Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Hidden Hedonism

There is an amazingly insightful scene in the book “Perelandra,” where the protagonist experiences an unexpected but exhilarating thrill when he is doused by an alien fruit. The moment is so pleasant he immediately turns around to experience it again, but instinctively knows that he should not do it. Not out of any danger to himself, but rather because it would be harmful to the innocence of that newly created world. It is an insight into the danger of hedonism.

When you think about the root cause or characteristic of sin, you may turn to pride at one end or sloth at the other, or you might think of money or the power it represents as being where evil has its root. However, in many ways it all boils down to the pleasure principle.


Pride is the cult of self at its most basic; it desires to have the final say in everything that happens in one’s world. Sloth is the opposite but similar impulse to avoid the aspects of life that one would rather avoid. Money is the illusion of power; power to control the future and to avoid unpleasant circumstances. It all amounts to the sinful human nature to please self.

That is where hedonism, even in its most harmless expressions, is dangerous. Think about that the next time you order a 66 ounce soda. The next time you take a second slice of pie for dessert. The next time you take a hot shower when you are already clean. The next time you pester your spouse who is “not in the mood.” The next time you buy yet another bric-a-brac because it is pretty. All of those things are not necessarily wrong in and of themselves, but they may speak to a heart condition that you did not intend to develop. And let’s face it; the culture we belong to is nothing if not completely built upon the foundations of hedonism.

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