A humble hedonist lives in simplicity while avidly pursuing beauty and of course, pleasure. It’s a beautifully simple and simply beautiful life. Happiness just occurs. Shit also happens. Pursuing either of them is a bit silly, really. They arrive anyway. Both happiness and the slow spiral down into depression can occur while I’m not even aware of it. Years later, one realises… hell, you know what? I was really happy then. That is another helpful aspect of hedonism – an occasional heads-up to realise – ‘this is wonderful!’ ‘That is beautiful!’
Okay, so ‘I feel really happy!’ is not always the inevitable conclusion, but being open to beauty is the first step away from the abyss. The next step is getting the sneakers or boots or sandals on and bothering to go out and have a good time. It can be a walk down the street or a trip to the beach – sometimes inertia can shut me off for days, growing into weeks. Then fortunately a friend phones and lo and behold, the impossible becomes manageable. Inertia is tough. It’s deceptively soft and sticky and keeps you glued to your computer, spinning mindlessly through endless websites with no pleasure at all.
Noticing beauty, being open to pleasure is a great antidote to the mindless semi-conscious state that simply ploughs on; doing what comes next; putting out fires; barely looking up; reacting instead of responding. That mindset (and it eventually sets like toffee) makes everything ever more complicated, because things are seldom done mindfully in the first place, so they have be be revisited and fixed. Simplicity can be beautiful in itself, but my ongoing mission is in finding beauty in the everyday, in the mundane and in unexpected places. Pleasure can be gathered if we choose to because we’re always at liberty to choose our reactions to any event. My wise Tai Chi teacher advised us ‘If you fall into a ditch, don’t forget to gather the roses that grow there.’ And they’re always there…
For me, the visual embodiment of humble hedonism is the shot in the Jeremy Irons’ movie Damage of his character’s sandals lying in the sunlit doorway, at the end of the film. View the clip below for a general feel of how he lives at that point in the story. Very simple, very deliberate, very beautiful and above all, absolutely mindful, totally engaged in every action he performs. His life, though his eyes are sad, is beautiful to behold in its serenity. Is he having a good time? Probably not, but a humbled hedonist he is and he’s making the best he can of what remains of his shattered life.
There are many other inspirations of course (Mr Miyagi in The Karate Kid is one) but for me, that shot of the sandals is it. It’s almost the only thing I remember about the movie in detail and it has inspired my choice of many homes in terms of the simplicity it evokes.
The mindfulness still eludes me most of the time… but it’s fun practising.