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Viewing Hedonism Through a Stoic Lens

I was making coffee with the AeroPress this morning. I’ve quickly grown to love this coffee press for its ease of use, quick cleanup and the great cup of coffee it produces. It got me thinking about this concept of hedonic adaptation I’d been reading about, where we quickly become accustomed to new things that once excited us. Every iPhone owner has experienced this the day a new iPhone was introduced. The trick is to not to allow stuff to dictate your mood. Easier said than done, but there’s value in trying. Will I eventually take the AeroPress for granted? Probably, but Stoicism offers a path.

“Regularly reminding yourself that you might lose any of the things you currently enjoy–indeed, that you will definitely lose them all, in the end, when death catches up with you–would reverse the adaptation effect.” – Oliver Burkeman, The Antidote: Happiness for People Who Can’t Stand Positive Thinking

There you go: Memento mori. Stoicism taps me on the shoulder once again telling me not to worry about all that stuff, you’ll lose it all in the end anyway. Your happiness can’t be dependent on the newest shiny toy you buy. None of that stuff matters. Does that mean I can’t enjoy that AeroPress? Not at all, just don’t depend on an object for happiness. That’s a fools game, and expensive to boot.

According to Wikipedia, “The hedonic treadmill, also known as hedonic adaptation, is the observed tendency of humans to quickly return to a relatively stable level of happiness despite major positive or negative events or life changes. According to this theory, as a person makes more money, expectations and desires rise in tandem, which results in no permanent gain in happiness.”

I’m watching Sunday football as I finish writing this, tolerating the endless stream of commercials promising me happiness if I buy this car or that, order pizza from that delivery place, or buy that latest iPhone with the cool-ass camera(s). All designed to trigger desire for what you don’t currently have. And all nonsense when you view it through a stoic lens.

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One Comment

  1. Enjoyed the focus here. Environment and context play an important role here as well. Ie we learn to appreciate the simplicity of what’s at hand, (or maybe because we don’t have the ceaseless commercials? Or both?) Glad you’re enjoying the aeropress too!

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