Sunday, March 6, 2016

The Greedy Hedonist

I have said already, that on a subject so important to us all as happiness, we should listen with pleasure to any man’s experience or experiments, even though he were but a plough-boy, who cannot be supposed to have ploughed very deep into such an intractable soil as that of human pains and pleasures, or to have conducted his researches upon any very enlightened principles.

Confessions of an English Opium-Eater (January 1, 1859)
Thomas De Quincey

There is an astonishing inertia acquired over 40 years of zealous and uninterrupted employment. It is a seasoned and inescapable condition, an unrelenting propulsion, a perpetual and seemingly unstoppable ambition. It does however eventually subside, almost precipitously. Quite to my astonishment I am cultivating a habit of a new order: unmitigated leisure, my own brand of purposelessness, as fine and bland as the beach on which I aimlessly stroll and roll. Instead of bolting to the ringing of the telephone or the knocking at the door I listen to the soothing chorus of the churning waves of the Atlantic Ocean. It is the desktop music for nowhere to go, nothing to do.

My brimming enterprise is a vacuity shamelessly dedicated to indulgence. I no longer aspire to objectives beyond my immediate scope. I succumb to the unanticipated bliss which surrounds me and willfully distance myself from erstwhile proclivities. This includes the adoption of strategies which frankly collide with the way I once did business. Having the unencumbered opportunity to scrutinize my methods of interaction has bared the unglamorous underbelly of my schemes. Rather than develop new tactics for dealing with the same problems, I prefer to ignore the problems altogether. Suffice it to observe that the complications of my life are not limited to tangible obstructions (which usually admit to resolution or acceptance) but include more philosophic skirmishes involving people (thorny conundrums which are not so easily surmounted or finessed). It amounts to an epiphany for me to recognize that - in the plainest of terms - it doesn't matter what other people think. Naturally I won't be so categorical as to counsel complete disregard for the opinions of others; rather I limit the circumspection to wholesale and unrefined adoption of their opinions. The influence of others upon my conduct has at times qualified as reckless and I acknowledge that I have no one to blame but myself. Whence this servility flowed is beyond my comprehension or curiosity. Nonetheless I have learned that the obedience is at best misleading and at worst damaging. In either case its deference is both unwarranted and undesirable. Among many reasons, it is impossible to know the mind of another, so the presumption of understanding the import or persuasion of their judgment is speculative only. Quite aside from the liberating feature of thinking for oneself, life ultimately demands that we do so. It isn't a matter of being flippant or intolerant, it's the ineluctable truth. I am fatigued by the baggage of other people's influence.
No doubt this so-called awakening will seem paltry if not indeed somewhat retarded or even moderately disdainful. Yet to look at the world through one set of eyes only is for me novel.  My professional training as a protagonist compelled me to identify the opinion of others even if it were with a view to contradict them. As a confessed social conniver it oddly offends my survival instincts to snap my fingers at the considered views of others. But at this advanced stage of life I am similarly bound to avow the expediency of doing so. First, time is running out so any delay is exponentially wasteful; second and more importantly, the winning intellect of others is questionable. I say this not as a haughty comparison but rather as a utilitarian answer to the objection. My preference is not for paramountcy; it is for freedom. And that means making uninhibited choices howsoever blunt the rationality may be.
Where this brings me is here: I must trust my own palette for the taste of life. This resonates with focus and practicality. What it affords is the privilege to embrace the mundane though neglected trivialities of my life including the shameless resurgence of youthful sentiments. The thoughts frozen for decades by occupation have now been thawed. I recall for example my salad days in Toronto flying down Avenue Road. My treasury of memories was never meant to be buried! But neither am I stuck in the past. My current status is no less appealing to me. Again and again I have echoed my astonishment at awakening among the sea pines and palmetto ferns beside the sea, listening to the squawk of gulls, something I had always hoped to do though honestly never imagined how.
There is no question that I have capitulated to unembellished passions, simple, relentless and inescapable desires. Everything about my life pleases me and I dare to imitate the flighty proclamation of youth that "It is what it is!" I feel the constant need to record the euphoria. I am virtually rapacious in my desire to cull from life all that it has to offer. This greediness should not be confused with gluttony; I have no wish to make myself ill. This is a clinical exemplification of hedonism, certainly not intemperance and high-living. Indeed during this same period of awareness I have done all that I can to distance myself from self-destructive conduct (which, as I have indicated, perhaps sadly includes closing the door on the influence of some people).
My lot in life has been largely serendipitous. I would never for example suggest that it was entirely by design. Fluky might be more to the point. Rather like a pinball I have bounced from one obstruction to another and have luckily fallen into the right place in the end. The other characteristic of my life is that I have always been happy wherever I land. This current amusement does I know have a predictable shelf-life. I intend to do whatever I can to savour it.

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