Well interwebs, it has been quite a while since my last post. I’ve been busy, trying to keep my head straight and figure out what this post would be about. Through that thought process arose one winner, and one sort-of obligatory half winner. First I plan on talking about excess, and how I’ve been trying to reign in my excess. Don’t worry I’m not trying to get overly preachy or anything along those lines, I’ve just been doing a lot of thinking lately about what it means to consume and the implications it has on our society, health, and mental well-being. Secondly, I’ll sum up what I’ve been doing lately with work and life, this was the half winner so don’t expect it to be too informative. Credit to the quote in my title goes to Hippocrates.
Recently I read Born to Run which was recommended to me by a friend and co-worker of mine. To sum it up, the book is awesome. I enjoyed every part of it, and myself being not much of a runner (trying to get better) found it really inspirational. The kind of thing you want people close to you to read. I really feel that it changed my outlook on a lot of things. One of the main takeaways I found from the book was the thought of “less is more,” this is definitely not a new idea, but for me I’ve never really thought about how this could change me. I guess what it taught me was that you really don’t need what you think you need to do great things. You may think to be really good at math or that you have to have the best calculator money can buy, or before you decide to eat correctly and exercise more you go buy books and exercise equipment, and health videos, etc. I know I personally have done both those things.
I found myself trying to tie this advice into my life, and decided that the word “Excess” fit appropriately. According to Merriam Webster dictionary, “Excess” is defined as “The state or an instance of surpassing usual, proper, or specified limits.” This brings up all kinds of ideas of what is “proper” or “specified limits.” I have the internal struggle though, who am I to tell other people what they are doing wrong with their amount of excess? I mean, I have all sorts of unnecessary things in my life, electronics, alcohol, dining, personal indulgences, etc. Even while writing this post I found examples of things I currently do that I need to reign in the excess. I think the best way to illustrate my point is to give some concrete examples, and try to explain where I think the logic is flawed (from my perspective of course).
This is a hot example, because most people get offended when I talk shit about Costco. Growing up we shopped there quite a bit (Price Club back then), and I always was amazed by the aisles of large quantities of things, and of course the samples. What would anyone want to do with a mega pack of dish soap, or bathroom tissue, or 10lb brick of cheese, etc? I mean, I do dishes just like the next guy (probably not as often), eat cheese, use bathroom tissue. Granted I just live by myself and only have to take care of myself (and my cat). I still think though, whats the point of buying the excess soap? The bricks of cheese to get ready to freeze? To save a couple of pennies? I totally understand the urge to be frugal and spend money wisely, but I think that sometimes its unnecessary, and the costs to society and your own well-being outweigh the benefits to your pocket-book.
Now to be clear, I’m not talking about buying local, or organic, or any number of other issues, even though I agree with some of these, but that’s not the point. The point is that sometimes it is healthy to want, and not receive. I believe this gives you some discipline that you wouldn’t have otherwise. In our society, discipline is hard to come by, we get everything we want if we have the means to get it (most of middle class does). If we get everything we want then where are the surprises? Where is the discipline. All I’m trying to say here is that certain things are unnecessary. I’ll leave the decision on what that is in your life up to you. For me, I could drink less beer, I could use less electricity, I could get rid of about half my wardrobe, and I could get rid of most of my gadgets.
The thought of eating till I need to unbutton that top one (I know you know what I’m talking about), really got me thinking (as I was unbuttoning my top button). Why was I doing this? What is the purpose of this excess? Does eating till I explode really benefit me? To answer them, I drew from some advice from my doctor. About a year ago I asked him what the most effective way to lose weight and become healthy was, he told me (to no big surprise), diet and exercise. My initial thought were something along the lines of “Hey thanks asshole, I just want an easy solution.” So further pursuing the question with him I asked, “Well, what is the best diet,” and I was prepared for the worst (he’s a vegan after all) but all he said was that we as a society have forgotten what it is like to be hungry. I didn’t really think about this much until I found similar advice given by a running coach in the book Born to Run. His advice to people looking to train and get fit, “Eat like a poor person.” Now this really got me thinking, we live in one of the wealthiest nations, and we can feed our faces with such ease, that we have forgotten what it is like to be hungry. Like I said before, we have access to Costco, Wal-Mart, Amazon, just to name a few.
What will eating like a poor person do? Will it cause you to start buying more soda and less milk? Will it cause you to eat more processed foods and less healthier more expensive foods? Probably, but the point is not what your eating, its how much your eating. Stretching your meals out, eating slower, and not taking seconds in favor of eating leftovers another day are all ways to save money without eating less expensive and generally crappier food. Food should be a fully immersive experience whether you are at a restaurant, or just home cooking a meal with the ones you love. Taking your time will make you pause and take all this into account. “Eat like a poor person,” and “Sometimes I just need to be hungry,” seems like sound advice to me and I’m going to try to integrate these into my life.
All in all consuming less, eating less, and eliminating excess seems like sound advice to me. If you stuck with me till here then we’ve only broken the ice, I want to hear what YOU think. Am I totally off base about excess? Are there times in life where we can benefit from excess? Surely there are counter examples to what I’ve talked about, consider a Titanic with 20% more lifeboats than necessary. Obviously that kind of excess would indeed be a good thing, so now that I’ve got the low hanging fruit, it will be up to readers of this post to let me know how much shit I’m full of. Until then, enjoy eating less, consuming less, and trying to reduce your overall impact.
Like I said in the beginning, my last topic is my current life situation for those interested. I’m currently very happy with my new work, doing things that I feel make a difference has really re-ignited my passion that I found while still attending school last year. Working with people who have shared interests, and similar world views has been huge as well. I love where I’m at, love the people there, and most of all have the excitement I felt while still attending school and cracking that hard to solve homework puzzle. Boise has been beautiful, and my recent bout with almost leaving really made me reflect on what Boise has to offer. Not only does it contain some of my favorite people in the world, the weather is awesome, the city is clean, and the taps are always full. What is my next life goal? Who knows, maybe becoming a better person, trying to run more certainly, spending times with friends/family. These are all worthy goals, and I can’t wait for what the beautiful Spring and Summer will be like. I’ll hopefully be blogging more often, now that I have a sort of direction I want to take this blog. Stay tuned.
A worthy topic. Always wanting more is not a nice feeling, and living in excess tends to be harmful for not just yourself, but the world at large. Like you said, its tough to pin down just what is excessive for oneself. Its worth the effort though. You’ve got a nice start.
It just so happens that your writing this blog coincides with the first time in my life when I’m voluntarily limiting my consumption. Thanks for the motivational reading. Its going to take a lot of dedication to keep living on the cheap until all my debts are payed off. What I’ve found is that setting boundaries can actually be de-stressing. Not giving yourself the option to buy that TV or eat that extra bit of fries means not having the stress of deciding, or the guilt associated with being bogged down in a situation you know you could have avoided. Its just a difficult mentality to get used to the internal drill sergeant, if you’ve sought your whole life to be free from controls (parental, societal, religious, etc) like I have. Ultimately, being free from compulsion is a greater freedom than being free to indulge, if that indulgence is unhealthy/unwise.
Philosophically speaking, excess is a tricky concept. Mainly because one person’s living poorly might be another person’s living in excess. Its a slippery slope. If we want to be ethical, environmentally conscious people, there’s almost no end to the scrimping or doing without..unless we keel over (death would be the most environmentally friendly thing, right?). So the question is, how much true excess (anything beyond what’s needed for survival) should we allow ourselves? In reality, the question need not be so serious. Thankfully, we’re free to choose to a large extent.
I whole heartedly agree with you perception of Costco. Save some money maybe… But then you have to drive to get there rather than cycle to the corner grocer with whom you can actually form a human relationship with. The choice isn’t hard for me.