Is moderation possible?

Have you noticed how much easier it is to have extreme opinions than it is to have moderate ones? I’ve been thinking about it. A couple months ago one of my friends who was about to have a baby started a thought-provoking conversation with me about the challenge of balanced parenting. Both of us had strict upbringings we didn’t care to recreate for our own kids (hers actual, mine theoretical), but we didn’t want to react by being laissez-faire parents.

Then recently my husband got caught yet again in the scenario where he tries to provide clarity on the composition and behavior of high fructose corn syrup. (My husband has a chemistry degree; do not talk hype to him if you cherish your opinion.) He feels frustrated that so many people accept media fear-mongering instead of analyzing the facts.

The point is that the middle ground can feel shaky. Moderation requires us to step into the fire between both extremes. No one is really an enemy, but neither is anyone really a friend. We don’t get the joy of jumping up and down shrieking, “Oh my stars; we agree on everything!”

It feels good to agree with others, or to have them agree with us. Problem: it’s not healthy to agree on everything.  As Benjamin Franklin said, “Approve not of him who commends all you say.”

Here’s another thing about moderation. Between Extreme One and Extreme Two stands a third party to the conflict: self. Liberals might swipe from the left; conservatives shoot from the right; while in the midst of that a time bomb known as your mind persistently ticks off its questions. “Am I right? Is this worth standing alone?” Too much pressure from right or left, or too much self-doubt in the middle, and suddenly the ground can give way, prompting you to seek shelter on one side or the other.

On most issues we actually have more than two choices. On every issue we should ask ourselves whether one of the extremes is truly our philosophical home or just a cozy place to nest amid other people’s ideas. To me the path of least resistance, politically speaking, looks suspiciously like the road to hell.

What are some issues where you’d like to see third (or fourth, etc.) options become more viable? What are your ideas for helping those options gain momentum?

Advertisements