Joys of self-denial
February 20, 2005 7:02 PM   Subscribe

Whence come the joys of self-denial?

Sure, religious folks were the original self-deniers, but I've been noticing lately that lots of people seem to get this frisson from denying themselves that goes beyond reluctantly forgoing little things to get something big. As someone who has trouble with immediate self-gratification even when the payoff is huge, I am interested that others find something appealing in it. Where does this pleasure come from?
posted by dame to Society & Culture (37 answers total)
 
I think it's very similar to the joys of discipline- knowing that you've done something hard; that you've completed something you wouldn't have been able to if you didn't push yourself. I guess that's called pride.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 7:12 PM on February 20, 2005 [1 favorite]


I was gonna say: pride. Knowing you've done something that most people are too lazy to do. Knowing you're tough, you've tested yourself and come out not merely suspecting, but knowing, that you're strong.
posted by Miko at 7:17 PM on February 20, 2005


'Self-denial' is a really poor way to describe what is merely a sensible way to live, and characterizing the reason that people do it as pleasurable is a misunderstanding, I think. I'm not attacking you, as this is the way modern cultures east and west tend to think of it, and so it's not necessarily a mistake originating with yourself.

For what it's worth, I've always been someone who is very happy to forgo immediate gratification (although I do tend, somtimes with regret, to adulterate any urge towards austerity with very infrequent orgies of self-indulgence).

For me, it springs from two sources, neither of them in any way linked to pleasure, exactly.

One, I believe that it is human to control one's hungers, and subhuman to simply gobble up everything that the lizard-brain demands. This applies as much in terms of things like sex and food and drugs as it does in cars and gadgets and pillowcases, for me. Moderating one's desires makes one stronger, and better able to survive the inevitable times of struggle and poverty (which I've lived through frequently enough to weather with some stoicism, in no small part because of what I'm talking about here).

Two, it simply makes sense not to spend that money now on the mp3 player or the new clothes, if you don't really need them. It makes sense to drink or smoke less, or to eat well in moderation rather than stuff your face full of greaseball burgers, as delicious as they are. To live long, and well, it's not necessary to deny oneself the pleasures of life, but it is necessary to enjoy those pleasures in moderation.

But all of that's just my take on it. I don't think it's denial, as much as the wisdom of the middle path.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 7:18 PM on February 20, 2005


When you're denying yourself something, you're giving yourself something else- something more intangible, but nonetheless something.
I find that knowing I didn't contribute to the death of an animal is worth more to me than eating a steak. To me the meat-eater is denying himself the good feeling of doing the right thing. Who is a self-denier in this situation?
posted by BuddhaInABucket at 7:19 PM on February 20, 2005


Stavros puts it nicely, and reminds me of something else that enables us to do this: it's faith. As in a belief that the present moment is not all there is; that there will come times, later in our lives, when we will benefit from our own planning and resourcefulness.

The cynical would say that such things are naive, that the present moment is all that's worth living for, since any of us might die at any moment.

The statistically minded would point out that the vast majority of us don't die at any moment. So for almost all of us, there is much lifetime left in which we can enjoy the time/money/health we contrived earlier to set aside. For those of us who aren't around to enjoy it, well,...it makes no difference to them now, does it.
posted by Miko at 7:32 PM on February 20, 2005


Well there's the old adage about food and/or sex that the longer you wait for it the better it is when you finally get it, that putting off satisfying hungers is a sublime sort of act of appreciating your own desire.

Then again there is the "I am in control" aspect of being able to defer pleasure until such a time as it either grows in value or usefulness [when to cash out the mutual fund for example] which can have practical side effects.

There is the social value of denial where you get to attain some sort of moral high ground because you eat less, spend less, drink less coffee and/or watch less tv than your peers. Bragging rights come from both excesses and withholdings.

For me personally, I haven't the slightest actual idea. I grew up in a New England and was raised by Calvinist types so I just sort of naturally see value in work and sacrifice and civics in some demented way, and view excess with some sort of jaded eye. For someone as lazy as I am [at least in the straightforward "I don't like to have a job" way] this is a bit of an odd contradiction.
posted by jessamyn at 7:46 PM on February 20, 2005


Moderating one's desires makes one stronger, and better able to survive the inevitable times of struggle and poverty (which I've lived through frequently enough to weather with some stoicism, in no small part because of what I'm talking about here).

See, stav, I find this interesting because I've found that knowing what it is not to have things makes me want things when I can have them. That is, being poor and having crappy stuff sucks, so if I can afford it, the ease of not having to go without is appealing. I mean, I know I can survive being poor if it happens again, but now I'm not so maybe I ought to enjoy it, precisely because it can disappear at any time. Likewise, there are things I love but cannot eat (allergies), so purposefully avoiding foods (for reasons other than moral) strikes me as profoundly ungrateful.

More generally, I'm not asking so much about moderation, but a certain pride in aceticism: living on *the absolute minimum* or refusing to eat swathes of things. Indulgence doesn't always mean lots of stuff but rather good stuff. I mean, there's a reason cashmere costs more than cotton, say.

Finally, like stav, I'm not trying to be judgemental (for once in my life), but it has struck me that taking pride in denying oneself is almost a function of having too much. Like because one can have so many things, the only thing to strive for is not having them.
posted by dame at 8:03 PM on February 20, 2005


I don't have an answer for you, dame, except to say that you might enjoy reading some of the short stories of Franz Kafka, a few of which dfelat with this subject. The most obvious is a short-short called "A Hunger Artist," but I'd also recommend a more severe one of his called "In The Penal Colony," which goes beyond simple denial and into the realm of self-punishment. Not that that's what you're asking about, but it all lies on the same spectrum, and Kafka understood every nuance of it, I think.
posted by BoringPostcards at 8:05 PM on February 20, 2005


You might also enjoy reading On the Genealogy of Morality, particularly the third part.
posted by kenko at 8:09 PM on February 20, 2005


That is, being poor and having crappy stuff sucks, so if I can afford it, the ease of not having to go without is appealing...purposefully avoiding foods (for reasons other than moral) strikes me as profoundly ungrateful.

My father is fairly ascetic and grew up extremely poor yet mostly happy. These days, he can pretty much have what he wants yet he still sticks to simple things. He has a deep distaste for luxury because he believes that anyone that believes that cashmere or BMWs will make them happier than cotton and a cheap Honda has seriously lost their way.

That is, he treasure the simple things in a way I wish I was able to. To him, the reverse of what you say is true: To indulge in or desire good things is ungrateful because in a skewed way, it implies that what his parents werent able to give him wasnt good enough.

Then again, his self-denial is actually a form of self-indulgence. He does enjoy helping people out and giving money to charities so perhaps that is just his "luxury."
posted by vacapinta at 8:17 PM on February 20, 2005


It's just a theory, but most pleasures come with a price. Hangovers, addictions, STD's, heart disease, lung cancer, etc. Maybe just avoiding that is it's own reward. Or staying away from the attendant bullshit (scoring, sleaze, jealousies, pettiness) that accompany living according to your base wants.

(note: this is not my philosophy, I've indulged as much as anybody. just venturing a theory).
posted by jonmc at 8:34 PM on February 20, 2005


Ah, jon, but that raises the related question: what good is life if you aren't getting fucked and fucked up at least part of the time? Meaningful work is part of the balance, of course, but being good all the time has to be as boring as being bad all the time.
posted by dame at 8:55 PM on February 20, 2005


dame, interesting: knowing what it is not to have things makes me not want to have things. I want financial stability more than I want any material object. I deeply fear being old and poor later if I don't self-discipline today.

You are right; some people are ascetic from a rejection of too much plenty. That's not it, for me: overspending just makes me anxious, because I love cashmere but my budget is pure polyblend. I can only have cashmere if I indebt myself, and the momentary comfort and luxury isn't worth my peace of mind.

So asceticism (actually, for me, frugality) becomes a way of asserting control over the situation, a matter of perspective. Otherwise, I am caught up in the perpetual frustration of longing for what I can't afford. I don't attach any sense of moral superiority to my decision, but I know some do. It's a shame, because they turn a positive choice into a self-righteous hobbyhorse, but the same can be said of any personal code. If I were to start falling in love with my own uprightness, I've defeated the purpose of self-denial, which is to try to be a more free, secure, powerful person. If I ever become humorless and punitive about my self-denying choices, I'll have defeated much of their good, and I don't want that. I want to be happy, and security makes me happier than stuff ever could.

Finally, there's also the pleasure that comes from being creative and making do. There's some genuine satisfaction to be found in creating some beauty and luxury for yourself on limited means. Not as much as having a pot of money and the world to spend it on, mind you, but it's there, and it'll do.
posted by melissa may at 8:56 PM on February 20, 2005


This is overly personal, perhaps, but also maybe relevant, on this topic. One of the psychological follow-on effects to childhood bereavement (I lost both my father and brother at different times before I was 7), according to the literature that I read up on when I was in university and trying to figure out why I was the way I was, is apparently what's called 'external locus of control'.

I have since spent most of my adult life struggling against this, and trying to strike a balance and internalize my 'locus of control' as much as was possible and reasonable, with mixed results.

I think my beliefs with regard to delayed gratification (and if not 'self-denial', at least 'control of desire') arise in part from my clumsy attempts to find that balance.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 9:09 PM on February 20, 2005


"SELF-denial, n. Indulgence of a propensity to forego."

-- Ambrose Bierce (1842-1914), The Devil's Dictionary
posted by AlexReynolds at 9:11 PM on February 20, 2005


Ah, jon, but that raises the related question: what good is life if you aren't getting fucked and fucked up at least part of the time?

You might be surprised how fulfilling life is without such distractions. I wouldn't want to go my whole life without at least the former, mind you, but abstaining for a time can bring remarkable focus to life. I recommend it -- in moderation.
posted by kindall at 9:26 PM on February 20, 2005


Ah, jon, but that raises the related question: what good is life if you aren't getting fucked and fucked up at least part of the time? Meaningful work is part of the balance, of course, but being good all the time has to be as boring as being bad all the time.

You don't have to tell me that, dame, I tend to vacillate wildly between extreme self-indulgence and self-denial myself.

But i remeber an interview with Bob Dylan where he answered the usual "Why?" question about his life by basically saying "Somebody had to be Bob Dylan."

Well, somebody has to be pure at heart, I guess, and a part of me has always had a respect for those who can pull it off, even if I've never been able to.
posted by jonmc at 9:50 PM on February 20, 2005


I can't figure out how much of the ability to do self-denial is social, individual, and biochemical.
posted by mecran01 at 10:22 PM on February 20, 2005


For me, learning to cut and cut and cut my expenditure while still remaining happy was an experiment. It had occurred to me that there are two basically different ways to get everything you want: one is to work like a bastard until you can afford everything you want, and the other is to redefine what you want until you're getting it without effort. I was curious to see how far I could push the second way.

I got to the point where I could live comfortably and contentedly in Melbourne (Australia) for $100/week total (1998 dollars - pre-GST) - $50 rent, $15 bills, $15 food, $10 medical/dental, $10 entertainment/acquisitions/luxuries. Did that for a year and a bit.

The payback was TIME. It's been said that time is money, but personally I think time is better than money by several orders of magnitude. I supported a very pleasant lifestyle by driving taxis four or five nights per month, and the rest of the time was all mine.

Of course it couldn't last; being naturally very lazy but conscientious enough to feel guilty about it, I took on the job of house finances guy (10-bedroom share house, 10 to 12 people in residence at any time, usually two or three smack addicts among them). Eventually the stress of being Mr. Responsible in a house full of monkeys cracked me and I had to move out. Still, I learned a lot in the three years I lived there.
posted by flabdablet at 10:52 PM on February 20, 2005


but it has struck me that taking pride in denying oneself is almost a function of having too much

I don't think they have much use for 'voluntary simplicity' in the third world. I sincerely doubt that they set up web pages about the topic.
posted by fixedgear at 3:03 AM on February 21, 2005


Whence come the joys of self-denial?

I'm not sure if our ideas of self-denial are the same. If people are denying themselves necessary food or heat, it's something to ponder, but if they're not rushing out to buy an iPod or whatever the latest fad is, it's not self-denial, it's only good living.

I don't buy certain persistent things (cell phone, car, television, etc.) because I'm happy without them and even annoyed (or worse) by them. I would sooner buy a cell-phone jammer than buy a cell phone. I would sooner pay to have parking lots and roads ripped up and planted than pay to have more of them built. I don't mind television as long as I don't have to have one in my home or listen to people talk about the latest episode of anything.

Other things I don't buy (the latest books, records, movies, clothes, gadgets, etc.) mainly because the biggest sellers at any time are usually as disposable as razor blades. Also, I don't like corporate manipulation and all the things Naomi Klein apparently warns of (I say apparently because I didn't buy her book, either, but I read reviews). If a book is good this year, it will still be good (and maybe in the bargain bin) next year or the year after or ten years from now. [I'm not talking about technical books that might become outdated in that time.] Meanwhile, I have plenty of good old books to read. I don't need to race everyone else to be the first to finish the bestsellers. I don't want to join the book club. I don't want to read most of the bestsellers at all.

Sometimes I get around to acquiring something everyone else has and I find that I like it and I realize that I would have liked it from the beginning. But it's never any great loss to me if I wait before getting these things. Most of the time, I see that I'm not missing anything by taking a pass on things everyone else has consumed and quickly forgotten or, worse, has consumed and then been consumed by.

I like to try (it's difficult) to live within my own comfortable, inexpensive, debt-free, easy-to-maintain space, and not in the bloated and ever-expanding space that businessfolk, for their own reasons, want me to occupy.
posted by pracowity at 3:26 AM on February 21, 2005


I like to try (it's difficult) to live within my own comfortable, inexpensive, debt-free, easy-to-maintain space, and not in the bloated and ever-expanding space that businessfolk, for their own reasons, want me to occupy.

As always, pracowity says it beautifully. Me too.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 4:22 AM on February 21, 2005


Whence come the joys of self-denial?

Compare the joy of sex with the joy of ratiocination. The joy of sex is sensual pleasure. The joy of ratiocination is not sensual pleasure—you might even say it isn't pleasure at all, strictly speaking, but a kind of non-sensual, non-pleasant (but not unpleasant) satisfaction.

Discipline is like that. Discipline for its own sake is perverse, granted, but much discipline that appears to be for its own sake is merely the practice of discipline. Discipline requires practice, so we practice it, in hopes of being able to summon enough of it when we really need it—when it's time to do the Difficult Thing*. Seeing how much I want to be able to do it, and how much I admire those who can do it, I would venture that being able to do the Difficult Thing is the source of life's highest satisfaction—worth far more than any sensual pleasure.

So the satisfaction of self-denial is the recognition that we have moved a step closer to being able to do the Difficult Thing. Or so say I.

*A morally necessary thing from which our pleasure-loving self recoils. "Morally necessary" means according to your own conscience, not some external rule book.
posted by bricoleur at 7:43 AM on February 21, 2005


Thanks, everyone, for your answers, though I still have to say it still doesn't make much sense. Maybe I didn't ask correctly or give the correct frame of reference.*

Take the question of time: eating out (or delivery) saves you the time of cooking; not having to search out bargains in things you need saves time. Or happiness: Is cashmere going to make you objectively happier in some big way? No, but aesthetic pleasure of pulling something that soft over your head all winter long is not an ad-induced hallucination.

I don't mean to seem ungrateful here for others' time, but I cannot shake the feeling that something is missing. For example, pracowity seems to think the choice is bestsellers or none, and that clearly isn't true. It isn't cake or rice and only cake or rice. And cake doesn't only taste good because the ad said it did.

So as far I can tease things out, it appears that the answer is control. Not everyone says it outright, but that is what a lot of the responses amount to: control of your future, or wresting control of your life away from the businessmen, or simply the control of yourself. Is that accurate? If so, then maybe that's why I don't get it. Control just isn't one of my main operating dichotomies. Like that locus of control link; it's rather silly, in the end, because of course there are some things we control and some things we don't, and going too far in either direction is extreme.

Of course this is confusing again, because by putting some of your limited stake of effort into not living how businessmen want you to, you are actually giving their desires some control over your stake of effort even as you throw it all off. I see this a lot with the leftist kids I know. Anyway, I'm veering into essay territory now (or already have), so I guess I'll thanks but I still don't get it.

* In terms of reference, I mean my personal situation. I still make less than pretty much everyone answering here, I would imagine, and have no cable or car or other random stuff--but that's of course because I don't want it.
posted by dame at 8:24 AM on February 21, 2005


You might also enjoy reading On the Genealogy of Morality, particularly the third part.

I'll have to second. Nietzsche gives some very convincing, if christocentric, answers.
posted by ori at 8:48 AM on February 21, 2005


A lot of it is self-image. People who don't drink lattes make fun of those who do. People who abstain from sex often believe they are morally correct. People who abstain from alcohol and drugs can often be heard to say I don't need those things to have a good time.

Essentially, the thought is: I'm so cool/moral/resourceful/macho I don't need no stinkin' expensive haircuts, high-falutin' fancy beers, etc.
posted by callmejay at 10:18 AM on February 21, 2005


I am currently in the seventh month of not drinking alcohol (or smoking cigarettes). I've done it before: for a year, for a few months, sometimes just for an evening. While there are many financial and health benefits to it, a main reason I do it is to tinker with the machinery I inhabit (my body) and the software that runs it (my mind), though I almost never explain that to people who ask why I don't drink even when it would help them stop thinking I'm a recovering alcoholic. I'm not.

Self-denial, for me, is a bit of an experiment. Kind of mind- and body-hacking (in the computer geek sense of "hacking"). Can I do it? How will it make me feel? How will my friends react? Will common encounters and situations seem new? Will I find unexpected clarity? Will I miss the befuddlement of alcohol, the most popular stupifier in the world, the drug that gives the second-guessing lobe of my brain a break and gives my dumb actions excuses? Will it afffect me psychologically? Can I muster the willpower not to succumb when everyone around me has? Will I ever get laid again without it?

The answer, it turns out, is that my experiences not drinking for long periods have been different and interesting enough that the experiment warrants repeating. It is an altered consciousness by the absence of a chemical, without a lot of tiresome consciousness-seeking, and requires very little effort. Other kinds of self-denial work the same way, even basic ones: having one slice of pizza instead of two. Not buying a book I really want. Kissing the girl when I really seem to need it and not at customary times (departures, for example) nor out of habit (such as whenever she's standing next to me). The changes are small, but as someone who loathes habit, rebuffs repetition, and seeks a constant state of anomie so that, like a river, my life seems still but is constantly moving, I find such self-denial a useful motivator and change-agent.

I'm surprised that St. Augustine's thoughts on chastity, moderation, and self-denial have not been mentioned yet.
posted by Mo Nickels at 10:49 AM on February 21, 2005


For an analytic perspective on this, you might enjoy Karl Menninger's Man Against Himself. (On preview: the book is not, or only peripherally, about suicide; ignore the one-sentence Amazon summary.)

Menninger's one of those rare birds you can learn from even if you disagree with him.
posted by ikkyu2 at 11:28 AM on February 21, 2005


Like Mo Nickels, I take occasional fasts from certain habits - I've taken jan & feb off from smoking & drinking, and may extend that through the spring (haven't decided yet). For me it is a combination of things, but the overarching thing is a knowledge that what you do over the long term is entirely up to you, and that you can choose long term or short term principles. If you do what you want in the short term, you respond to whatever desires are immediately occuring within you. If you do what you want in the long term, you reflectively make decisions about a longer period of time, and the little blips of short term interest aren't really that interesting.

It doesn't mean that you have to be actively denying yourself things, but that you feel more aligned with the long term interest so that the impulsive desire just seems minor and easily dismissed if it contradicts the long term interest. So, if you like how it feels to have gone a few months without drinking, then the momentary intrigue of the taste of a beer will fade away in the knowledge that you're achieving the former. Why would it feel good to have gone some time without drinking/smoking? It satisfies curiosity (will my body feel different without this toxin? Will my social life change? etc), it can be a health benefit, it can save $, and I think there is also the sense of autonomy, ie, you remind yourself that everything you do is your own choice, and that your choices define who you are, and so, you choose to be the person you are... in other words, it "builds character". That last one may not make sense to you if it isn't intuitive, though. It may just be a personality thing. I like to remind myself that I'm completely responsible for what I do, and my life is my own art/game/story, and so setting these kinds of limits or pursuits over certain periods of time is just another track on the larger project of creating a life (as in, bios, not zoe - a life story, not a new creature).
posted by mdn at 1:02 PM on February 21, 2005


That is, being poor and having crappy stuff sucks, so if I can afford it, the ease of not having to go without is appealing...purposefully avoiding foods (for reasons other than moral) strikes me as profoundly ungrateful.

Here's the thing. When a person gets to thinking like that, he or she develops what I can only call a paucity mentality. You don't feel like there's enough most of the time -- enough cash, enough good food, enough whatever. You feel that you are denied access to buying things you'd like, most of the time. You want to indulge in all types of food without thought for the morrow.

So when you do have a little cash, you decide that you deserve to indulge yourself -- to order takeout, get the cashmere sweater, go away for the weekend -- because you can. You fear that those foods or those things won't be there for you another day. You fear someone or something will take them away. You want to indulge now, in the present moment, to comfort yourself.

And as soon as the money is spent or the unhealthy food is eaten, you're right back where you were before. Not enough. Feeling denied. The pleasures you enjoyed recently are dim memories. Once you own the cashmere sweater, it ceases to be an object of great desire for you. It doesn't bring as much joy to own it as you thought it would. After you've eaten all the chocolate or Indian food or whatever, your body doesn't know the difference. You might as well have eaten a plain loaf of bread - the pleasure was evanescent. You're lusting after the next object of desire, the thing you think will bring you happiness.

This kind of thing is a vicious cycle. It's why many people live in debt and never amass any savings at all. It's why so many Americans are obese.

Having looked at life from both sides, I can say that there is actually far more pleasure in having a decent amount of money saved that you don't spend than in spending it in any way you'd like to name. It makes me feel powerful to know that I have what it takes to meet all my needs and be ready for any eventuality. When I read about a great trip destination, well, I can actually consider visiting it, not just feel resentful that I don't have the money to travel. So there is no regret or anger associated with the self-denial of the trip; I could go if I wanted to, so how badly do I want to?

And it sounds strange, but just knowing you could is enjoyable. You don't even have to actually go. The happiness does not exist in the owning of things, but in the power you have to choose among many options, or choose to do nothing at all with the wealth you have accumulated. Money in the bank is pure potential. It can become anything. Once you convert it into a good, however, it begins to lose its value. So you want to be really careful what you choose to convert it to.

Where food is concerned, I eat really healthfully most of the time. If I start to feel overly ascetic, I'll have a treat or a great juicy cheeseburger. But not every day! If I ate that stuff every day, I'd be gaining weight, and I'd feel bad. I'd rather choose to feel good. These foods are not going anywhere; if I don't have a cheeseburger tonight, I can have one a week from now, and it'll be just as good. So what's the urgency? I'm not 'denying' so much as I'm choosing when and where this will be of most enjoyment to me. Like money in the bank, good health is pure potential. No limiting factors. When you do indulge, you're free of guilt, because you know you've made a life in which there's room for an occasional treat.

This is an abundance mentality. When you realize that you can have basically anything you want, you are forced to ask yourself, "what is it that I really want?" Many people get distracted by thinking that ownership or consumption is what they want; when what they really want may be choice, self-determination, and security.
posted by Miko at 2:31 PM on February 21, 2005 [1 favorite]


Like that locus of control link; it's rather silly, in the end

Well, no it's not, when you've been living inside it, and trying to fight your way out. But this perception of silliness may well be linked to your feeling that 'something is missing' from what has been said, so I leave it at that.

Mo, mdn and Miko and bricoleur also say it well, too, for what it's worth, dame. If you can't get a handle on it out of what they've said, I dare say you're not going to.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 3:41 PM on February 21, 2005


Okay, I'm just going to have to chalk it up to personality difference. Miko, you are totally assuming the worst of one position and the best of the other.

And as soon as the money is spent or the unhealthy food is eaten, you're right back where you were before. Not enough. Feeling denied. The pleasures you enjoyed recently are dim memories. Once you own the cashmere sweater, it ceases to be an object of great desire for you. It doesn't bring as much joy to own it as you thought it would. After you've eaten all the chocolate or Indian food or whatever, your body doesn't know the difference. You might as well have eaten a plain loaf of bread - the pleasure was evanescent. You're lusting after the next object of desire, the thing you think will bring you happiness.

If that's the case, then you aren't enjoying yourself right or else you do not understand yourself correctly. The cashmere sweater is a joy to put on every time--it makes winter a little cozier and a little nicer. Memories of good food and good trips are what make rush-hour subway trains and the other degradations of life bearable in my case. Thinking, "Oh, I have enough money to go away" (even now, when it's true) hardly warms my cockles.

I mean, really, to call hoarding an "abundance mentality" is a pretty perverse use of the term from this end of the stick. I find it more abundant to think "Sure, I just blew a thousand bucks going to France, but that thousand came when I needed it and so will more."

While that is uncharitable, it is what applying your technique (the worst of what I disagree with; the best of what I think is right) from my point of view would look like. So I'm gonna chalk it up to personality because that's where things like this originate.

Mdn & Mo Nickel, thanks for detailing your experiments. I find I'm not so drawn to that mostly because of my own past experience: I used to party a lot, and then my life changed and I found it less pleasant, so I stopped. Therefore, I don't really worry about that kind of consumption; I implicitly trust myself to know when I have better things to do.

So overall, thanks to everyone for answering. I still think you're crazy nuts with control issues, but then again, who isn't? At least your method doesn't lead to grammar-induced rage blackouts.

On preview: Stav, it's silly because thinking everything is within your control is as dumb as thinking nothing is. Some things are; some things are not. There's a balance there like there is (to me) a balance between indulging and not indulging. Obvioulsy my balance in the latter is at a 6 to your 4, or whatever.
posted by dame at 4:05 PM on February 21, 2005


it's silly because thinking everything is within your control is as dumb as thinking nothing is.

With this, I do not argue. Knowing it is so does not automatically induce the little homunculus who drives the machinery in one direction or the other, not without some degree of training and coaxing, though.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 4:33 PM on February 21, 2005


Oh, yes, of course. Looking back, I want to say I don't want (or didn't mean) to devalue your experience--I can see how being at one extreme can make the notion particulary important to one. I just didn't care for how the page you linked made it seem as though an internal locus was The Best, when either extreme would be unfortunate.
posted by dame at 8:53 PM on February 21, 2005


I love what's possible, I'm very future-oriented. I could care less for what's gone by - good memories, but memory for me is not half as much fun as looking forward. I don't have to have everything right this minute because I believe many more good things are on their way. I don't fear poverty and I don't feel denied. So yeah, I guess it is a personality difference.
posted by Miko at 1:58 PM on February 22, 2005


Because no one expressed this, I will write it here:

The source of all pain is not the absence of things, but the desire for those things. Therefore, the absence of desire is the absence of pain.

This is a basic Buddhist point. I don't offer it as a way to live so much as a consideration to make. In some things, it is very effective. It is a useful to know that, when you suffer for want of something, you may try ceasing the desire as a means out of that suffering. This is not self denial, since you are giving up the desire. Without the desire, there is nothing to deny.
posted by Goofyy at 1:47 AM on February 23, 2005


Word.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 3:22 PM on February 28, 2005


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