Hedonism represents unbridled foray into pleasure or happiness as most important objective of life. Having established in the first essay in this series that joy is an important source of happiness or pleasure, clearly hedonism can reveal itself in search for joy.
In the attempt to link joy with hedonism, however, we end up with a conundrum not encountered in the first two essays. In the first essay, we find joy in work, with joy expressing itself in happiness or pleasure. In the second essay, we find joy in productivity and rest made possible via progression in productivity. Joy again reveals itself in happiness or pleasure.
We have, however, that in addition to happiness and pleasure, joy can be evident in serenity, can be revealed in the serenading of ourselves with peaceful quiet. These other products of joy — serenity and quietness — are compatible with joy derived from work (no one is excited 100% of the time at work), and joy (additional rest) generated by improvements in our productivity. In so far as hedonism is concerned, however, while hedonism is compatible with pleasure and happiness, it inherently is inconsistent with serenity and quietness.
Whenever joy expresses itself in serenity or quietness of mind (or spirit), joy becomes incompatible with a hedonistic lifestyle.
If we never have found joy in midst of our aloneness, we perhaps have yet to experience the sort of joy which produces not excitement and pleasure, but serenity and peaceful quiet. Truth is, there is joy to be discovered in aloneness, in contemplation of life.
The more than 20 years Nelson Mandela spent in prison produced not a leader heady with excitement, pleasure, and happiness, but a leader heady with serenity and quietness of mind. It was obvious Nelson Mandela was more interested in moving South Africa forward than splitting the country into excitable factions.
If Mandela had pursued justice at all costs, there would have been lots of excitement, lots of fighting, lots of recriminations. News feeds all over the world would have had a field day. Quite the contrary, with joy evident in quietness and serenity of mind, Mandela chose the less exciting, less pleasurable path of mercy, reconciliation, and forgiveness. Failure of South African society at building on legacy of peaceful, as opposed to faction laden coexistence is failure of the political machinery, not failure of Mandela’s vision for South Africa. In the new focus on prosecution of Zuma for a sum less than US$25 million, South Africa is about to embark on exactly the opposite path chosen by Mandela. There will be excitement, hostility, factionalization, happiness, and pleasure, all at price of forward looking quietness and serenity.
I do not condone corruption. In life, however, it is not only benefits we must weigh but costs of actions. I ask then, “is it worth it to plunge South Africa into odes of excitement, hostility, and factionalization for less than US$25 million?” “Can South Africa demand repayment from a man cast into prison?”
A repayment plan for the outstanding amount would serve South Africa much better than a corruption charge. A repayment plan allows for justice to be served without all of the hedonistic pleasure, happiness, or excitement certain to accompany trial of a past leader. A repayment plan enables justice within context of serenity and quietness. A repayment plan means Zuma can focus on using whatever wealth he has built up for improving welfare of people living in vicinity of his hacienda. A repayment plan means all of South Africa can focus on the future, as opposed to the past.
When joy is best expressed in serenity and quietness, but is forced to be expressed through excitement, happiness, and hedonistic pleasure, joy can be irreparably damaged, beyond resuscitation.
Am I just blowing smoke and breaking mirrors? Well consider Egypt. Egyptians demonstrated and Hosni Mubarak stepped down. Note stepped down, not forced out. Rather than allow their joy to be serene and quiet, Egyptians hollered, shouted, cried, grieved, hyperventilated until the newly installed President, the leader of the Muslim Brotherhood put Hosni Mubarak in jail and on trial for corruption etc. Egyptians were happy, excited, filled with hedonistic pleasure. Ever since the timing of that decision, Egypt has been rocked by terrorist activities. The people who hollered for prosecution of Mubarak later would assert they had lost their sense of security. Today, security and freedom, two things Egyptians enjoyed under Mubarak, are things longed for not enjoyed. Since the expression of joy in hedonistic pleasure of putting Mubarak on trial and in jail, Egypt has not been the same, Egypt has yet to recover, Egypt has yet to regain lost footing. Will Egypt ever find its way back from its hellishly hedonistic precipice? Only time will tell.
One more illustration suffices. While the Trump Administration focused on repeal of Obama’s health care bill, there was hedonistic pleasure, and excitement. The objective, however, split the Republican party, with passing of bills often prevented with Republican votes. When the Trump Administration turned its attention to corporate tax cuts, there was less excitement, less of hedonistic pleasure, but unity within the Republican party. Hedonistic pleasure split the party; an objective rooted in improving of quietness of mind and serenity of the American people via increase in wages or job creation brought serenity and quietness of unity.
Unless we function at our best only within context of states of excitement, happiness, and pleasure, hedonism cannot be a robust philosophy of life. This conclusion is evident in the fact that if we were to experience pleasure or happiness all of the time, pleasure or happiness would be the new normal — the new serenity and quietness, as such we would need hyper or higher levels of pleasure or excitement for satisfaction of hedonistic lifestyles. Enter then the Opioid crises built on constant desire for excitement, happiness, pleasure.
The Opioid crisis is nothing but outcome of commitment to hedonistic boundaryless living.
Do we want joy in life, joy which at different times can serenade us with serenity and quietness, or flood us with pleasure, excitement, and happiness? Or do we seek a hedonistic lifestyle, a lifestyle which demands from us ever higher levels of excitement, happiness, or pleasure? If we focus on joy, we have it all. If we choose hedonism, we lose serenity and quietness, and there never is a maximum level of pleasure, happiness, or excitement. The last level of excitement to which we attained becomes springboard for attainment to the next.
The truth of the matter is, truly joyful living is incompatible with a hedonistic philosophy of life. That being said, we all have a right to our choices of philosophy of life. But which really is more important, that we have choices, or that we make the best use of our choices?
Joy from which we have it all, or hedonistic living that always leaves us craving for more? The choice proverbially is ours to make.