Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Everything in Moderation

I've been making quite a few posts on self-improvement topics lately, but it's all good. People have time in the summer, why not use it to try new ways to improve themselves? Myself, I've been making my usual attempt at improving myself physically and mentally and, unfortunately, making my usual poor showing at the task. The topic of today's post might be the cause of it, but if it is, then I don't really want to change as I believe very strongly in this mantra.

"Everything in Moderation" is indeed my mantra and one that I've been saying and following to some success. While I may have had an inkling of this idea, it became very concrete after I read the introduction to Ursula LeGuin's The Left Hand of Darkness (I have an autographed copy of another one of her books, Wizard of the Earthsea). In the introduction, LeGuin talked about the role of the science fiction writer in how they can formulate a dystopia by taking any element of our current society and exaggerating it to cancerous levels. When I say cancerous, I do literally mean cancerous as a tumor is natural part of your body that is growing out of control.

We can easily see some examples here: warnings against a tightly controlled society, war, over-reliance of technology. In a recent film, WALL-E, we see what happens if consumption, pollution, and privatization goes on unchecked.

With that in mind, let's turn back to moderation and its application to everything. I don't really believe in denying yourself of any of life's pleasures. People may have strong beliefs or opinions about certain things and that's fine. However, completely ridding things like carbs or sweets from your diet for the sake of fitness, I feel, is just silly. There is no point in living to the age 100 if the last 20-40 years is drab, dull and full of regret. Live a little, indulge a little, but keep it all in check. Moderation.

This also applies to work. Be careful not to become a workaholic or fitness freak. To me, that is equally unnatural. For a person to have the best possible life, they must maintain a rough balance (nothing too strict) in all aspects of their lives. Essentially, no matter what it is, be sure to hold yourself back a little now and then, you'll find that the pleasures (or hardships) of an activity will last longer/be more bearable as you take it on gradually.

Here's an example of each spectrum of this idea. When I was a child, I loved to eat (still do!). McDonalds used to have very cheap McChicken burgers every Monday and my mother, being the wonderful understanding person she is, used to buy a whole bunch and I would have them for lunch at school practically everyday. Eventually it got to the point where I was simply sick of the damn things and refused to eat any McDonalds for years. I think they have a punishment like that in hell, where they give you too much of a good thing.

On the opposite end of the spectrum is something like studying. Research has shown that people retain information better from the first 20 minutes of study and the last 20 minutes of study. All that work in the middle? Usually fuzzy if not completely gone. Cramming rarely works to the best effect. If you take the same all-night 10 hour study period and break it down into 30/10 min study and break periods, you'll actually recall the information better than if you studied straight through the night.

Paradoxically, this mantra can be applied to itself. There will be times when people have no choice but to bog down and something for a prolonged period of time. It may be because of work, a need for training, or a plane crash leaving you marooned on a desert island. In either case, if you find yourself doing something too much, don't feel bad, just plan your schedule a bit better to allow some breaks.

What I'm getting at here is that moderation is good and that we are built for it. Humans like to explore and, more often than not, these trials help them to appreciate what they already have and enjoy it more. I suppose everyone is born with a level of ADD. Like they say in science fiction, the biggest problem with any utopian society is boredom.

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