Saturday, May 11, 2013

Moderation as a way of life

It is interesting to notice the incredible excesses in the news. The wealthiest people in the world spend millions on a personal residence, and some buy more than a few luxury homes. Jay Leno has a famous car collection that many people admire. For some people, spending money on a pair of shoes doesn't feel like spending money until the shoes cost several thousand.

I'll never forget the articles I used to read in Car and Driver. In every issue, they had a review of some fantastically expensive car that none of the writers (and few of the rest of us) could afford. Maybachs, McLarens, Mercedes, Bentleys, Lamborghinis, and Ferraris, all incredibly fast, opulent and exclusive. I remember asking the question with a Google search about how long it would take for a car that could attain 262 mph and hold it, to run out of gas. Someone answered: 11 minutes.

How much is enough?

I answered that question for myself. I love chocolate, but I know what it does to me.
When I was a kid, I'd gather the empty pop bottles in the house and put them in my wagon, then I'd head up to Bill's Liquor on PCH and Marine. I'd get a few bucks and then blow it all on candy.

As an adult, I developed a sense of moderation. In a past job, I worked at a retirement home. The average age of the residents there was 82 years. Their children and grandchildren would bring boxes of candy to their parents and grandparents. 5, 10, and 15-pound boxes of Sees Candy came in multiples and they would pile up. Many residents would just give the candy to the receptionist and she would send it to the kitchen. From the kitchen it would go to the freezer for eventual distribution to the staff.

When they brought it out for staff, where did they put it? On a file cabinet right outside of my office. I was tempted, there was no doubt, but I couldn't let myself eat it. I knew that once I got started, it would be hard to stop. I could see that many of the employees partook in the goodies. I could also see that many of them were overweight.

I just couldn't do that to myself. Besides, I know how I feel after I have too much chocolate. Add tot that a self-image that requires me to be thin, and I have restraint if I never get started.

To satisfy my urge, I found a shortcut. I would wait until I happened to be at the box of chocolate at the same time as someone else who was actually going to eat some. Then in front of the other person, I would open the box, waft the luxurious smell up to my nose and take a big, deep sniff. "Aaaahhhh! I'm done!" Then I'd close the box and go inside my office to work.

I don't know what effect this had on other employees, but this is what I needed to do to restrain my temptation. Just smelling the chocolate was enough for me. I wanted to do this while the other employees were there to keep me accountable. A good whiff of the chocolate turned out to be enough for me.

Today, I understand a bit more about myself. I still eat chocolate. But I like my chocolate expensive, dark and frozen in very small quantities. I just have a little bit each day and that's enough for me.

I moderate my chocolate because I remember how I felt after eating too much when I was a kid. Even as a young man, I ate too much, but I also noticed my limits and honored them. I noticed then, that eating several candy bars didn't make me feel any better than having a few small bites.

There's an interesting scene in Babylon 5 where a confrontation ensues. During the confrontation, a telepath, a human with mind reading capabilities, offers an opportunity to his opponent to strike him. "Hit me........again.......again". After 3 punches, the telepath asks the opponent about his experience. 

To paraphrase, "How did you enjoy that? Was the first punch better than the last? Was the third punch better than the first? When will you be satisfied that you've had enough?"

I never forgot that  but the point is not lost on me. How much is enough?

That is a question each of us have to answer, whether it be money, houses, gadgets or food or anything else, for that matter. The answer each of us may find has profound effects on where we place our priorities and how we treat other people to answer that question. What is your answer?
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