Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Adventures in Hedonism - The Orange County Fair

Heeding the call to hedonism, a brilliant opportunity came up to join some friends and spend an afternoon at the Orange County Fair. So much for easing back into hedonism – the Orange County Fair is not so much a dipping a toe in the pool as a leaping headfirst into the deep end,all the while hoping there really is a deep end.

No doubt about it, the Fair is all about indulging one’s pleasures, particularly those gastric ones involving anything that can be battered and fried. And as the Fair sets out to prove every year, really what cannot be battered and fried?

Which brings up another important aspect of the fair – bring a friend. Not only is it good to exercise one’s social graces, it helps to have someone there to share in the indulgences (and perhaps keep over-indulgence at bay). Case in point, a “single serving” of garlic ribbon fries.

Yeah, the fair could be quite easy in this place to let one’s pleasures turn quickly into regrets. This of course is when the “enlightened” portion of enlightened hedonism kicks in to gear – so while I consumed (with help) a good portion of these fries, much was left behind in search of other pleasures.

One of the tenets of Enlightened Hedonism is an ongoing cultivation and refinements of one’s interests, and so I took great pleasure in touring the hall of people’s collections. It’s amazing the things people will collect, some were to be expected: royalty memorabilia, matchbooks, ceramic bull dogs – but I found a few odd collections that really tickled me.

A collection of velvet Jesus paintings – too much glare on the showcase to get a good pic of it all, but this was clearly the staring piece.

Hitler pin cushion – I wonder if there’s an Osama one out there somewhere, or what other historic personages received such an homage?

The Gentleman’s Companion – which bears certain note on my part as I’ve found this as to be  an awesome source of many classic and exotic cocktails. (I’m sure I’ll be featuring some of its delights in future blog posts). Any collection that contains these volumes gets a gold star from me.

Then there's the box of used staples. This one delights not so much as a collection but almost as a talisman, a piece full of sympathetic magic and symbolism – the staples pulled in some work project to scan an enormous collection of documents. Here is a way to capture in an object the tedious horror. We've all had those jobs, and to turn that kind of pleasure killing monotony into an object of humor and awe – well that’s enlightened hedonism at its best.

With that, I’ll just conclude with the hopes that all of us continue to similarly explore the many ways that make us happy.


Sunday, July 24, 2011

Return to Hedonism

So it’s been awhile, and sadly it wasn’t due to pursuing grand hedonistic adventures. Rather life got on the way and put me face to face with one of enlightened hedonism’s basic premises: You cannot successfully pursue hedonism until your basic needs are met.

Image Courtesy of Wikipedia
I use Maslow’s hierarchy of needs as a model, basically a pyramid starting with the basic needs of food and shelter as a foundation on up to self-actualization; each consecutive layer dependent of the foundational needs below. It’s only near the top of this pyramid that one can really take on hedonism appropriately, at least as an enlightened pursuit.

This past year, I‘ve been focused on the declining health and ultimate death of my mother, my wife’s cancer surgery and recovery, and the start of a new job. While it might have been nice to set those things aside and explore some swanky new bars, the reality is such endeavors would be more distractions than anything else. There is no real fulfillment in distraction.

If there’s a lesson in this, it probably is to remember that to sustain a hedonistic lifestyle, one must also be mindful to take care of one’s health, safety, and family as only when these are well can one truly be an enlightened hedonist.

There’s a principle called “HALT” that some of you with 12-step friends or loved-one may be familiar with. The premise is that you should never make decisions when you are:
  H ungry
  A ngry
  L onely
  T ired
In other words, in order to make rational decisions, you cannot be in the survival mode of the bottom tiers of hierarchy. I try to keep this acronym in mind as I navigate through the day, making sure my basic needs are met so I can make the best decisions for my happiness and well-being.

But enough excuses and explanations, I believe I’m finally back to a point where I can take on this quest again. I plan to pursue the most fulfilling life I can - testing out these principles of enlightened hedonism. To that end I hope to put some of this theory into practice, find out what works, and gladly dump or tinker with the things that don’t. After all, life isn’t just a thought experiment.