Hedonism vs. Asceticism

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December 9, 2012

Hedonism vs. Asceticism

Do you devour life or refrain from life, and how much devouring makes you a sensualist, and how much deprivation makes you a Buddhist? But just because you like diving into life and living to the fullest, doesn’t mean you have to be an addict.

On the one hand, the most extreme level of deprivation is being an ascetic. Buddhists are often ascetics, depriving themselves of earthly pleasures, goods, wealth and of course, sex is right out. That’s what General McChrystle is into. When he was in Afghanistan, he only ate one meal a day, just eating that one meal, fighting and that’s it. Being an ascetic doesn’t seem like fun to most of us, certainly not to me. I don’t like the idea of any asceticism, I think that we have only one life to live and we should live it well. So, I don’t like the idea of the one meal a day. Fasting is right out. It doesn’t seem llike fun, and I want my life to be a minor party on my slow days and on my fast days, of course, a major party.

The opposite of asceticism is hedonism. I never planned to be a hedonist, but I seem to have wandered in the that direction. I do at least believe that one’s pleasure should exceed one’s pain. I believe in enjoying food, wine, sleep, sex and physical exercise.

A complete hedonist believes that pleasure is the highest good. I don’t believe that. I’m sure that works for some people, but I think the highest good is love and creative work, not pleasure. The pleasure problem is this. If one is always bathed in pleasure, one grows flabby, I think that what builds character is some deprivation, some hunger, some thirst; it’s wanting something that’s out of reach and then having to work to get it.

So, I’m not a complete hedonist. But much more hedonist than ascetic. A complete hedonist is always in danger of becoming an addict. If one drinks too much, one can become an alcoholic, and then of course, there’s the possibility of excessive drug use or becoming a sex addict or a video game addict. There are kids who won’t stop playing video games long enough to use the rest room.

Most of us would me much more mentally healthy if we could conceive a balance between asceticism and hedonism. Christopher Hitchens said that making rules about drinking is the sign of an alcoholic. He also said that it’s much worse for a woman to be drunk than a man. I don’t know if I agree with that as honestly, I’ve seen way more drunk men than women.

But, I do think that while, we’re all trying to change ourselves for the better, and I hope we are, we would do very well, to balance living a full life and enjoying ourselves against keeping ourselves in check. I don’t know exactly where the balance lies. I need to exercise more, sleep more, eat less and there may be other things to balance. More. Less. I’ll talk with my husband and hear his ideas.

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Published in: on December 9, 2012 at 11:31 pm  Leave a Comment  
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