Saturday, July 29, 2017

HEDONISM, MASOCHISM AND ASCETICISM

This is a topic I’ve covered in the past before in my controversial “Hate your training” post, but as time goes on I find the issue continues to get more confused, and I feel it’s time for a re-attack.  I fundamentally do not understand how people enjoy their training.  I hear it all the time that people love to train, that training is the highlight of their day, that training makes them happy, etc etc, and it’s all very baffling to me.  I don’t understand how training can be an enjoyable activity; in my mind, training that is enjoyable is training that is unbeneficial.  And part of me wonders if perhaps I am missing out on something here, as I interpret enjoyment in a hedonistic sense.

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You know I love this photo

In discussing hedonism, I am talking to the love of pleasure.  We know the stereotypical hedonist; they lay on their backs enjoying gluttonous foods and pleasures of the flesh while engaging in no labor or pain.  A hedonists’ concern is on acquiring maximal pleasure and enjoying minimal pain.  In turn, I find enjoyment a form of hedonism (a delight in pleasure), and as such, cannot understand how one enjoys training.  Training is work; it is labor, it is exertion, and it is pain and discomfort.  In my mind, training is the exact opposite of pleasure, and finding joy in it is bizarre.  So then why do I do it?

Immediately, when people discover that I find no joy in training, they assert that I must be a masochist.  Surely someone who regularly engages in something that they detest must be some sort of lover of pain, no?  Once again, this is a false understanding of what is occurring.  Masochism is simply another form of hedonism; not the opposite of it.  A masochist is STILL a hedonist; they simply find joy IN pain.  A masochist regularly seeks to receive pain because it satisfies their hedonistic desire for pleasure; it just so happens that the pleasure a masochist experiences is also pain.  Some would consider a masochist warped; something is misfiring in their brain that makes them interpret pain as pleasure.  Others might believe that it is something more akin to the notion that great pain allows for a more substantial contrast with physical pleasure which, in turn, heightens the sensation of pleasure.  In either instance though, the masochist is simply a hedonist, and in reality, when someone tells me they love to train, I interpret THEM to be the masochist.  Once again, I don’t find joy in training, to include finding joy in the PAIN of training.  So why then do I train?

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Rather telling that THIS photo exists, no?

I believe that training should be an experience of asceticism, not hedonism or, by extension, masochism.  One need be able to experience the pain and discomfort of training, acknowledge that the sensation they are experiencing IS pain and discomfort, and continue to train through the process.  I am discussing the idea of growth via overcoming; Nietzsche’s “Will to Power” shining through.  We get stronger when we endure pain and misery and come through the other end hardened; not when we engage in pleasures, irrespective of said pleasures are painful.  When we regularly engage in those things that we enjoy, we are spoiled hedonists who shirk away from discomfort, even if what we enjoy IS discomfort.  It is from subjecting ourselves to these discomforts and experiencing them AS discomforts that we become “comfortable being uncomfortable”

But why must it be uncomfortable?  Why can’t we be hedonists, and have some sort of love for training?  Why can’t we be masochists and love the pain?  Because love blinds us and makes us stupid.  We aren’t dedicate to our growth when we love the process; we become dedicated to the process irrespective of growth.  If we want to view the ascetic in terms of hedonism, the ascetics’ pleasure is in growth through overcoming of adversity and pain, but it is not love of the adversity and pain itself. 
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Make no mistake; this guy was NOT enjoying this

This is why I implore you to quit these silly psychological tricks you have played on yourself to get through a training session.  Do not convince yourself that you love this pain.  Do not convince yourself that you love this training.  Be true to yourself and acknowledge that what you are doing DOES hurt.  Acknowledge that it IS uncomfortable.  And not for the sake of overly self-indulging moody Instagram black and white photos where you talk about going to war with the weights; do it so that you can regularly practice OVERCOMING.  Do this so that you are familiar with pain, not as a perverse form of pleasure, but simply as a reality of existence.  You are not transcending pain into some sort of nirvana state above humanity, but instead experiencing it AS a human, and in doing so you are doing what a human has the capacity to do; adapt and overcome.  And the more you practice this, the better you become at it, and the more in turn you are able to overcome.  But when you distract yourself; when you convince yourself that you are feeling pleasure and joy, you regress and become soft.  You become something that seeks pleasure; not growth.



I do not understand how you are a hedonist.  I understand, but do not share, your proclivity toward masochism.  However, perhaps it is possible that you are simply a terrified ascetic, convincing yourself that your pain is in fact pleasure and your discomfort is in fact comforting.  Let down your defenses and embrace your existence.  Feel the pain, acknowledge that it is painful, and feel yourself overcome it.  Get to know and appreciate the strength inherent in your genetic makeup; your will to power, your ability to overcome.    


2 comments:

  1. I would postulate that the enjoyment people experience is in doing something they know is worthwhile. Which I understand isn't in conflict with your hypothesis because you certainly don't have to enjoy the actual exercising.

    But I'd say there are moments I do enjoy, e.g. when I am exercising (running, lifting, etc) and I end up succeeding when I was in doubt. I enjoy that moment even if it is physically painful. I think I also enjoy the focus that exercising brings. Takes you away from the thoughts at least for a short time.

    And I certainly enjoy that your blog often makes me think about my own relationship with exercise, progress, goals, effort.

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    1. And see, I totally understand enjoying the feeling of accomplishment, but to me, that is SEPARATE from enjoying the training itself. The same with the focus. For me, this is enjoying the results of training, which makes total sense to me. But I know many that claim to enjoy the training itself, and to me, that is masochism.

      Glad to have you thinking and revisiting. It's ultimately what I hope to achieve.

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