Moderation has long been a not-so-secret, secret to health and happiness. But in today’s world of consumerism and 24/7 online culture, active resistance is necessary to deflect excess. We are led to believe that a surplus of anything is better; more money, more friends, more “likes”, more food, more government, more stuff, more travel, more memberships, more news, more experiences-- spending, titles, awards and activities.
Where did this phenomena start? The Industrial Revolution? The Technological Revolution? Or is it human nature to just want more? As early as 500 BC the teacher, Buddha warned of the need for balance when saying “To much is no better than to little.” More recently in 100 BC, Cicero, the great Roman orator highlights Moderation as one of the top 4 virtues, alongside wisdom, courage and justice. Thoreau, who went to the woods to find peace, is viewed by some as an extremist, but praised by many for his message, “Simplicity, simplicity, simplicity! I say let your affairs be at two or three, and not a hundred or a thousand.” Modeling health in the 21st century, Jon Kabat-Zinn echoes the same value of voluntary simplicity in his book, Wherever you go, there you are, which he defines as, “seeing less so I can see more, doing less so I can do more, acquiring less, so I can have more.”
Over the last two years, I have become desperately mindful of the harms of this concept of “more”. I actively resist these distractions of excess; turning off the news, disregarding catalogs, unplugging for hours and days, turning down the plethora of invitations to join, achieve, be a member, and subscribe... Removing unfulfilling diversions from my day adds greatly to my life. More joy in my life adds greatly to those around me. Less on line- more in person, less buying - more savings, less titles – more family time, less schedules – more walks alone, less rushing- more reflection, less clutter - more space, less portion size - more health, less agenda - more earl gray tea, less fear– more personal joy, less stress – more world peace.
The ultimate goal is not about purging to nil, but about providing freedom from superfluous matter and achieving autonomy, balance and happiness.