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In examining the concept of choice I could not help but bump into the concept of moderation. My idea is that we could promote moderation as a way to shift our collective thinking toward an environment of cooperation, community and relationship. The idea is that if we all spent less time focused on getting more, of whatever, we could use that time to develop these other areas. Further my premise is that if we enhanced areas like relationship, community and cooperation in our society we could function at a level that is more consistent with human nature, which by the way I believe is good.

Moderation is defined as “the avoidance of extremes in one’s actions or opinions”. This relates to the concept of Choice in our choices related to living in a highly competitive and thus destructive environment or the choice to live in a cooperative environment. Examining the word moderation and its synonyms helps to define the concept. We are looking at such concepts as balance, caution, common sense, fairness, and reasonableness. I would like to see more of these. Would you? Other synonyms such as sobriety, reticence, temperance and restraint bring with them too many connotations that I do not wish to tackle at this time. They also point us in a direction that tends to put us in no more positive position. I do want to focus on the positive rather than what I see as the negative side of this issue but find it impracticable to talk about moderation without also highlighting the negative side, that which of course is greed. Greed is defined as the “selfish and excessive desire for more of something than is needed”. We do not have to think hard or long to find countless examples of greed in our society. The very structure and function of our economic – political institutions is the most obvious. The notion of expansion, growth and the exploitation that is implicit are all about greed. Our blind adherence to these institutional structures regardless of true benefit for the common man is an example of our acceptance of greed. We may think that being silent or ignorant about the incredible and obscene growing gap between the rich and the poor, the gap in the quality of life in the developed world versus the developing (?) world, or the very foundation of the “health care/illness industry” makes us non-complicit in these manifestations of greed but I disagree and that is the topic of yet another diatribe.

Let us return to the concept of moderation and my premise that it is relevant to the importance of our ability to make choices and the impact on a more palatable and positive future of our society. Moderation has us making a choice to be reasonable in our actions and our attitudes and judgments and to steer away from extremes.  Greed is the opposite. The antonyms for greed or the words meaning the reverse help to guide us in the direction I speak about in promoting moderation. That includes words and concepts such as contentment, fulfillment, satisfaction, charity, generousness, unselfishness, altruism and openheartedness.

To able to move into the arenas of contentment, fulfillment, satisfaction, charity, generousness, unselfishness, altruism and openheartedness there is an assumption that we must also be at least somewhat beyond or outside of a desperate position that is focused on survival. In other words if we are so close to the line between surviving and not surviving all of our energy will naturally go into surviving. We know that many people and probably the majority of the population of the world are in fact in survival mode.  This again is worth separate examination. In the western world this is not the case. Although the middle class is said to be disappearing and the numbers and proportion of poor is growing across the western world and in particular in the USA, there is still a major proportion of the population that is either not in survival mode at all or would not be in this mode if a few things were different.

This is where moderation comes in. Mick Jagger and the Stones made famous the notion that “I can’t get no satisfaction” but then they were wise enough to note that “You can’t always get what you want; But if you try sometimes, well you just might find You get what you need”. This is moderationand not greed.  This is also where Choice comes in. I am not saying this is easy but I am saying that we do have a choice. We have a choice to be moderate in what we think we need in our lives and in coming to terms with what brings us satisfaction. The choice towards moderation is somewhat hidden in the “normal” functioning of our society and the choice towards greed is often more evident. What makes it even more complex is that the choice toward greed is not presented as greed. If it was maybe more of us would not make that choice. But it is presented as the way things are, the way the world works and so on.  How many times have we heard that “if we could just bring spending back up, the economy (and thus implied society) will be okay”? But is this really what we want or need?  Do we really want more of what we have now and that which is imploding before our very eyes? I say we do not want more of the same. Instead I believe that if we practice our choice we would want to have more balance, caution, common sense, fairness, and reasonableness in our lives. 

So what if we do choose moderation? Where do we start? How do we do this? How do we ignore or not fall into expected patterns? How do we not have an impact on the economic system that we have been led to believe is all that is important?

I imagine that the only way to start is to focus on our own individual choices. Even though they may seem inconsequential or counterproductive I believe that this is the only way we can move towards a world that will allow us a sense of contentment, fulfillment, and satisfaction.

Why not start by choosing moderation and applying it wherever and whenever we have a choice in action and thought. Start by choosing to believe that our actions count and make a difference in the world. There are many things that I will choose. I will choose to look beyond economic survival and towards what it means to be in community with others. Choose to wear that winter coat for one more season. Choose to be optimistic about opportunities to move away from the traditional economic system. Choose to take my leftovers from supper to the office for lunch. Choose to smile at that person sitting across from me on the train. Choose to thank the cashier for being patient with the previous customer who did not have their money ready or who was rude to them. Choose to be patient with the person in front of me. Choose to remember that I know the most about my health and how to stay healthy and choose to listen to myself. Choose to tip the waitress whom I know only earns minimum wage. Choose to be generous with my spirit and with my purse now not when I feel I have enough to give. Choose to breathe deeply. Choose to keep my heart open and ready to accept others for who they are not who I expect them to be. Choose to go to the next gathering in my community whether it is a strata council meeting or a meeting to discuss future developments in the area and give my opinion. Choose to start a conversation with my family and friends about how we might work together to share our resources and time. Choose to take time to pay attention to my relationship with others. I will choose to move towards moderation and away from excess and extremes in my actions and opinions. See what happens.


Irene McDermott © 2011