In college I took a few religions classes, one was about Buddhism. The professor explained the problems of desire and the solution (middle path) with what he called the 5-martini rule, which goes like this: You’re at a party and after the first martini you feel pretty good. After the second one you feel great. After the third you feel like you’re on top of the world. After the fourth martini you’re not feeling so hot, and the fifth martini is living death.
My professor went on to explain that if he could get himself to stop after the third martini then he’d have a much better time at parties. This relates to the Buddhist belief that desire leads to suffering, and the way to avoid suffering is to control desires- to meet your needs but nothing more. To walk the fine line between self-denial and over indulgence or in other words to walk the middle path.
This explanation seems to me to be very clearly something that is part of LDS doctrine, something that I would guess is the intended meaning of ‘modest living.’ Unfortunately for us we normally only refer to modesty when talking about women’s clothing. Lately I’ve been having fun by adding the word ‘modest’ to sentences where it wouldn’t normally go. So for example “I’m going to eat breakfast” becomes “I’m going to eat a modest breakfast.” or “I’m going to eat breakfast modestly.” The fun comes in by imagining how eating breakfast modestly compares to eating breakfast immodestly, and if my normal modes of eating are modest or not.
This little game has been surprisingly useful in helping me see where I can afford to cut back and where I would benefit from additional restraint. Sadly I’ve decided that I should probably give up the Reeses puffs for breakfast.