Of Gluttony and Gardens

The Seven Deadly Sins have fallen on hard times. Codified by Pope Gregory I in the sixth century, lust, gluttony, greed, sloth, wrath, envy, and pride enjoyed a robust career in the Middle Ages, inspiring countless works of art. In the current Cathechism of the Catholic Church, however, these seven sins warrant exactly one paragraph (out of nearly 3000). Which is just as well, I suppose–positive invocations of morality probably help a lot more than simply listing sins, which often only encourages further (often Pharasaical) list-making. Still, there is one good thing which can come from such explicit lists: they make it hard to rationalize away something that we ought to strive mightly to avoid. In my judgement, our church leaders do a good job at preventing us from forgetting about the perils of lust, greed, wrath, envy and pride. Sloth I’ll leave for another day. But gluttony? This, I fear, is one that’s been allowed to slip through the cracks.

As in so many things, the modern world has built up a false image of gluttony in order to simultaneously mock it and also escape association with it. The “glutton” is, popular imagination would have it, nothing more or less than a fat man, an obese and irresponsible consumer of whatever he can lay his hands on. This is a clever cariacature, because it’s at least partially true: when Rosalynde wrote her very thoughtful post about how and to what degree our religious beliefs and practices affect our weight or how we view it, she cast it in terms of gluttony, and properly so, since that’s how most of us use the word. But the original point of the term was never related to one’s girth, or indeed one’s health at all. Rather, it was related to the love one felt for food or drink, and by extension any kind of physical pleasure. “Excessive love of pleasure” was Dante’s rendering: to be gluttonous was to passionately indulge in things, consumable things, in such a way as to warp one’s appreciation of their actual significance as gifts from God. This might begin to sound like what is so often called “worldliness” in the scriptures, and that’s certainly part of it; being in the world but not of it is prophetic call that is drilled into all of us with great regularity. But gluttony gets at something subtle but still important that straightforward worldliness perhaps does not–it is not enough to not give the world your allegiance, but you also ought to be careful just how much or in what way you love it, or enjoy it.

How to know when one’s partaking and consuming of worldly things has become gluttonous? Does this just bring us back around to more listmaking? To a degree, I suppose, thought the revelations of the prophets provide a good guide: D&C 49: 18-21 is a good starting place. Here we’re told that there’s nothing wrong with abundance; the problem comes with possession and waste. To lord one’s possessions over another person, or to partake of more than one needs, is sinful. What is being asked for is a humbler posture in life, a temperant and moderate one. A light touch is called for, as the Word of Wisdom suggests: “Every herb in the season thereof, and every fruit in the season thereof; all these to be used with prudence and thanksgiving. Yea, flesh also of beasts and of the fowls of the air, I, the Lord, have ordained for the use of man with thanksgiving; nevertheless they are to be used sparingly.” Again, God makes it clear that he has nothing against the feast, against thanksgiving, against celebration–but do it in season, sparingly, when appropriate. One who indulges in the world in accordance with what is needed and appropriate is one who loves the bounty of the world properly, not excessively.

Of course, all this talk of seasons is appropriate today in the northern hemisphere, the first day of autumn, 2005. It gets one thinking about the harvest, about the changing of times across the land. In an exchange about BYU programs on T&S a while back, Jim Faulconer made the observation that “there really aren’t that many LDS farmers out there any more, an accurate comment which made both Adam and I sad; there are a lot of reasons why this sadness may or may not be defensible, but one such is that someone who is closer to the production of the food he or she eats is less likely to take that food for granted–which is not to say that they will be miserly of it, but rather than they will appreciate it for what it is: a hard-won gift, something deserving of celebration but also care. (While I put this in poetic terms, it is also plainly practical, as any farmer knows: you eat, with relish, what’s in season, because it won’t be available later, but you also hold back on your consumption of it, so you can plant it again next year.) It seems to me that, whether they’ve ever looked at it in these terms of not, such a concern for engendering a proper, non-gluttonous love of the world is very much at the heart of the old (but, until I hear otherwise, I presume still operative) call that members of the church try to plant and tend gardens. Of course the prophets must realize that a great many of the members who hear them–to be a sure a majority of the American and European members of the church at any rate, and probably a great many elsewhere around the world as well–could not possibly feed themselves and their families through gardening, not given where they likely live and the socio-economic niches they’ve for the most part professional committed themselves to in the world. But even a small garden–some tomatoes, some herbs, whatever–teaches one a little bit about the seasons, about the kind of work that involves waiting for something to be ready, and thus about what it means to take delight in the world (the taste of a fresh strawberry, or a ripe ear of corn) without overindulging one’s love for it. So perhaps the point of such counsel, and for that matter the Word of Wisdom itself, is not to teach us the path to perfect health (to say nothing of Adonis-like bodies), but rather to get us used to discipline and limit our enjoyment of things; that way our love for the world, because more connected to work and time and less to the simple over-in-an-instant act of consumption, will be less worldly, and less likely to make ourselves a part of it.

Of course, this whole argument begins with the question of what we put into our bodies, which perhaps isn’t the best place to start: too easy to get sidetracked by social pressures about how we look and what’s healthy and what isn’t (something which, as Frank reminded us, is almost impossible to know). Still, if the Lord is willing to use a revelation about eating and refraining, with its talk of wine and fish and grains, as a way to teach the “weakest of all the saints” about what it means to be wise, then I certain have no complaints with starting with food. From the garden to other areas of life, who knows what other virtues might spread? All I can say is, among all the serious gardeners and farmers I’ve known in my life, and I’ve known quite a few, none of them–whatever their other sins–have ever been a glutton, wasteful, overindulgent and disrespectful of others and the world they inhabit. So it’s not a guarantee of salvation, perhaps, but not a bad way of living either.

(More here, if you’re still interested.)

42 comments for “Of Gluttony and Gardens

  1. “But the original point of the term [gluttony] was never related to one’s girth, or indeed one’s health at all. Rather, it was related to the love one felt for food or drink, and by extension any kind of physical pleasure”

    I remember the first time I read the Screwtape Letters and ran across the old lady who was a glutton because she insisted that her toast be prepared just so, and abused the servant when it wasn’t.

    I think you might be right that gardening is partway to being a ward against gluttony. When you indulge, or even over-indulge, in the fruits of your own hands, you are celebrating your work, the land, the seasons, lots of things. But when you eat too many Flaming Hot Cheetos at lunch, like I did today, its just about the sensation.

  2. I have appreciated President Hinckley’s emphasis that we should live modestly–not just “within our means.” He has noted that a 20 room mansion for a five person family, even if within the financial means of said family, is just too much. I think this meshes well with the true definition of gluttony (aka conspicuous consumption).

  3. I’m enjoying these comments.

    We’re cautioned against gluttony of physical pleasures. Gluttony of the opposite, spiritual joys, is treated oppositely — it’s encouraged. This encouragement sometimes comes in the imagery of physical gluttony:

    50 Come, my brethren, every one that thirsteth, come ye to the waters; and he that hath no money, come buy and eat; yea, come buy wine and milk without money and without price.

    51 Wherefore, do not spend money for that which is of no worth, nor your labor for that which cannot satisfy. Hearken diligently unto me, and remember the words which I have spoken; and come unto the Holy One of Israel, and feast upon that which perisheth not, neither can be corrupted, and let your soul delight in fatness. (2 Ne 9)

  4. “[President Hinckley] has noted that a 20 room mansion for a five person family, even if within the financial means of said family, is just too much. I think this meshes well with the true definition of gluttony (aka conspicuous consumption).”

    I couldn’t agree more, Costanza (and I’d love to know when and where President Hinckley said that; I can’t place that statement at all). Though it’s interesting to note what a fine line there is between gluttony, often considered the least of the Seven Deadly Sins, and pride, which was considered the worst: a person can be a glutton in private, orgying on food and playthings that he or she has no consciousness or respect for aside from their relationship to his or her appetite. But public gluttony–building the big house, casually tossing out the good meal–means you’re doing more than loving falsely and inordinately; you’re also lording your ability to love falsely over other people.

  5. “When you indulge, or even over-indulge, in the fruits of your own hands, you are celebrating your work, the land, the seasons, lots of things. But when you eat too many Flaming Hot Cheetos at lunch, like I did today, its just about the sensation.”

    I’m glad you got something out of the post, Adam. I think the same thing can be extended to any kind of work or endeavor, though the metaphor doesn’t always hold. For instance, I can imagine a book glutton (I may be one myself): someone passionate for the fine volumes, the special editions, the complete sets, the huge library. It’s a vanity. But suddenly that all is transformed if you are actually a passionate reader of those books; like a gourmet cook preparing a fine meal, the things you love aren’t just extensions of yourself any longer, but rather crafts that draw you out, in an appreciation of the world. Look at this tomato! Look at this turn of phrase! That’s the difference between loving and indulging in something selfishly, and doing so as a way to honor its creation (and its Creator).

    Incidentally, I can’t stand Flaming Hot Cheetoes. But I’ve been known to go through a whole 24 oz. bag of regular Cheetoes in one sitting. It’s pretty gross, I know. I do that with cashew nuts too.

  6. Oh, Yuck! Cheetos? Blech. Are you serious? I don’t think I’ve ever eaten a cheeto in my life . . . or a dorito . . . or anything covered with artificially flavored orange powder. And of all people too! To think that I had Adam and Russell pegged so differently in my mind ;)

  7. We’re complex men, we are.

    Capable of discussing aethetics, theology and political theory over sushi, demolishing a bag of Doritos or a can of Pringles while watching college football, eating a bowl of home baked bread and milk and raisins with our young children and savoring gourmet cheese with our wives and friends on a Friday night.

    In fact, look for our 2007 pin-up calendar “The Gentle Men of the Shabby Genteel” later this fall.

  8. Uh, Melissa (P.?), I’m not proud of my weakness for Flaming Hot Cheetos.

    Except when William Morris has been talking at me for a while, then I do get a little chesty about it. I am a man of the people, I am. Me and William Morris Jennings Bryan, crucified on a cross of gold-dusted soy product.

  9. D.,

    “Could my collection of 2200 DVDs be considered a symptom of gluttony?”

    That would depend. Do you watch them, or do they just sit on the shelf? (For what it’s worth, D., I decided a while ago that DVD collections are not necessarily a distraction from living a simple life.)


    “Cheetos? Blech. Are you serious?”

    My Cheeto addiction, Melissa, is a long and sad one, and goes back to the primordial soup of sibling rivalry and territoriality and competition that was my childhood. Daniel, my older brother, Stuart, my immediately younger brother, and I, somehow became locked in struggle wherein each of us had to magnify our own specific and unique talents, quirks, and additions. Daniel played with Lincoln Logs. Stuart played with Legos. I played with Tinkertoys. Daniel snarfed Fritos. Stuart consumed Doritos. I….well, I chose Cheetos. No, I’m not proud of it, but there it is.


    “I am a man of the people, I am. Me and William Morris Jennings Bryan, crucified on a cross of gold-dusted soy product.”

    One of my great goals in life is to work out how I can call myself a populist without necessarily being expected to support the consumption of every single popular snack food. Well, ok, so it’s not one of my great goals, but it is up there, somewhere.


    “One important question: original or crunchy Cheetos?”

    I always thought the puffy, original Cheetos were gross, and always chose crunchy. However, I have eaten original Cheetos on occasion. I’ve even gone through bags of generic Cheez-Puffs, though I will deny that under oath.

  10. *Flaming Hots are always crunchy, aren’t they, Manaen? I don’t know any other kind.

    *On being a populist when the people eat Cheetos:

    One solution is to blame the people’s bad taste on robber barons. You wove in and out of that approach on your latest post at inmedias.blogspot.com. It made me sigh and despair of you (you’ve reciprocated sometimes, no doubt).

    The other solution is to be a Book of Mormon populist. You assert the natural man and the kingship of hell, along with the superiority of the voice of the people over the voice of the elites. You be a Moroni. Admit that your people are depraved enough that you can’t commend them to God without wincing, but mourn for them.

    Don’t have compassion and concern for the people. That’s paternalism. Don’t think they know best. That’s folly. Admit that you are one of them. That’s populism. Interest in and identity with.

  11. 12.
    Crunchy — now here’s a man who stands for something!
    No spineless, pasty mouthful of mush for this intrepid leader of the Bloggersnackle!
    Give us this stout-hearted man who demands grit and texture; who prefaces the shock to the body with resistance to the teeth.
    Yes, someone who knows — nay, personifies! — the truth that putting mere air into the mouth yields mere air coming out of the mouth. This man wants substance and he has it both ways.
    Sir, I salute you!

    (Note: only with difficulty do we step around the obvious GI/GO line. It isn’t easy to be this cheesy.)

  12. How right you are, Manaen. As Chesterton observed, minds should be like mouths, opened only to close down again on something of substance. So you can all take comfort knowing that my mind is, like yours too, apparently, judging by your last post (grin), full of cheetos.

  13. I’ve wondered about the background and font colors here. Now I realize that passing the cursor over links reveals their true color, which match http://cheetos.com/home.php.

    “Las cosas se cuentan solas, solo hay que saber mirar.” — Piero

  14. I enjoyed this post, Russell. On first reading, I doubted the purely modern origin of the association between girth and glottuny—I was sure I could remember Falstaff or Chaucer’s Miller being explicitly described as gluttonous—but when I went back to check, I found that you’re right. Gluttony in those texts is associated with drunkenness and what appears to be a class-based preference for dainty, rich foods; interesting, since today I’d suspect that the class association of gluttony has shifted to target the lower-classed preference for the broad pleasures of fast food.

    My review reminded me, though, of one of the most surprising (to moderns) Middle Age takes on gluttony. Back when the Fall was understood to be a bad thing, and when Eve and Adam were taken to be sinners who lost a paradise (I confess I’m sympathetic to this view), their sin was often described in terms of gluttony: in the garden they fasted at God’s command, and then they ate the apple because it looked and tasted good.

    From Chaucer’s Parson’s Tale:

    O glotonye, ful of cursednesse!
    O cause first of oure confusioun!
    O original of oure dampnacioun,
    Til Crist hadde boght us with his blood agayn!
    Lo, how deere, shortly for to sayn,
    Aboght was thilke cursed vileynye!
    Corrupt was al this world for glotonye.
    Adam oure fader, and his wyf also,
    Fro Paradys to labour and to wo
    Were dryven for that vice, it is no drede.
    For whil that Adam fasted, as I rede,
    He was in Paradys; and whan that he
    Eet of the fruyt deffended on the tree,
    Anon he was out cast to wo and peyne.

  15. Press Release
    June 14, 2005
    CDC’s National Leadership Role in Addressing Obesity

    As part of its Futures Initiative, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has established an obesity Trailblazer Team to bring an agency-wide cross-cutting focus to combating the problem of overweight and obesity in the United States. About 15 CDC divisions and programs currently conduct overweight and obesity-related public health activities. The trailblazer effort aims to ensure maximum coordination and synergy among these activities and to define additional unique roles for CDC to play. In particular, activities to address overweight and obesity will capitalize on CDC’s deep experience in population-based prevention efforts with schools and worksites, the communications and marketing fields, and the nation’s public health system.

    Obesity in the News: Sorting out the facts.

    A new study in the Journal of the American Medical Association has created much news in recent weeks. Based on the latest health statistics available, the study estimates that obesity is related to about 112,000 deaths each year in the United States. The study also suggests that being overweight (having above-normal weight but not being obese) is not associated with excess deaths.

    What does this study mean to you? The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention offers this advice and information to the American public.

    Facts at a Glance: The Impact of Obesity, Nutrition, and Physical Activity on Public Health

    1. Obesity remains an important cause of death in the United States, with 75% of excess deaths from obesity occurring in people younger than 70 years.
    2. Scientists continue to work on developing better ways to estimate the number of obesity-related deaths and currently, there is not a method that everyone agrees with.
    3. Scientists do agree that obesity increases the risk of serious chronic diseases like diabetes, heart disease, some cancers, and arthritis.
    4. Being overweight as an adult increases blood pressure and cholesterol levels. It increases the chances of getting type 2 diabetes and developing other health problems. Plus, overweight people are at greater risk of becoming obese.
    5. Overweight among children and teenagers has risen dramatically in recent years. Overweight children and teenagers are at greater risk for developing type 2 diabetes (though still rare in childhood) and risk factors for heart disease at an earlier age. In one large study, 61 percent of overweight 5- to10-year-olds already had at least one risk factor for heart disease, and 26% had two or more risk factors for the disease. Several decades may pass for the effects of the childhood obesity epidemic to show up as health problems in adults.
    6. Eating better diets and being more physically active are important in achieving and maintaining a normal weight and helping reduce chronic diseases.


    Not mentioned in this CDC report of course are the very real dampening effects of gluttony on the ability of the sprirt of God to communicate with people who are consumed in gluttonous behavior, of which overeating is but one manifestation.

    Other Gluttonous behavior:

    Excessive television watching
    Excessive computer time…(blogging?)
    To much sports
    To much video games
    Preoccupation with acquisition
    Insatiable self indulgence
    Greedy self promotion
    Voracious concupiscence

    OOOPPPPs……Time for me to get off the computer!!!

    Harold B. Curtis

  16. (smiles) How do I know how much blog commenting is too much?

    I wanted to mention something my endocrinologist told me recently about the epidemic of obesity in this country. He said there are early results showing that the wholesale change in the chemistry of the fats we eat in the last 50-60 years could possibly be the reason for the epidemic of obesity, and type II diabetes in the developed world. This is how he explained it.

    The fats we eat, far more than the protein or carbohydrates, are incorporated directly into our tissues. Both protein and carbs are largely broken down by the body and then rebuilt when needed. With fats this is apparently not the case. All of our cell membranes are made of lipid bilayers, and fat molecules go directly from the gut, into the bloodstream, and are incorporated into cell membranes largely without chemical change. So with fats more than anything else, he said, you are what you eat.

    Some time in the last century or so, the chemical composition of the fats we eat changed greatly because of the process of hydrogenating oils to give them body. Type II diabetes, and its precursor condition, insulin resistance, involve the inability of insulin plus glucose to penetrate the cell wall to be used internally for energy. Because the cells are resistant to insulin, more and more insulin must be produced, exhausting the pancreas eventually and causing diabetes. As a side effect of the resistance, and even before diabetes is manifest, less energy is available for use in the cells, causing fatigue and hunger. Also high insulin levels in the bloodstream send a signal to the liver to shut down the conversion of fat to energy, and also send signals to the appetite centers of the brain that cause craving for carbohydrates. All these things together tend to cause obesity.

    The new theory posits that the changed chemical makeup of the lipids in our cell membranes is the initial event in the chain reaction that follows. If we decrease insulin resistance, we decrease overweight, obesity, fatigue, inflammation (which is also set in motion by the same process, in a way he didn’t explain), and type II diabetes. It takes several months, perhaps up to two years, to totally replace all the cell membranes in your body with new lipids. But it may be that when we eliminate trans fats and hydrogenated fats from our diet, this epidemic will be reversed. That would be so great!

    There’s a precedent for an industrial food processing technique causing widespread disease. Pellagra, which is caused by lack of niacin, was an epidemic problem in the southern US early in the last century following the introduction of a new process for grinding corn. Apparently niacin was found primarily in the germ of the kernel, and the new process mostly eliminated the germ from ground corn meal. Cornbread was widely eaten by poor southerners, and had been their main source for this vitamin. The hospitals for a while, my doctor told me, were full of people suffereing from pellagra until they figured out the problem and corrected the process in the industrial food production chain.

    In order to reverse the change in our cell membranes, we should not eat margarine, Crisco, or ordinary vegetable oil, but instead use olive oil and canola oil as our main source of fats. Butter is healthier for you than margarine, according to my doctor, though it remains high in saturated fat and so of course we should limit our intake.

    I hope I got all the facts right in this post. I’m only an armchair endocrinologist. Please correct me if any details are wrong. This was the essence of the case as I understood it.

    What it means is that we should hesitate to associate overweight with gluttony. Obesity is highly correlated with poverty, in fact, which might be explained by the fact that the more affordable fat sources are often just these chemical types.

  17. “Back when the Fall was understood to be a bad thing, and when Eve and Adam were taken to be sinners who lost a paradise (I confess I’m sympathetic to this view”

    Careful, Rosalynde W. Next thing you know you’ll be muttering about communitarianism and join I and Russell Fox’s mutual admiration society.

  18. “Gluttony in those texts is associated with drunkenness and what appears to be a class-based preference for dainty, rich foods; interesting, since today I’d suspect that the class association of gluttony has shifted to target the lower-classed preference for the broad pleasures of fast food.”

    Interesting point, Rosalynde; thanks for sharing it. It makes one think about how our understanding of loving or indulging in the (admittedly good) things of the world has changed. And actually, it makes me wonder about the sorts of spirits or fermented drinks that were available anciently and in the Middle Ages. I read somewhere once that, up through the 17th century, beer was an extremely common drink, and not at all an intoxicant; it was made and comsumed because it was likely better for you that the local (probably polluted) water supply. Anyway, the point being, perhaps a drunkard in the old days was someone who wasn’t satisfied with associating with his fellows at the tavern, drinking cheap beer; no, he had to go and associate with all the criminals and posers and aristocrats, and drink the heavy wine, and dine on peacock with spices brought from the mysterious East. To go back to Adam’s reference to the C.S. Lewis’s gluttonous, toast-loving woman–the issue wasn’t how much was consumed, but rather the twisted, superior, exclusive, self-aggrandizing nature of the consumption.

    “Back when the Fall was understood to be a bad thing…”

    It was a bad thing. We understand that a great good came from it, but the fact that God turned that evil to good doesn’t mean it still wasn’t an evil.

    “Next thing you know you’ll be muttering about communitarianism…”

    I’ve often thought, Adam, that either Rosalynde or Jim are our most likely targets for conversion. Whoops, that was supposed to be a private e-mail.

  19. “In order to reverse the change in our cell membranes, we should not eat margarine, Crisco, or ordinary vegetable oil, but instead use olive oil and canola oil as our main source of fats. Butter is healthier for you than margarine, according to my doctor, though it remains high in saturated fat and so of course we should limit our intake.”

    Well Tatiana, your endocrinological knowledge far surpasses mine–I’ve tended to engage this sorts of debates from the more theoretical and cultural end (obviously) than the medical. But what little I know jives with your conclusions. We still use vegetable oil and shortening for some things, but mostly olive. I was eventually able to convince Melissa to move from light margarine to actual butter a while back. And, if you’re talking about unnecessary and unhealthy fats in our foods, check out the prevelance of high fructose corn syrup–it’s everywhere, and hard to avoid.

  20. Tatiana,

    What do you do for a living or I mean what is your education that you know so much about these topics.

    I want to know how much value I can place in your reassurances about weather control, if I can stop worrying or you’re just another crazy. No offense.

  21. (laughs) I totally understand! No apology needed! It’s hard to judge these things. I’m sorry if I went on at too much length on the post above. It was exactly because I wanted the value of my information to stand on its own without recourse to credentials that I included so much. It is just a preliminary theory that I’ve described, and time will tell if it’s correct, but I thought others might find it interesting. I’ve learned as much as I could about insulin kinetics because I’m a type II diabetic myself.

    As for my education, I’m an electrical engineer and lifelong science geek. My knowledge comes from my studies and my work experience, but even more from reading voraciously everything I can find about science for many years. I try always in my posts try to explain why I believe the things I do, and not just to assert them. I hope that helps you be able to judge better. Your own common sense about what claims sound reasonable will probably be your best guide when reading various opposing ideas.

  22. As for the weather control idea, looking at that picture of Jupiter should show you that tropical storms happen with great frequency on other planets too. It is a feature of atmospheres on rotating planets. These storms increase in frequency and intensity as the planet warms, since heat is what drives them. There have been many cycles of warm and cool climate in earth’s history, and the intensity of tropical storms has waxed and waned accordingly. As for being able to steer such a storm, you can imagine the immense power that must be required to do such a thing. Such power would make itself evident in other ways.

    Humans have a tendency to blame natural disasters on their human enemies. For instance, the 1918 flu pandemic was blamed on the Germans by many Americans. It is important for the real truth to be known in such cases so that we don’t expend our energies in the wrong direction.

  23. Tatiana, my own common sense tells me Harold is making more sense every day. or George, I’m confused.

    I’m buying a lot of water today at Costco.

    Guys, put aside some extra toothbrushes, soap, and aluminum foil, and paper plates for all evacuees who might have to live in your house. I would also make a jail room for the convicts they might send you. No joke, either.

  24. The garden is full of fruits and nuts.

    For the nuts, we have the conspiracy theories; you know, the ones that say we never went to the moon, the extra shooter on the grassy knoll, the USA really destroyed the twin towers, the plane that never hit the Pentagon, and now, fresh off the tree, a juicy one on hurricanes.

    The fruits? well, that’s for another thread.

  25. Harold: Please stop. You have taken a thread that had an interesting discussion and turned it into a free for all of undiscussed links of little or no value. Generally speaking, we try to filter out spambots in favor of discussion.

    Russell: I am curious as to your decision that DVDs do not constitute a threat to the simple life. I wonder to what extent the simple life is simply getting defined in terms of small pleasures that you happen to enjoy or that happen to be within your price range. In other words, what stands behind your claim other than a consumption preference. (Do philosophers have consumption preferences?)

    Rosalynde’s point reminds me of an interesting lecture that I once attended on Marlowe’s Faustus. The argument was that the play was all about contract law, which was a relatively new legal relation. As commerce expanded in the 16th and 17th century, wealth became associated with commerce and contracts rather than agriculture and real estate. In Marlowe we see the contract as a Satanic insturment, which would make sense to a society that was hostile or at anyrate anxious about the spread of commerce. Interestingly, one of the Satanic pleasures that Faustus gets in Marlowe’s telling is fruit out of season and — if I remember correctly — other culinary luxury’s such as spices. To continue the Marxist point, it seems that one might argue that gluttony was no simply about class, but also about the means of production, ie a preference for wealth associated with land rather than commerce, conveyances rather than contracts. I would also point out, of course, that the real-estate bound world tends to be one of limited mobility and stable hierarchies, while the contract bound world tends to be one of fluidity, opprotunity, and change.

  26. Nate,

    Thanks for your reproach of Harold; I only just got back to the computer.

    “I am curious as to your decision that DVDs do not constitute a threat to the simple life.”

    It’s a lame post, as were many of those long ruminations on “simplicity” that I posted at the beginning of the year. There are some good ideas in there, I think, but I don’t develop them properly, and instead pile on a bunch of unrelated stuff. Basically, all the post amounts to is the argument that DVD technology makes it possible to, in a way, “get ahead” of television and thus set some bounds upon it, enclose it and keep it from being a drain on one’s life. Since most people don’t have that problem anyway, the post is of limited relevance to most.

  27. Russell: I actually think that there is some virtue to your DVD argument. Our television set is not connected to cable or an antenna, and hence we don’t “get” TV. On the other hand, it is not as though we have completely foresworn the tube. We simply watch DVDs or videos, which give us some control over we — and Jacob — watch. It also forces you to make and affirmative and somewhat costly decision to watch something, which limits the amount of time spent of aimless channel surfing or watching “what’s on.”

    I miss college football, as I never seem to have enough organization and social capital to arrange to watch games other people’s houses.

  28. Nate, I have a brother-in-law who has gotten rid of their tv for pretty much exactly the reason you mention–they prefer to be a position of having to decide how to entertain themselves, rather than being a dull receptor of whatever the tv broadcasts. They just watch dvds (when they watch anything) on their laptop computers. Melissa and I have never gone that whole route, but considering how little tv we actually watch, we probably ought to.

    “Watching college football creates social capital.”

    Indeed, though this is one of Melissa’s pet peeves. We started throwing regular New Year’s parties some years back, and part of the motivation for which was for Melissa to have someone to watch the bowl games with, because I just wasn’t into it. Well, knowing me, these parties gradually turned into day-long gabfests, with so many people in attendance that the games were unwatchable, with the tv monopolized by children watching videos in the backroom anyway. Melissa enjoys the parties–she really gets into planning the menus for these salons–but she misses her football.

  29. Nate
    I apologize if I have offended the sensibilities of anyone in the Times and Seasons family. Please accept my apologies. I wish you all God speed.

    Harold B. Curtis

  30. “So when does an obsession with cheeses, fruits in season, artisanal this and that, etc., become gluttony? “

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