I say it all the time. In the face of the Anthropocene and all of the related positive feedback loops contributing to it, fear is the most useless of emotions to evoke. Fear is a perfect tool if you lack sophistication in your language of optimism. But I scoff at the attempts to mobilize a culture who is already gripped in fear, with more of it.
In my mind’s eye the future isn’t dictated by fear, it is draped in sensual bliss. Those who I follow, and who follow me believe in something way beyond fear, and way beyond sacrifice. I don’t have to sacrifice to reach self-actualization, I just have to design the easier route during a sit down with wild fermented cider and Connecticut grown hash.
The Designer is the Recliner
I live by this, the prospect that through mind calories we can offset body calories, never to waste them again. Clearly it dovetails from a powerful myth in the dominant culture of the U.S., which, in fact, is a myth that by proxy exists for the whole world to be enraptured. The myth of progress holds out hope that leisure will come for those who work hard now, because technology will liberate us from the drudgery.
Ironically, when there are people out there who aren’t working, they become vilified in the eyes of those who are employed. In fact they are living out the myth of progress as advertised…less work! Those damned parasites, who take my taxes and use them to do a lot of stuff I don’t like.
The myths are powerful but go both ways, as an individual I need to make the myths work for me, not the other way around. It is possible that I can design a life that requires less work from me, but that takes work. The designer is the recliner only through diligence, just like progress only comes when you aggressively seek it out and use it. Work is always necessary, but it doesn’t have to be drudgery, it can be transformative.
Rural and suburban land use areas of the United States perceptually lack the cultural amenities that cities provide. It is probably a simple factor of population density and the creative power of many people in a smaller amount of space. However, the internet makes it possible for anyone, regardless of location, to be in the know of all bleeding-edge cultural manufacturings.
The delicious and nutritious organic produce flows from upstate New York into NYC via farm shares. It flows from western CT to New Haven and Hartford. The city market demands the best organic food stuffs from the countryside. The hedonism of the Urban is well known, but what about the hedonism of the Non-Urban? What kinds of pleasures exist fundamentally within the Non-Urban, and what kinds flow from the cities to the mind of the Non-Urban citizenry?
I’m a Hedonist
I’ll admit I’m a foodie, which means by extension I am also a braggart. And how could I not be? I don’t just make pasta sauce, I make it exclusively from Striped German tomatoes for a unique and sweet tasting product. My cold remedy for the winter is 4 quarts of wild elderberry cooked down into a single ball jar with raw honey, cloves, and ginger. A 15 minute drive brings me the best raw milk in the state, not to mention the yogurt and butter than comes from the same source. As I throw the butter onto a pan over medium heat it releases a cadre of floral notes, which totally changed the way I looked at butter from the first experience I had with those scents.
This is daily. For me, it’s not out of the ordinary to be high, it is my default state. I am stimulating my senses all the time, the sights that will cause my emotions to react positively, the smells that release dopamine in my brain and gut, the tastes that cause my eyes to close and my chest to resonate with a pleasant vibration known as mmmm. You don’t have to be rich to be a hedonist, you just need to be conscious that it is a function of design.
I am a Hedonist?
So what is hedonism to me? I tend to make these definitions up and use them to suit my own interests. I have little use for a hedonism that views pleasure as the highest good. Pleasure is easily reduceable, but hedonism is truly a holistic venture. Pleasure does not exist within a vacuum, and my pleasure frequently depends on the source.
Take the Striped German pasta sauce for example. The pleasure on the surface comes from the taste. The taste is pleasure at its most reduced. But there are many more interactions between me and the sauce beyond the taste. I know that the tomatoes were grown in good soil, I know the people who took care of the plants, I prepared and spent hours cooking the tomatoes myself. Many associations are created with my first taste of this sauce. The music I play while I work pleases me, the memories I have with those who grew the tomatoes please me, the smell and the food storage potential of the sauce please me as well.
Now, the above paragraph is a horse that has been beaten to death countless times. I truly cannot bestow through words the experience of these things, and we know on some level that these connections have importance. But, what if hedonism could improve our health? Holistically speaking, it could, and for me it does.
With the advent of scientific findings such as New Genetics and the Microbiome, there is compelling evidence that suggests that health is very much a holistic venture. Yet, no where in the literature is fear seen as a positive force for feeling good, or making a desirable change. No, a much better way to approach the problems we face is through pleasure, a diligent, disciplined pursuit of pleasure informed by wisdom.
Pleasure vs Pain
The buddhists would say we’re all suffering anyway, and that pleasure and pain are two sides of one suffering ass coin. Duly noted, but the science indicates that pain carries much higher physiological costs than pleasure. Pain and stress cause inflammation in the body in various forms, which in turn cause decreased health over time. Pleasure on the other hand will do the opposite. We adapt in real time, and with a holistic effort to keep our body in homeostasis, we can be our best as much as possible. So while flipping a coin will always result in suffering, the path to a better life is paved with more heads than tails.
Think, better sleep (which is pleasurable), little stress (which is pleasurable), great tasting food, music you like, that high after doing physical activity, and optimism. These kinds of things feel good. Hope is better than fear. Optimism, better than pessimism. At least, this is the decision I’ve made for myself, I won’t speak nor decide for anyone else.