To judge by their lives, the masses and the most vulgar seem - not unreasonably - to believe that the good or happiness is pleasure.
Recently, I had a conversation with someone about the ubiquity of smartphones. I made the remark that I prefer not to touch another man's smartphone because I suspect that the phone has accompanied the man to the bathroom for activities that I will leave to the imagination for the sake of you, Gentle Reader. I come to this conclusion because of the proliferation of pornography on these devices. At this point, it should become clear what these phones are about, and I suspect that they would light up like a Christmas tree under the glare of the UV light they use on CSI. Instead of a denial, my friend made a defense of pornography and made an impassioned case for it over the virtues of reading the news on the internet. For him, all my time devoted to news, politics, religion, philosophy, and science were a "waste." A life devoted to pornography and other pleasures was superior to my life of the soul and the mind. Even though I would disagree with my friend, I appreciate his remarkable candor on the matter.
This person is what I would refer to as "a cow eating grass." This phrase comes from some old reading of Aristotle that stuck in my head two decades ago. Basically, cows live to eat grass. Hedonists live to have pleasure. They differ only in their pleasure. As such, the pleasure seeking person has no inherent superiority over the cow in the field. Their lives are defined purely by filling their stomachs, emptying their bowels, sleeping, stimulating their genitals, and fighting boredom with mindless entertainment. This defines the mass horde of humanity. It is sad to come to this conclusion, but my friend with the semen encrusted smartphone is not alone in his devotion to hedonism. He belongs to the majority.
People need to ask themselves a question. Am I a cow eating grass? Now, I can tell you that cows never ask themselves such a question. I can also tell you that cows eating grass don't bother reading this blog. So, if you are reading to this point, you are either not a cow eating grass, or you are at least exiting the cow pasture. Congratulations. As for the cows eating grass, I probably lost you at "Aristotle."
It would be a mistake to think that cows eating grass have no worldview. They do. This is why my candid friend could defend his own hedonism while deriding my deeper pursuits. Cows eating grass do have a philosophy of life. The first such philosophers of this lifestyle were known as the Cyrenaics who taught that pleasure was the only good, and pain was the only evil. Basically, life should be lived in devotion to the good times. Eat, drink, and be merry for tomorrow we die. Essentially, the Cyrenaics were the frat boys of the ancient Greek world.
|Aristippus of Cyrene|
By a certain age, people lucky enough to survive their twenties learn to tap the brakes on their appetites. Unfortunately, they never develop beyond that mentality except in the understanding that it might behoove them to take it easy. So, pleasure seeking becomes money seeking, and these people start chasing after cash, property, and status. These people might become married and have children to complete the program, but they rapidly find the disappointment in this. This usually hits in a person's thirties and forties, so they revisit the Cyrenaic days of their twenties long enough to make a trainwreck of their lives in the event dubbed as the "midlife crisis." This process continues through a second and third marriage as drinking, adultery, and money problems take their toll. Adulthood becomes a balancing act between responsibility and appetites.
I would like to say that when people get to old age that they acquire some wisdom and shun the hedonism. But they don't. Young cows eating grass become old cows eating grass. Some part of us laments this, but we can't say why. The fruit of a life lived as a cow eating grass is a bitter fruit. It yields emptiness and disappointment. The cow eating grass dies as all cows do. The only thing we can say about the cow is that he ate a lot of grass.
This is the part of the essay where I am supposed to encourage you, Gentle Reader, to seek after the deeper things in life. There has to be more to life than merely indulging your appetites or chasing after money. But I am not going to waste my time on that. Once you decide to stop being a cow eating grass, you are already on the path to enlightenment. If you think that path is a waste of time, you will just keep on eating that grass. Wisdom is foolishness to the fool. I have known this my entire life. I have been mocked more times than I can count by these grass eating cows. So, now, it comes to this point of being insulted as a fool by a man who thinks the best part of life is masturbating to smartphone porn in the bathroom. I'm sorry, but I would hope that there is more to life than this.
I find the antidote to a superificial existence is to contemplate its end. We are all going to die. The cow eating grass is blissfully ignorant of its own mortality. Human beings are not so fortunate. The goal of all this hedonism and materialism is to make a person forget if just for a moment that their life will end. If death truly is the end, then hedonism may indeed be sensible. The only problem is that pleasure does not ever seem to satisfy that deeper longing. Cows are blessed in not ever feeling emptiness in their souls. That is a human thing. When people become cows eating grass, they seek to be less than human. But the fact that humans want more indicates that something more must exist.