Flickr photo by Peter Jackson

When we create our own solitary confinement

By Ernesto Tinajero

Solitary confinement has been labeled torture. The isolating of prisoners by themselves has a profound negative impact on the human Spirit. Depression, delusion and despair are far too common among those that are isolated. While this is an important aspect of this column, that is not what this is about.

Depression rates are increasing in the world. In a world where material needs are being met more and more, this seems to be a contradiction. While this is an important aspect of this column, that is not what this is about.

Recently, The New Yorker published a post by Gay Tales, “The Voyeur’s Motel” about a motel owner, Gerald Foos, who spied on his guests. After 40 years of documenting the private lives of people, Mr. Foos developed a pessimistic outlook on humans. There was a creeping despair to his observations of all those people. Related to this is how many researchers are fearing the damage porn is doing to relationships. Those who partake in porn have weaker relationships and paradoxically less intimacy. While this is an important aspect of this column, that is not what this is about.

From biblical wisdom writings to Hellenistic philosophy, to Soren Kierkegaard’s Either-or, the observation is that hedonism leads to despair. The question: Why would the seeking of pleasure lead to depression and despair? It’s an important question in a culture such as ours, in which pleasure and pleasure-seeking has been codified into a consumer ethic. We are one of the most hedonistic societies. We are told we can have it all, or do what feels good. The ancient wisdom seems not to be with it, but the ancient wisdom seems to witness as to the reason despair is rising to dramatically. Yet, why would seeking our own pleasure and self-interest lead to the opposite of what we think it would?

To look only to our interests and pleasures, we must see life as full of objects to fulfill our pleasures or to be avoided. We live in a world of “it”s, while relationships call us to live in the infinity of another’s face. Mr. Foos in his motel saw the guests as simply things for his viewing. What does that do to the human spirit, if one is only surrounded by things and not human beings?

We can’t relate to things, so hedonism must always lead to a type of solitary confinement which leads to delusions and despair. This makes love impossible and since we need love to live, life turns horrible. The point of this column is to point to the dangers of consumer hedonism and the damage it does to spirit. Porn destroys us precisely because it isolates us. Having it all only leads to the despair as Ecclesiastes documents. Self-interest leads to self-destruction.


About Ernesto Tinajero

Art, says Ernesto Tinajero, comes from the border of what has come before and what is coming next. Tinajero uses his experience studying poetry and theology to write about the intersecting borders of art, poetry and religion.

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