Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Factions: Epicureans

You step into the City of Lives' most impressive pleasure palace, a hotbed of iniquity at its finest, with Las Vegas showiness married to the classiness of the Metropolitan Opera House. Most of its patrons -- artists, lovers of finery, and compulsive gamblers alike -- belong to the City faction known as the Epicureans. The Epicureans are defined by two things: art and novelty. They create and consume art, find and create new and exciting experiences. Let's ARTT them out.

The image that comes to mind as the Archetypal Epicurean is Futurama's Hedonism Bot, obsessed with pleasure, variety, and novelty. The wealthy lover of fine things shows up in all sorts of fiction, usually finding new and unusual (often obscene or dangerous) ways to amuse themselves. The men behind The Most Dangerous Game and Dr Frank N. Furter are examples of extreme Epicureans. Of course, the archetype goes far, far back, to Dionysos of Greek mythology. The god of wine and revelry, Dionysos believed in celebrating anything and everything, to literally inhuman degrees.

Real-Life Inspiration: There are, of course, many artistic dilettantes in the real world -- but
another type of person comes to mind: the adrenalin junkies and daredevils, constantly seeking new and novel thrills. These, too, are Epicureans, and provide a model for the kind of person likely to become an adventurer or hero. Their motivation for adventuring is not money, glory, or altruism, but excitement. Add in a love of art and culture, and you find the quintessential Epicurean: adventurous, easily bored, and looking for new experiences, excitement, and art at every turn.

Theme: Being an Epicurean is about more. Not more money or power, but more experiences. They are never satisfied, always seeking out new -- pleasant is nice, but not requisite: an Epicurean would rather exult in the exquisite pain of torture than be bored.

Twist: Epicureans sound pretty harmless, do they not? Obsessed with their own pleasure and artistic triumph, you would think they have no time for the rest of the world. But there are two kinds of Epicureans who affect the greater world in important ways: first, the ethical hedonist, who takes Epicurean philosophy to the next level, trying to spread the joy they feel to the rest of the population, doing what they can -- philanthropy, grand artistic movements, perhaps even revolution -- to maximize happiness among the maximum number of people. Their flip side are those Epicureans who care only about their own happiness, and are willing to destroy anything that gets in their way -- gladiatorial games for their amusement, bathing in the blood of virgins, this is the realm of the dark Epicurean.

Perhaps the Epicureans seem a bit scattershot. I say, that is their whole point. All that keeps them together is a love of the world, however many different ways they may experience it. And on that note, let's leave the Epicureans for now -- next, we examine the Egoists!