What’s a hedonist after all

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Not doing, the wise soul doesn’t do it wrong and not holding on, doesn’t lose it.

My oldest sister experienced a midlife transformation. She had been a rather “wild” adolescent and politically liberal until she was about fifty. At that time she joined the Catholic Church, became highly involved in her parish’s activities, and then judgments rolled from her tongue with the sweet blindness of a person blessed with 2000 years of a patriarchal thumbs up.

She became estranged from my mother and me after a Facebook argument that turned personal, as they tend to do. I was blamed for escalating the argument. Perhaps I am to blame. I defended my mother who felt humiliated by my sister. That was about 10 years ago.

Today, I am the evil in the family. My sister warns her grown kids to avoid me because I am a “hedonist.” The word popped into my mind today due to a falling out between my niece and her mother. If my niece attended church and just stayed away from me, she wouldn’t be falling into ways that are “not of god.”

When I first heard the label applied to me, I was hurt. Summing up all I am in this one-dimensional word was disheartening. But today I laughed because, for a hedonist, I sure don’t have that much fun.

I assume my sister uses that label because she heard from someone at some time that I live a polyamorous bisexual lifestyle. I wonder what her imagination conjures up.

It can’t be the reality of self-discipline I apply to: what I eat, when I eat, how I push myself to exercise consistently, reading and reflection, meditative work, the committed relationships I develop, the limits I place on what I buy, the internal work I do to minimize my judgments, the time I set aside from personal pursuits for my kids, and the jobs I purposely choose to challenge me to grow as a moral entity and friend. Hell, I’m even looking at returning to pursue an MA. Where’s the “pleasure” in any of that?

I mean, it’s not like I’m a smoker who doesn’t quit, obese because I don’t control my desire for sugar, parroting arguments I find online because I haven’t made the effort to reflect on these moral ideas for myself, having lied and cheated on a partner, and in a marriage lacking in serious ways because I don’t feel it’s my responsibility to compromise. In other words, I’m not someone who treats god’s creation as shit because I can’t control my appetites for food, stimulants, physical comfort, and pride. Now that would be a hedonist.

The argument I have received from Christians when I point out their hypocrisy is that yes, we are all sinners, but that doesn’t mean you get a pass on your sin just because I sin, too. I see where they are coming from with that. Except that judging others’ sins is exactly what Jesus said we should not do. It’s the Church who would have you swimming in self-righteousness as you decide to speak for god. As if she needs the help.

Humans do a good job of corrupting a good message in pursuit of power and authority.

I will try to do more not-doing. I would like to spend less time reflecting on judgmental Christians. If the intersection with my niece didn’t present itself like it does, I would rarely think about my sister. So today, I’ll leave the nominal Christians to commit their Pelagian heresies in ignorance.

I care less about sin than stories. And my story today is, I sure wish I was a little more hedonistic.

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7 Responses

  1. The problem is your sister’s approach. As a Catholic, I’m sure her and I agree on many moral issues. But I would lead with what I think you’re doing wrong, which is usually the characteristics of converts full of zeal. Christ doesn’t say not to judge, we make judgments all the time—that’s part of living. The context of what Christ says is to remove the plank from your own eye so you can help remove the speck from your brothers eye.

    So, if your a sports fan, baseball is a good analogy, I would spend time showing people the fundamentals of how to straighten out their swing or how to field a ground ball before how to turn a double play or the rules of an infield fly out. Folks can not understand the nuances of the game without the basics. Okay, so how does this apply to the real world? Well, I’d begin with God. Do you believe there is a God? Do you believe in objective morality because these are the fundamentals to build more of a framework. If we can settle on yes there is a God, so, Who is God? How can we know him either historically or from divine revelation? If we can agree that God is the Christian God and Jesus is God, what does this God tell us to do or what does he want from us? Okay, so then we can introduce what does the Church teach etc.

    Also, there’s the more practical approach. Hey, during the summer, my parish packs meals from kids who live in poverty to eat, do you want to help? Or Hey in the winter a group of us make packs to help keep the homeless dry and warm, you want to help give these out? There’s no concern of what you do outside of that particular act and you may wonder why I feel the need, I say well Jesus commands it in Mt. 25. You might take a look and have other questions, I’ll answer those at that time.

    But if I say, hey you pagan sinner! You’ll probably tune the rest of what I have to say out.

    • “I wouldn’t* lead “

    • Terry says:

      We DO all make judgments and we probably ought to stop. Some amount of doubt needs to remain in a good Christian mind for what your god may know that you do not. And as a matter of fact, none of us really can remove our own plank which makes our judgment contaminated. I get the point about discernment vs judgment but that applies more to one’s life choices rather than telling others how to live. This is an intellectual exercise for me, not an argument from faith. I do not accept the authority of the Christian Bible and certainly not those who attempt to translate it and give it meaning.

      • And this would be the extent of the conversation between us in regards to revelation. I would however assert that in regards to the Catholic faith, the argument is a philosophical one that hinges also on reason and revelation, since this “intellectual” for you. Arguments of the faith have been made from Catholic philosophers for a millennium by observation of the natural world in regards to its teleology. I’d have to disagree that we shouldn’t make judgments in this regard because even the natural purpose of things and their order should be rightly judged by those who have reason.

        However, it wouldn’t stop me from asking you if you’ve seen the Yankees game last night or asking if you wanted to help others together, or get a beer. I think your sister should still be descent to you.

        • Terry says:

          The philosophical arguments based on “natural purpose” are so ignorant of culture’s influence as to make them meaningless. As science has progressed it’s come to show us infinite strategies for life. Despite the use of the phrase “natural law” JPII clearly says that a scientific account of human nature is available only to metaphysics not literally what we see in nature. It’s a sophistic argument that tries to sound like it has the authority of science without really using science. I have gratitude for the Church, in that it preserved and passed on science to us against some religious forces that called the world evil. The Church called god’s creation good, and with that I can agree.

          • It appears you’ve confused what science actually is as it is a form/method of observation. Philosophy is also a form/method of observation using human intellect and reason to obtain conclusions. Now, believing that the real is strictly reducible to what the empirical sciences can verify or describe is actually just a philosophical supposition because it must rely on a system of metaphysical beliefs.

          • Terry says:

            It seems you have confused a blog post for a debate on phenomenology. I wasn’t describing empiricism. I was pointing out that “natural” is a misleading word for what is taking place in religious appeals to scientific authority. I appreciate your interest in discussing ideas but don’t appreciate your condescension.

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