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Notes from the Small Pond...Prudence, moderation and all that other nonsense

What's the point of moderation anyway? I mean, the ancient Greeks, famously extolling the virtue of moderation, weren't exactly exemplary practitioners of the virtue, were they? Anyone ever read The Iliad? Achilles? Not exactly the poster child for living modestly. Actually, Aristotle is most widely credited for the phrase, showing up in his Nicomachean Ethics; but other smart folks have written, uttered, claim-to-have-lived the "moderation code," too, including Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Edison and Mark Twain, who embellished the phrase, suiting my personal take on the notion, saying "All things in moderation...including moderation."

Fact is, moderation is just plain boring and not very productive unless you're considering the long haul, which is itself, boring and about as practically doable as multi-tasking, which might be the most overrated concept mankind has ever come up with, other than "retirement," which makes about as much sense as paying farmers to not grow something or legislators to not legislate.

I'll take intensely crazed focus over prudent moderation any time. Especially at a party. Ever been to a modest party? How was it? In middle school, me and some buddies accidentally showed up at a party some girl was throwing with assistance from her very moderate, very prudent mother. There were cups with everyone's name on them lined up on the kitchen table next to a bowl of nice punch. A big red bowl of popcorn. She'd rented a VCR player and three movies, which we were allowed to stay up ALL NIGHT watching, if any of us were up to the challenge. One by one, we escaped out the bathroom window.

A few blocks away, another party had spontaneously erupted when someone's parents unexpectedly left town for the evening. Someone had dragged in a couple of guitars and an old Marshall amp. Someone else brought a bunch of dogs. Another kid showed up in a clown suit. Nitrous Oxide. Not very prudent. No cups with people's names on them. (Parents: don't ever do that to your kids.) And, even though a couch did get destroyed and a window did get broken and the clown did break his arm during a slap fight in the basement, in contrast to the first party, the second one still gets talked about and turned out to be a pivotal, learning moment in the art of riding the razor's edge between "fun" and "dangerous," the edge always bleeding over, one side to the other. ...I mean, if you're gonna have fun, have fun, for God's sake. And, if you're gonna break your diet, then go for it. People who screw up their diets by eating a second helping of potatoes drive me nuts. Eat some cake, for crying out loud. And pour some syrup on it. Powdered sugar.

And when you love, then love, for God's sake. Literally. Sacrifice. Dive in. Take a chance and put your whole heart, your whole self, your whole life -- every dream you ever dared -- lay it out there to be stomped on, if that's what's going to happen. It's an All-In proposition, right? Is there any point in a sort of tepid version? No one wants to be loved like that and no one in their right mind wants to love that way, either. So why and how does it happen?

People get hurt and they don't like it because it hurts. They, for some reason, become convinced that they don't "deserve" to have their hearts broken, so when it happens they become victimized and promise themselves it'll never happen again, dammit.

So. They moderate their loving. They become prudent about it. You see it all the time. One life to live on this Earth and it's spent in second gear for fear of the speed. What's the point of having a dirt bike if you're not going to go fast and wreck it? What's the point of loving if you're not going to leave it all out there? Risk of failure, risk of pain is part of the equation. People don't die from being hurt. They die from being lonely. And, much of the time, loneliness is something chosen. "I don't wanna get hurt, so I'm not gonna put myself in a position of vulnerability." ....which is wholly unattractive. Un-attract-ive. Not attracting. Hence, lonely.

Some friends from college visited this summer. They've got two young kids -- they prudently started much later than we did, ie: they waited until they actually had jobs, insurance, college savings plans, etc. We took them up the North Shore to a beautiful spot on Lake Superior. Quiet. Private. Pristine. Heaven on Earth.

"The water is freezing."

"Who cares, jump in! It's awesome!"

"But it's freezing!"

"Yes, freezing! That's part of the awesome-ness! Jump in!"

"I can't."

"Get your butt in here! Yes you can!"

"I can't."

"Obviously, it's do-able. I've been in here for 10 minutes. It's awesome!"

"I can't."

"Why not?"

"There must be fish poop and turtle poop and who knows what else in there."

Wow. Prudence. ...yawn...

Anyway, screw the idea of moderation. If you're gonna do it, do it. You can apologize or lick your wounds later. Life's meant to be lived and pain and sorrow are part of the program. Marching through life, prudently observing it, is like smelling lilacs with your nose plugged.