Hedonism and Its Discontents

Never before in human history have so many entertainments been available to so many. If you can read this article, you have Internet access; with the Internet alone you have access to an unlimited amount of games, movies, videos, music, information, cat pictures and other distractions. The modern world offers even more: hard partying and harder drugs and booze, delicious food everywhere you turn, immersive video games that suck up months and years of your life, sexual licentiousness the likes of which have never been seen before the modern age. It’s so easy to lose yourself in these indulgences, to organise your life around them and make them the cornerstones of your life.

But if you look deeper and set aside what temporary sensory pleasure you may derive from these activities, then what do you see?

Cheap booze and easy sex won’t fill an empty heart.

 

An insatiable black hole that swallows everything that approaches the event horizon. At the singularity it crushes all things to nothingness. The more it consumes, the more it grows, but it does not itself produce anything.

It is nothingness. No light, no hope, no virtue, no product, nothing. It takes everything good and reduces them to nothing.

Is such a life worth living?

Sic Transit Gloria Mundi

Hedonism requires hard work but its rewards are short-lived. That’s what makes it so insidious and so self-destructive: it creates the perception of earned reward, hooking the hedonist and blinding him to the absence of long-term profit.

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How many times can you look at this before you get bored?

Take game or pick up artistry. It’s a siren song for red-blooded modern men. Build your body and your courage, develop dominance, then go forth and seduce every desirable woman you lay your eyes on. Master the game and you’ll never need to sleep alone again.

Game takes courage, commitment and self-transformation. It demands the player to turn his back on modern notions of masculinity and transform himself into the bravest, strongest, most alpha male he can be. It takes hard work, brutally honest self-assessment and the guts to talk to random strangers on the street. And the reward? Your pick of women.

Your first lay might be memorable. Go into the low double digits and you might even think you’re getting good at it. As the number climbs and climbs you’re seeing hard proof that you have skills. That you’re a player, a PUA, an alpha. You can enjoy no end of short-term flings and no strings attached sex for as long as you want.

And then what?

The notch count is a meaningless tally of empty orgasms and non-relationships. The ability to seduce doesn’t necessarily translate into the ability to build lasting relationships. The seduction process takes hours to minutes to talk a stranger into bed,then however long foreplay lasts, culminating in an explosive moment of pleasure. But after that? There is nothing beyond the little death. Just the possibility of the pursuit of a string of minor demises until the rest of your body shuffles off the mortal coil. And what do you have to show for it? What value have you brought to the world?

Nothing.

What about gaming? Spend enough time on Steam and you’ll see reviews from players who have sunk hundreds, even thousands, of hours playing a game. That is weeks, months, even years spent sitting in front of a screen, learning the mechanics and the lore, honing reflexes and mastering controls.

Achieving the acme of skill in gaming demands hard work and sacrifice. It means dropping everything to study the arcana of gaming: damage per second, item drop rate, cooldown period, respawn time, optimal builds. And for what end? To press keys and click buttons and move a funny-shaped gadget to control an imaginary avatar on a flat screen to slay simulacra of enemies over and over and over again.

Sure, gaming has attempted to gain the dignity of competition through esports. But esports competitors are a vanishing fraction of the entire population of gamers, and of those competitors an even smaller few can hope to win an award, never mind make enough money to justify the time and funds spent on gear and training. Rivalry is unbelievably fierce, and the long hours spent sitting down and staring at a screen will take their toll. For everyone else who can’t or won’t be pros, for those who prefer noncompetitive games, what do they get out of spending so much time in front of the screen? When playing there is the adrenaline rush and the dopamine hit — but after? Does shooting up hordes of imaginary robots or laying waste to legions of electronic monsters grant you treasure and prestige in the real world? What is the fruit of sinking days, weeks, months, years in front a screen to tap at mice and keyboards?

Nothing.

Pursuits like these offer rewards in exchange for hard work. It makes you feel like you have accomplished something, but these rewards are momentary and meaningless outside the contexts of these pursuits. Grinding your way to a hundred percent completion and attaining every single achievement within a game may mean something to fellow gamers — but it says nothing about you and your real-world abilities. Having a triple-digit notch count may make you the subject of pride and envy, but it doesn’t make you any more a man than a faithful husband who raised four children alongside his wife and is the pillar of his community.

Hedonism is all about you, but the world is never about you. The fruits of hedonism are fleeting. After a lifetime of these pursuits, when your vigor is spent and your body no longer up to the task, what do you have to show for it? Merely faded memories and the ashes of youth.

The measure of a man is not in the number of women he has slept with, the number of parties he has attended, or however many games he has played. It lies in how much he has given back to his people. Modern civilisation was not created ex nihilo. It requires ongoing work to defend, maintain and expand. It warriors soldiers to man the walls and the gates, architects and labourers for construction and maintenance, parents to raise their children, educators to pass on the flame. If you would enjoy the fruits of civilisation then you must give back to it, lest the fire dies in your lifetime or those of your descendants. And if you would do that, you must be the best person you can be.

Abandon Transience, Seek Transcendence

The pursuit of pleasure does not necessarily lead to contentment. The former is a temporary elevated emotional state, but the latter is a lasting state of mind. Achieving pleasure does not necessarily lead to growth. The former is a temporary elevated emotional state, but the latter is a permanent development of mind, body and spirit. However, one can experience pleasure after having achieved contentment, and one can find pleasure through the hard work of growth. Thus, do not seek empty and transient things, but rather focus on being the best person you can be and making the best possible world for yourself.

You become what you work towards. The more energy and thought you put into something–be it studies, physical exercise or painting–the better you become at it. Instead of spending time and money and energy in pursuit of empty pleasures, invest it in yourself and become the best you can be.

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Be this guy, the guy who trained him, or the guy who crafted the statue.

In the space of an hour you can do many things. Lift iron to exercise your muscles. Read to exercise your brain. Practice a skill or learn a new trade. Meditate or pray to temper your soul. Such activities can be fun in of themselves, but they also make you stronger, faster, smarter, more resilient, and more valuable to your loved ones and your community.

You only have twenty-four hours a day, and you cannot do more than one thing at a time and still experience maximum gains. To be the best person possible you must spend as much time as you can on self-development and minimise time spent on meaningless pursuits.

Every weekday I spend eight hours or so at work, and at least two more on writing. Usually more. Most weekends I’m either writing or doing writing-related business, pulling half- or full days depending on my schedule. Further I train kali at least two hours a week, and work out for an hour at least three times a week — usually more. It’s gruelling, if not downright exhausting, but it has paid off and will continue to pay off into the future.

This is not to say you shouldn’t enjoy yourself. Rather, when you do, do so mindfully, with an eye towards synergizing them with your other efforts. When I play games, watch movies and anime, or read books and manga, I soak in everything — plots, characters, lore, setting, music, visuals, dialogue — and apply these insights to my own work. I developed my style of action writing partly by studying martial arts films and playing games, and replicating the feel of technical accuracy and high velocity on the page.

Going back to the beginning, we now apply mindfulness and synergy to the hedonistic pursuits I have described. There isn’t anything inherently moral or immoral about game: it puts men on the path of self-mastery, confidence and eloquence, which are necessary skills in business, politics and relationships. The techniques a PUA uses to seduce a 9 are often the same techniques a regular man can use to keep the spark going in a long-term relationship and build up to marriage. A one-night stand climaxes in a moment of pleasure and ends in the morning; making love within the framework of a marriage deepens the emotional bonds between husband and wife through shared enjoyment. The outcomes of both paths are different, but they stem from the same foundation.

As for gaming, the obsession needed to master gaming is the same obsession needed to master other crafts. I have already described how I approach gaming: with an eye towards transferability. The focus needed to excel at space simulators like Kerbal Space Program and Children of the Dead Earth is the same focus the next generation of rocket scientists needs to take humanity to the stars — and, as a bonus, these sims can also teach the player real-world physics. I play story- and character-driven games, both to study the craft and to better understand and simulate how different people may or may not react in different contexts in response to different stimuli. For me, gaming is about learning — learning the art of writing and learning the intricacies of the human heart. Once again, the outcomes are different, but the skills are the same.

The differences between hedonism and growth, vainglory and transformation, are intent and outcome. Chasing pleasure for its own sake leads to ruin. Learning specific skills in pursuit of higher, nobler ends produces satisfaction and self-actualization — but only if you get there. If you want to be the best person you can be, if you see libertinism and untrammeled pleasure as the empty promises they truly are, then reject the path of transient pleasures and seek the road of growth and glory.

By pursuing self-mastery and excellence in writing, my latest novel NO GODS, ONLY DAIMONS has been favourably compared to Larry Correia’s Monster Hunter International series. You can see for yourself on Amazon and the Castalia House ebook store.

Hedonism and Its Discontents
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