The grandfather of all the ways to live.
We are wise beyond measure, each of us — provided we know where to look for wisdom. There is, in each of us, a rich untapped wealth of knowledge that comes into our awareness through our desires.
One way wisdom comes is through stalking these desires. We hide in the bush and study them like any good anthropologist. When do they come out? What do they want? Where do they congregate? What makes them get loud? What makes them run and hide?
Hedonists have, for ages, known that pleasure is the noblest pursuit of humanity. But, in modern society, it’s plain-as-day that even an evening of the devoted pursuit of pleasurable excess could very well end in death, We temper hedonism with a variety of methods historically shown to sustain feeling good as long as possible.
Each of these governing factors exists in the different flavors of hedonic philosophy. Utilitarianism prioritized action that maximized good for all society. Christian Hedonist and author John Piper states that he finds the most pleasure in glorifying God by enjoying Him forever. The Epicureans sought tempered pleasure though freedom from anxiety, bodily pain and embracing tranquility. They found this to be the most viable way forward.
Sustainable Hedonism could, in a sense, be the umbrella under which all philosophies of life fall. Even asceticism, which avoided pleasure through self-discipline, was usually framed as the deferment of pleasure so that it could be enjoyed eternally in the afterlife.
Whether we are talking pleasure during our lifetime or postponing it until the afterlife — whether we are talking about enjoyment which is exclusively for us as individuals, or for our community, pleasure is perhaps THE central concern of humanity.
Philosophers and laymen, at some point in their thought life, all end up asking the same questions, “What is the best way to live?” The best proposals seem framed around balancing pleasure and sacrifice between the individual and the collective.
This is the true joy in life, the being used for a purpose recognized by yourself as a mighty one; the being a force of nature instead of a feverish, selfish little clod of ailments and grievances complaining that the world will not devote itself to making you happy.
I am of the opinion that my life belongs to the whole community, and as long as I live it is my privilege to do for it whatever I can.
I want to be thoroughly used up when I die, for the harder I work the more I live. I rejoice in life for its own sake. Life is no “brief candle” for me. It is a sort of splendid torch which I have got hold of for the moment, and I want to make it burn as brightly as possible before handing it on to future generations.
A Splendid Torch
George Bernard Shaw
For me, the great blending of sacrifice and pleasure happens when you can orient yourself to take pleasure in service to others. It’s not intended to be selfless. It’s a life-hack of sustainable hedonism to re-learn your orientation as one who is bringing value to other people.
What comprises that value is completely up to you. If you’re not sure what it is, look at what lights YOU up. Stalk that light, look for what animates it. What’s behind it? Dive deep. Our individual experience can illuminate much about humanity when we understand that the motivating factors behind why we get excited are the same motivating factors for others.