Hedonism vs Sacrifice
Drink nothing to the dregs,
either of the bad, or of the good,
for to moderation in everything
has one sage reduced all wisdom.
What is the “good life?” What makes a life good as compared to bad? What characteristics determine whether a life is good or bad? I’m not talking about whether or not someone is a good person or a bad person; I am simply referring to someone’s overall life. Can you have a good life without being a good person? Well, I guess that depends on how you define a good life.
Return to the root and you will find the meaning.
If you define a good life as a life filled with purely hedonistic pleasures, then someone can definitely have a good life without being a good person. On the other hand, if you define a good life as a life that is to be admired for its sacrifice and service to other people, you can’t have a good life without being a good person. Thus, your definition of the good life determines what a good life actually is.
How do you define a good life? Is it a life filled with adventure, wealth, travel, and pleasures, or is it a life filled with sacrifice for your fellow human beings, filled with love, relationships, and good deeds? Do you see a life of luxury as the good life or a life lived with character and honor as the good life? There are lives that we envy because of their appearance of ease and hedonism, and then there are lives that we admire because of their character and honor.
Live as you will wish to
have lived when you are dying.
Christian Furchtegott Gellert
Life demands to be lived.
H. L. Mencken
For example, we may envy the life of someone who has millions of dollars for the freedom that it affords that person or for the luxury that his wealth can buy. This is a life that is obviously enviable. On the other hand, we may admire the life of someone such as Socrates who spent time teaching others, but ultimately died of poison in a jail cell. These are obviously two distinct kinds of lives: one to be envied and one to be admired.
Which of these would you choose for yourself or for your children? Well, I would not choose a life for my children where they have to spend time in jail under a death sentence, but we look at the life of Socrates with admiration. At the same time, I would not choose the life of Michael Jackson for one of my children either, although we may look at the lifestyle that his wealth afforded him with envy. So what’s the answer?
Beware lest you lose the substance
by grasping at the shadow.
To me the answer lies in one word – BALANCE. The good life is one which is balanced. It has to be filled with more than simply wealth or hedonistic pleasures, and at the same time, it should be much richer than total sacrifice for others. You can actually have the best of both worlds. You can have adventure, travel, personal pleasures, and at the same time live a life of honor and character, which serves others and is fit to be admired.
Drink wine by all means,
but do not get drunk.
The key to the good life is the same key that opens most of the locks in this world – BALANCE. There is no need to live an isolated life of poverty, giving all your time and money to others at the expense of your own enjoyment of life. At the same time, a life where you think of nothing but your own pleasure is a selfish life and not fit to be admired by anyone other than the shallowest of human beings. The good life is the life that you can both admire and envy. It is the best of both worlds.
Moderation is the key to lasting enjoyment.
The secret of life is balance, and the
absence of balance is life’s destruction.
Hazrat Inayat Khan