The laws of nature, devoid of human interference and manipulation, can teach us many important lessons. In the jungle, for example, baby animals are naive, cute, cuddly, and adorable. Curious by nature, they understandably wander about unaware of the potential dangers that await them at every turn. Drawn to new experiences, the excitement and anticipation drives their exploration. The probability of young animals surviving to adulthood is extremely low in this setting. The mother is keenly aware of this; she remembers all too well the dangers of her past. Her primary goal is protecting her family. But wait! The cub has a different plan. He doesn’t perceive the danger nor share mom’s agenda. Excitement, curiosity, and an abundance of energy fly head-long into mom’s caution, creating the perfect formula for conflict. Maybe it’s the first real bout with danger that awakens the cub to the reality that if he is to survive he must learn, understand, and obey the rules of the jungle! Once mother and baby have a common understanding and objective, the possibility of survival and growth to maturity increases greatly. After dealing with a lot of young people in my life, I’ve concluded that we humans are not much different than the animal kingdom. Obedience comes easier with understanding; education is the critical factor.
Obedience and its attendant vice of gluttony are both about fairness. A decision is made to be fair in all circumstances, or to disregard the needs of others and consume everything to excess. Obedience promotes justice and is the system that promises fairness in the personal protection of rights and possessions. Obedience is what is required for this personal security. Obedience is delaying the immediate reward for greater safety. In contrast, gluttony is immediate gratification to the point of waste. It negates all rules of fairness. Gluttony affects everything from availability of goods and services to a conscious disregard for the needy.
Obedience is fairness and the determination to obey and to follow a pre-determined societal plan or standard. Excessive consumption and gluttony are in opposition. Gluttony begins as advancement and is about consumption. Gluttony is wasteful consumption. It is uncontrolled overindulgence to the point of waste and dullness. Traditionally associated with overeating, in reality it is consuming anything in excess including volume, costliness, eagerness, and aggressiveness. Far reaching costs are associated with unfair overconsumption individually and globally.
Obedience is the act of carrying out commands. Obedience is honesty and fairness to society. At this basic level we either obey to avoid punishment or to gain a reward. Regardless of our personal motivation, compliance to the rules is voluntary. Obedience is given to figures of authority, such as children to elders, students to teachers, citizens to government, and humanity to a Higher Power. Learning to obey adult rules is a major component of socialization in childhood. Uninformed rebellion is anarchy. Beginning with fear of punishment, obedience can evolve to higher levels of societal good.
As we age, our level of obedience matures and becomes more refined. As with the young cub, many of us lament that we would have made less errors in judgment if we only knew at a young age what we have gained in old age. The curiosity and arrogance of youth eventually withers and age-old truths emerge as significant. The very writing of this text is a direct example of this process within me. This justice resides naturally within our hearts, but over-rebellious, non- conforming desires resist it. We all want personal justice, safety, and protection, and it’s obedience that is the premium we pay for it. Anne Sullivan, instructor of Helen Keller, noted, “I have thought about it a great deal, and the more I think, the more certain I am that obedience is the gateway through which knowledge, yes and love, too, enter the mind of a child.”
In the past, absolute obedience was expected and even demanded from children. Today it seems we expect everything of children except obedience. In an effort to sustain personal agency and autonomy, many parents of today are content to let the child make personal decisions regardless of their capacity to understand the consequences of their choices. A balance is needed where the child begins by making small, insignificant choices with accompanying consequences, both positive and negative. Mother Teresa believed that strength lies in being obedient in small things. From here we gain the experience and wisdom to make larger and more significant choices.
Aristotle believed that the ordering of society is centered in justice. Obedience is the value that promotes justice, fairness and respect for self and others. It is achieved when respect is given and duties are performed. When people are dishonest and/or don’t obey, consequences follow. Failure to obey can lead to self-absorption and gluttony. This vice of over-indulgence and over-consumption of anything and everything results in unfair distribution. Historically, the eating of delicacies and costly foods was considered gluttony. Today, gluttony not only refers to excessive eating and drinking, but also to any and all unrestrained behaviors that extend beyond what is good for one’s health and well-being or the well-being of society.
Have you ever noticed that the first few bites of delicious food are the best? After eating something for a while the vibrant tastes become significantly dulled. Today many people shovel food into their mouths so fast that their palate does not have a chance to register the sweet, the sour, or the spicy. When the stomach is full it tries to tell us that it’s time to stop eating but, unfortunately, the signal is ignored and eating continues far past capacity. The consequence is not only a far less enjoyable eating experience, but also an ever enlarging midsection.
In response to the world population reaching 7 billion souls the United Nations published a report on the condition of this global 2011 population. It states that “great disparities exist among and within countries as well as the rights and opportunities between genders….The world must seize the opportunity to invest in the health and education of its youth… or else face a continuation of the sorry state of the disparate.”
Currently, the developed nations of the world, one billion people, consume 32 times more than 6 billion others. Unsustainable consumption by the gluttonous is exceeding personal capacity. More importantly it is robbing others of meeting minimal basic needs due to resource depletion and poverty. This is resulting in the reduced personal health of all. War and oppression feed on the downtrodden and desperate as does pestilence. Gluttony in the modern world, due to affluence and lack of consideration for others, has enabled a ruling class to exist. This group of self-serving individuals is distinguished by a spirit of entitlement, and they display lust, egotism, greed, and obesity.