Hedonism and the ‘Disease of Disconnect’

Facebook is a great way to take the pulse of the world through monitoring the postings and repostings of what one might call philosophical ‘sound bites’.  What I’ve been noticing is a movement towards the adulation of the individualistic pursuit of pleasure  – without regard to the cost of this pursuit – and I’m very concerned that the pursuit of pleasure and of personal wealth and happiness is being (mis)represented (and consumed) as the highest moral good, as the highest expression of our ‘Being’.  This is hedonism dressed up as self-love.

There are half-truths being promulgated in the ‘New Age’ movement which, in some very big ways, give folks ‘permission’ to pursue hedonism dressed up in this manner.  These include a skewed understanding of Karmic Law and the promulgation of a philosophy known as Solipsism which, in short, is the notion that nothing is real; everything is an illusion, an artifact of our own mind.  The conclusion that logically flows from this is that nothing we do (or don’t do) really matters. To me, this is the ultimate abdication of personal and moral responsibility.

I first came across the skewed notion of Karmic Law a couple of years ago.  I was taking an Artist’s Way course and was shocked to hear someone say that we needn’t concern ourselves with the rampant immorality afoot in the world  (my words) – I think some of us were talking about what is really going on in Africa.  Her notion was that all (my emphasis) these folks had accrued some sort of Karmic debt in a past life and so we need neither be concerned nor take action to remedy the situation.  She went further in saying that it would, in fact, be morally wrong to interfere in the lesson these people were supposed to be learning in this life.

I think it might help to bring the notion close to home.  If the above were true then, if you came across your own or your neighbour’s child being raped, you would have no need, even more, you would have no right to intervene; this violation would be the child’s karmic debt and you would not have the right to interfere with their opportunity for growth and learning.  As I mentioned above, and I believe this is worth repeating, this is the ultimate abdication of moral responsibility.  If we can blame victims for their own victimization and exonerate the perpetrators of responsibility for their crimes because they are either acting out their own pain or playing a pre-determined karmic role, then there is also no need to examine how our own action (or inaction) affects others, especially those brown-coloured folk on the other side of the world.  We are free to pursue lives of hedonistic pleasure.  I do think we are here to grow our souls and ourselves and a part of that is learning and growing from difficult, even traumatic experiences (it doesn’t serve oneself to stay in a state of victimhood) but in no way is it correct to say that an innocent victim deserved their violation.

The questions is: why are people so readily ‘buying’ these pseudo spiritual philosophies?  My answer: this is another manifestation of the ‘Disease of Disconnect’ – our disconnection from our deepest nature and, therefore, from all life.  To me it also represents a loss of caring:  we don’t have enough heart, passion, compassion, empathy to care and, more importantly, to act.  And it makes sense.  If we are unable to feel and work through – let alone recognize – our own deepest pain, and if we are unable or unwilling to acknowledge and then to travel the difficult road from a place of unworthiness to place of self-worth and self-love, then we will remain deaf and blind to the pain of the life that is crying and dying around us.  (For more on the disease of disconnect, please see my blog post from a couple of years ago.)

Rather than pursuing a spiritually empty life of only personal pleasure or self-aggrandizement, I think the challenge that is upon us is figuring out how to have a rich, fulfilling and satisfying life AND to live this life in such a manner that we are in harmony with all life as a whole.  This includes an understanding of and an accepting of responsibility for how our action and inaction affect other beings.

After-thought (added August 5th):  I’m not sure if it’s pleasure that most folks are pursuing so much as thrills, a frenetic escapism.


[Hedonism is a school of thought that argues that pleasure is the only intrinsic good.[1]

I would like clarify I’m not advocating asceticism which is, essentially, the denial of the senses, the body, the complete denial of ‘earthly’ pleasure.  As a friend correctly noted in a recent Facebook discussion, this would be an expression of self-hatred or, in my words, yet another manifestation of the disease of disconnect.