Date: 31 October 2014
Status: Better than I’ve been in a long time
Topic: Absolutely nothing in moderation
My writing mentor/life coach/role model, a former high school English teacher, once gave me ten rules for leading a happier, more fulfilling life. I’ve come personally to know them as “The Commandments”, though I’m not sure how he’d feel about that. They’re all really awesome and profound in a simple-as-you-like sort of way, but it’s number seven that’s proven to be most pertinent in recent weeks.
7. If it makes you happy, don’t just keep fucking doing it, Andre. Figure out why it makes you happy, then cut out the other parts to maximize that.
In the unlikely event that it hasn’t become direly apparent, I am not what most would call a moderate person. In my mind, everything must be done, and it must be done “to wretched excess”, as an old friend would describe it. There’s no telling exactly why that is — or more likely, I’m simply not comfortable enough to do what psychological delving is necessary — but at any rate, while all sensible and well in concept, my mentor’s decree turned out to be rather less feasible in practice (at least for a pathological indulgent who had barely survived adolescence) in the adult world of fast motorcycles, pretty girls, and other such temptations abounding.
This sweeping tendency to hyper-partake has taken a number of forms over the years (e. but a few g. sex, candy, music, reading, liquor, cigarettes etc.), and it’s never been anything less than glaringly obvious to myself and anyone who gave a shit that surely there must be healthier, happier ways to lead life than the one I had been choosing. It should go without saying that there is no singular lifestyle or philosophy that can be successfully applied to every individual — to each his/her own and all — because every individual is subject to varying personal circumstances and asymmetric belief templates.
It’s not as though moderation is exactly popular in today’s America of rampant addiction, voracious consumerism and epidemic obesity, anyway. I am not alone in my predilection for indulgent behavior, nor certainly are you. There are, of course, exceptional disparities in the respective levels of severity when it comes to one’s preferred vice. As we know, it is all too possible for one to be addicted to something positive, such as exercise, work — even romance, in some cases — but that’s not the point. A reasonably keen observer of the self and world around them will note that we, as 21st century Americans, are no longer discouraged from overindulging, physical and moral ramifications notwithstanding.
You’d be hard pressed not to see it everywhere you look. For instance, at restaurants, when people keep eating simply because there’s food left on the plate and not because they’re actually hungry. At parties or bars, when you are openly targeted and shamed for leaving a beer or drink unfinished, even when you’ve already had more than enough. In higher education, when we overload ourselves with coursework just to finish in some arbitrarily mandated period of time. Everything to do with retail wholesalers, network television, fast-food chains, internet pornography…and so on.
Believe me when I say that I’m not criticizing anyone for doing this, because I’m frequently guilty of it, myself. Moreover, it’s worth pointing out that none of these behaviors are necessarily even conscious at this stage in the game, but instead very much a result of aggressive, metastatic enculturation. There is, after all, no post-War America that doesn’t include excess (leastways, not for those who can afford it). Consequently, we associate a concept like moderation with other ones such as control, restraint, which might as well translate to the direct relinquishing of liberty, freedom — and we won’t be having any of that shit. No, sir, we most certainly shall not.
All that aside, the seventh commandment is a pivotal one at least to give mind, because it’s not enough (for me, that is) just to do something that elicits happiness; it’s important to know and understand why it does. That sounds like a lot of cumbersome, unnecessary thought and work which most of us don’t want or care to be doing, I know. Please rest assured, I’m nowhere near the point of being able to successfully consider and evaluate the essential makeup of my own happiness. And truthfully, I don’t think that I ever will be…but that won’t stop me from trying, because I think the pursuit of this — on whichever terms one deems suitable — lends unquestionably to growth, maturity, and self-awareness.
For the record, none of this (or the entries previous) is to suggest even remotely that you ought to be following the example I’ve been attempting to delineate, or that it is in any way the “correct” framework. As far as I’m concerned, this is just a load of bullshit I’m getting off my chest in an attempt to distract myself from smoking (which task, I must admit, has proven remarkably easy, all things considered). I do think, however, that it’s more than worth paying attention to what makes us happy versus what gives us pleasure, because there’s an important distinction between the two.
A damned good reason for doing so, it has to be said, is that if you are able to devote more energy and effort towards that which makes you genuinely happy rather than that which merely gives you pleasure (or, in other words, if you can follow the seventh commandment), you’ll find yourself a whole lot happier, more fulfilled, overall. It’s the truth. He’s my mentor for a reason, folks. The man’s got his fair share of worldly wisdom to dispense. But anyway, if happiness — deep, unalloyed, guiltless happiness — is one of your ultimate goals in life (as it is for a lot of us, I think) then it might be in your interest to consider what will bring you closer to it, now and again.
You’d be forgiven for thinking this just another form of radical self-indulgence, of excess; but I’d encourage you before doing so to remember crucially that: 1) there are things which are positive enough such that a lack of moderation can be excused, like self-reflection; and 2) my mentor, all of you who are reading this, and especially yours truly, are very cursedly yet divinely human, so it’s totally alright to fuck up on your journey to happiness, pleasure or what-have-you; and in truth, necessary — so long as it occurs, like all other things, in due moderation.
Phew, I made it…now what?