Moderation, I think, is another of the ADF values that is easy to assume is a ‘mainstream value.’ I guess I never got into music video culture of showing off expensive cars and status symbols. So, maybe it’s a conservative middle-class virtue. Moderation, I think, is associated with self-control in popular culture.
Have a drink. Have three drinks in an evening. Don’t, on the other hand, get wasted. That reflects a lack of self control.
I don’t know if I know that I agree with that. I think that self-control is important, and perhaps even virtuous. But that’s not my focus when I look at moderation.
For me, spontaneously, I think that moderation is either taking no more than you need, even in the face of abundance, and not taking more than your fair share when resources are limited. Moderation, I think, can be understood as ‘walking lightly’ on the face of the Earth. (I got that from a gypsy in a Merrily Winters novel, no idea if that was just a phrase invented by the author.)
This would be an easy time to examine excess in modern life, but I don’t think that’s necessary. I can see in my own life where moderation could be better exercised: the vegetables that we buy, and then let go bad on the kitchen counter. The number of things thrown away, from pens that could be refilled to notebooks that are mostly empty. Moderation, I think, is not ‘knowing your limits’ or ‘living within your means,’ but instead being content with no more than is necessary.
There are a lot of tangents I could explore now: the idea of having more resources for other, more important things or the ability to better enjoy the things that really count, free from distraction. But, I don’t think that moderation has a goal. Just as integrity isn’t something to be used to reach an objective. It’s a good in and of itself.
There are reasons why the focus on taking no more than is necessary is virtuous regardless of the resullts. The first that pops into my mind, I believe, is that it requires you to first better understand yourself. “Do I need this?” “Does this help me to better be myself?”
Further, and I think we often overlook this, is that consumption makes us dependant. The less we need to consume, the more independent we are. And independance may not be a virtue — no one is to be faulted for being dependant, I don’t think — but independance in existance is required for independance of thought (an idea that deserves its own essay, I suppose).
The above is basically my understanding of moderation as a virtue, before I begin considering it in a pagan context. This will, of course, eventually inform what I write in my eventual Dedicant’s Path submission.