Saturday, May 19, 2018

Finding Balance

An older man stepped into the small jacuzzi where I was relaxing after my swim. In spite of showering, the acrid aroma of his stale aftershave along with the residual reek of tobacco obtruded into the steamy air.

I wonder if he's tried to quit? I mused. Surely doctors would have told him to. I guessed his age at maybe somewhere in his 60's or 70's. My imagination stretched into further assumptions, Perhaps he has smoked since his youth. I suppose he enjoys this vice to which he is captive.

Captivity is something I could relate to. I had allowed myself to be psychologically captive to a cult for too many years, and I now loathe the thought of being captive to a vice. Then my mind took another leap.

Vice or not, depending on your perspective, people denied pleasure in a repressive society can easily jump on the treadmill of hedonism, not unlike preacher's kid syndrome. One luxury that brings exultation soon becomes normalized. Then, like a junkie looking for his next fix, the search for the next novelty begins. When that is found, the initial rush fades all too quickly and the item or experience becomes mundane, the behavior habituated. (Habituation put simply: Why the fifth bite of your favorite dish never tastes as good as the first.)

On the cycle goes. Endless.

Walking hand-in-hand with hedonism is the avoidance of pain and the rejection of any negativity. This brings to mind the hackneyed, "get rid of negative energy from your life." I would call it denial. Life is not a bed of thornless roses.

The Dalai Lama and Desmond Tutu, in The Book of Joy, describe eudaimonic happiness which is born from self-understanding, growth, and acceptance of life's joys and sufferings, sadness, and grief. To me, this seems a more realistic approach to life and happiness.

May I never again forfeit my freedom and self-determination to live in a dream world again. 

(See The Experience Machine for the ultimate in hedonism.)

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