An End To Hedonism (Part 1)

An End To Hedonism (Part 1)

A Chapter by Joshua Knight

I hate teaching. I am a shy person. I don’t like the limelight. Not generally. But I can see myself as a movie star sometimes. That’s why, sometimes I can enjoy teaching. When I’m up there on stage...


An End To Hedonism


I hate teaching. I am a shy person. I don’t like the limelight. Not generally. But I can see myself as a movie star sometimes. That’s why, sometimes I can enjoy teaching. When I’m up there, on stage as it were, and my audience is watching me, respecting me, and I’m offering them something. Perhaps you are thinking that teaching should not be about the teacher. It should be about the students. I quite agree. I have those moral inclinations too. But I want to have done something useful when I get old and sick and look back on my personal pitiful existence. I wanted a pride in myself when I set out to teach, as well as a means to fund a life abroad in the country I loved, Thailand.

It was not only that I had once had a close relationship with a woman from Poland which led me to study for my Certificate in English Language Teaching to Adults (CELTA) in Krakow, with the British Council. It was also one of the cheapest options around the world. It was a choice between Chiang Mai, in Thailand, or Krakow, in Poland. I knew the former well and the excitement about the place was waning. The latter stirred in me romance, visions of beautiful women, a hunger for the new, and not the old well-trod hedonism of Chiang Mai bars, beer, and banter. Perhaps I would meet another lover, this time in her motherland of Poland. I always thought like that, wherever I went. Even in my determination to teach and in so doing to find a way to finance my life abroad and to find some kind of respect, maybe even admiration from others, I still held on to the notion that my purpose in life was to squeeze out as much excitement and as many thrills as I could.

Standing in front of a room full of people to talk, to sing, whatever, scared me. Before going to Poland, I asked a sister for advice. She was a lecturer at a university in England and a PhD student. She told me that students automatically respect you and that you have to do something wrong to lose that respect. Respect is the starting place for those of an age to have willingly chosen to study, that is generally university age and beyond. So, I was to trust in that starting respect and not do anything to f**k it up.

A mental process I had used to give up smoking was to think of what I wanted to be at eighty years of age and to then tell myself that I needed to make various changes to reach that goal. If the changes needed to occur sometime, why not now? That thought process had helped me quit and I thought that each other step in my life would benefit from thinking in a similar fashion. Did I really want to be eighty and still shy, still unable to express myself in public, still unable to contribute to things involving a public presence? The answer was no. And the time to start making changes was now.

I was advised to take Kalms, which were tablets to take the edge off one’s nerves, and to listen to a hypnotist recording to reprogram some of my thinking �" to make me more positive and self-believing. I remember lying on my bed, before going to Poland, listening to the hypnotic recording numerous times. I needed the help but I was wary of that kind of mental interference. What if the hypnotist were to subtlely  place thoughts and desires in my mind against my will? What if it was some kind of subversive mind control? One time, as I lay on my bed, counting backwards from 300, and listening to the twin audio tracks of the recording, without much focus on anything but the counting backwards, but sometimes hearing phrases that spoke of my value and which diminished the negative things I had thought about myself in my formative years, a clear image of a hairy p***y came into view. The vision was incredibly clear and I wondered if it had anything to do with the hypnotism or not. 

I went to Poland, ready to give it my all, ready to pop Kalms and to continue listening to the hypnotist recording. I woke up early each morning, went to the classes, completed the tasks set us �" observations of other trainee teachers, essays, and participation in demo activities and techniques which could be used in a classroom. In the evenings, I spent a lot of time preparing for the lessons I would have to teach. There were four of them over the course of the four weeks of training. I wondered how teachers managed. It took us trainees, going by my experience and that of those on the course with me, two, three, four hours, or more, to prepare for a short lesson of thirty minutes. We had detailed plans to make which would be gone over by our trainers. But the paperwork and planning was not my biggest problem. It was my self-awareness. It was the knowledge of other people looking at me and judging me, the way I did and would judge them.

In my first thirty minute class, I finished early. The trainers encouraged me to ask the class some general questions to use up some time. My mind went blank. What could I ask them? I said that no I couldn’t. That that was it. That was all I had. They accepted this and allowed me this one time’s failing, among perhaps others, but I was happy with my success �" the success of standing in front of the class and speaking, directing the students in activities, monitoring them, offering help, and bearing the gaze of the trainers and my fellow trainees who were supposed to be taking notes to critique my class later. It had been a success considering the great climb this process was for me. I had moved significantly in the direction of teaching. I had breached the first barrier.

The rest of the course was more of the same, that is overcoming nerves, relying on Kalms and believing that I could somehow do it. I began trying to mix with the other trainees. I did okay, yes with the help of beer. I look back and think of that bunch of mostly Englishmen and women I drank with, and the Polish autistic young man and the stern Ukrainian young woman who was married to a Libyan and was very beautiful. I think how lovely they were. Even in my awkwardness, I grew fond of them over the four weeks of training.

One Englishman, called Daniel, was staying in the same building as me. We had never actually noted this fact formally. I had never seen him there but I knew he too had taken The British Council CELTA team’s advice as to where to stay. After one drunken night out with the English crew of six, I stumbled back to my rented room and saw that in front of the room next door was this very same young man. He had passed out in front of his door.

At that time I was still very hedonistic in my thinking. I told myself, and others, that I was a deterministic hedonist. That is, I believed that everything was determined by the laws of physics, hence no free-will at the deepest level of what that phrase could mean, and that all conscious agents were necessarily hedonistic. By its very nature consciousness seeks that which satisfies it the most. I counted satisfaction, of whatever variety it was, as a kind of pleasure. Seeking moral ends, out of a desire to feel good about oneself, was in no way innately superior to seeking drunken abandon or sexual release, though satisfaction in ethical behaviour would bring more overall well-being to the inhabitants of the world.  For the time being, I was seeking  out pleasures of the flesh and mostly avoiding responsibility and discomfort.

It would be very uncomfortable to wake this man, who I didn’t know well at all, and to surprise him with my presence at such a time and place. I didn’t want our first meeting at our place of residence to be like that. It would add no pain to the world’s aggregate to allow him to sleep off the drink a little, wake up of his own accord, and let himself into his room later. He had already made it off the street and into the hallway himself. We could avoid any confusion or awkwardness if I just passed on by and went to my bed. In my defense, I was very drunk myself, though I admit that this doesn’t alleviate me of all blame.

When, the following day, I learnt that he had had his laptop stolen, I felt compelled to confess to Daniel my negligence. I was still in large part affected by what I would call my fundamentalist Christian years. To make myself right before a God, a potential one, or a theoretical one standing for what was right, I had to confess my sin. I didn’t believe in God rationally but the compulsion to act in such a way was still there. So I was relieved to learn that he’d had his laptop stolen prior to his collapse yards from my door. In fact, two woman had approached him when he’d left the bar earlier than the rest of us. Presumably, they had flattered him with feminine charms and caresses, before making an escape with his belonging.

He was shocked to hear my confession and looked at me blankly for a moment. Then after some calculations he said, “Nah, never mind mate.” We both knew I had been very ungentlemanly and lacking in friendliness, comradeship, or any other one of those qualities of a social being. We remained on friendly terms and drank many beers together in the coming weeks. He was one of the star trainees. He passed with a distinction, rather than a mere pass, like most of us. He’d been teaching before in China. He had a Chinese wife and a kid back in that rising dragon country. He spoke of how we weren’t really in control of our lives, that it was an illusion. This comforted me regarding the terrible lack of responsibility I had shown to my fellow man. My callous step over him in the hallway of our apartment building, in the early hours of that night, had been destiny.


© 2019 Joshua Knight

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Added on April 8, 2019
Last Updated on April 8, 2019
Tags: Teaching, hedonism, CELTA, Poland


Joshua Knight
Joshua Knight

Plymouth, United Kingdom

I'm a regular traveller and writer of short stories. I'm from the south of England but spend a lot of my time in Asia. I'm interested in philosophy, ethics, and writing about the world as I see it. .. more..