Ethical Hedonism and The Power of Sadness

Sunset on Koh Tao

As someone whom loves to travel, one of the things that I noticed appearing for me on my return from traversing the globe, after our first and longest spell out of the country, was the initial lack of desire for emotional connection with others. I had experienced such a great time travelling, with just my husband and children (although it wasn’t perfect and there were difficulties to get over) being outside of our culture and society, meant that I found it a lot easier to just be me. 

Much of my professional training, work and experiences I had been a part of, over the previous few years, meant that my sadness, realisations and emotional growth had ended up on the outside, instead of safely tucked away in my gut-so much of my time was spent in relationships and at home.

Don’t get me started on what I see as the negative aspects of spending too much time indoors and alone as a parent. How being in the home can impact on a person, when residing for too long in this particular place. How the liberation of women into the workplace, may not always feel freeing but constitutes a change in a woman’s emotional make up and a dispelling of the psychic absorption of others emotions and feelings. Maybe if Freud had delved a little deeper into the male psyche, when analyzing female hysterics, there would have been a greater and more in depth understanding of a woman’s role, as it presents itself on a much deeper level, than just as caretaker of their young, but that is my own personal opinion.

Westcliff on Sea

The physical art of travelling, has a way of wrapping everything back up and nestling it neatly inside you – enabling you to care for yourself, as the physical momentum of life takes over and once again you stride forward into the unknown. Yet this unknown is full of forward movement. Is pleasant and awe inspiring, inspirational and delicious, slightly different to the unknown that I experience whilst sedentary in society.

If you are not happy when you are travelling, it is very easy to move on and find somewhere different to reside, without going through the rigmarole of “Do I earn over £33.000 a year – do I have a years payslips to prove that I am able to pay my rent. Am I of good character!”

When you travel-you do not have to prove yourself but acknowledging and following the laws of the country, makes moving on simple. Finding somewhere new is mostly easy, not stressful.

So who could blame me for wanting to live in this constant state of bliss, which had arisen like a phoenix from the ashes of my ethereal flame and was languishing resplendently and deeply within me, by the time our little family reached Australia. I had fallen in love with the world and our place in it. The children were under our care and my watchful eye, as we traversed different places and I gained great pleasure from all our freedom. We were having big fun.

I wanted to keep experiencing that once I was back in the UK, but alas the feeling didn’t linger, once I was dealing with schooling issues, dismissive conversations, and developing the art of dealing with the negative aspect of our children having become invisible to others, because they were homeschooled. It opened up many doorways in my mind, with regards to societal attitudes and understanding. To be honest, I don’t think much has changed today.

Yet as much as I long to hold onto the ethical hedonism of my travels-I too understand the necessity of emotionally connecting with other people, which means connecting with the sadness in their lives, which of course means connecting sometimes with the sadness within.

Ethical Hedonism:

‘Ethical hedonism is the idea that all people have the right to do everything in their power to achieve the greatest amount of pleasure possible to them.’

When I am happy, it does not mean that it is not ok for others to be sad, and as much as I want to enjoy my personal life to the full and spend time committing to activities that I enjoy and are for my intrinsic good – it does not mean that I would cast out someone in pain. I think sometimes this is an automatic motion for many of us. I too have been under its spell but now I find it is more of a conscious choice to turn towards someone, when they show sadness and I am happy, rather than turn away. Maybe its the Counsellor in me, or maybe it is the way I am made but I can stomach a persons sadness and although it may wisp itself into my aura for a while, I know it will not stay forever as it does not belong to me.

When I think back to the film the beach by Alex Garland, set on a Thailand tropical island. This next line sums it up.

‘Utopia is unobtainable when linked so closely to human emotions.’ Penguins Readers Group

And therein lies the power of sadness.

It reminds us we are human…





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