I'm not a huge fan of moderation. As I'm typing this, I'm eating a whole cake while binge-watching old episodes of Jake and Amir, while putting the finishing touches on graphics projects from last year that have already been rejected. Sure, there's a little voice in my head that says "stop!" once in a while, but that little voice is stupid. But moderation is incredibly important to living a good life, and it's something that everyone should take advantage of. The word "moderation" seems to conjure some ire because it tends to mean that we somehow can't do everything we want to. All throughout our lives, at least here in America, we're told that what we have, who we are, is never good enough. There's always a craving for more: more clothes, more food, more money, more imaginary internet points.
I'll admit to it, when I hit up the nearest Hot Topic, I want to leave with at least three different hoodies. Over the past year, I've adopted the mantra of "buy more books than you can read; read more than you can remember; remember more than you can use" and that's put books on my shelf, but not books in my life. But whenever I see a cool book on sale, I pick it up on the off chance that I'm going to read it and gain the value that it has to offer. That never happens. I end up watching YouTube videos instead.
Less is Enough
One thing that we tend to lose sight of is that we're all just one person. And there's only a certain amount that a single person needs to live a happy life. This is a life I've been picturing for myself, but it's incredibly difficult to break the cycle of always needing more. I admit that one person only needs a space to sleep, a place to cook, and a place to work in their home. Yet, I live in a three bedroom house and my stuff is equally spread over most of it. I understand that I should be eating less than 2000 calories a day, but I leap at the opportunity to scarf down McDonald's every opportunity that I get.
On an intellectual level, I understand that the lifestyle that I live is way more than what I actually need. Even though I feel uncomfortable buying things I don't need, or eating more food than I need, it's always remorseful and never proactive. (Plus, I was raised in a "finish what's on your plate" household, which certainly doesn't help when the plates are overflowing). I already have more than I need, and even when I get rid of it, whatever I've thrown out is quickly replaced.
But the other side is just as vicious. I've read up on this trend of minimalism and that's just as frightening. They're slowly creating a blank white space, a space they can't create anything in because they no longer have tools of expression. What we need is something in between: something that's not what I do, and not burning everything to become homeless.
My parents make fun of me when I travel, because I almost always pack carryon luggage. I went to Sydney, NSW last year with a carryon bag and a backpack that had to last me three months. I brought only what I needed and nothing else. And that's not to say I neglected important things. I also brought adequate books, drawing supplies, my laptop, iPad, and phone, all the requisite tech accessories, outfits for different occasions, different types of shoes and a couple extras. I brought a lot of stuff, I just didn't have a lot to bring. And that's the kind of life I want to live in the future, not having a lot of stuff because I don't need a lot of stuff.
The Middle Ground
This is where moderation comes in, it's not too much and it's not too little. What's more important than having more of a thing or activity, what's more important than having less of that, is having a balance. What does that mean? It simply means doing enough of one thing that you can do the other. Eat enough that you can be active, but be active enough that you can eat. Sleep enough so that you can be awake, and stay awake long enough so that you can sleep. Work enough that you can appreciate the fun you have, but have enough fun to appreciate the time you spend working. When you're moderating yourself, you can go out and buy that new outfit, but you also have to wear it.
This is something I still have difficulty with. Just yesterday (as I'm writing; a week ago as this was published) I somehow justified to myself that I'd done enough work that week and took the day off. Now, according to my friends at least, I have been working, or perhaps overworking, for the past few weeks, so it's entirely possible that a day off was warranted. But I didn't do anything productive on that Sunday. I elected to play video games, and I couldn't even beat one level of Tomb Raider: Anniversary Edition... on easy mode... with a walkthrough. The entire day was wasted, and I don't think that's a good habit to get into. But then I look at all my other days, where I'm sitting in front of a computer screen for up to fifteen hours at a time, typing away at descriptions, contracts, project proposals, and of course this blog. Those days aren't much better. I still need to find a way to keep a balance between working and not working. It's gotten to a point where I'm no longer able to fall asleep at night, because all of my work stuff swims through my head until I finally give up on sleeping, and go back to work. If you count mental processes, it would seem that I'm working 24 hours a day, most days, and that's not a healthy balance at all.
Immoderation is a Sin
Because it wouldn't be a proper Aqil blog post without religious implications, and I'm now revealing my true reason for writing this post: this idea has been kicking around in my head for years, and it's time I got it down on paper. Evagrius Ponticus came up with eight evil thoughts which were revised by Pope Gregory: envy, gluttony, greed, lust, pride, sloth, and wrath (Greg did some rearranging and tastefully removed depression). On the surface these are just bad things, maybe not as bad as Dante makes them out to be in his popular depiction of the Inferno, but still not stuff we want to actively participate in.
But let's take a look at what they actually are. Yes, these are bad things, but they just so happen to come from good things. In fact, as we know them today, the capital vices are just virtues without moderation. You should always be aware of your surroundings, look at those around you and strive to be your best self. But when you focus too much on those around you, it turns into envy, and if you decide to tear them down instead of building yourself up, that becomes wrath. You need to eat to survive, but when you eat too much, you become gluttonous (not to be confused with "glutenous" which is when you become bread). Striving for more, and appreciating what you've accomplished can easily become greed and pride. Love is a wonderful thing to have for others, but if you give into it whole-dickedly, it becomes lust. And, as I've stated before, you need to have time to rest, but once resting time turns into all the time, you can kiss your dreams of being an astronaut goodbye because you're a sloth.
Not Everything in Moderation
There's another philosophy that I fell mouth-first into when I was speaking to some very nice people trying to convert me to their religion. If you believe in the God of Abraham (i.e. you're Jewish, Christian, Muslim, Baha'i, Rastafarian, &c.), then you've probably been taught that God 1) created everything in the universe and b) loves His creation a whole whole lot. The guys I was talking to made note that they wanted to be like God, whom they equated with Jesus. I made the argument that to be like God, you only really have to create and love (just as God did). Afterwards, I came to the conclusion that those are too awesome things to do, and that you should never stop doing that. So while moderation is important in (almost) every aspect of life, I'll still argue that love and creativity can be performed immoderately. Maybe it's this idea that's lead me to waterboard myself in work that I'm constantly complaning about, but I'm sure I just need to find a way to express my creativity in a more balanced way. And I definitely need to love just a little bit more.
It's a Journey
I wasn't born moderate, but it's something I'm going to strive for in the coming months. I hope others can join me on my journey too, or if you're already there I'd appreciate some tips. The biggest thing will be spending less time: less time watching TV, less time sleeping, and less time working. And I'm hoping that I can spend all that extra time doing the things and hanging out with the people that I love (or vice-versa).