We sure see lots of resistance to excess at Christmas : the "Jesus is the reason for the season" signage, the focus on charitable giving, and so forth. All good. But not the whole story.
Because, given that every culture in every era seems to have had some celebration of excess, in association with festivals of light, in association with the winter solstice -- and given too that Christmas was engrafted onto the ancient Roman tradition of Saturnalia -- I wonder sometimes whether human nature craves periodic excess. Requires intermittent excess. Seeks it out, to experience excess for its own sake.
"Give me excess of it, that surfeiting, the appetite may sicken and so die." Duke Orsino, Twelfth Night. The Duke was considering the efficacy of too much music as an antidote for too much romantic longing. Shakespeare knew all about it, for sure.
Here at Spark it's a familiar topic. I've been reading various blogs on the theme of "I submitted to Christmas goodies, I gorged, I binged. And now I'm back to normal . . . ." yeah. Maybe temporary excess of one type or another is an inescapable element of the human condition, permitting a contented return to normal austerity.
Yesterday I went out for a business lunch. Fully intending to order the tomato bisque soup. With a garden salad. And ordered instead the crispy chicken wings. And fresh cut fries. Mmmmmm. DELICIOUS!!
OK then. I tracked 'em. I'd had a very light breakfast. I ate very little more for the rest of the day. I came in within range on my calories, fats etc. But: I felt stuffed. Too much sodium for sure. My chicken wing and fries appetite sickened and died, basically.
Not condemning myself today, either. Nope. Just acknowledging, I'm human. And apparently indulgence in excess (gifts, booze, food . . . whatever form it takes) is something that overtakes most of us. Now and then.
So (here's my handy rationalization!!) it must serve some deep need in the human psyche.
Maybe most especially at this very darkest time of the year?
Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening
By Robert Frost 1874–1963
Whose woods these are I think I know.
His house is in the village though;
He will not see me stopping here
To watch his woods fill up with snow.
My little horse must think it queer
To stop without a farmhouse near
Between the woods and frozen lake
The darkest evening of the year.
He gives his harness bells a shake
To ask if there is some mistake.
The only other sound’s the sweep
Of easy wind and downy flake.
The woods are lovely, dark and deep.
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep.
One of my promises to keep for 2014? Acceptance. Just as I can't out-exercise a terrible diet, I also can't out-discipline what is apparently fundamental to human existence.
Nihil humani alienum mihi est (with thanks to my long ago Latin teacher, "Nothing in the human condition is unfamiliar to me"!)
Nothing at all.