Tomorrow I’ll be diving into a conversation about being an ethical hedonist.  I dug through my old notes and found a post I wrote in 2007. It’s a good start.  We’ll be making a podcast out of the conversation which I’ll post a link to here once it’s ready to go.  Until then take the quiz below and see if you too need to add a little hedonism to your life.

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Whatever happened to good old-fashioned hedonism, you know, the doctrine that states that pleasure is good and that pursuing anything other than pleasure is absurd and irrational? The only thing we pursue these days, it seems, is work, work, and more work, so we can buy more things we don’t need or have the time to enjoy.

The things we do enjoy – sex, drugs, rock and roll, fatty food, and cigarettes, are deemed to be not good for us and will shorten our lives.  The prevailing thought seems to be “If I avoid all things pleasurable, I’ll live a long happy life.” I’ve had just about enough of that.  Bring back the old school hedonism like the kind practiced by some of the greats like Epicurus, Cleopatra, Louis XIV, Catherine the Great, Dumas, Flaubert, Balzac, and Timothy Leary to name a few. I want to run through the garden naked, get drunk on good beer, and chase naked girls with flowers in their hair.  Sorry. I digress.

Here is a simple test, courtesy of Michael Flocker, to see if you’re in the machine too deep.

(If five or more of the following statements are true for you, then you are in serious need of hedonistic intervention.)

1. You no longer remember anyone’s phone number because they’re all programmed into your cell phone.

2. You email people at work who are seated within twenty feet of you.

3. You make itineraries for your vacations.

4. The idea of a full week without internet access fills you with terror.

5. You are bored at home if the television isn’t on.

6. You absolutely must watch the news every day to be sure the world isn’t ending.

7. You regularly watch sitcom reruns that you have seen countless times before.

8. You are unable to sit still and think in silence.

9. Your conversation regularly revolves around the lives of others instead of your own.

10. You buy shoes because they match your ipod.

I woke up to the news that Tom Petty had died.  Sad days indeed.  I immediately played on of my favourite Tom Petty track:

I remember when this video first came out I was ecstatic.  It was during those days that I played a lot of role-playing games one of which was Gamma World, a science fantasy role-playing game set in a 24th century post-apocalyptic earth. This video was like Gamma World brought to life and set to music.  I raced to the television every time this video came on MTV.

Another one of my all time favourite Tom Petty tracks is You Don’t Know How It Feels off of his 1994 album, Wildflowers.

I could go on and on…

A vision came to me this morning of two paths.  One path was labelled ‘existential angst’ the other, ‘the devil may care.’  I could see myself standing at this divergence.  I’ve been down both paths at one time or another in my life, so the choice didn’t disturb me.  Quite frankly, I’ve been on the chilled path for too long, grown too comfortable, so this choice comes at just the right time.

Rainer Rilke said the “Only journey is the one within.”  That may be so, but I’m tired of that journey.  I’ve been inside and there’s nothing there but a big dark void.  One I’ve tried to fill with many things, but each time the object of my desire was devoured by the void.

So it’s with light heart that I begin to tread down the ‘devil may care’ road.  I’m not sure what that will entail, but I look forward to finding out.

I wanted to say something about this whole inner journey thing.  In Joseph Campbell’s Hero’s Journey, Once the hero has completed the quest and the elixir, he or she has to face one more trial – The Return.  The road back is often dangerous and many heroes don’t make it back. Not always because they meet some demise, but because they have fallen in love with the enchanted world and refuse to return back to the Ordinary World where the hero belongs.  By choosing to stay, the hero abandons the Ordinary world and doesn’t bring back the elixir that will help humanity.

I think that happens with a lot of seekers.  They embark on the inner journey.  They learn to meditate. They adopt some form of spiritual practice that unburdens their soul. They find peace. The bliss is intoxicating. They get trapped in non-ordinary reality, seduced by the bliss. They fail to heed the Zen Master’s warning:

“Before enlightenment chop wood, carry water. After enlightenment, chop wood, carry water.”

I think I’ll hang out here for a while:

On that note, as you can see, my glass is empty.  Gotta top up.

This is what I’m drinking tonight:

Soundtrack: