Faith CoLab: Tapestry of Faith: Virtue Ethics: An Ethical Development Program for High School Youth

Taking It Home: Moderation

Part of Virtue Ethics

Moderation in all things, including moderation. — Petronius, Roman author of satires

IN TODAY'S WORKSHOP... we discussed moderation as a virtue. We talked about the Temperance Movement, which involved many Unitarians and Universalists in making laws to limit consumption of alcohol. We heard about the Buddhist Middle Path and read from the biblical book of Ecclesiastes, which says that all things have their natural seasons or times to be important. We reflected on times we had used moderation, times we had not used moderation, and times we might want to use moderation in our lives.

Did you know? The author of the quote, Petronius, was an artist in the court of the Roman Emperor Nero. He wrote satires—literary compositions which hold up human folly and vice for ridicule—but, ironically, was renowned (as was Nero) for being extremely self-indulgent.

Satire. Characters in satire are frequently larger than life and do not exhibit moderation. Their character traits—both the virtuous and more dastardly—are exaggerated, to make a point. Have you ever read or seen satire? Much of Mark Twain's work is satire, as are the fantasy novels of Terry Pratchett. The movie, Dr. Strangelove: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb, is a famous work of satire about the atomic bomb. The television shows South Park and The Colbert Report are, too, as is the comic strip, Doonesbury. Read or watch some of these online. Can you identify when characters are NOT using moderation? Are there characters involved that do exhibit moderation? Often these characters represent the views of the satire's creator.

Moderation and Addiction. Read about the Temperance Movement on this United States History site. Our society offers us many stimulations. It is easy to go from one fun and exciting activity to the next. However, research shows our senses become acclimated to stimuli, and soon a particular stimulant becomes less effective. This is why addicts need to constantly increase the amounts of drugs, alcohol, or other stimulants they use. Have you ever heard a parent joke that their kids soon stop playing with their new toys and start playing instead with the boxes the toys came in? Sometimes simpler is better. Where in your life is simplicity needed? What activities used to bring you pleasure but now are a bore? Take time out to engage in simplicity. Lie on a blanket under the night sky and marvel at the stars with a younger sibling or a friend. Play with your pets. Sit on your front porch and engage your neighbors in conversation.