nobody can do something they don't love for a long time, because motivation is a must, and our sense of duty, however praised by others, is not a strong motive; LOVE is. Our motives are the momentum that gives every action a reason to last; else it subsides and sinks into stillness.
Soon people under such obligations will come to a point where responsibility turns into a burden they cannot carry or a dull routine they hypnotically follow, depriving their life of its meaning, while wasting every opportunity they could've used to do the things they truly love. The growing apathy with which they follow those infinite rigid rules will make them eventually break and break those they claim to help; otherwise they will keep living in a comatose petrified state, mere lifeless sculptures surrounded by fellow human miniatures they created, only to give company to their misery.
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Our need to stay healthy, secure and alive precedes in time our desire to be happy (self-preservation before self-gratification), because life is a prerequisite for happiness (you wouldn't enjoy life if you were hopelessly sick, scared, or just lifeless like a statue or dead body). So we have to be alive first to enjoy living. However, happiness does precede life in value, and a miserable life void of pleasure is worse than no life.
No better motive gives us the momentum to move forward than pleasure. Socially, questioning the motivation of other people we share life with is good and rightful, esp. those claiming to be guardians of our well-being, like people who need our vote: presidents, MPs, chairpersons, etc. When we simply ask someone helping us why they do it, they shouldn't be offended, but rather happy and willing to prepare our minds for the "gift" they offer: there is no use of unwanted or imaginary gifts. The same question we should ask ourselves too, with every move and decision we make. Life won't last forever; it's too short for unconsidered, unnecessary moves; too meaningless and not worth living if it's not about happiness.
Like philosophers, many psychologists also believe that our behavior is only motivated by desiring pleasure and avoiding pain. Nevertheless, the majority of people still wrongly think of hedonism only as the indulgence in temporary sensual pleasures!
Pleasure is the best remedy, that helps us endure pain, if not totally defeat it. It's a natural maintenance process we continuously need, to stay in good shape without breaking or malfunctioning. Conversely, misery, which cannot exist in a vacuum, is a virus attacking our entire being, causing it psychological, social, mental and physical damage: venom, hatred, self-pity, apathy, narrow-mindedness, and several physical diseases.
Pleasure makes us strong and healthy in the face of life's hardships, including death, ours or others'. Meeting death while one is happy is definitely better than when one isn't, where one can say: "I have lived and enjoyed my life." Nothing else you require to give meaning to your life.
There are times when we must give ourselves totally to pleasure, for its own sake, with minimal or no restraints. This can be at such hard times we may encounter along the journey of life, when we have to endure and survive a hardship, without risking being broken or losing our keen hedonic sense of pleasure. We have to be nonselective about what we enjoy then, letting our nature decide for itself, and, simply, follow our heart.
A hardship is measured by both its force and how we absorb it. There are as many stress types as there are body hormones mutually affecting each. Not only pain, fatigue or anger, but also sadness, boredom and apathy can make us blind to the pleasures of life, leading us to wrongly think life is not worth living. This is when a pleasure is needed most, however simple it is, to reconcile us with life, and rekindle our love for it again.
At those times, the stress would be so high that it needs immediate intervention by taking an instant high dosage of pleasure to counteract it. Whether it's sex, food, art, reading, meditation … it won't matter much. Be it human or animal pleasure, physical or intellectual, social or private, sensual or spiritual … we must follow it to the end, till it guides us to the height of ecstasy. There we can enjoy every moment of it, having a taste of every dish in the banquet life has prepared for us, never missing a crump in one's plate or a drop in their cup. We can reach that state and become intoxicated with pleasure, that pain will sheepishly go away and our arrogant stresses be defeated.
To give up one's will temporarily, and indulge in free pleasures without restraint, is not as risky as it seems, because it's a "pre-measured" step. Don't we all put our will aside every night when we go to bed, leaving our conscious world behind and heading forward to that unknown world of dreams? Don't we sink into that chosen disarmed state of sleep, where we can stop neither a stranger from attacking us in the physical world, nor a nightmare we can't help, attacking from inside?
We fight our insecurities before, not after sleep. We avoid having a restless sleep, by watching for example the type of food and thoughts we have before we head to bed. We minimize our insecurity about the physical world by taking routine security measures to avert bad encounters with Fate while we are helplessly asleep: we turn off the gas, close the doors and windows, take our medicines, etc. (Some may say their prayers, meditate, or evoke some happy thoughts to accompany them in their unknown trip to dreamland, where they must first say goodbye to the conscious world.)
Turning off one's ascetic radar temporarily in a pre-measured manner will not do them much harm. In fact harm is barely felt, compared to the benefits of that natural remedy for our stresses that pleasure is. Not only pleasure soothes pain, but above all, it makes life worth-living.
Hedonism gives us the directions when we get lost, blinded by cares and problems distorting our vision of the truth, and forgetting the essential value in life all other values are based upon: happiness. The ancient Egyptians said: "The best and shortest road towards knowledge of truth is Nature." Nothing is more natural than enjoying life, as any feeling animal seeks, however evolved we are, however refined humans' pleasures are, compared to animals'.
No one is more hedonic, closer to the meaning of life, than a child and an old person, both aware that life starts and ends with nothingness, compared to other "in-between" age groups who are busy, lost and confused. Nature teaches the young to enjoy life, growing good impressions of it to be their beacon all life long; as it teaches the old to enjoy it, before leaving it, to easily let go after having one's share of life.
Meanwhile, those who lie to themselves, claiming to live for any other aim than happiness, automatically generate more lies leading to further ignorance and alienation form the truth. Eventually, the web of lies and myths they entangled their thoughts into, turns into whole belief systems many live by and dare not change, passing their entire life in pain cultures:
There they distort hedonism, equaling it to sensuality and pandering to physical urges, degrading it to animal hedonism. Meanwhile, they take pain as a matter of course, haunting their thoughts, beliefs and views of life, forgetting to sharpen and refine their mental sense of hedonism, to save them from the wrong path they took. Following their written and oral knowledge, they glorify tragedies, idolize martyrs, canonize masochists and self-abusers, treating suffering as a natural component of life that need not be altered (committing the natural logical fallacy: whatever is natural is good), although, like death, pain is just a part we instinctively avoid and seek to change. Some of them do it because of a belief they follow, others as a result of bad learning or upbringing, and many because of painful life experiences they had.
Thus they submit to pain. Worse still, they inflict it on those under their control: children, wives, animals, employees, students, servants and other types of modern slavery victims. In less tragic scenarios, they passively turn a blind eye to the pain of others, never taking action to eliminate any of its forms that humanity is plagued with. Needless to say they bother not to improve the level of happiness in their own life.
They do it unconsciously, taking their frustration and failure to enjoy life out on those they chose to victimize and torture. Ironically, they love and need their victims, their self-made "sharers of misery," as evil needs company. Or they do it consciously, wrongly overvaluing the power of pain as a medium of teaching, reform and correction. Thus when they have the choice, with their pain-obsessed minds, they choose fighting over arguing, war over peace, and stick over carrot.
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Life is already short; we don't get to see much of its diverse and manifold beauty except during everyone's brief existence. Pain is disfiguring the picture of life, dampening the joy of living; yet many are afraid to face or change it. For those dreamy, timid creatures who live in permanent mild fear of facing it, their fear never intensifies to force a confrontation, or goes away to allow peaceful solutions. Thus they end up accepting little of everything; above all, little of happiness. They are visitors, not makers of life; they stand happily on the corner, satisfied with the onlooker's position they chose, who lived and died without ever knowing what was happening.
Those people, whose nature is hypersensitive to imperfection, refuse to see the dark and ugly spots that might affect their view of life. Instead, they relish a smaller, fainter, miniature copy they carry along in their minds wherever they go. Thus they live in their chosen cowardice, permanently looking at life with half-closed half-open eyes. By constantly avoiding reasoning with Truth, they cocoon themselves in a virtual world of fantasy, ignoring reality and missing its real pleasures.
The hedonist loves adventure, as much as he hates monotony and boredom, wanting to make every new moment (of his short lifespan) taste different from the one before. His insatiable desires keep him restless, compelling him to move and think more. Thus he always seeks new sensations, experiences and knowledge to fulfill his goal — utmost pleasure — knowing that all three (body, mind and heart) complete each other to serve that purpose.
He is more curious about life, wanting to discover more of it, yet no adventure comes without a price. His curiosity leads to failure sometimes, which is exactly what he learns best from. The very problems he gets into force him to figure out solutions.
Pain is a temporary teacher for short-term solutions; pleasure is for the longer ones. Too much pain keeps us from seeing the larger picture, our main goal in life: happiness. A pain-inspired work is better than a pain-lived one, as best works are those done with pleasure. We don't instill pain on the mind of a child at the beginning of life, to not hate it forever, even though it was in pain he/she was given such life.
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The hedonist can grasp the least pleasure, finding hope in the darkest circumstances, and growing a vision for a better future to share with others.
To him, loving to enjoy a happy life is not a pretext to hate or end a painful one, because we are rarely certain whether pain is permanent or temporary, and whether we have tried yet all the pleasures in life to counteract such pain. People who tend to make hasty generalizations and rush to conclusions about life, claiming they know it all and have seen enough of it, are the least to understand life, because they are the least CURIOUS about it, and can sadly, easily and foolishly take their own life.
Those who see life from an animal perspective only, judging it by the amount of sensual pleasures they get while they are alive, can lose hope easily at the first financial difficulty, illness or disability. Although a life devoted to sensual pleasures is better than no life, it is still equal to an animal's and less than a human's. Many people forget to explore their human nature enough, before they leave life. They forget to think, learn, and search for the truth. Knowledge doesn't interest them.
Hedonism improves life's quality. A happy person is more healthy and useful to society than a miserable one. They are more patient and flexible with things and people; and others find them easier to deal with.
Happy people suffer less physical disorders common among those who can't enjoy life. Like other animals, they follow nature simply without complicating those involuntary body functions depending on our instinct and lower brain. Their respect for and "closeness to nature" make their bodies more sensitive and responsive, suffering less accidents, sleep disorder, indigestion, constipation, impotence, frigidity, etc.
The hedonist focuses on the here-and-now and on himself/herself most, thus having less future worries, attachment to the past, or social envy. Happy people's satisfaction with simple pleasures keeps them from developing many social diseases and committing misdeeds and crimes common among dissatisfied individuals. If little is all the hedonist gets, they accept the gift. If life offers more, they enjoy more, just going with the tide.
Pleasure improves life's quantity too, as happy people usually live longer than those living in pain, fear, stress, or mere timidity, indirectly harming their being by the damaging effect of "stress hormones" (adrenalin, cortisol, prolactin, etc.) which are mere toxins we only need "a bit" of for alert (just as salt and pepper help stimulate taste buds/salivary glands/stomach lining, for better digestion & even more pleasure). It's unnatural to endure stress for long periods of time however strong one is. Happiness is the norm and should stay so, to live in harmony with life. Nothing helps us cope with the turns of life better than enjoying life as it is.
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A work done with pleasure has a better quality than that with reluctance or apathy. Most workplaces, school systems, hospitals and government establishments are less hedonic for citizens than they should be, which keeps them further away from the original meaning of life. (Few, if any, children love school.) This widens the gap between work and leisure, that many will unnecessarily prolong their breaks, vacations or waking night hours, seeking mindless after-work pleasures, to compensate for the lost day/life and feel able to sleep, and to accept their end eventually. This work-leisure gap creates tension harming the life of individuals, who are always caught in a vicious cycle of "work, dissatisfaction, diversion, and work again."
No state sufficiently plans for its citizens' happiness before their birth, bringing them instead to a life they were not prepared for or needed in, in the first place. Rather than consider how much healthy, intelligent, or gifted humans are needed, it only plans afterwards for finding a place for all the misfits.
Pleasure can be part of work, or accompanying it, physically or mentally. Sometimes, we use present pleasures to achieve future ones, where happiness is both the aim and medium. When aim and medium are one, misery disappears and life becomes perfect, although such is a "virtual state" we only aspire to reach. Filling every moment of life with happiness is an incremental process, as humans constantly search for ways to narrow that gap between pleasure and want.
This is not always simple, as sometimes a pleasure is unavailable, discordant, draining, stressful, or painful, which is disappointing to some that they may end up accepting mild pleasures, apathy, or even pain. Thus, one should "choose" their happiness in advance, to absorb temporary disappointment, by favoring pleasures that work in harmony together, leading to greater happiness, rather than merely following one's instinct, like animals, which is not always trustworthy.
True pleasure provokes our thoughts and hones our senses to think and do more to improve life. Its sources are more available, secure, diverse, and rewarding, than many think. Most soothing serotoninergic pleasures are naturally found in serotonin sources. And the less refined but more thrilling dopaminergic pleasures are found in dopamine sources.