Almost a Swear Word: Why?

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Question: What, more than anything else, can be held responsible for the much decried moral decline of America? Read on, and learn.

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The title, hedonist, and hedonism, the philosophy, give rise to mental images of naked and dirty old men in shaggy robes groping after robust, healthy women they then leave dripping with foul disease. What’s worse, some, whatever their cult or sect, can tell you where to go to find such people. “Don’t go near there,” they’ll advertise with wholehearted wholesome intentions. “You’ll come back contaminated, just from breathing the air. You’ll bring those diseases back with you. You’ll give them to us!” Those places should thank such people for the free promotion.

Well, okay, let’s not go there. What disease I have is from living to a ripe age after a life of exposure to all kinds of industrial settings. What they have in mind is the oblivious commercial sensualism disguised as hedonism preached about in the churches where people go to learn about such things, and more; alternatives to religion the preacher has warned them about. Any philosophy, any religious belief, can be misconstrued by anyone with an intention to do so. Whether it be the preachers hawking against it, or practitioners looking for an excuse to justify their excesses, hedonism’s history fully demonstrates. Study that history with enough diligence and you will eventually come to a conclusion that, in light of today’s knowledge, hedonism has never been a completed philosophy, a fact that only comes to light during recent decades. Let’s backtrack our way into discovery of ties not obvious without a high amount of alert curiosity.

Dogma is for masochists: Morality, as understood now, is not the same as it was before a word got invented for it, after which it got stolen to become the domain of cults. What most of us overlook is what the preachers don’t talk about, that much of religious teaching and practice is derived from unacknowledged hedonic philosophy, the incomplete version that people have been condemning since the days of Pliny, Socrates and Epicurus. Pleasures are promised by the religions, such as the ecstatic “religious experience”; Heaven and all those virgins, angels and other beatific images; the social setting in company of like-minded others; the edificial prominence of association with powerful groups; and more. Pain as punishment is threatened by the religions: Hell is most noteworthy; the absence of those virgins; punishment while on earth (supposed from God but meted out by peers); the pain of death and Purgatory; aimless wandering through a life of immorality and suffering; and more. Religions, in fact, too often promote hedonism in a very perverted form where pain represents pleasure, but only if the pain, like the pleasure, is of an approved type.

I think that, compared to its absence, religion is so successful among human populations because it is fun, especially for those with masochistic tendencies. What does atheism have to offer in comparison to the thrilling ideas religion presents to the average person leading a life of drudgery? We learn to pretend as youths; why expect that to end with the arrival of adulthood? Even though aware that most of it is only BS, most zealots would defend their belief systems to the death rather than give up the pleasures they offer to face the painful emptiness they see as the only alternative. Ask them. That’s the picture of pleasure versus pain they practice, with denial as the added bonus ingredient. To them, to admit to hedonism would be an inconceivable acknowledgement that they practice, in their lives, what they see to be an endless chasing after happiness or pleasure as an end in itself (which is what makes it endless and fruitless).

With no other objective in mind, striving to attain happiness in itself is to aim for a bobbling straw. Happiness, pleasure, joy: Nature rewards us for accomplishment when we chase after our dreams, as even Epicurus long ago expounded to apparently deaf ears. Demanding happiness of life, while offering no material input upon which to build it, no real way to understand it, and depends upon artificial means to generate it. That is a lazy person’s scheme. Happiness arrives in accordance with the material effort from which it gets elicited. Aim for what you love, dedicate yourself to that, learn the ropes so you can strengthen your accomplishments, and happiness will result. As will failure, a source of pain which will strengthen and educate you and make you miserable until you either give up, or figure out what went wrong and try again.

How does completed hedonism work? Much has been discovered by modern science about the workings of our nervous system and the variety of chemical substances, related to what amounts to a hedonic system of maintenance we somewhat share with all forms of animated life, dedicated to homeostasis.

We share homeostasis with all organisms, wherein they seek to maintain internal and external equilibrium. Some wise folks have long taught that life and nature seeks balance, and that balance (not happiness) is the source of all morality. Those who would teach that, by their actions, acknowledge the truths behind the rising science, while science gives some support to their own teachings. The Gaia Theory proposed that maintaining a state of equilibrium enables our planet to support life. As part of the material presence belonging to this planet, we inherit that tendency, by which we similarly maintain our own existences within a range of conditions that support that capability. Our unexpressed goal in that is to keep ourselves in a balanced state, and to look in the environment for supportive circumstances. We will answer to Nature by picking and choosing what seems to suit from whatever options we may recognize.

The tendency of humans to turn to drugs seems also to be a statement to that effect, that we will apply artificial means to attempt the gain of what our social lives prevent from us. The stress of modern living, of lives outside of nature, wherein Nature gets no acknowledgment except in the form of curses and demonization, drives people to seek relief from their unbalanced lives. Turning to religion or drugs further increases the unbalance and, so, the misery of living. The best one can gain is oblivion about it along with a perverse sense of what constitutes pleasure. It is that sense that makes religion seem like ‘fun’ to the religious, who will then turn against anyone who would offer to eliminate their misery.

The Gaian Hedonism inherent to each healthy human would steer us away from the pain, or teach us how to benefit from that which is unavoidable, were it not prevented from doing so by misinformation handed to most of us as ‘authoritative’ at early stages in each of our lives. Building upon malicious information steers us toward pain, and away from the natural guidance a knowledgeable self-wareness would develop. Such a natural guidance would alert us to the destructive nature of all kinds of artifices vying for our adoption, and to the constructive living they mainly prevent or cause people to avoid. It is right here that we can discover the true causes driving the decline of much of today’s world, including its ‘morality’.

If morality equates with practiced wisdom, then by its own principles, hedonistic practices of sensualism and gluttony with painful results must be considered immoral or, at least, stupid. The preacher has us on his side in that. When he preaches to promote practices that result in psychological pain, however, what he advocates must be equally immoral by the same token. Statistically speaking, with that as a standard, a good case can be made that much of religious doctrine does sponsor immoral practices and attitudes. People cannot gain a good understanding of anything that poses opposite qualities for similar conditions, wherein what is “good” in one case is “bad” in the other. The best that can be said for religion is that it often provides an easy forum wherein good people can do the good deeds they would otherwise do without it, but at greater effort and cost.

The problem is with the impractical, unstudied approach generally taken to the forms of hedonism people favor, whether they are the resort-bound commercial hedonists or the self-justified zealous types. It is not so obvious to see the relationship between pain, pleasure and apathy as the tools nature has provided to living, sentient beings for self-guidance. On their own, such tools serve to keep most beasts out of harm’s way and their bodies operating at maximal efficiency; where the tools gave wrong warnings, evolution has removed them from the environment, whereas they have otherwise thrived. Is it possible that, by teaching us to become attuned to wrong signals in a way that perverts nature’s established codes, religion is, all by itself, sponsoring our social decline?— or, causing us to eventually wipe out all life from our planet, including ourselves?

So, among human beings, such tools require us to be educated as to their proper usage if we are to survive in the world, let alone advance. We must learn how to avoid parasitical doctrines that will eventually lead us into annihilation. A proper understanding and practice of practical, moral Gaian Hedonism will aim us into the right direction as we increasingly realize what applies to us as individuals also applies to individual groups, including individual corporations, states, countries, and all that can be recognized as such. Each individual entity bears an onus of responsibility to its environment that extends to the environment as a whole.

 Gaian Hedonism arises from the idea (first expressed by James Lovelock) that even the Earth maintains ecological homeostasis (which Lynn Margulis named homeorhesis in Earth’s case) for the stability necessary for life to persist. With that as a cue, Gaian Hedonism poses not only pleasure versus pain, but adds human awareness of self, past and future to the mix, along with a developed ability to perceive interactive causes/effects relationships and imagine oneself in all kinds of situations. Gaian hedonism arises from a  willingness to forego immediate pleasures in anticipation of future greater ones, a wiser, more immediate version of a condition sought by religions’ promises of rewards in an afterlife, the actual delivery of which can never be demonstrated. Gaian Hedonism proposes it is better to live this life to its fullest, since no evidence has ever been produced to convince any but the most willing to believe the unfounded promises made by organized religions.

The United States of America was the first nation to found itself on hedonic philosophy, identified within the phrase “the pursuit of happiness”. The result, as much and poorly as it has been practiced, has been a boon for the society inasmuch as the “pursuit of happiness” has been protected, but that protection has been poorly implemented and barely understood (if at all) by those set in the roles of government. Every usurpation of the freedoms required for Gaian Hedonism to properly manifest itself has inched our western cultures into decline, to where we now see eastern countries taking over our place as a dominant figure and role model now heading slowly in the other direction. Our dominant religion has taught us to not be honest about our founding fathers’ intentions and the kind of moral hedonism they proposed and hoped we would maintain, and our growing loss of freedom and wisdom is a direct result.

Gaian Hedonism requires nurturance, freedom from overweening control, and a willingness to take certain kinds of risks. Organized religions seek to impose rigid controls from outmoded tribal systems and the promise of security to be found in an invisible sugar teat they have never produced. Both derive their messages from pleasure versus pain, but only Gaian Hedonism promises to deliver in the here and now to those willing to gamble on their own abilities versus those willing to gamble on religions’ empty promises. Knowing full well the only demonstrated aim of religion is for its own increase at the expense of those who support it, which is the greater gamble?

Those who choose self-reliance and self-development can adjust accordingly when they see things going wrong. Those who choose religion gamble that they chose (or had handed to them) the right cult and sect, and must wait for the results until after they have died and it has become too late to change their ways. No approach can be taken, not even apathy, without the necessity to gamble, so anything to be said against gambling on this must be moot. Believers will proclaim their faith but still remain oblivious that their faith is not in unseen gods, but in the men who claim to deliver their messages. Who has approved God’s glib-tongued messengers but others just like them? Who has given them each a different message than all the others, but others just like them, delivered from tongue-passed stories and scrolls created by still others just like themselves, but from ancient times.

That will not stop the faithful from decreeing Gaian Hedonism to be the bigger gamble, but they are wrong. No way exists to justify the more than empty claims made by their perverse form of hedonism; their destructive form proposes an eternity in Hell, whereas the self-obviously true and constructive aims of Gaian Hedonism rise from the proposition that sees our existence to be a rare occurrence in the midst of two eternities, and that we ought not to waste that one-time chance for adventure, delight, and human advancement away from the pain of primitive living that they seek to mire us in.

Don’t believe that? In that case, take a good, hard look at conditions in the religion-dominated areas of the middle east. In the best cases, you see technology struggling to take root in the midst of chaos; in the worst cases, you see sects and cults vying for dominance and supremacy amidst islands of death made from bodies dumped en mass into pits serving for graves.

Even in the best possible circumstances, we live miserable lives under the superstitious influence of religious hedonism because we are forced to give up our self recognition and live at far less than our full potential—even when we are not at all associated with any of those religions. Gaian Hedonism, by proposing that morality (wisdom/freedom from blame) arises from our drive to make the most of ourselves in a balanced life, in directions of our own choosing, promises to enable growth and human advancement beyond our wildest dreams. We are likely at least a millennium or two behind in that possibility right now, thanks to the regressive stances organized religion takes against human advancement. Even the field of medicine was held back several hundred years because of unwise, ongoing churchly interference. How much more immoral pain and suffering will they cause humanity to endure before wisdom finally prevails and they realize the errors they have made into scourges upon the world, and then seek to rectify their own lives?

Gaian Hedonism proposes the pleasure/pain scenario as four-components: The various forms of pain; the pain resultant from pleasure; pleasure here and now (pleasure for its own sake) versus constructive pleasure; pain now to earn future pleasure and/or restore balance.

(1) The various forms of pain: Think of morality as a partial synonym for wisdom. Pain, unbalanced by the accompanying experience of pleasure, is costly to us and thwarts our natural drives toward stasis. To induce such pain in other human beings has to be something we should consider to be immoral (read: “unwise” and “blamable”) because it lessens the quality of any environment we share with them (as can be seen in the actions such immoral people take to insulate themselves from those whose lives their actions have degraded). That idea serves as the basis of Gaian Hedonism and, we have seen, the unwise (read: “immoral” and “blamable”) form of hedonism practiced by religion, politics and commerce as we know it.

Pain, for humans, involves much more than the physical. We ruin ourselves by enduring psychological pain when some enlightened guidance could steer us onto a constructive course. While physical pain is obvious to us when we must endure it, psychological pain too often goes unrecognized or arrives accompanied by other pain-inducing agents such as shame or guilt, and so stays covert.

Psychological pain is, in fact, our most prevalent form of pain. We pamper ourselves in the physical, but stifle our awareness of internal anguish out of shame, or for fear of admitting our gods think so little of us that we have to feel so bad, or that we have somehow sinned and deserve our misery, or that we must torment ourselves to keep others from finding out we have been mistaken about some major belief we have adopted or venture to which we lent financial support. This builds the stress that everybody talks about to blame it on everything but the actual causes. We seek help only after all other avenues we search to escape it have been worn down to the bedrock.

Our medical practitioners seem unwise about dealing with this, and dope us with drugs rather than deal with the omnipresent root causes. Whether from fear of tipping the boat or from profiteering is not all that obvious, very few doctors seem able to accomplish more for their patients than to put them into an oblivious daze.

(2) The pain resultant from pleasure: Masochism (the tendency to wring pleasure from being abused) is not the only way to find pleasure in pain. Masochism is an end in itself, whereas the moral form is to endure the pain of struggling toward a highly desired achievement (even if that accomplishment happens to be a life of absolute inertia). While masochism ultimately proves destructive, proper instruction about the philosophy behind Gaian Hedonism will inform the practitioner how constructive pain benefits the world as a whole for each person who succeeds its endurance, balancing it with the pleasure of small intermediate accomplishments along the way, always experiencing the pleasure of anticipation, and sometimes the actual reaching of an intended goal. Gaian Hedonism recognizes how each human advancement resulted from constructive, goal-oriented pain. Those who experience goal-less pain, if made aware of that, can work to discover their own errors and set themselves onto a better path toward happiness and joy.

(3) Pleasure here and now: Pleasure as an end in itself, like masochism, is the pleasure against which all the world’s preachers work to turn their audiences. As a reward for doing right, pleasure has no peer, but unearned pleasure past the point of satiation is wasteful gluttony. There is no sense of balance inherent to it. The fat, overstuffed bodies prominent in western civilizations warn us that pain will be the reward for that. Where is the wisdom (morality) in our religious teachings about that?

Such pleasure is too often gained at others’ expense, in any of the many ways that can be accomplished. An extreme example, the pillaging of Earth’s resources by ruthless commercial gangs granted privileges for doing so, takes away what careful planning and waste management could restore for future citizenry to use. Rather than enable the immense pools of wealth accumulated by such gangs, laws should and could be made to require them to figure out how to recycle the garbage heaps into which their products end up, and development of medications to deal with the illnesses brought on by their use.

(4) Pain to earn future pleasure: The basis for human advancement and all of modern living has risen from this hedonistic concept. Plagiarized and perverted by organized religion, misunderstood by philosophers, the proper form for this element is as proposed by the United States’ founding fathers by their failed attempts to avoid the entanglement of government with religion, to uphold natural (hedonistic) freedoms as our highest rights, especially the right to the pursuit of happiness which organized religions and their control-minded political minions now seek to slurry away.

Our eroded freedoms, as a result of misled generations since not taking the founding fathers at their word, now stand to cost the United States of America its prominence in the world. We proclaim our country to be the harbinger of liberty, but only because we stand too close to the problem to be observant, and only because too few of us are aware of what has been lost that generations past had used to their advantage. So, then we are left to wonder why other countries’ citizens scoff at our claims and scoff at our religionistic form of crotch moralism, our way of turning every form of pleasure into a sexual desire, and at our obliviousness to our own condition and our loss of inspiration.

Our eyes have turned toward the past. Only there do we find America’s glory. When our eyes return to the future, we want the prize we saw, but not the method of its arrival. We have nowhere to go but down, and the pain of that, to my Gaian Hedonistic mind, is immoral to an extreme when it could easily be avoided.

How? Just read this page again and see what it has told you. Then, try out the questionnaire: “Are you a Practical Hedonist?”

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