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Sunday, August 23, 2009

Is Everything In Moderation?

In ancient Greece, the temple of Apollo at Delphi bore the inscription Meden Agan - "Nothing in excess." Doing something "in moderation" means not doing it excessively. For instance, someone who moderates their food consumption tries to eat all food groups, but limits their intake of those that may cause deleterious effects to harmless levels. But, one can just as easily see that the problem with relating the term moderation with the eating of animals and animal products as well as other things like alcohol, cigarettes and drugs is that these substances are harmful regardless of the amount a person consumes. So, just how advisable is the advice "Do everything in moderation"? With some "things," moderation itself leads to self destruction. Another serious problem with the term moderation is that the definition of what moderation really means varies from person to person. People carry a vague concept of moderation in application. All know it is not a so-called extreme, but somewhere between 0 and infinity. Articles and advice claiming the need for "moderate" consumption of an item usually give no amount that meets the moderation level. Thus, the phrase "in moderation," is useless. Has anyone seen a spoon or cup marked "moderate amount" for any use? The phrase simply isn't specific and universally definable. For example, not too very long ago, to the dismay of other European countries, England raised its definition of moderation in alcohol consumption to 4 drinks a day for men and 3 for women. This represented an increase by 30-50%. ("Britain Increases 'Moderate Drinking' Definition by up to 50 Percent," December 14 1995, Wine Trader Business Insider, Vol. 5) In the 2005 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, moderate drinking means up to one drink a day for women and up to two drinks a day for men. What is true moderation in drinking? The question must be asked, "Does moderation need to include moderation?" It actually becomes rather silly to contemplate the value of advice based on varying concepts of acceptable moderation. Consider the person practicing moderation in a bar, then driving. First of all, does that person really know his/her blood alcohol level at the time? Secondly, has his/her consumption produced enough impairment to cause an accident or warrant a ticket? Most people simply don't know or don't care at the time of turning the ignition. They simply believe they have practiced safe moderation in their consumption of alcohol. Just for laughs, look at the term extreme moderation. Isn't this, in fact, a contradiction in terms. In other words, a person can exaggerate everything by just applying the concept of excess to the idea of moderation. Instead of moderate (whatever it means), a person could practice the moderate to its extremes (whatever those would be) and still be living a life of moderation. Is an extreme moderationist merely taking advantage of complete abstinence or total acceptance in an effort to justify his own behaviors?

Granted, living a life of moderation has the evident advantages of practicing moderation vs. excess, yet too often moderation leads to excess as the individual gives into forces of environment and human frailty. It seems that most negative excess is found through repeated trial and error. That person must be trying to fine-tune his moderate level with good old human experience.

Also, doesn't practicing "everything in moderation" lead to certain uniformity vs. variety? When does society overstep personal freedom as it demands people must contend with small doses of everything? Some reject a life of moderation as a means of self expression. As long as their practices and beliefs are within the law and within acceptable moral limits, they must be free to extend beyond moderation to extremes. The fact that some moderates judge their actions "extreme" does not give the moderates the right to force vague concepts of behavior upon so-called "extremists."

And, does similarity actually weaken a country based on vast diversity? New inventions and unique models of thinking require fertile ground for diversity. Many refuse to run in the middle of the pack. When pushed into a specific place of moderation, these people find strength to outperform others within their very diverse natures. I'm reminded of the Kinks and Ray Davies song, "I'm Not Like Everybody Else." The lyrics of the song include the following: "But darling, you know that I love you true/ Do anything that you want me to,/Confess all my sins like you want me to,/There's one thing that I will say to you,/I'm not like everybody else."

Here are some popular quotes on moderation that may be food for thought:

1. "Moderation in people who are contented comes from that calm that good fortune lends to their spirit." Francois De La Rochefoucauld , French Classical writer

2. "I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro's great stumbling block in his stride toward freedom is not the White Citizen's Counsellor or the Ku Klux Klanner, but the white moderate." Martin Luther King Jr. 3. "Everything in moderation -- including moderation." Harvey Steiman
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