Martin Seligman, author of “Authentic Happiness,” describes Hedonics as the study of how we feel from moment to moment. Those called hedonists go to extremes actively seeking to experience as many “good” or pleasurable moments as possible while keeping “bad” or painful moments to a minimum. By definition the quality of a hedonistic life can be determined by the simple equation of the quantity of good moments minus the quantity of bad moments.
Dr. Seligman reminds us that one need not be a self-proclaimed hedonist to seek after this goal; most of us are sometimes apt to keep some sort of running total in our heads that informs us of the relative “goodness” or “badness” of our lives at any given moment.
As we grow toward wisdom we finally discover that hedonism and its supposed connection to happiness is a fallacy. Not only does it direct our attention downward to transitory experience, away from the horizon of possibility and joy, in many it creates an insatiable hunger for one isolated pleasurable incident after another, as well as a deep abhorrence for the requisite, and often uncomfortable, stretching and refining process of meaningful growth and learning, especially that associated with marriage.
Please do not misunderstand. My primary goal in life as I began my second journey and quest for relationship growth years ago was the achievement of happiness and joy, and so it remains. I have no desire to pursue the path of the monk or a life defined by some supposed ennobling misery.
As I worked to bring true principles to my center something became abundantly clear to me. True joy and happiness can be felt even in the midst of disappointment and grief. When I live my life according to true principles it’s as if there is a beautiful rainbow that arches overhead; if I keep my eyes on that rainbow of hope and truth, my joy and fulfillment remain firm even as I deal with the inevitable setbacks and disappointments that life brings.
This is a far greater path than hedonism and its rollercoaster of pleasure and pain. This is a gift beyond any calculation. Think of it! To always feel a sense of security; to always know that life and joy-giving light is available to us. To understand that while we will certainly shed tears on this path of life, nothing need ever deny of us of the legacy of true joy that is rightfully ours.
Since true happiness and joy require a level of sacrifice and refining of our hearts and souls, the hedonist will often become lost in seeking pleasure which can be engineered on the physical level by simply stimulating the brain’s pleasure center.Inevitably their self-centered search will lead them to substances and behaviors that will create distance in their relationships and often bring them into direct conflict with their spouse. What they fail to realize is the eternal truth that Happiness is greater than Pleasure and Joy is greater than Happiness.
I’ll take joy every time.