I’m going to become a Hedonist. No really, I am. Seriously. I am going to join the Church of Hedonism. Yup. Before this happens to me.
Of course, no such church actually exists, and most religions seem to be mainly concerned with stopping people having fun. But anyway. If there isn’t one, I think it’s time we started one.
I am rapidly approaching that watershed in life, the dawn of my seventh decade. I don’t have that much time to waste any more. I quick demographic of my parents’ families suggests that if I remain a non-smoker, keep the drink to a moderate level and eat reasonably healthy food, I have maybe another fifteen years of active life, and another five or so of winding down, before parting the mortal coil and becoming one with the Earth again.
That is not an awful lot of time. And I am beginning to resent every moment of it that is not spent, basically, having fun.
I don’t have the option to defer the fun any more, like I once did. I can’t look into a long, serene future when, sometime, I might be able to stop pissing myself off with other people’s demands and move to a life of pleasure. And my marriage, for many reasons, broke up some years ago, so the idea of a serene old age rocking our mutual armchairs in front of the fire and making cups of tea, has vanished. I regret that but it is water under the old bridge.
My kids are old enough to look after themselves. When I was sixteen I left home and got a job. I’m not suggesting that my kids should do this, indeed I support them in their desires to study and live lives of their own. I’m not asking them to look after me in my old age. But much as I dearly love them, my material responsibility towards them will be drastically reduced when the last gets to be sixteen themselves and can make the same choices I did. That will happen in a couple of months.
I’ve had to ask myself some searching questions. I’ve not always been a ‘good’ man, by the lights of many. But actually, anything I did that left anyone else a bit bruised was just business. My priority was my family and the home.
But I don’t have that any more. I’m not bitter; I have lovely kids, and I just spent an incredible ten days with my daughter. I plan to do a lot more of that. But I ask myself, would I enter into another commitment, now, that might take years to resolve, years I don’t have? Would I enter into a relationship with someone who had or wanted to have children? The answer is that I’d be nuts to do so. Nuts. I have paid my genetic debt; my alleles are out there to replicate.
I certainly don’t feel any loyalty towards a nation, either. I am proud to be Scottish, and very supportive of my country’s culture, but I wouldn’t lay down my life for it. For my children, yes, without question; but neither for a geographical nor a political entity, would I endanger myself, either now or in the past. It’s as ridiculous a concept as I can imagine.
I don’t feel I need to ‘pay back’ to my nation or culture. I didn’t choose to be born Scottish, though I consider myself lucky to have been, and I owe it nothing other than my deep affection—and as for the absurd ‘British’ State, well, frankly, the sooner that’s consigned to the dustbin of history, the better.
I’ve had a full life, and a lot of fun, many good times. If I were to die tomorrow, or be told that I had some hideous disease that would kill me soon, then I wouldn’t enjoy the suffering, but I wouldn’t feel bitter either. My life account is well in credit, and I would leave behind four wonderful people as my legacy. No. I couldn’t complain. I have seen and experienced much that most people have never even glimpsed.
That, however, is no reason to rush my life to a conclusion. And if I am to be alive, I want to be enjoying it. My moral and pastoral responsibilities towards my children I will never deny or renege on. But other than those, and they are more a pleasure than a burden anyway, I am free.
Since realising this, more and more I see how much my previous life was conditioned by other people’s demands. Many of these, like my children, I accepted fully and freely and without prejudice or regret, twenty-four years ago when I decided that yes I did want a family. Others were obligations I took on as a part of that, too. But a great many were just things other people expected me to do, because ‘society’ demanded it. Most of these were completely spurious and unhelpful, although I didn’t see that at the time. But now, my only responsibilities are to myself, and to getting as much out of life as I can in the time that is left to me.
So what has all this got to do with the Church of Hedonism? Well I do think a moral code is important. Are we, without the control of official religion, completely without principles? Fortunately, as an atheist, and understanding Evolution, I know that our moral codes are innate, and that religions have simply hijacked these for the purpose of social control.
I remember, when I was very young, reading all I could about the esoteric religions of the East, indeed anything I could get my hands on, as I explored the mysteries of spirituality. I came across a phrase that I thought was the most apt statement of morality I had ever seen: Do as you will, as long as you harm no other.
It seemed then and now to be a very powerful, simple, and valuable code. Looking back on my life so far, the things I regret doing most, are the things that contravened it. Yet when I first came across it, this code—a perfect moral statement—was condemned, for reasons that I could never understand, and still don’t, other than that it demands that we all be our own moral guides, our own consciences. Which, of course, the religious demagogues do not want us to do; they want to control us and to that end, prescribe codes which fit their own purposes, and pronounce upon the actions of others from on high.
I’ve not always lived up to that simple and honest code and I apologise. Looking forward, I would like to live more closely by it. And it really doesn’t stop us having fun.