All things have a negative side. Every light casts a shadow. One can feel that they don’t entertain a thought, but you can’t avoid entertaining negatives. They are an inherent part of the equation that allows you to arrive at positives.
The topic is indulgence. At first, I want to start by distinguishing between indulgence and compulsion. Compulsory behaviour is actually very common. A lot is even considered normal thus “common sense”, but it reflects a degeneration of human awareness on all fronts to my view. An abdication of personal responsibility, and an excuse to not reflect on personal desires or motivations. I see it as leading to nothing more in the long run than the omni-present mental illness that most of us have gotten good at ignoring.
Blindly doing by rote? Well, even worse. Doing by force. Lacking or believing we lack choice. The idea that we have to do anything by merit of its moral virtue or social appropriateness… Who here lives their internal life within the confines of social constraint and is happier for it? Though we may bend our knee to many social compulsions, do these really grant us any greater measure of dignity than what we already have in our inner natures?
Please forgive my hubris… I wager that none of us have an internal life that is in synch with our social lives. Is this unfair to say? Internally we are one person but socially another, and what happens when the social succeeds in doing the only thing that it can successfully do, which is break us down? Eventually we snap and start being diagnosed as ill, because we spent so much time being diagnosed as good little boys and girls that our inner natures and subconscious drives break free violently, and yet somehow abstinence is the way to freedom and spiritual health?
So enough preamble, onto the main subject of indulgence. People attribute moral virtue to their inner struggle to not do what they want or say what they want. Their lives are hard enough, and we make them even harder and then claim we are, “Trying to help them grow up to be good people.” But inevitably for all this struggle to abstain from whatever desire we have that others taught us is bad, or that we have in our “due diligence” pre-emptively judged as bad, we just wind up doing it anyway and then feeling guilty about it.
Anyone who is trying to loose weight might know that guilt. Yes, and it’s a useless process. But because abstinence is “virtuous” or even “righteous” we have to do it, or face the view we secretly adopted that we are bad people directly.
What if rather than abstaining or bending knee to compulsory edicts till we break, we instead accepted indulgence as a guideline? As it has been said though differently, “It harming none, do what you will.” In my view, if you will indulge yourself, then it is very hard to work up much judgement or rancour with which to judge someone else. If you can’t indulge your own desires than how can you avoid forcing your rules onto another human being? Their own indulgence will drive you mad when you yourself refuse to allow yourself that same freedom.
There are some things we shouldn’t do due to ethical constraints. Is it the motive that separates those acts from compulsory acts? Actually, the indulgences aren’t directly connected to unethical acts. Indulgences stem from human nature. They become frustrated, and therefore tainted with unreasonable anger and other emotional baggage, only in the face of compulsion. When you become desperate enough to have your needs met, only then will you “kill for a burger”. When you don’t believe you can do what you want or have what you want, you become frustrated, then angry, then hateful, then violent. Where do conventional ethics help us there? Or is my description in error?
Should you give into your desires every time, or in moderation? If you practice indulgence, you naturally come across situations where you must choose, because we have natural limits. So that is a moderating force, but also in any situation where an opportunity for indulgence arises, you aren’t choosing something to do or to have. What you are actually choosing is who you are, and the greatest indulgences reflect your inner nature. These bring the deepest satisfaction.
That goes along with listening to your needs doesn’t it? You crave only what you are deficient in? It does indeed, and it also carries the message of acceptance and even joy in receiving your needs, relishing and really appreciating getting what you want and need. Indulgence isn’t about ego, abstinence is. Abstinence is entirely based on ego, and that ignoring some part of our nature is virtuous. If you are hungry and eat, this is not ego. But if you have been dieting then over-eat, that certainly is ego.
I do abstain from alcohol, because I’m an alcoholic. Is that denial? Not necessarily. Is it not an indulgence to enjoy your sobriety? Abstaining from alcohol isn’t denial or abstinence. It‘s a choice you make for freedom, and I deeply respect it. I myself find I like to get “drunk” in clarity of mind. To delve deeply into the meditative state until I forget anything false.
Pedophiles? Pedophilia isn’t an indulgence. It’s a sublimation. A coupling of deep seated issues that arose in childhood regarding child identity, and a desire for individuation from an abusive “authoritarian” parent coupled with using a child as a scapegoat for a self loathing. Victimizing a child to punish the inner child they very likely firmly believe they can’t be. It’s a twisted psycho-drama, and it is a compulsion as the pedophiles themselves often freely admit.
The signature of any compulsion is guilt, and conventional religionists tend to rely on the force of “moral compulsion” to enforce and sustain their social authority. Our institutions breed the ills they believe in, because it’s how they have validity.
Ethical behaviour would be something you know in your heart is right, but acting as you “should” against your better nature might be under the influence of moral compulsion? Yes. We of our inner natures want to love our children, our partners, our families and friends, even our neighbours, until some circumstance seems to suggest that some moderation would be wiser in one of those areas. Love feels better than hate.
My friend has a six year old daughter, and she tells her she loves her all the time. It was refreshing to see. I do the same with my ten year old autistic son. He smiles and makes a gleeful sound then gives me a hug, and I am constantly telling my newly wed wife the same. I do it as an indulgence of my own desires and feelings, and when she gets emo I hug her and just keep saying it, because it’s true.
Your thoughts are welcome. Be well friends.