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.