Hedonism: An Empty Path

buddha-india-mind-prayer-161170.jpegI am not necessarily opposed to hedonism, rather, I find it to be too shallow and spiritually empty. While I think that, in terms of physical enjoyment, hedonism can be quite grand, for the most part, hedonism simply encourages a form of living that is too materialistic. Hedonism attempts to be a method of escape that lacks any spiritual prowess. The goal of hedonism is to escape suffering, to try and enjoy as much of life as you can. But this enjoyment is based purely on material things, and it also fails to mention that pain and suffering are important tools in creating a stronger individual and thus are necessary for development. There is a reason why, when one thinks of a hedonist, one usually imagines an irresponsible, shallow and idiotic person. There is a reason why “hedonist” is used an insult and the word “ascetic” is not. One must understand that everything material is subject to change, and that materialism will only bring a short amount of joy but a long period of suffering. Hedonism, which is rooted in materialism, is a guaranteed way for a person to fall into spiritual oblivion, emptiness and possibly cause serious psychological or physical damage. One must live a life of adventure and pleasure, yes, but one must also have some sort of anti-materialist foundation to fall back on – otherwise all your materialistic and physical gains will quickly become meaningless and unsatisfying to you. Hedonism is therefore not “evil”, but it is shallow and misguided, and it’s philosophy is only appealing to those who lack any real sense of intellectual or spiritual character.

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Nietzsche: Eternal Recurrence (Part 3)

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Eternal Recurrence is the idea that time is a flat circle. History is not linear, rather it is cyclical, meaning that it repeats itself exactly again and again. Imagine a wheel that is constantly turning. The wheel is time. It will eventually repeat itself f- over and over and over again. There is no beginning and no end. Our universe and existence is not the first, and it is not the last. For those of you familiar with the Hindu concepts of reincarnation, Eternal Recurrence is pretty much the same the cycles of Samsara – except there is no ‘liberation’, you’re stuck in this loop forever.

Let’s say that you have an iPod with 200 songs, and you press the shuffle button and put it on repeat. For a long time the songs will appear random, and their order will surprise you. But eventually, if you leave it on long enough, the songs will repeat in a particular order. That is because there is only a finite number of songs and a finite number of combinations. Eventually, the randomness will end and it shall repeat. This is what cyclical time means. That eventually, everything will repeat in an exact order because there are only so many different combinations.

The Eternal Recurrence is basically the theory that there is infinite time and a finite number of events, and eventually the events will recur again and again infinitely, hence the name ‘Eternal Recurrence’.

If Eternal Recurrence is true, then that would mean this isn’t the first tie you’ve read this post. You’ve read this post numerous times in your past lives. And this isn’t the last you’ll read this post either. Eventually, time will repeat, and you will read this same post again, and again, and again – for all eternity. The same thoughts occurring to you right now, the same physical movements, the same confusion or fascination with this subject – all of this has already happened before and will happen again – forever and ever. I have been condemned to write this essay again and again – for all eternity, and you have been condemned to read it again and again – for all eternity.

Eternal Recurrence is nothing new. The Hindu’s and Egyptians believed that time was a flat circle too – always going through cycles, eventually repeating itself. The Ancient Greek philosophers were also fascinated with the idea of reincarnation an eternal universe; this they question how they might be condemned to repeat their lives again and again. Nietzsche, who was an avid reader of Ancient Greek and Easter mythologies, soon brought the topic of Eternal Recurrence to a modern-day audience. He didn’t necessarily believe in it, but he was fascinated with the topic.

So, how does the Eternal Recurrence relate to the Ubermensch? Well, as you may recall, an Ubermensch must be willing to accept suffering, to accept pain and displeasure. But what if the pain you suffer will forever happen to you. What if every struggle, heartbreak, loss, depression – what if all of these pains are condemned to happen to you again and again, in the same way, at the same time – for all eternity? Does this thought scare you, or please you?

For Nietzsche, Eternal Recurrence was a test. It was a test of a man’s character, and of his strength. If you truly fear and despise life, then the thought of Eternal Recurrence will frighten you. It will seem like a form of torture, an endless cycle of suffering and torment. However, if you truly love life, then Eternal Recurrence will not be a curse – it will be a joyous gift. You will rejoice knowing that this life will repeat – again and again for all eternity.

As I mentioned in my last post, an Ubermensch must love life. They must be willing to accept this life and live it to the fullest. An Ubermensch loves life because it is full of suffering and pain – and this suffering is what gives us our strength. So, an Ubermensch should rejoice at the idea of Eternal Recurrence – because this means that their life will never end. It shall repeat, and with its repetition will come the same struggles and obstacles.

To quote Nietzsche “What, if some day or night a demon were to steal after you into your loneliest loneliness and say to you: ‘This life as you now live it and have lived it, you will have to live once more and innumerable times more’ … Would you not throw yourself down and gnash your teeth and curse the demon who spoke thus? Or have you once experienced a tremendous moment when you would have answered him: ‘You are a god and never have I heard anything more divine.”

Nietzsche also tied Eternal Recurrence with the Latin phrase, Amor fati – literally meaning ‘love of fate’. Amor fati is when one accepts the events (both good and bad) in life, deems them necessary, and does not wish to change them. In other words, if someone were to ask ‘if you could go back in time and change anything about your life, what would you change?” The appropriate response would be ‘nothing’. There should be nothing in the past that you wish to change, because you have accepted that these events have happened, and you are grateful for them. A desire to change the past means that you are not happy and not grateful for previous events.

Eternal Recurrence is a feeling of satisfaction with one’s life an acknowledge of it, such that one could live the very same life, in all its moments of sorrow and joy, again and again for all time everlasting.

So, on the quest to becoming an Ubermensch, perhaps this your final test (technically not final, seeing as it will be repeated again). Do you love life? Are you willing to repeat this life – forever and ever? In the exact same way for all eternity? If you truly love life (as an Ubermensch would) then the answer to this question should be yes. “Yes, I am happy that I shall repeat this life, I rejoice in this idea!” If you said no, then perhaps you are not ready to become an Ubermensch. But don’t worry – for if time really is a circle – eventually, in one life or another – you will say yes.

Complaining About Life

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For some reason people seem to dislike death. It’s quite strange actually. I’ve heard hundreds, possibly thousands of living people complain about how hard being alive is – and how stressful it is to exist. Yet, I’ve never heard of a dead person complain about being dead. Stress, suffering, pain – these come as a result of having consciousness. Without consciousness these feelings do not exist. Death is the end of consciousness, and thus is the end of pain. And yet people say death is a bad thing.

Lost Memories

Do you ever wonder how many lost memories you have? By this, I am referring to events that you have experienced but, over time these memories have either faded (or perhaps were not properly encoded) and thus now are essentially ‘lost’ forever. It just seems strange to me. We experience many things in our lives, yet we often to seem to remember only the bad times or the really good times. This can be unfortunate, because when remembering events we often forget the little things that brought us joy, like taking a walk, or reading a good book, or just talking with friends – all of these little memories that made us happy seem to be lost in obscurity.

Kali Yuga

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The Hindu’s believed that the universe has four cycles of existence. According to the Hindu scriptures, we are living in the Kali Yuga – the fourth and final stage of the Hindu cyclical calendar.

While I am not a Hindu, and for the most part I am an atheist, I will admit that I do believe mankind is living in a Kali Yuga-esque world (at least in a symbolic way).

The Kali Yuga is an age of spiritual oblivion – where mankind is obsessed with material items and consumes at an unprecedented rate. As the Kali Yuga progresses, mankind becomes more and more obsessed with material items and possessions – to the point where these material items become the new ‘gods’ and ‘idols’ of man.

Never before in the history of our species has mankind been so obsessed with material possessions. We live in a world where money, commercial products and luxury items represent the worth of a human being. A person with a lot of money is considered a success – a person with little money is considered a failure.

People with expensive clothes, big houses, fast cars or glamorous jewelry are admired and respected. The public is more interested in the opinions of a rich celebrity than an actual expert. A person with enough money can essentially commit any crime they want and get away with it (or at least have a better chance of getting a lighter sentence), whereas poor people who commit petty crimes are thrown in a metal cell for years on end with no hope of rehabilitation.

Money, which is essentially a piece of paper, has become the driving force behind the world. Money is the backbone of our modern society. Almost everything that we need to survive (food, shelter, clothes, medicine) can only come to us if we pay for it with money. If you have a lot of money, you can buy more food, a bigger house, designer clothes or even the best medical treatment. And, if you don’t have enough money, you either settle for a lesser, subpar version of the necessities or you lack them altogether (which can lead to starvation, homelessness, nakedness, sickness).

People spend their lives getting jobs that they probably dislike in order to obtain money so they can buy things that they don’t even need. They might think that they need these items – but they don’t. Society, mainly the media, has tricked these people into thinking that they need to wear these clothes, or drive this car, or eat this food, or drink this water. Advertising makes us think that if we buy this or that we can somehow become successful, or beautiful, or even happy.

Another attribute of the Kali Yuga is that mankind drifts further away from God. Now, let’s say you are a theist – a Christian, Muslim, Jew etc. Surely you can agree that the power of the church, or the power of religion, is quickly decaying. The Roman Catholic church for example once held sway over most of Europe. Now, a large portion of the European population is agnostic or non-religious. The same goes for over here in United States, where church attendance is decreasing despite a growing population. With the rise of science, many aspects of religion are no longer accepted. Even the Catholic Pope is saying that evolution and the Big Bang theory are true – something that no pope previously would have ever even considered. Now, if you are a theist, you could say the world is slowly ‘drifting away from God’. Religion is becoming less and less important to the average person. Atheism and apathy towards religion have become more prevalent.

Now, as an atheist myself, I don’t think this is a bad thing, I am simply stating that it does seem true that mankind is drifting further from ‘God’. As Nietzsche himself said ‘God is Dead’. This doesn’t mean that God was an actual living being – but rather it means that the idea of a God is dead. The concept of God and all this God stood for no longer hold sway over our lives.

However, I believe that, when the Hindu’s said the Kali Yuga would be an age where ‘mankind drifts away from God’ – they meant it in a more personal way. Hindu’s are monists – they believe that everything is ultimately one. God, or any of the 300 million gods, are really just a part of ourselves. There is no difference between you and God. The world is filled with illusions and it is because of these illusions that people think they are separate from God. When you see past the illusions, you realize that God and you are the same thing – you are God, God is you. By learning about yourself, and understanding yourself, you will come to understand God – since the two are the same.

In our modern era, the search for self-discovery seems non-existent. People care only about the opinions other people have of them. Everyone’s self-image and self-esteem is based largely on other people’s opinions. Rather than take the time and mediate on their self, people would rather read some shitty article or horoscope telling about their ‘qualities’ or ‘traits’. Young people need constant reaffirmation and praise in order to feel complete. Social media is a great example of this – where a person feels important based on the amount of attention their posts get. Snap chat is a great example of how young people have an urge to share everything they’re doing with their many ‘followers’. Young people need others to know that they are having fun, or that they just went to a concert, or that they just got wasted. It isn’t enough that the person doing the actual activity is aware that they did it – everyone else must also be aware that they did the activity.

People don’t even attempt to learn about themselves anymore. They’d rather read personal stories or gossip columns on celebrities than think about their own lives. People are always wishing they had the life of someone else rather than their current one. ‘Oh I wish I was so-and-so’ or ‘oh my life would be so much better if I was this person, or that person’.

The biggest problem is that people do not know what they really want. As I mentioned earlier, the media and commercial society has brainwashed most people into thinking that they want this item or that item. Our system teaches kids to ‘pursue their dreams’ – of course these dreams must require some sort of higher-education degree, and the dream must be ‘practical’ and ‘achievable’. If the child says they want to be an artist or singer they will probably be persuaded to chose a different career.

People are brainwashed. They believe that they have some sort of duty or allegiance to the system. They spend their lives working for a system that does not benefit them. They spend their lives chasing after material items that they don’t really want or need – but society has brainwashed them into thinking that they do need these items. The system teaches that people should be peaceful, moral, have a well-paying job, be law-abiding, get married, have a family, support your country, pay taxes, buy products, and be compliant. But is that really what you want? Maybe it is – maybe it isn’t. The point is that society has brainwashed most people into thinking that these are the only options available – or rather that these are the ‘best’ options available. People no longer live their lives as their true selves – they do what society wants them to do and believe what society wants them to believe. Thus, modern man is detached from ‘God’ in the sense that he is detached from himself. How can modern man know God if he doesn’t know himself? How can modern man love God if he doesn’t love himself? How can modern man know what God wants if he doesn’t even know what he wants?

It is sad really – because the only person that you’ll ever have the ability to really know is yourself. No one else will ever live your life, or experience exactly what you’ve experienced. Yet people don’t want to learn about themselves. They don’t want to meditate on their feelings and learn about their true self. In the Kali Yuga, no one knows who they are or what they want or even what potential they have. Everything they know about themselves is an illusion – a trick planted in their mind by the society around them.

There are many other attributes of the Kali Yuga that are prevalent in our society. Avarice will become widespread, sexual promiscuity will be socially acceptable, murder rates will rise, addiction to drugs and alcohol will increase, poverty will rise and spirituality will decrease. All of these things are very prevalent throughout our western world.

Overall, I do think that mankind is living in the Kali Yuga. Our current world is one filled with materialism and an unquenchable appetite for consumerism. Our leaders are corrupt, our world is ruled by a piece of paper, people are ignorant of God and of themselves, and the world slowly descends further and further into an abyss of misery.