I am currently reading Twyla Tharp’s book, The Creative Habit. In it she talks about barriers to the creative process, namely fears and distractions. To be sure these things create barriers for more than our creative lives, but focusing on distractions, I realized that these are particularly difficult for an enlightened hedonist.
Think about it, many of the distracting tasks we engage in, we do because they provide us with some amount of pleasure. Whether that’s the rush of getting a Facebook “like,” or just relaxing in front of the TV set. Little pleasures – isn’t that what hedonism is all about. If I enjoy watching TV and thus decide to spend my life watching it, isn’t that an application of hedonism as pure as it gets?
And I hesitantly have to answer, “yes, but…” And here is where I make that distinction on what makes one’s hedonism, “enlightened.” While truly you might experience pleasure from TV watching, couldn’t you do better than that? Would you look back and regret missing the other things you could have been doing?
Personally, I have to answer that I would not be satisfied with that life of just watching TV – the pleasure turning to disappointment. But here I also have to acknowledge that our decisions and journeys to living a fulfilling life are personal and subjective. Consequently, there may well be a person whose most fulfilling life is one sitting in front of the TV.
The calculus of hedonism is easy when you’re viewing it as a choice of pleasure over suffering, but more often than not; we are navigating our lives through choices of different pleasures. Enlightened Hedonism comes from a state of abundance - survival is easy, fulfillment is more difficult.
With our lives on earth being finite and limited, each choice negates any alternate path. Distractions can be a dangerous seduction to a hedonist thus something to be mindful of.
For myself, most of my distractions come by way of LCD screens. Early on I knew I had to avoid video games. Playing the SIMS, 3AM rolled around and I realized I was more worried about my virtual character getting enough sleep than myself. Social Media is another distraction for me with the added seduction of creating the illusion of connecting with other people. I turn off most notifications, block certain feeds that I know will just annoy me, and try to limit my time in general. Still, more often than not, I spend more time there than I would like.
But this is what it is to be an Enlightened Hedonist, to periodically question yourself and your desires, to take inventory, and make changes to suit your current circumstances. Its not enough to be experiencing smooth sailing; you have to ask yourself if you are you actually getting closer to your intended destination. While they still may be subjective, not all pleasures are equal. Distractions can be a sirens call to abandon your journey to experience the most fulfilling life. We must plot our course accordingly.