Sustainable Hedonism book aims to break down convictions

Article written by the Business Spirit Platform, originally published in the “Make change happen” issue of Profit with Purpose Magazine

How can we create a thriving life for us all that does not come at the price of ecological destruction?

The Sustainable Hedonism book calls us to explore our collective and personal convictions about success and good life.

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Sustainable Hedonism: Not an oxymoron

Originally published on the Behavioural Public Policy Blog of Cambridge University Press, 13th June 2022

Sustainable Hedonism: Strategy for a fair and joyful life

Humanity does not live in a socially just and environmentally safe space: there is no country where basic social safety is achieved and where the use of resources remains under the ecological ceiling if we also take into consideration activities it has outsourced to other countries. We need to converge into a fair consumption space, which implies more consumption for those with unmet basic human needs, and less consumption for those who surpassed the environmental maxima.My primary concern is the latter, from a personal motivational perspective. Why would anybody want to consume less if it is seen as a loss of quality of life, or ultimately, happiness? Why would anyone want to become a minimalist in the world of maximisers?

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Sustainable Hedonism: Paradox or Pathway?

Originally published on the degrowth platform, 27th January 2022

The notion of sustainable hedonism appears at first to be a provocation. Is it a paradox? Is it just more greenwashing nonsense? It is meant to puzzle, to perplex, and to propel. Sustainable Hedonism: A Thriving Life that Does Not Cost the Earth is a call to reflect on our beliefs and actions related to pleasure, joy and ecological sustainability.  How joyful is our life? How can we reconcile our natural quest for joy with our sense of responsibility and knowledge of the suffering in the world? How can we create a good life individually and collectively given the urgent call to reduce the use of natural resources? How can we end our addiction to GDP growth, income growth and the growth of consumption, given our instinctive drive for progress and fulfilment in our lives?

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Sustainable Hedonism – Contents overview

Sustainable Hedonism. A Thriving Life that Does Not Cost the Earth is a 2021 non-fiction book by Austrian-Hungarian social researcher and psychological counsellor Orsolya Lelkes, PhD published by Bristol University Press. The book elaborates on how we can create a thriving life for us all that doesn’t come at the price of ecological destruction.

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After COVID-19: A time for conscious hedonism?

joy

Originally published by Bristol University Press on their Transforming Society blog.

The COVID-19 pandemic has brought a sense of loss of control, and for many people it has been a painful experience. Our routines, lifestyle choices and all that we have so far taken for granted have suddenly been shattered and questioned. The world around us has shrunk, and existing structures have crumbled. Can it become a chance for a conscious readjustment of our lives?

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Weaving the threads together: how the book came about?

For a long time, I lived a “double life”. Part of me was researching social justice and analysing statistics of happiness, submerged in public policy. The other part of me, kept separately, lived a life, embodied, playful and spiritual – exploring an inner journey and learning methods like coaching, psychodrama, improvisation dance, mindfulness, meditation. I felt that I had to keep them apart not to discredit myself in these circles… as they all seem to have had great reservations about the other. As my „second life” was gradually growing and I started to lead groups and to work as a coach, it became ever more difficult to maintain this divider in my life and in myself. Somehow I was blocking the natural flow of life energy in myself.

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The mystery of creative life: the time for non-action

Many ethical leaders, entrepreneurs, activists, and open-hearted people feel passionate about the fate of the world, and they strive relentlessly to bring about a change they wish to see. Some may be driven by frustration with the current state of affairs, and focus on protest. Some may envision a peaceful and regenerative future, and collective creation is their driving force.  All in all, however, constant effort is exhausting, especially if someone wants to carry the whole burden of the world alone – as the Greek God Atlas. If they forget about their needs and limits, they can become “endangered species” as well.

Although we may wish to, we cannot hold our fate under control. So much suffering comes from aiming to control not only our actions, but also their consequences! A sense of failure, of not being enough, of not trying hard enough. As if we suffered from not being omnipotent.

The holiest things in life are not created by us, by our own efforts. The seed emerges from the earth, the bud becomes a flower, the fertilized egg becomes a fetus, and then baby, as the organs and cells of our bodies relentlessly work to sustain our life – it is not the outcome of our will and action. We cannot do anything but notice, witness, feel a sense of wonder, and observe the miracle.

Hence, co-creative life is not solely based on will, the urge to act, or a desire for making a difference.  Action and non-action: they belong together. Each has its own time, just as the seasons follow each other, just as a tree blossoms, bears fruit, and then drops its leaves and fells into a winter dream. We cannot urge spring with an alarm clock. A great transformation often occurs during our non-action, when we experience a different quality of existence, characterized by openness, trust, and letting go.

Tuning into this rhythm of life is a great mystery. A mystery worth exploring.

Desires and happiness: the sacred and secret cornerstones of economics (my motivation for writing a book)

Desires drive the world, say economists, without pausing to think what desires are. De gustibus non est disputandum ‒ tastes are not to be disputed ‒ recalled the Nobel Prize-winning economists Gary S. Becker and George J. Stigler in a 1977 article, on the subject of “preferences”. Consumers know what they want and that suffices, they argue, for due respect can then be given to human liberty. Let people wish freely for what they will and decide how to enjoy it. That will make them happiest, and will ensure the greatest bliss to the most people in our common world (or technically speaking, maximise utility at individual and social levels). It becomes ever clearer that this is not so for several reasons.

Many academics fail to question what the nature of desires is and are little concerned with the myriad senses of happiness. We hang out the banner of freedom and leave mankind to flounder amidst the greatest undertaking in human life. By so doing we assume the two cornerstones of the system ‒ desires and the pleasure of fulfilling them ‒ as given without delving into them thoroughly. We have chosen cornerstones of a material whose composition is unknown to us. Does this not bring blind faith into building the house of civilization?

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What is your logo?

What is your logo? What is your symbol, which truly expresses who you are now?

Mine was born partly out of my name: I love to sign my letters to close friends with a simple “O”. “O”, because of its shape, showing completeness, a circle which bonds individual dots, and because of the spaciousness in the middle. I always liked to ponder the beauty of the shape and appreciated that it was given to me as my initial. It led me to the “enso” sign in Zen Buddhism. The circle is hand drawn, and the brushstroke continues in space, entering a new dimension. A circle, which is also a spiral. Complete, whole, but still somewhat irregular, truly human in its implementation. Sacred imperfection, artistic and artful, ever rising.

What is YOUR logo?