The Hedonism Trap
Pleasure is one of the most powerful instruments in managing an organism's behavior. Along with pain, its antipoint, it compels actions and channels passion to overcome barriers. Its place and purpose in guiding the organism are easy to understand. Hazardous situations that do not offer reward are avoided, healthy environments are sought, food is consumed, thirst is quenched, the species is perpetuated, the young are cared for and so on. The utility of such tools in obvious, yet they are also a trap.
Consider the vampire. Consider our urges. We are resistant to the extremes of heat and cold and so feel less response to them. Feeding, which combines both the function of feeding as well as reproduction, is the utmost pleasure. Fire and sunlight are both serious threats to our existence and they cause both primal fear and great pain. Lesser injuries also manifest a pain response, but represent a lesser hazard to us. Pain and pleasure responses seem then to serve the vampiric organism well. And on the surface they do. The Beast exists for reason and its responses have purpose. Unfortunately, there is a limit to their utility.
Feeding is not the only response to generate pleasure. Mimicking sexual activity has utility to the hunter, but feeding is in itself reason enough to do so. The goad of lust is not needed and yet some vampires still pursue it. Underneath the changes of undeath our brains remain the brains of humans, hardwired with atavistic lusts and desires that shape the living and have left their mark on the vampire that remains. We have become vampires, but we were once humans. The impulse to obliterate the former human identity, to make the time of our Embrace the Year One of Darkness is understandable, but dangerous. For a Metamorphosist it is important to recall our goal: to transcend vampirism as we transcended humanity. To become a higher being, the ultimate vampire if not postvampiric. We have the intellect to understand the limitations of our impulses and instincts, what is required is to have the will resist the impulses to flee pain and embrace pleasure when those actions will not serve us.
What serves the human does not necessarily serve the vampire and what serves the vampire may not serve the transvampiric organism. With the destination unknown and presented by the choice of which of the many possible paths to pursue to a transvampirism, the aspiring Metamorphosist must avoid getting sidelined by indulgence. Wallowing in sensual pleasure produces pleasing sensations but that is all it does. It advances nothing and so has no value for its own sake.
It is not merely human carnal indulgence or vampiric gluttony that are traps for us. There is another trap. Our Tzimisce heritage leaves us with a particular obsession with pain. Our lust for inflicting it has generated our cognomen. It is also a sensual indulgence. I suspect that many Metamorphosists, perhaps nearly all of them, have lost the path because they have indulged in sadism or masochism while rationalizing their actions as scientific experiments or spiritual aesthetism. The lack of ascended torturers and saintly vampire monks leads me to suspect that wallowing in pain, whether giving or receiving, is not the road to postvampiric ascension. To be the dragon we must not luxuriate in the pleasures of the fiend.