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by Donald B. Ardell, Ph. D.
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(Don's Report to the World)

Moderation In All Things? The Ancient Chinese Paid Their Doctors When They Were Well? What Terrible Ideas!

Sunday October 21, 2001

Once before, on March 24, 2001 in an essay entitled "Eschew Extreme Moderation," I suggested that moderation was a health hazard. Recently, I have heard so many people say things like "I believe in moderation in all things" or note how wise the ancient Chinese were to pay their doctors when they were WELL. Thus, it seems time to address this topic again.

I admit that moderation in all things and paying the doctor for health might seem, at first, like good ideas. Unfortunately, they are, in fact, truly ludicrous positions and people who think this way should be investigated, or something.

Before explaining why moderation is not so great, let me say a few words about this idea of ancient Chinese having paid their doctors when they were well, or to keep them well. This notion is probably not really accurate but even if it is, it's a bogus idea because when you are well, it is to your credit, not a physician's. It is what you do or fail to do that makes the critical difference between health and illness. It is your thoughts, feelings and behaviors, not the doctor's ministrations or the herbs, pills, potions or other treatments that count the most. If you want to pay someone for being well and living a self-managing lifestyle, pay yourself. Well-being is a matter of personal responsibility, in ancient China and elsewhere today. If you are well, credit your ancestors AND yourself, the latter most likely due to prudent and health-enhancing attitudes and behaviors. (Injuries and illness, on the other hand, invite the skilled intervention of a good doctor to facilitate the healing process while doing no harm.) Therefore, why pay the doctor if you are well? Your good health is a consequence of YOUR functioning, not your doctor's repair work, which can only help you to non-sickness. This is so today, as it was in ancient China and ancient everywhere else.

As for moderation, let's start with an acknowledgment that it IS a good thing most of the time but it should not be viewed in a sweeping sense, especially in the case of those following self-management lifestyle practices. It is just peachy to be moderate in the pursuit of certain vices (alcohol bibulation, high fat consumption and other departures from optimal functioning, for examples.) It is even swell to be moderate in the conduct of certain unchallenging, uninteresting but culturally necessary duties (making the bed.)

However, the quality of life is measured not in the middle of the road but in the consciousness-raising hair turns and pathways unclogged by herds of followers seeking "safe" journeys. Do you really want to be moderate in the use of cigarettes? Crack cocaine? Drano? These are examples of "negative moderation"-- enough said. How about "positive moderation?" Do you want to be moderately well? Have a moderate amount of fun? Experience a moderate number of DBRU equivalents? Be moderately fit?

Choose immoderation. Be immoderately successful in living a richly rewarding life of purpose and service, one filled with knowledge pursued and sometimes gained, with joy and passion and daily causes for jubilation. Be moderate in some things but passionately outside normalcy in those things that really matter to you.

The next time someone repeats the cliché about moderation in all things, let the wretch know how you feel about this sentiment. Scream, beat your breasts or otherwise signal that you don't agree. (I'm kidding -- simply explain in your charming manner that there is a better alternative.)

Be well, be selectively immoderate in positive ways and look on the bright side.

Domain: mental
Subdomain: factual knowledge

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