In this second part, I discuss two concepts that are misunderstood or misapplied. Abstinence, painted in a noble and reverent light, often has absolutely no tangible benefits. When people are commended on this asceticism, they only distance themselves further from the fruits of existence. Materialism today has received a particularly bad wrap. But it is not the material items themselves that are evil. It is the fervent hold we place on these items that causes suffering.
Avoid Gratuitous Abstinence
To choose abstinence over indulgence is very rarely the correct decision. An example of abstinence being righteous is in diet. Abstaining from sugars, saturated fats, and an excessive caloric intake is perfectly warranted in the name of good health. The reason for your abstinence, in this case, has a tangible and often worthwhile benefit. When searching for examples of fallacious and gratuitous abstinence one has to look no further than religious dogma in its prescription for the abstention from certain foods, alcohol, and fornication. However, the highest form of folly may well be asceticism, something we may all find ourselves partially guilty of at times.
Indulgence has been stamped unfavourably in association with gluttony and a feeble capacity for self-discipline. In actuality, a healthy propitiousness toward indulgence incites a reverent proclivity for leisure in the present moment. Conversely, abstinence is practiced in spite of the present moment; advocated for either no corporeal benefit at all, or for some future reward. We have a tendency in our culture to place too much weighting upon our future (i.e. abstinence) and not enough on the present moment (i.e. indulgence). By learning to fully embrace the present moment, we find ourselves welcoming indulgence with open arms.
Avoid Attainment & Attachment to Possession
I talk a lot about endeavouring to live completely in the present without much concern for the future. When we try to attain something, we loose our footing on the present moment and we find ourselves in a futile state of existence somewhere between present and future. In the same manner, goals and ambitions can also be a hindrance in our effort to remain in the now. It is an art in and of itself to know how to pursue ambitions while remaining firmly in the present moment. I am not saying we should resent having hopes or dreams but it is of utmost importance that we are aware of just how perilous it is to sacrifice the present moment for a future one.
A material possession can bring us much joy and happiness. But we must be fully prepared at any time to toss away these items. Books, electronics, cars, furniture, photographs, and even the clothes on your back. In the event of a house fire, we should never be so attached to our possessions that we allow such misfortune to bring us much grief. Indeed it isn’t materialism itself that is so pernicious in our culture, but our ardent attachment to these material items. But there is no refuting their role in utilitarianism! A Lamborghini will bring you happiness. However, if you were to write it off, there should be no change in happiness. Suffering happens as a result from detachment from a possession we held all too closely. Don’t let your Lamborghini become any less disposable than a newspaper.
I have no doubt that attachment to any material object is one of the leading causes for human suffering.
There does, however, exist a form of possession you physically can’t worry about losing! It comes in the form of intangible pleasantries such as knowledge, experience, attitude, and wisdom. These virtues are perhaps as valuable as your Lamborghini and you can carry them around for life without having to pay insurance!