Thursday, July 2, 2009

Theological Thursday: Gluttony

One of my favorite classes in college was one that I took about contemplative practice and social change. In that class, I think that I took one of the only quizzes or tests that I ever took in a religion class (we tend to be much bigger on paper-writing). It was a vocabulary test on asceticism, and while I would probably be hard pressed to define most of the words today, there is at least one that has stuck with me.

Gluttony: an unnecessary need for variety.

Not excessive eating or drinking. Not overindulgence. Unnecessary need for variety.

I think that the reason that this unorthodox definition was etched into my mind is that a need for variety is the driving force of not only my own life, but our entire culture. We seem to have an endless hunger for new things, whether that's new foods to eat, new places to visit, new clothing to purchase. We are (and I certainly belong to the "we") obsessed with variety, so having the term "gluttony," which has universally negative connotations, associated with that desire is shocking.

These days, there is not as much variety in my life as there has been at times in the past. I don't travel far and wide, I don't embark on exciting and new adventures, I don't even try as many new recipes as I have in the past. For the most part, my life is lived in a very set, and, at times, monotonous routine that revolves around the care of two small and vulnerable bodies.

I hope that the next time that I find myself longing for that "unnecessary variety," I will have the presence of mind to know that the desert mothers and fathers knew what they were talking about: getting over my yearning for new and unnecessary stuff is all a part of getting over myself.

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