We go through life, from birth, developing in infancy. Becoming young adults, then older adults. We age, and we finally end our days on this planet. And what is life? Growth of a family, a collection of accolades, a career possibly, and albums full of memories. As children, we enjoy ourselves predominantly. We are learning, but it is mostly through play, singing, stories and exploring the great outdoors. Our ‘little world’ gets larger as we grow in age and independence.
As adolescents, we gain more responsibilities. We choose subjects at school / college or a course of Further Education that will give us the foundation of our working life. We may have a part-time job to earn a bit of spending money. But by-and-large, we do not have too many worries. There will be exceptions; some young people have responsibility beyond their years. They may have to care for parents whom are ill. They may have to look after their siblings whilst their parents work.
Then comes adulthood. That brings with it the relentless task of work, paying bills, budgeting and managing the home. Then there are the extras-helping out elderly relatives, and raising children. Perhaps volunteering or being a member of a committee. Taking care of ourselves, and making sure we are fit and healthy. Fitting in necessary appointments. So at the end of a long day, a lot of people enjoy a drink. They may have sex. Eat a bar of chocolate. Do an activity that helps them unwind. On a less frequent basis, they may arrange a beauty treatment or massage. A treat, at the end of the month. Then once a year, a holiday abroad or in the UK. Time to recharge and spend with loved ones.
Self-love versus selfishness
There are people who indulge in other hedonistic pursuits. Some are illegal. Street-racing, drug-taking for example. Gambling online or at the bookies. Having sex with lots of partners. It could be argued that whilst the ‘treats’ in the previous section are harmless enough, the ones in this paragraph are selfish. I would say in moderation, they may be alright. Not the street-racing. That is risking too many lives. So it is selfish. Drug-taking, I think has shades of grey areas. Different drugs are ‘less socially unacceptable’ than others. Alcohol is technically a drug. Some people can happily have one or two drinks and that’s enough. There are a few though, who will binge. That is reckless. To themselves, and towards others potentially. I would say it is selfish.
Gambling online or at the bookies, if an occasional treat, is not going to be harmful. Should it become a habit that becomes uncontrollable, and involves excessive money expenditure (and loss) it is selfish. These behaviours (drug-taking and gambling) can become addictive. The mind craves the high and euphoria, (or relaxation in the case of some drugs). The body adapts physiologically to the mind’s adaptations. Neural networks are altered. As the addiction takes hold, the tolerance becomes higher. More of the drug, or a larger bet may need to be placed, to experience the same high.
At this point, the person has most likely lost their self-perception. They won’t recognise that they have a problem. Their relationships will become strained. They may lose their employment. In some cases, they will resort to crime to fund their ‘habit.’ Pretty bleak stuff. Breaking the cycle will often require a ‘short sharp shock.’ A brush with the law, hitting rock-bottom. They’ll have to accept they have a problem that needs a lot of work and determination to overcome. But the pay-off will be so worth it. They will get their life back. The only other option is either prison or death. Neither of those will appeal to most people.
Getting the balance
Yes I’ve focussed a great deal on the damaging aspects of hedonism. It is not a pretty picture. On the other hand, having some fun pleasurable pursuits to enjoy is not selfish. In some cases they are necessary. They help us recharge, and gain perspective on what is important in our lives. For example, a holiday will help us reflect on where we are at a stage in our lives and what we want to achieve next. It may make us realise we need to build better connections with loved ones. These actions are not selfish.
Other activities such as sexual Dominance / submission, role-play and bondage enable us to develop our ability to tune into other people and their needs. Surely a good thing? Listening to what drives someone else and working out what inspires or fulfils yourself. Developing mindfulness, patience and obedience. In addition, providing encouragement and constructive criticism. These are all characteristics that make us ‘better people.’ Between consenting adults, this is surely not selfish?
Learning to trust someone, and believing they are working to become a responsible play partner involves developing a deeper connection. Achieving a goal and having realistic aims make people happier. Happier people means less stress, and conflict. A good thing I’m sure you’ll agree. As long as play is safe sane and consensual, it surely cannot be selfish.
Pursuing pleasure, to share pleasure is not selfish. That is my humble opinion. If it is illegal and / or damaging to the health / welfare of yourself and loved ones / wider society, then I would say it is selfish. Life is too short not to enjoy ourselves and bring pleasure to others. Let us play, laugh, eat and relax.
The views in this post are my own. I am not advocating that specific activities be taken part in, if you do not feel comfortable with them.