Middle Path

By Starfoxy

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.


Starfoxy is a fulltime caretaker for her two children.

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4 Responses

  1. jessawhy says:

    Awesome use of the word modesty.

    I’ve been reading The Way We Never Were that pretty much disproves the myth of the traditional family being assaulted by a values crisis. My favorite quote from the 2000 introduction:

    “To the extent that there is a values crisis in our families and communities, surely it has as much to do with the glamorization of conspicuous consumption and the disregard for issues of social justice as it does with any individual’s decision to seek a divorce or have extramarital sex. ”

    Modesty in all things indeed.

    Fabulous post. (the title led me to believe you were heading toward a different topic, though)

  2. Caroline says:

    There’s so much to think about here. I agree that Mormonism does often advocate a middle way or modest living in some sense. So I think it’s interesting to think of those areas where Mormons don’t follow the middle path.

    One way I often think of is eating. We may follow the word of wisdom in regards to abstaining from alcohol and smoking, but we sure don’t in other ways. There are a whole lot of obese Mormons out there. Also, in regards to housing. Isn’t Utah the number one state when it comes to bankruptcy these days? I don’t know if it’s true, but if it is, that’s interesting. Clearly a lot of Mormons are living above their means. I wonder what other areas there are in which Mormons forego the middle way….

  3. Rebecca says:

    I find this really helpful Starfoxy. We humans seem to be a passionate lot, so easily prone to extremes. It seems kind of unfair that too much of almost any good thing can turn into a bad thing. It’s nice to be reminded that sometimes less really is more.

  4. Stella says:

    I agree! And, if I can digress into alcohol for a moment…(just as an example of a further discussion point) I found that when I was in the church and was taught to have an extreme stance on sometime (ie coffee, alcohol, tea, sex, thoughts, etc etc) that once I left I was SURE I would become an alcoholic…that I’d ALWAYS have to have that 5th martini because I had never learned how to balance having three (or one).

    I have found that for most personality types this just isn’t true and finding a more middle ground in my life on things that were always VERY one sided and set has really let me have more trust and faith and happiness in myself because now I AM the one making the decisions to have a glass of wine or not and NOT an institution.

    I don’t know if that made sense, but it’s what your post got me thinking of. Because honestly, the church really doesn’t advocate modest/middle ground for a lot of things.

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