An End to the Age of Gluttony

Posted on December 20, 2014 by Robert Ringer


Gluttony is defined as “excessive eating and drinking.” But, metaphorically speaking, just about anything one does in excess is gluttonous.

Gluttony should not be confused with greed, which is an “excessive” desire to acquire wealth or material things. Everyone is greedy. That’s what motivates people to produce better products and services for others. They know that to the extent they do so, they have a good chance of being financially successful.

Gluttony, on the other hand, stems from a lack of self-discipline. It’s yielding to desires that are so excessive that you are well aware it is not in your long-term best interest to do so.

When I was a young man, I reveled in gluttony. Not just when it came to food, drink, and … well, other things … but entertainment as well — plays, musicals, concerts, parties, to name but a few of the temptations that are irresistible to the gluttony addict.

I was even gluttonous when it came to sports. I never wore my ball cap backwards or painted my face with my favorite team’s colors, but I did indulge myself in agonizing over their trials and tribulations. It was gluttony in every sense of the word.

Thankfully, at some point in time I grew up and came to realize that I was a slave to entertainment and a material lifestyle. Now don’t get me wrong. Entertainment, in moderation, is an integral part of life. And material things make life more enjoyable and more comfortable. But in excess, they can make one feel … well … gluttonous.

While it’s self-evident that the United States has become a superpower when it comes to gluttony, Americans’ excessive craving for entertainment and material things didn’t begin yesterday. As a matter of fact, it’s been evolving for decades, as evidenced by the words of Erich Fromm in The Art of Loving, written in 1956:

Man overcomes his conscious despair by the routine of amusement, the passive consumption of sounds and sights offered by the amusement industry; furthermore by the satisfaction of buying ever new things, and soon exchanging them for others. …

Man’s happiness today consists in “having fun.” Having fun lies in the satisfaction of consuming and “taking in” commodities, sights, food, drinks, cigarettes, people, lectures, books, movies — all are consumed, swallowed.

The world is one great object for our appetite, a big apple, a big bottle, a big breast; we are the sucklers, the eternally expectant ones, the hopeful ones — and the eternally disappointed ones.

Our character is geared to exchange and to receive, to barter and to consume; everything, spiritual as well as material objects, becomes an object of exchange and of consumption.

Fromm’s words remind me why a massive deflation, as opposed to what is now an almost certain hyperinflation on the horizon, would be a good thing for the United States. Why? Because deflation shakes out excesses and exposes the lie of artificial wealth. Above all, it calms the soul, tempers gluttonous instincts, and causes people to refocus their priorities.

In addition, refusing to yield to your gluttonous instincts is like an investment in your self-esteem. It purifies your thoughts, increases your strength, and gives you a feeling of self-control.

If a lower standard of living motivates people to practice moderation and self-restraint, difficult economic times can turn out to be a proverbial blessing in disguise. At best, it can motivate them to connect with a higher purpose. And being connected is worth far more than any material plaything money can buy.

Unfortunately, most people are likely to have a difficult time accepting the reality that the Age of Gluttony is coming to an end, so they will choose to ramp up their entitlement mind-set rather than focus on exploiting opportunities.

Yes, I said opportunities. Even though the Age of Gluttony is coming to an end, that doesn’t mean that the world — or America — is coming to an end. History teaches us that bad economic times always bring about great opportunities.

The important thing is to remember that you have free will, which means you can choose to make a conscious effort to seek out both business and personal opportunities — opportunities that will not be visible to those who stubbornly cling to the fantasy that the reemergence of the Age of Gluttony is just around the corner.

Robert Ringer

Robert Ringer is an American icon whose unique insights into life have helped millions of readers worldwide. He is also the author of two New York Times #1 bestselling books, both of which have been listed by The New York Times among the 15 best-selling motivational books of all time.

24 responses to “An End to the Age of Gluttony”

  1. Rick says:

    We are a culture that is suffering from abundance!

    Individually, we refuse to Perform the simple act of "lifting up the tail of the horse and looking it right in the eye."

    I have a role in this. My place includes to take a detached look at my part and do what I reasonable can do today to change my behavior, not yours.

    It ain't about getting. My experience is that I have to give something to get something. Maybe there's something I need to sacrafice today or just help another person.

    A little fasting never hurt me.

  2. "lifting up the tail of the horse and looking it in the eye"… guess there IS an eye under the tail of a horse…

  3. Phil says:

    What a wonderful piece! My wife and I have been working on practicing moderation for some time. Not being addicted to money can bring incredible benefits. And one learns that so many great things are free or inexpensive, and that these often bring as much if not more happiness than gluttony. For instance, learning Chinese, which I have been doing for 5 years, is incredibly satisfying and almost all materials can be found online via Google, Youtube, etc. Sometimes there is a small cost for books and such. Same with learning Spanish. And karate class is only $100 a month, and brings great personal rewards for self discipline and practice. Spending time with family, I mean wow! Sometimes a challenge, we have a teenager, but it is very rewarding and I believe it will rebound to our and her benefit one day. How about voluntarily helping others less fortunate? Reading a great book? Learning history?

    And other benefits include being more free to move into a field in which you are interested, travel on a budget (so many people are tried to their desk jobs in the pursuit of status they never really get to see the world), and have more peace of mind by being able to save and live well on a moderate financial plane.

    Money is great, I like it, and maybe one day will have boatloads. But it really cannot bring happiness. It is a means to an end. And really, it does not take much to meet one's goals.

    As an aside, one obstacle can be feeling as if one must keep up with the Jones's. Robert has addressed this before, and he is 100% right on. Just let it go. The Jones's will not be with you when you die. They will not be the ones paying back a huge debt, or dealing with financial insecurity. And far too often, they are people whom you really do not want to be around anyway.

    Thanks again for another great one.

    • Yes, but… great numbers of people, and more to come, are not trained to LEARN. But they are trained, if only inadvertently, to seek FUN. Negative, non-productive forms of fun. Unfortunately. What to do? Somehow, those of us who know how to have productive fun must not allow the low elements to limit us. But how?

      • Phil says:

        Good question. Gonna be challenging in the upcoming years. Staying physically safe alone may be a challenge. I do not know exactly. Frankly, it may be best simply to leave the country.

  4. Hugh says:

    "Moderate moderation is best. Immoderate moderation is apt to be troublesome" — Mark Twain

  5. Diane Young says:

    It may sound odd, but I rather like the challenge to see how well I can live within my means, even though my Social Security check puts me under the poverty line. I'm a divorced retired woman and I have no one to bail me out financially. It's like a game to me. I guess I'm really competing with myself. I love it when I go in a store or shop with a friend and I don't spend a cent because I didn't see anything I need or want. Fortunately, I didn't get that shopping gene. Any day I don't start my car is like money in the bank. My clothes are all from Good Will or friends, yet I'm complimented for my style. I drive a 20-yr. old car that I bought used 19 years ago. It's economical to drive and runs well, because I've maintained it. I don't have a mortgage because I paid cash for
    my house 25 years ago. It was a HUD repo that I bought with a sealed bid for $24K. I have some credit card
    debt from emergency purchases, but I have excellent credit rating.
    Best of all, I'm writing this from Mexico where I'm spending the winter. For the 1st time in 4 years, I didn't
    need to dip into my $400 overdraft protection last month. I have no car expenses here and food is very cheap.
    My friends with much higher incomes don't understand how I can afford to be in Mexico for 6 months. Because
    it's cheaper to live here than in Maine. I've learned Spanish, which is fun and exciting to speak with the warm,
    friendly Mexicans in this delightful little beach town.
    If I didn't know any better, I'd think the Joneses were trying to keep up with me!

    • Phil says:

      It is not odd! It can be fun. And I too have noticed how friendly and authentic many Mexican people can be.

    • Jean says:

      Yours is one of the best definitions of the word "resourceful" I've ever seen! God knows we need more people in the world with your attitude. You are inspiring.

    • Avery Horton says:

      Where in Mexico? I love Mexican beaches. Cabo and Puerta Vallarta are #1 and #2 on my list. But I also have a "secret" beach that I love… small town, dirt roads and floors with wonderful people.

  6. larajf says:

    I've been trying to do more with less…it's not easy after all the "I deserve it" programming. But my office is full of books and yarn…more than I could read or knit in a year or three. So I will remember that the act of self-discipline will have a better result for my sense of self-worth than buying More Stuff that sits around and weighs me down. No promises with small kitchen appliances, though. A girl can never have enough electric pressure cookers.

  7. phudee says:

    The primeval instinct of 'self Interest' that Robert had written about has gluttony and greed at their basest. Gluttony and greed are negative expressions, and hence moderation at all times serves best. If you can realise your purpose in life then the first casualty becomes self interest.

  8. Carl-Edward says:

    Sanctimonious rubbish, and a perfect example of the taint of puritanism (England too, has long suffered with the same disease). It is reminiscent of the invented observations of God and Jesus, the two most repellent characters in fiction.

  9. Developing a sense of GRATITUDE for all we have or get helps! As a materially, not emotionally, spoiled child, I had a lot to learn about GRATITUDE. The Attitude of Gratitude. Seven months broke in the streets of Manila provided my turn-point. And a total of two years living by my wits in a foreign country. Now I live well, and gratefully, on my SS and VA monthly checks. Thank The Force that I never suffered, overly, material greed. I always loved books and learning. Thanks in part to a mother who was a reader. And my father who was a common sense practical man, and who often invented and made things he wanted. And since both my parents were very generous people, I learned early to help others from my small pot of gold.

  10. taejonwill says:

    Mr. Moustache has a pretty good website on saving money.

  11. steven says:

    The power of gluttony is so everwhelming that it render everyone to be a slave…few have ever come to subdue it by their self-discipline..and i must do everything to "kill this evil in me" before it consume my entirety..the Supreme Creator of the Universe will help me..

  12. Kudos to you, Robert Ringer, still at it after all these years — and better than ever.

    Interesting to note, sir, your opposite pole, Bill Moyer had Steve Fraser, author of "The Age of Acquiescence" saying essentially the same thing this week.

  13. Jim Taylor says:

    How can you keep up with the Joneses if the Joneses can't keep up with you?

  14. Serge says:

    The gluttony has gotten too extreme with products that are so unnecessary and will burn up so much time. Sure gluttony has been here a long time. There were a lot less products and choices before. Today there are more negative effects on ones time, relationships, health and overwhelm with all the maintenance that goes with it. I sure wouldn't want a life of maintenance. For example, just to discipline myself I will decide that I am not going to watch that football game or indulge in something I really like.

  15. RealitySeeker says:

    Nothings coming to an end just yet. It didn't end in 1979, it only paused to catch its breath. 2015 is the Roaring 20s, the summer of 29' or 28' or perhaps 21' being replayed.

    Many have predicted the end of this or the peak of that, e.g., Peak oil! Peak oil! ……My reply is yes, it is coming to a end, one day. So is a lot of things. The Christians, for example, have been waiting for the Second Coming. He's coming. So they say. He's been on his way for 2000 yrs. He shall bring an end to gluttony and six other sins.

    Meanwhile, the dollar is roaring and the Federal Reserve is dancing the Charleston. Washington is dancing to a blasting good Ragtime. EBT cards are keeping the po' folks more obese than they have ever been. Not even 1929, hell!, not even the ancient Romans could produce as much bread, circus, war and finance as 21st century America. Not even close. Nothing comes close to what America is accomplishing with thin-air money. Water to wine was a pathetic miracle when compared to the thin-air dollar is doing. Behold! An entire superpower is funding itself on thin air! Now that's a real miracle!

    America is proving to be the most formidable superpower in history. No power in history can dance like Americans do. And Washington and the Federal Reserve are dancing together. Wow! What a dance! It's a dance called "The Gold Bug Stomp". They also do a dance called, " The Russian Ruble Ass-kick". Soon they'll be dancing the "Chinese Bubble Pop" and the " North Korean Lights Out".

    2015 is going to be a very entertaining year for those of us who are erudite enough to see all of the fun which is about to happen. It's going to be a very profitable year, too. Gold and silver should be sufficiently smashed to the point that it's worth accumulating again. The Gold Bugs are bleeding; some have already bleed to death. Third-world countries are going to have their currencies mutilated. Even countries like Japan shall bow to the almighty dollar. It'll be a good time to start travelling abroad again.

    Yes, I know. I know. There'll come a day when the Age of America comes to an end. A spectacular end. Maybe Christ, Himself, shall end it. Maybe a salvo of Russian nuclear missiles shall end it. Maybe a solar flare shall end it. All are real possibilities. So enjoy the roaring 2010s and 2020s while you can. Eat, drink and be merry for tomorrow……. and everything might end. Yes, have a very merry Christmas. I bet Christ would be so proud of the American holiday and everything done in His name.

    • boundedfunction says:

      "breatharians". that name's already taken. look it up. thin air's not enough. & betting on how long thin air will coincide with "life" is idle gaming.

      am in a hotel. "divergent" is playing on the tube. society's remnant has been divided into factions via aptitude testing. one of the factions is called "erudites". a hubristic bunch. proceeding with a 'palace coup' it looks like.

      • RealitySeeker says:

        "breatharians"! lol. Love your work.

        Remember what I told you about the dollar? — and oil? — and gold?— and how the periphery would collapse before the reserve currency?— and how volatile things would be this fall?

        I'll eMail you again soon. 2015 is going to be an interesting year. It may actually be an echo of 29'. Only this time bonds shall crash before stocks. I'll be in touch with you soon. We have many things to discuss.