I am a Hedonist.
I find this statement confounds, amuses, angers, and pours outright disbelief into others skulls in equal parts. Often some form of confused response is inevitable. It’s usually pithy, disbelieving, or a joking retort.
After all, surely I jest. Admitting to such a blatant character flaw — publicly no less — appears to lack wisdom and any sense of decorum. You might assume I throw caution to the wind, party every night until dawn, drink like a fish, have the morals of a street hooker. Are there any other unsavory clichés I can toss onto the pile?
Yet I persist in my resolution and reject your assumptions.
I. Am. A. Hedonist. More specifically, a rational hedonist, aka Epicurean. Mind you, this is not some form of religious zealotry. It’s philosophy, dating back to Epicurus (a Greek) in the 3rd Century B.C. I’ve mentioned before how I’m a fan of Greek and Roman history, and it’s more than just the myths and screenplays of the time. You hear the name Epicurus and are likely thinking of epicureanism, a love of overindulging in gourmet food or drink. However, this is a label placed in modern times by those who didn’t understand Epicurus’ tenets included avoiding regular excess and thinking well enough ahead to understand the consequences of your actions and avoid subsequent pitfalls.
Oh, wait… There’s planning involved? There’s a level of…oh my goodness…moderation? Well, yes. Sorry to disappoint you.
Let’s see, you want to go out and party all night and get royally hammered, but you have to be at work the next day? The rational hedonist advises no, unless you want to potentially lose your job or feel like hell while you’re there, the pain suffering the next day most likely isn’t worth the short-term fun of the partying. Drunk-driving? Obvious life fail. Sure, the initial high might be grand, but the payoff is potentially deadly. Alternatively, there are countless ways to indulge without long-term consequences to yourself or those you care about (or heck, other drivers on the road, for that matter). Fine wine, quality chocolate, a perfectly cooked meal, curling up with a fantastic book, curling up with a snugly someone — pick your poison. 😉
Yes, I make decisions which bring me the most pleasure in life, both mentally and physically. In doing so I consider those close to me, and what will help maintain their happiness. Ideally I can choose options which increase joy for everyone involved, or conversely impact others in the least negative way. I may occasionally overindulge, but it’s a rare occurrence. Usually my most taxing offense is staying up too late and not getting enough sleep. True story.
However, I do indulge in life fully. If there’s fun and pleasure to be had, I jump right in and drink deeply.
As the poet Horace said, Carpe Diem (“Seize the Day”). (He was a fellow Epicurean, BTW.) My goal is to live fully, drink the day dry, and be ready to start fresh tomorrow.
I’ve planned a blog series on specific hedonistic examples and…suggestions. They may not be what you expect, but I think you’ll enjoy them. Let me know if you have particular questions.