Recently I was reminded of the excesses of my children’s childhood – a picture of a toy room filled with toys, gifts from generous family and friends, but with which my children rarely played. From a very early age we are taught that more is better and to consume, consume, consume. We are bombarded with advertising with subliminal messages linking consumption with happiness. We watch adults use credit cards for impulse buys and things they can’t afford and take out loans under buy-now-pay-later schemes. Many of us grow up into adults that live beyond our means and try to keep up with the rich Joneses.
We live in a gluttonous society. There is a mentality of “all you can eat, all you can consume,” “upsizing,” “instant gratification” and “I deserve material possessions, the latest on the market, whether I can afford it or not.” We build bigger and bigger houses for smaller and smaller numbers of occupants to store mounts of goods we don’t really need. How many dresses, pairs of shoes or televisions does one person really need?
Does this lifestyle bring us happiness? I think not. We accumulate large personal debt that brings overwhelming stress. Many people live from pay packet to pay packet with no savings to safeguard themselves from illness, job loss or unexpected events like a car breakdown. In Australia, we have a new health epidemic: obesity. Consequently, the number of cases of diabetes and heart problems has increased. We over-consume junk food, which has been found to be addictive and affects our life expectancy. (A study by Monash University’s Asia Pacific Health and Nutrition Centre at the Monash Asia Institute found that people who enjoy home cooking at least five times a week are likely to live ten years longer than those who don’t.) The weight loss industry is booming and the media is getting on the bandwagon making money from our gluttonous ways.
Not only are there health and financial repercussions of gluttony, there are also environmental repercussions. To satisfy our desires we are depleting the earth’s resources for wasteful consumption and contributing to global warming by consuming energy unnecessarily. Researchers from the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine say that people’s weight, not just population size, should be taken into account when planning how to deal with increasing pressure on the planet’s dwindling resources. Using data from the United Nations and World Health Organization, the researchers estimated that the adult human population weighs in at 287 million tonnes, 18.5 million of which is due to excess weight. Professor Ian Roberts says, “Everyone accepts that population growth threatens global environmental sustainability – our study shows that population fatness is also a major threat. Unless we tackle both population and fatness our chances are slim.”
Gluttony is a serious failure of self-discipline and many make excuses for their lack of responsibility. We make a lifestyle choice to over-indulge, to over-consume and to satisfy wants rather than needs. Gluttony is considered one of the seven deadly sin and I think it is criminal that many continue to over-consume while others are starving. It is time to re-educate ourselves and to change our way of thinking. It is time to downsize and say to ourselves “I have enough,” “I have plenty,” “I am not really hungry, I just want to eat” and “I should share.” It’s time to get back to basics and be minimalistic rather than amassing more and more material possessions. It is time to save for rainy days instead of spending everything we earn. So today instead of buying another pair of shoes, having takeaway for lunch and dinner or buying a toy a child won’t play with, why not donate that money to someone in need or save for a rainy day. It may very well save a life and that life could be yours.
In the words of nineteenth-century Russian Bishop Ignatius Brianchaninov:
“Wise temperance of the stomach is a door to all the virtues. Restrain the stomach, and you will enter Paradise. But if you please and pamper your stomach, you will hurl yourself over the precipice of bodily impurity, into the fire of wrath and fury, you will coarsen and darken your mind, and in this way you will ruin your powers of attention and self-control, your sobriety and vigilance.”
Gluttony by Sandow Birk