May 12, 2017

Hedonism vs Helping

NBA reader JC asked a good question in a comment in response to my post "Living As If The Planet Really Is Collapsing". If we are in a state of collapse, why do anything? This is an excellent question that is probably being asked a lot right now, all around the globe.

Here is my take.

At this point we can do one of two things.

A. Take 60s rock star Jim Morrison's hedonic advice:

I don't know what's gonna happen, man,  but I wanna have my kicks before the whole shit house goes up in flames.

Four years earlier he wrote The End in which he said:

“What have they done to the earth? What have they done to our fair sister? 
Ravaged and plundered and ripped her and bit her.  
Stuck her with knives in the side of the dawn, 
And tied her with fences and,  
dragged her down.”

He could obviously see trouble coming, even back then, and made his choice about how to respond - in a typical rock and roll fashion.

Fast forward to 2017, and it seems that many people are choosing the hedonistic route, deciding to get their kicks, and not concern themselves with the consequences.

But when has that ever worked for us? Morrison was dead by 27.

When you choose Option A you will get the same result as any other hedonic pursuit - instant, but short lived gratification, and a further deepening of the problems to which one is responding.

The other option is:

B. Choose to help. Do something to improve the world in spite of evidence which shows it might already be too late, because what if it is not?

Even if it is, choosing B is a more mindful and joyous way to live. Choosing B is not giving up. B is right living and setting limits, even when no one is forcing you to do so. Self-control and delaying gratification leads to lasting happiness and improved feelings of self worth.

It is possible that eventually the problems will be solved. Maybe unlikely, but possible.

Each of us must decide our own response. I have made my choice. It will be interesting to see what everyone else decides as we circle the drain.


  1. “It's the action, not the fruit of the action, that's important. You have to do the right thing. It may not be in your power, may not be in your time, that there'll be any fruit. But that doesn't mean you stop doing the right thing. You may never know what results come from your action. But if you do nothing, there will be no result.”
    ― Mahatma Gandhi

    1. Marla,

      I love that quote. Doing nothing leads to despair, and that is no way to live.

  2. Anonymous5/12/2017

    Wonderful quote, Miss Marla. Gregg, I agree that it may seem unlikely we can turn this ship around, but it is possible. The earth, like the human body, has incredible powers of self-regeneration if given the chance. In my neck of the woods I see people shopping until they drop, but I also see others, almost daily, trying to do better. Let's not be cynical and continue to do the right thing - it makes for a more deeply satisfying life :-)


    1. Madeleine,

      I'm feeling the hope, even among those of us that recognize the gravity of the situation in which we find ourselves. We have to believe we can do it. Gardeners, like yourself, know all about delaying gratification, hope, and the joys of taking successful steps toward meaningful, life-enhancing growth.

  3. Anonymous5/13/2017

    That's a nice pie chart. The thing is hedonism is really hard work. The mind gets hijacked and people will chase it all the time. Once disconnected from attachment more possibilities arise.
    It is not to late for this planet to recover, but it is going to take a lot for people to start on that journey.

    1. Alex,

      People rarely account for all aspects of a consumer life, choosing to focus instead on the end product - more, and "better" stuff. Why? Because if one did an honest accounting of how hard it really is, one would probably decide it is not worth it.

      Then what? Our society does not offer many alternatives. But of course they do exist, and they are beautiful for us, others and the planet. Just by considering, and discussing, these things makes them more likely to be manifested.

      It is happening. Right now. Listen carefully and one may hear a better world formulating.

  4. Anonymous5/13/2017

    I ultimately doubt whether humanity will sort out the mess we have made for ourselves but I believe strongly that a) we could and that b) we must try.

    1. Rob,

      That is perfect. It would have made a great one sentence post. Right to the point.


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