Wednesday, October 10, 2012

What’s up with self-deprivation?


I've seen it everywhere, and I know that you have too. It’s this notion that one needs to refrain from anything good in order to reach enlightenment, nirvana, the way, heaven, or whatever other extremely sought after destination (usually associated with religion). Some people seem to think that it is necessary to relinquish all of your earthly values and submit yourself to solidarity if you want to achieve happiness. But why? I can understand the argument that you should use everything in moderation and be wary of the overly extravagant, and I happen to agree with them for the most part. I am talking about the extremists who exile and starve themselves. I just can’t see why so many people preach that earthly pleasures are a one way ticket to hell. I’m not trying to be hedonistic here, but what’s wrong with letting go every once in a while and enjoying yourself. Discipline and self-control have their place, so why don’t frivolity and disinhibition? (this very well may not be a word, but I found it on the internet, so it must be legit.) I am in no way trying to denounce anyone’s opinions here; I've just never been able to wrap my head around the thought of avoiding happiness, for happiness. Maybe it’s one of those things ill “figure out when I am older,” cause I am a little uncomfortable disagreeing with those who have spent their whole life trying to figure out the afterlife, while I’m just some teenager looking forward to the weekend. (2 more days)

10 comments:

Laura N said...

Asceticism and self-deprivation is a common practice for various religions. Christian monks take vows of poverty, chastity and obedience and have restrictions on their actions similar to Hindu ascetics and Buddhist monks. I think the self-deprivation is about ridding the person of ego. Maybe they try to rid themselves of their Self, their “I,” to transcend earthly divisions to become one with the universe, god or Soul of the universe? Earthly pleasures are not necessarily bad, but they inhibit the Self or Soul from reaching moksha or understanding God because when you pursue earthly gains, it is perceived as selfish and doing it for the “I,” satisfying the ego, instead of becoming in tuned with the universe, spirit, or whatever. Certain types of self-deprivation (like fasting) I think is done to bring people to a higher spiritual plain by changing their state of consciousness. Pretty philosophical and spiritual question Mitchell, I dont know if the above is right or even understandable...:/

Madeline Davis said...

I'm not exactly sure where it came from, but (relating it to Christianity), I would assume that excessive materialism or reliance on frivolous and unnecessary things would be comparable to gluttony and greed (or whatever the equivalents of gluttony and greed would be in other aesthetic cultures and religions.) Again, from a Christian standpoint, most of the Seven Deadly Sins involve pleasure of some sort. Extreme aestheticism, the opposite of excess, seems to me like it just makes it really, really hard to sin. As for avoiding indulging in earthly pleasures to achieve happiness, it seems like the "happiness" they're going for is either the happiness of peace that comes with simplicity or an assurance of happiness in an afterlife.

Michell D said...

I definitely get what you're saying Laura, and Madeline is doing her best as always. Alright I'm messing around, but it's only to lighten this thread up a bit! I know there is no "right" answer (or at least a generally accepted one) but they all seem to boil down to "sinning/violating principles is an act against god(s)" or even more boiled down "bad stuff is bad." But I didn't think about how they are practicing asceticism in order to avoid doing those things that could land them in some serious trouble with whichever higher level being they follow. I personally think that God wouldn't mind us having a little bit of fun every once in a while, but hey, I've never met the guy/gal and I have no intentions of putting words into his/her mouth.

Lindsay A said...

I'd say it's less that pleasure will send you to hell and more that pleasure leads to suffering. Pleasure and passion means that you want things and the more you want something, the more painful it is when you don't have it. Basically, the religion aims to avoid suffering.

Tyler Dean said...

Most religions believe that it leads to a gap between the person and God. They believe that material things take your focus away from god and therefore they think that they should be eliminated. Usually, extreme asceticism is a practice in very strict versions of different religions. For instance, in Judaism, only the orthodox are all about that, and also, in Roman Catholicism, there is a very small focus on worldly things. It all depends on the religion and on how serious the sect is.

Madeline Davis said...

Correction: I meant asceticism*, not aestheticism. My bad.

wkuehne said...

Moderation is extremely important, in my opinion, when talking about self-deprivation from any standpoin, let alone a religious one. There are many people in society that go beyond deprivation and really become people who deprive themselves on distorted principles. One example would be anorexia. The idea that one shouldn't eat in order to become skinny is influenced greatly by the media. The other facor of self deprivation is self-depracation; when people belittle themselves they often undervalue their own well being and compensate by depriving themselves of things as a means of satisfying their self-depracation.

TSHAH said...

I agree with Will on moderation being an important factor that is common with many faiths. Despite the fact that Greeks didn't really have a "faith" (rather worshiped the gods for good earthly outcomes), they still focused on balance and moderation. I believe this was such a central factor because the gods deemed anything in excess as evident for a fall, like Oedipus when his excessive pride ended up "blinding him" or Jason, who lost everything after he married another queen. Many religions also believe that the worldly life tends to corrupt the nature of people as it only leads to temptations - like in Rumi's poem about pursuing god rather than succumbing to the desires of life.

Ben Bonner said...

Of the religions and philosophies we've studied thus far, only Epicureanism is unique in that it encourages self indulgence as opposed to self deprivation. I think to a certain extent, philosophies and religions which are the product of socioeconomic imbalances within society. Because historically, the major of people have lived in poverty, religions and philosophies which advoacte austerity tend to be more successful. Even though self deprivation when coupled when obedience can be used to manipulate people, I think these ideas tend to stick because they fall within reach of everyone, regardless of social or economic status.

TSHAH said...

Ben, your point applies to a majority of faiths, however i do not believe that it necessarily applies to the Sufism aspect of Islam as sufism teaches that all people must work to transcend the material world as a means to achieve direct union with the ultimate reality of God. To me, the degree of withdrawal from the material world varies with each faith, and depends on each faith's belief in what happens after death or how to achieve spiritual success.