Sunday, February 8, 2009

Hedonism and the Recession

Reading an article in the Toronto Star, Canadians won't surrender guilty pleasures, I’m reminded that hedonism carries with it connotations of extravagance and decadence. One almost presumes that to be a proper hedonist one must be wealthy, or rather born into wealth where notions of “day jobs’ are just irrelevant. But I think this article shows that even in economic downturn, most of us are still well able to make room to continue to indulge at least some of our pleasures. This I think is an illustration of enlightened hedonism in action.

There is of course the old adage that money cannot buy happiness, but we all know form a practical standpoint, it certainly can make it easier. Even that ancient manual of hedonism, the Kama Sutra, reminds its readers that one must have some means in order to fully explore one’s pleasure.

The truth is, few of us reside in that wealthy class where work and compromise is never required, and yet we all find time to pursue our wide and diverse desires. We all must go through our existential arithmetic, weighing the circumstances at hand, taking into account the risk of our potential actions, and of course the benefits or pleasures that we seek.

But as an enlightened hedonist, looking for the pursuit of pleasure not just as a distraction, or entertainment, but as a path to fulfillment, there may be other opportunities that emerge. One of the key outcomes of a change in economic circumstances is it forces one to look at their priorities and thus spurs a round of creative thinking. One cannot remain complacent, but rather must explore, experiment, and take a risk that otherwise may have never taken.

To be sure one could (and to some extent probably should) take the approach of finding acceptance and appreciation for the pleasures one has: being with friends, taking in the beauty of one's surroundings, or finding gratitude in what one still has. But there is also a more active approach one can take, seizing this as an opportunity to take action and find new ways to satisfy ones desires - or perhaps even discover new pleasures to pursue. It starts with engaging one's curiosity, asking "what can I do in these new circumstances?" It continues with a bought of creative brain storming exploring new possibilities, and ends with experimentation, testing the new ideas, and perhaps discovering some new pleasures for further exploration.

So while I may have to pass on that flight to Paris and dinner at Man Ray, perhaps I’ll stay home, take a walk, pull out some art supplies and try to create something pleasing. Who knows what I might come up with?

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