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Today I question and further examine my notion of moderation. In my post yesterday I spoke about moderation and how I believe that we can promote moderation as a way to shift our collective thinking toward an environment of cooperation, community and relationship. Further I see moderation as an alternative to our present way of operating in the ultra-competitive economic environment in which we find ourselves. My belief about moderation covers our material possessions and need for these as well as our philosophical approach to life. I think these two are linked together and that both are critical to the shift to a more cooperative environment. Our society tends to be very focused on acquisition. Acquisition of material objects is high on the list. We work hard to be able to earn the money that we need to obtain these objects. In this effort we often lose sight of what is necessary and what is superfluous. We are also focused on acquisition of other not-as-concrete things such as status, power, possession of knowledge and celebrity. Efforts in this regard tend to take us away from the environment of cooperation, community and relationship that I promote in suggesting moderation as an option for moving to a more sensible world.

My thoughts and feelings about the notion of moderation however were personally challenged today. The challenge came when I once again found myself searching for books on a topic that I had become enthralled with. I wanted more and found myself falling into the “I need these books” thinking. This thinking is so easy to fall into and applies to everything and everywhere we try to apply the notion of moderation. Just this one more book (coat, dress, pair of shoes, etc) and so on.  I thought perhaps I could examine my relationship with books as a way to look at some of the intricacies of trying to truly move towards Moderation. It is not a simple or easy task.

Anyone who knows me knows that I have been having a love affair with books pretty well all my life. I have quite a collection even after several moves from office to office and home to home. I just cannot part with many of them. Now you might think that having so many books in my collection that I would be satisfied but I am not and that is one problem with moving towards moderation. We are never truly satisfied or rather think we are not satisfied.  

This morning I bought four used books to add to my collection. After the deed was done I thought about the fact that I could have just got them from the library. With new online services it is so easy to find books and have them put on hold. All I need to do then is pick them up. So why the buying thing?  I could not answer that question or maybe I did not want to? All I could think of was that I wanted them in my possession. Perhaps this is another issue related to moving towards moderation, we want to possess things. They are a symbol of our worth perhaps?  After thinking about my latest book buying spree I did also put some books on hold at the library, my attempt at moderation in terms of possession of the books but not in my constant pursuit of knowledge.  That is another topic and also another area where I could use some moderation.

The book situation in my life is an example of how we can turn to things to make us feel good and perhaps to fill the holes in our lives. I can try to justify and depict my attachment and reliance on books as a good thing. I want to learn more, I am curious and interested in many subjects and so on. These are all good things aren’t they?  Books are good things not bad things so it is okay that I am addicted to them, right? The question of the need for ownership and the never-fulfilled satisfaction still remain unanswered. I realize that I can be curious and interested and all those good things but do I really need to own all these books?  Is it possible to live without having them in my possession? Is it possible to be satisfied with just a few books? Is it possible to be satisfied that I have access to a broad range of books if I want or need them? Obviously these are unanswered questions for me.

Let me give you an example of my attachment to books that demonstrates my personal issues with moderation in this area of my life. I was reading a book (of, course!) by Julia Cameron “The Artist’s Way” where you are offered exercises to assist with your creativity and artistic skills. I was enjoying the book until I came across an exercise that asked me to stop reading books of any kind for one entire week. The first time I came across this exercise I could not even finish reading through it, I just put the book aside and thought “no way!” I continued to read the book and to ignore this exercise. Several weeks later I cautiously went back to the exercise and this time read through it completely. I still did not have the courage to do what it suggested which was to limit any reading to only that required for work. That meant no books, no newspapers, no internet news and so on. This challenge gave me plenty to think about. I realized that I never left the house without a book or magazine or journal in my bag. What was this about? It was about having something to turn to for company, comfort or to fill time that I might otherwise need to use to do what?…talk to someone, just be still, walk, do something other than read, or whatever. I needed to think about this some more.

Eventually I was up for the challenge and I bravely emptied my bag of all reading materials and put aside the books that surrounded my bed, my couch and kitchen table. I found books everywhere. I started the week feeling that this was going to be very difficult and I was right but it was also a very pleasurable week. I actually did just sit still for moments at a time, doing nothing, I walked more, I wrote in my journal, I organized some photos, I cleaned out that drawer that never shut properly, and my husband and my friends and I talked more. It turned out to be a great week. I made it unscathed after an entire week without reading a book or newspaper or whatever.

What I really learned from that week was how attached I had become to an external thing: books! I learned that I had started to believe that I could not exist without my books. I learned that my relationships with books are a clear indicator of the balance in my life. Now when I start to see books piled up around me I know that it is time to give my head a shake and look at what is going on. A chance to review and renew has been provided to me. I will always love books but I will continue to reflect on my attachment and need to own and I will definitely try to practice moderation.

This reflection has given me pause for thought. I have had a hard look at the books I have surrounded myself with and feel I am ready to begin the process of releasing the hold on this false notion of security, need for ownership or whatever it is. I am ready for somemoderation. The good news is that I love to share, so does anyone need a book to read?

Irene McDermott © 2011

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