I am walking down a street in a busy city in America. This particular street is known by some as the “methodone mile”. As you can imagine, this name reflects the nature of those who spend time here. As I walk, I find myself facing person, after person, after person, disheveled, underweight, broken down, deep lines etched into faces that appear in permanent sadness or anger or despare, warn-out fabrics falling upon boney shoulders and hips.
I want so deeply to lock eyes with each and every one of them, hoping that through my eyes they might see my compassion, my empathy, my love. I wish that, just for a moment, they could tap into the sensation of oneness and know that they are enough, vital, important, loved. At the same time, I feel so out of place here, too clean, too healthy, too young, too energetic, too purposeful, too ‘part of the system’. I have no idea what they see in me, and I feel shameful at how privelaged my life is and how unjust the world can be.
I know many people who use substances recreationally. Some who have used the same substances as these withering people before me. And for those friends of mine, they remain: clean, healthy, energized, purposeful, educated, high functioning, happy. In fact many of them would swear their lives are infinitely better on account of some of the psychedelics and other ‘medicines’ they have explored.
I can only imagine a major reason for the difference is the dose-response curve. If you don’t take any, or don’t take ‘enough’, perhaps your life remains understimulating and personal growth is limited. Experiment, dabble, develop a relationship with these substances: perhaps you find the ‘sweet spot’ where the world opens up and you find bliss beyond your wildest dreams. So one’s good, two’s better, right? Take more, more, and more: eventually, you get to a place that you didn’t expect, eventually the rollercoaster starts taking a dive. For some, we don’t have the ability/skills/awareness/desire/drive to go to that edge, recognize it, and back away. For some, we dive in with reckless abandon, at first enjoying the thrll of the ride. But eventually we might realize that our relationship with the substance is no longer healthy, our lives are no longer joyful and we may no longer be in control. And sometimes we go so far, that the damage caused is not reversible.
To me, hedonism fits this same bell curve, and substances fall within the class of hedonic experiences.
They way I define hedonism, is I seek out experiences that bring me pleasure. Pleasure can be of any sensuous nature (pertaining to any sense), and sexual energy lies within the spectrum of sensuous experiences.
Therefore, like substances, if something brings me pleasure, I lean into that pleasure. If something helps my life feel good and joyful and connected and loving, I receive it!
Of course, truth be told, I don’t always receive it. Sometimes I outright avoid it. Why is that? Do we each have our own ‘methodone mile’?