Monday, August 18, 2014
Everything in Moderation
Some form of the phrase “all things in moderation” dates back to Aristotle’s “golden mean” or to the ancient poets of Greece and Rome. It’s easy to see the wisdom of this in isolation, but it takes a strong amount of perspective to practice it in daily life. It’s so easy to get carried away, especially when the rest of society is following the same cues to “indulge yourself” or that “you deserve it.” It’s hard, but important, to resist the urge to believe more is always better. In modern parlance we might say, “Don’t get carried away!” or “Get a grip!”
Here are a few examples where we have gotten so caught up in the hype and the perceived need to be safer, healthier or more caring, that we need that kind of extra reminder.
Antibacterial soap and related products have become very popular in recent years. Despite the fact that they are not superior to the hand-washing routines of the past, they are hard to avoid because they are contained in over 2000 products. “According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), antibacterial soaps are not necessary, but washing your hands thoroughly with ordinary soap and warm water is one of the most effective ways to ward off infection.” Now, in addition to the fact that we are probably paying more for almost no benefit, new discoveries reveal a negative aspect to antibacterial soaps. “The Food and Drug Administration has been reviewing the safety and effectiveness of antibacterial products containing the chemical triclosan and triclocarban. New research shows expectant moms and their unborn babies are frequently exposed to the potentially harmful chemicals.” (Emphasis added.) This effort to go the extra mile in terms of sanitation seems to have backfired.
Dietary supplements, a favorite topic of these entries, are one way Americans are trying to improve health or performance by using shortcuts without considering the consequences. The US Anti-Doping Agency has joined others in discouraging their use and now warns athletes with a multipage website, but their warning easily applies to everyone. It concludes: “There is very strong evidence suggesting certain dietary supplements provide minimal, if any, athletic improvement which can’t be matched through proper diet and training, and that the potential negative consequences of taking supplements outweigh the potential positives.” Seemingly innocent efforts to improve on proper diet and exercise, in this case training, can be dangerous.
The call for moderation applies to the environmental movement as well. As wildfires in the west grow more fierce and deadly, experts are beginning to call for more clearing and controlled burns to reduce the amount of fuel available when fires get out of control. They face resistance from environmentalists and the government, which requires applications and approvals that can take up to four years and still leave them short of the necessary acreage to make a significant difference. “Regulations to protect habitats and clean air often interfere, as regulators balance protecting endangered species and people's lungs with the need to thin forests.” People lose their homes and die. We expend precious resources all for a lack of moderation.
This lack of moderation is echoed in my previous writings about our newly developed oversensitivity when buying food: all natural, organic, gluten-free, rBGH-free, and many other fads drive us to waste money for little or no benefit. It also affects how we raise (and overprotect) our kids, how we spend our money on non-food items looking for the magic answer, what causes and organizations we choose to support, and how we lead our lives in general. If we want to be calmer and happier without the extra expense, our sense of perspective should be reminding us to “get a grip.”