Hedonism is a lifestyle of self-indulgence for one’s own pleasure. On its face, it seems pretty good. But what if my pleasure is using your swimming pool or your wife or eating your dog (or your wife)? In the realm of hedonism, this is all perfectly acceptable, and demonstrates that hedonism, paradoxically, cannot exist in paradise. While there is a basal appeal in the illusion of hedonism, it is simply a violent battlefield waiting to happen. Moreover, the more we indulge ourselves, the more unsatisfied and depressed we become.
You’ve probably heard the expression, “It is better to give than receive,” and we’ve all experienced the profound joy in serving others. Giving provides a sense of fulfillment and meaning that is unattainable from getting. The greater the need we fill by giving, the greater the joy and sense of purpose derived. Try it for yourself and you will begin to see that service to others is the very meaning of life.
Self-help gurus talk about how to improve this aspect or that aspect of your life but completely overlook that the ultimate self-help has nothing whatsoever to do with the self. It has everything to do with others. Service to others is, perhaps, the antithesis of both traditional and New Age self-help methodologies, but it is the only ticket to the happy life we really seek. Depression is a widespread affliction in societies that glamorize those who serve the self, and the way out of depression rarely involves self-serving therapists.
While modern society paints distorted images of reality, the truth remains that the more we do for others the more connectedness we feel and the more valuable we are. For openers, try implementing “The Golden Rule.” That is, treat all others as you would like all others to treat you. All others means all others, whether they have two legs, four legs or 100 legs; be they black, white or purple. Extend your circle of service to include people and animals. In fact, and quite contrary to most societies, service to animals is the very crux of the meaning of human life. Humans have dominion over animals, but this is not a license to use and abuse them, it is a responsibility to care for them.
You must take some time for yourself to pursue things you enjoy, but to fulfill the purpose and meaning of our lives we must serve others. Implement service to others as an art-form and find ways to achieve not perfection but excellence in the art. You will be welcomed at the gates of paradise when you realize that doing things for your own good is not how you should live. Yes, you will find you have done yourself a great favor, but, ironically, not the reason to do them.