Saturday, April 1, 2017

Temperance (Part Two)

(If you're new here, this column consists of weekly letters written to my grandchildren, who exist, to haunt them after they become grups and/or I'm dead, and my great-grandchildren, who aren't here yet.)

Dear (eventual) Grandstickies & Great-Grandstickies,

To review, in part one I started off down the main trail but I branched off on a path that led to a critique of H. sapiens tendency to (often with the best of intentions) impose their idea of temperance on other H. sapiens.

This confused my imaginary grandsticky, Iggy, who thought that temperance simply meant refraining from eating an entire box of Girl School cookies in one sitting.

I further muddied the water by making reference to something I call social sanctions which I  didn't define or explore. Thus the need for a part two. 

I'm going to put the thin mints in the fridge for the moment and start with social sanctions. "Some things should be prohibited, some things should be regulated, everything else should be tolerated (but not necessarily socially sanctioned)." -me

Some kids should be banned from the playground (prohibited), and rules are needed for sharing the playground (regulated). Little Timmy's unfortunate habit of picking his nose, anywhere and everywhere, is best curbed by social sanctions.

[Which has exactly WHAT to do with temperance? asks Dana, my imaginary gentlereader.]

"Patience is a virtue." -Sister Mary McGillicuddy

 Wikipedia: "Temperance is defined as moderation or voluntary self-restraint."

Banning Timmy from the playground would constitute cruel and unusual punishment. Who among us hath not picked their nose upon occasion?

Nose picking regulations would be difficult to enforce, and who would want to police nose pickers? Yes, I know you know someone that probably would, but the first sentence of the job description should state that anyone who volunteers for the job should not be considered.

Social sanctions, which in this case would involve Timmy being verbally abused (picked on, GRIN) for his unfortunate habit, would, most likely, take care of the problem. Social sanctions would, most likely, induce "voluntary self-restraint." In the unlikely event Timmy persisted, it would clearly signal the need for intervention by a grup before Timmy became bully meat.

Unfortunately, social sanctions don't work nearly as well among allegedly well-adjusted grups on the playground commonly referred to as the real world. I understand that we've lost a good deal of our cultural consensus (I speak only of American culture, mine is a somewhat parochial life). We need to find a way to socially sanction the ill-mannered.

Shouldn't good manners in our current environment be more important than ever? If we're all busy doing our own thing, if we're to all be non-judgemental, non-haters, don't we at least need good manners to keep from killing each other? Shouldn't good manners be a virtue? I'm not talking about using the correct fork, I'm talking about minimizing friction in everyday encounters. Why are there don't be a hater t-shirts but not "Don't be Ill-mannered" t-shirts?

After rereading Temperance (Part One), and the above, it's dawned on me that my Marie-Louise, my beautiful muse, has a method to her madness. Last week I explored the importance of society treading lightly and thinking heavily before imposing its version of temperance upon its members via the force of law. Beware the law of unintended consequences.

Above, I discuss judiciously applied social sanctions. This is a way to encourage temperance without using the hammer of the force of law. Anything goes is not the way to go. We need social sanctions lest we all degenerate into bigfeets (see glossary).

[Gentlereaders -- for the record, the story that I recently unmercifully pummeled a loud talker with a cell phone in a tiny, overheated waiting room at doctor's office is completely untrue. I practiced good manners (and temperance) by informing the receptionist where she could find me and fled to another room.] 

And now some thoughts on temperance -- moderation or self-restraint -- as a virtue applied by an individual to their own lives

[Finally! sez Dana.]

People who practice one of the more traditional organized religions are provided with a framework that includes ethical/moral rules and guidelines that by their nature prescribe moderation and self-restraint. Gray areas to be clarified via prayer and/or clergy.

The rest of us must draw our own lines. I maintain that in the practice of this and all virtues, cardinal and otherwise, that 98.39% of the time (non-psychotic) H. sapien grups know what behavior is virtuous. Callowyutes, starting at about the age of seven, usually know as well, but only 78.39% of the time which is why they need clear-eyed grups to supervise them carefully.

[Iggy opens his mouth to speak, I cut him off.]

I know what you're going to say, I say, or rather, what you're going to ask. Why should you, or anyone for that matter, practice temperance? Why not eat an entire box of girl scout cookies in one sitting? especially thin mints.

The answer is, sometimes you should, mostly, you shouldn't.

Occasionally, tossing temperance out the window and consuming an entire box of GS cookies in one sitting is just what the physician prescribed. If you've been too self(or other)-disciplined, or, self(or other)-disciplined for too long, an imbalance in the universe is created. Everything contains/creates its opposite. This is the nature of reality, there's no white without black and change is the only constant.

If you love and enjoy thin mints (or anything else) but never, ever, eat them because you're fanatically devoted to eating low carb (or any of a hundred other reasons), the universe, seeking to restore balance before there's an explosion, will send you a steady stream of revenue seeking girl scouts.

It doesn't matter if it takes two cookies or two sleeves of cookies to defuse the bomb and restore balance.

However, if you decide to embrace the life of a libertine and start purchasing your thin mints by the case (FYI, Keebler Grasshoppers are even better than what the GSs offer) this will also create a disturbance in the force.

Besides the obvious downside, rapid and significant weight gain, one will discover the truth about libertinism -- repeated indulgence is boring. Sorry stickies, reality is self-regulating in that devoting one's life to the perpetual pursuit of pleasure, without multiple interludes of work and boredom, is like listening to a song consisting of one uninterrupted note.

To keep the pleasure perpetually percolating requires ever increasing levels of stimulation and life on Earth only provides so many levels before you hit your head on the ceiling. Beyond this lies madness and/or addiction.

Temperance, will help to keep you from killing yourself (accidentally or otherwise). Temperance, will help to keep you from being killed by one of the other kids on the playground. Poppa loves you.

Have an OK day.

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