Years ago, my mentor and friend, Dick Stone, told me he thought the purpose of life was “enjoyment”. With the classic-American-ingrained-judgemental fear-and-puritanism of a young man still in his twenties, I nearly gasped, “But isn’t that Hedonism?”
“Yes, of course. Why not?” Dick replied. “Are we on this world to suffer? If so, then isn’t our purpose to learn not to suffer? I prefer to skip the suffering part. I believe we are here to enjoy life. Why shouldn’t we? What is wrong with that?”
I shouldn’t have been too surprised. This was a strange, very intelligent, and very educated man, an epidemiologist, a Director of Medical Research for a very large multi-national corporation, who traveled frequently to Japan—before many Americans did—and stated fearlessly, and with an impish grin, that his hobbies were “sex and baking bread, in that order”.
I’ve remembered his statement well enough for many years, and thought about it from time to time, and never felt I understood, or agreed, until now. Maybe I had to reach a certain age, or needed to lose enough people close to me (including him). Or raise a family? Get divorced? Lose and win at love? Surf? I can’t pinpoint the turning point, but it was some time this year that I looked in the mirror and got it.
It’s not hedonism in the terrified sense of impersonal orgies, selfishly created chaos, and depravity. It’s hedonism in the finest sense: aesthetics. It’s pleasure because “why shouldn’t we enjoy life?” Every aspect of life. Every moment.
And of course, to many people maybe this is just way too obvious. For you, I apologize – go, read something else, no worries. For me it was a revelation, and continues to be. I keep asking myself, what should I be enjoying now? What is good about this?
When I wake up, I try to be sure to enjoy every moment. And make choices so that I can. I wash with soap that I LOVE to smell. I shave only part of my face, because shaving my whole beard hurts. I use a thick, luxurious towel because it feels good. I want to eat a breakfast that I want and that I enjoy, every day, not some bland nutrition that has no love or thought or desire going into its creation. I make time to practice my Yoga and T’ai Chi in the morning because I feel better all day when I do. And I try to enjoy and appreciate every posture, every move, every stretch, every breath. This is just how I start the day.
As with many studies, a practiced hedonism is never complete. There is always some new insight related to this appreciation.
The other day I looked in my closet. How many shirts do I have that I don’t really like? How many that I never wear, but keep because someone gave them to me? Why shouldn’t I only have clothing that I love? What a thought! No compromises, no bargains. Just clothing in which I am always comfortable, I always feel good, feel attractive. Every shirt is a favorite shirt. Why have it if it isn’t? Yipes.
I know, I know. It’s so obvious. I’m thinking now of so many people I know who already live this way. Egad, there are so many of them! Maybe, it’s almost everyone I know. Maybe, it’s almost everyone. Okay, well now I know. Thanks for setting a good example for me, all of you.
Note to self: Join the human race. Enjoy life. Be happy. And, P.S.: Thanks Dick!