Thursday, February 14, 2013

Happy Valentines Day

Hedonism is a selfish pursuit. However, the enlightened hedonist knows that other people at an important role in achieving one's desires.

We are social animals and take pleasure in being or interacting with others whether that's sharing an interest, a kink, or a story.

I hope today you'll reach out to all those around you that help you satisfy your selfish desires, your friends, your lovers, and your co-conspirators. Share your love and watch it grow.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Awe and Hedonism

Came across this article:

Apparently the experience of awe can improve one's happiness. I suppose in some ways that might be counterintuitive as awe usually has an element of feeling insignificant. However awe is a positive emotion.

In part I suppose its a way of hitting a reset button on your life as you pause to reflect on something greater. That in turn invites taking a sort of personal inventory on how you might fit in with this "greater good."

I have to wonder if this in part is a
Contributing factor of religious and spiritual people reporting greater happiness, that experience of the "Mysterium Tremendom." If so it gives a strategy for the "less spiritual" in finding other sources of awe and inspiration. I know for myself I always experience a sense of rejuvenation in places of natural beauty or in the experience of art.

This connection of awe and happiness fits in with my own value of curiosity. By seeking out new and inspiring experiences we open ourselves up to greater possibilities that either reaffirm the path we are on, or suggest other ways to challenge us to greater satisfaction.

A rational enlightened hedonist cannot lead a static life, finding moments of awe and inspiration are essential to leading a happy and meaningful life.

Friday, February 8, 2013

Measuring Happiness

I saw this out of NPR this morning. I know the UK was exploring ways to develop a "Happiness index" but for a country founded in part on "the pursuit of happiness" it seems reasonable to ask ourselves how we are doing on that front. I'll be curious to see how this develops and the ways the economist come up with to produce such a metric.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Happiness and the Tetris Effect

As a rational hedonist I'm always reading articles on how one can improve one's happiness. This one from Life Hacker perhaps draws a few tenuous conclusions from the "Tetris Effect" but trots out some time tested tools for developing a more positive attitude including gratitude lists, acknowledging the positive impact of others, and practicing random acts of kindness.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Adventures in Hedonism – LACMA – Exploring the Forbidden

As a hedonist I love art. Art inspires and good art often challenges your way of thinking, or at least pushes against conventional boundaries. It can present different ways of perceiving and make us reexamine ourselves. That kind of self-reflection and curiosity in turn can challenge us to be better and live a more satisfying life.

This weekend I went to LACMA. I have to say I enjoy how this museum complex continues to evolve. It has become a place you want to lounge and entertain in, to meet friends or bump into passionate strangers ready to share what they have seen, and what moved them.

I came to see two shows and ended up seeing three. The main reason was to see the Caravaggio exhibit which ends this week. Caravaggio is a master of light and shadows his paintings draw you in with their mix of mystery and radiance. What struck me most was the sensuality of his work. Most were compositions that were already standards for religious work. But the buff luminous bodies of his saints and saviors glowed, as ever present drapery fell just enough to feign modesty.

You can sense how the church fathers must have been both awed by his abilities and made anxious by the eroticism of his work. There’s a fine line between the spiritual and the sensual. Caravaggio walked it. I’m sure there were many drawn to the priesthood just to be able to occupy their churches to make them their secret masterbatoriums sublimating their desires into religious ecstasy.

After viewing such displays of 16th Century torsos, it was an odd happenstance to stumble upon the Robert Mapplethorpe exhibit. The gallery displayed his X, Y, and Z portfolios – X containing images of gay S&M, Y images of flowers, and Z male African-American nudes. I was surprised to see how the exhibit was hung (sorry). Instead of stashing the more explicit works behind a black curtain they were hung on one wall above eye level. I suppose that kept them out of the casual view of children, but still surprising to pass from images of flowers, to nudes, to anal fisting.

Five hundred years since Caravaggio, and the subtlety now turned explicit and yet as the shock of some of the harsher images passed you could see the beauty of line and composition. The pairing of flowers, the genitalia of plants, making sense of turning raw sexuality into an abstract, still sexual, still beautiful image.

The Kubrick exhibit is vast, covering his complete ouvre, but in this afternoon of forbidden sensuality two works stood out to me. The first was the set pieces from Clockwork Orange’s Korova Milk Bar. To go from nude black males, to porcelain white sculptures of nude women used as furniture and a circle was completed. Explicit, in your face, intended to be inflammatory what a perfect set piece to explore the morality of choice, pleasure, and violence.

But perhaps Kubrik got closest to exploring the forbidden in the making of Lolita. The exhibit includes several letters from local pastors imploring him not to make the film. Frankly with 13-year old Sue Lyons playing the title child-seductress role, it’s amazing this film got made at all. It’s uncomfortable to scroll through some of the production stills of “Lolita” eating an ice cream cone. The images unashamedly provocative you can’t help but appreciate the way Kubrick laid out the scenes with nods and implications but keeping within the film standards of the time. In an interview he regrets not being able to be more explicit in the film to demonstrate the extent Lolita had enslaved Humbert Humbert’s desires, but I have to wonder if those same restrictions didn’t help to make the piece more a work of art.

I come away from my day at the museum contemplating the dance one does with social conventions. We like to keep our private lives out of public scrutiny fearing the potential rejection, judgment or condemnation of those around us. Yet it is all the unique and unconventional things about us that make us who we are.

This is the work of the rational hedonist, to explore and discover the things that please and satisfy us, find allies in their pursuit, and navigate around those people and institutions that react with fear and resentment to our choices.

Cheers to the artists who challenge the conventional, they are the allies to we hedonists.