I’ve been noting in my Lightning Rounds that a few experienced players have been reaching the end of their run on the hedonic treadmill and are finding the whole experience unfulfilling. Last week, I wrote of how neither hedonism nor meaningless LTR’s will leave a man fulfilled. Now it seems Frost is suffering from player burn-out as well.
Except for a few men, playerdom will never be fulfilling in the end. Shallow pleasure does not bring contentment, only momentary happiness. Meaningless sex is simply the same effect as drugs, except one step removed (or more accurately, drugs are simply artificial inducements of effects similar to that which meaningless sex will bring). As with drugs, it will not satisfy, but it will become increasingly consuming as it becomes increasingly less pleasurable.
You will have sex, feel pleasure, then have but feel slightly less pleasure, and each time you will require more sex, more kinkiness, hotter women, and yet still feel slightly less pleasure each time. Meanwhile, you never feel the contentment you seek. The hedonic treadmill continues to roll until you either die or get off.
So, why not just ride for a while and get off at the right time?
The treadmill takes its toll even after you get off. Just as a carousel rider suffers as an alpha widow, so to does the ex-player suffer from the player’s curse.
A man who limits himself to one sexual partner has, by definition, the best sexual partner of his life with whom he is having the best sex of his life. The player, not so much. Any long-term relationship he may try will always be haunted by the ghosts of better sex and more beautiful partners of time past. The more partners he had prior, the more likely and stronger the hauntings.
There is no purpose to be found in hedonism, only emptiness.
I bought male and female slaves, and had slaves who were born in my house. I had also great possessions of herds and flocks, more than any who had been before me in Jerusalem. I also gathered for myself silver and gold and the treasure of kings and provinces. I got singers, both men and women, and many concubines, the delight of the sons of man.
So I became great and surpassed all who were before me in Jerusalem. Also my wisdom remained with me. And whatever my eyes desired I did not keep from them. I kept my heart from no pleasure, for my heart found pleasure in all my toil, and this was my reward for all my toil. Then I considered all that my hands had done and the toil I had expended in doing it, and behold, all was vanity and a striving after wind, and there was nothing to be gained under the sun. (Ecclesiastes 2:7-11, ESV)
Other men go make a different, but no less mistaken, extreme. Rather than pursuing meaningless sex from multiple women, they pursue meaning in a single woman. They find their identity and purpose in loving and serving another fallen person. This is as almost as empty as the meaningless sex, and will leave a man almost as hollow in the end. How is her value more than your own?
A man’s purpose of life can not be found in women or a singular woman.
If a man fathers a hundred children and lives many years, so that the days of his years are many, but his soul is not satisfied with life’s good things, and he also has no burial, I say that a stillborn child is better off than he. For it comes in vanity and goes in darkness, and in darkness its name is covered. Moreover, it has not seen the sun or known anything, yet it finds rest rather than he. Even though he should live a thousand years twice over, yet enjoy no good—do not all go to the one place? (Ecclesiastes 6:3-6, ESV)
So, where can purpose be in life be found?
For this, we can turn to Genesis:
And God blessed them. And God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.”
This is the first commandment; this is for what God made man.
Man’s purpose is to be found in filling and subduing the earth. Work was what man was created and/or evolved for. Man is meant to tame the land and to build from that which he needs and desires and to fill his tamed land with his own.
Man’s purpose is in building something greater than himself and then to create future generations to enjoy it.
Yet, there is a problem:
“Because you have listened to the voice of your wife
and have eaten of the tree
of which I commanded you,
‘You shall not eat of it,’
cursed is the ground because of you;
in pain you shall eat of it all the days of your life;
thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you;
and you shall eat the plants of the field.
By the sweat of your face
you shall eat bread,
till you return to the ground,
for out of it you were taken;
for you are dust,
and to dust you shall return.” (Genesis 3:17-19, ESV)
I have read this verse many times in my life, but only recently did I realize the full measure of agony contained within these words.
It is only in his work that man can find meaning, yet rather than something pleasurable, work is something difficult, bitter, and wearying.
How bitter this cup, that man’s purpose is to toil, yet his toil is naught but pain to him. To his even greater agony, when his toil is through and he surveys the work gained by through the sweat of his brow, he always knows that from dust it came and to dust it will return.
To find purpose, a man must always be working, always in bitter toil, yet know that all his work will eventually crumble in ruin.
I hated all my toil in which I toil under the sun, seeing that I must leave it to the man who will come after me, and who knows whether he will be wise or a fool? Yet he will be master of all for which I toiled and used my wisdom under the sun. This also is vanity. So I turned about and gave my heart up to despair over all the toil of my labors under the sun, because sometimes a person who has toiled with wisdom and knowledge and skill must leave everything to be enjoyed by someone who did not toil for it. This also is vanity and a great evil. What has a man from all the toil and striving of heart with which he toils beneath the sun? For all his days are full of sorrow, and his work is a vexation. Even in the night his heart does not rest. This also is vanity. (Ecclesiastes 2:18-23, ESV)
What is a man to do when all is vanity? How can man continue on, when all about his is rust and decay
Here is all for man to do:
Go, eat your bread with joy, and drink your wine with a merry heart, for God has already approved what you do.
Let your garments be always white. Let not oil be lacking on your head.
Enjoy life with the wife whom you love, all the days of your vain life that he has given you under the sun, because that is your portion in life and in your toil at which you toil under the sun. Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with your might, for there is no work or thought or knowledge or wisdom in Sheol, to which you are going. (Ecclesiastes 9:7-10, ESV)
A man accepts that life is vanity; he accepts that life is toil, but he continues. He finds what joy he can, knowing joy is illusionary, while working to build, knowing that his works will fade and decay.
A man’s purpose is to continue to build and enjoy the fruits of his labour even when he can not find meaning in the building or its fruits.