Virtue of the Week: Moderation

Moderation in American Society

Moderation is a difficult virtue for many people to practice, so it should come as no surprise that it’s also difficult for many to write about. The Delphic maxim “nothing in excess” is an excellent example of a concise definition of this concept.

The virtue of moderation is what allows one to go shopping in the most tempting store and purchase a small treat instead of spending all that’s in your wallet. It allows you to take a bowl of ice cream from the carton, not the entire carton itself, or have a glass of wine without downing the entire bottle. This is not to say that indulgence is always a bad thing- who hasn’t heard the saying “everything in moderation- including moderation”? However, a lack of control over one’s impulses and desires can be troublesome- or far more dangerous. It’s nearly impossible to turn to the media anymore without seeing news of some celebrity going into drug rehab, or advertisements for various means of help for those with any number of addictions. For those with addictions, moderation is extremely difficult or downright impossible.

In our contemporary culture in the US, advertisers and the media frequently seem to scream “More! Bigger! Faster! Extreme!” and we push ourselves to the limit in many ways- credit card debt and bankruptcy filings are out of control. Workaholics barely know their families. Cars and trucks are bigger, faster, louder. Many celebrities lead very public lives of hedonism and extreme indulgence.

We may consider a classic tale of indulgence- the tale of King Midas and his golden touch. When King Midas was granted his wish that everything he touched turned to gold, he got it…and everything he touched did turn to solid gold- including his own daughter.

King Midas’s tale and others particular to today’s society, such as the drug overdose of actor River Phoenix and the suicide of singer Kurt Cobain clearly illustrate that just because you seem to be getting everything you want does not necessarily mean that that is what’s right or what’s good and if you’re not careful, you may lose everything. These stories may be a bit more extreme than what most people face, but it is somewhat appropriate that they are a bit “larger than life” and therefore may be a wake up call or a lesson to some people that it’s not a good thing to- as the bumper sticker goes- “Live fast, die young, leave a good-looking corpse.”

Be moderate in order to taste the joys of life in abundance.Epicurus

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