One of Oscar Wilde’s pithiest quips (or one of his quippier piths) is, “Everything in moderation, including moderation.” Lampooning his prudish-seeming Victorian contemporaries, he was suggesting we should show some restraint in the not enjoying of this sensual world. We should refrain from overdoing our lack of enjoying pleasure.
Some time ago, I wrote to Wilde, but he did not reply as he died 68 years before my birth. I wrote, “Everything in moderation, except moderation.” His ongoing silence about this speaks volumes.
What about those who do not take too much pleasure in the world? What of the underrepresented excessively self-repressed? Aside from the fact that they probably do not want too much—or any!—attention and thus representation given to them, what can we do for the successfully overly moderate among us?
Those who magnificently overdo their lack of excesses are the non-heroes we can lovingly ignore, um, adore, for our current era of superheroes and superstars.
Every fifth movie or television show seems to be about an average human being discovering quite by accident that they possess previously unknown super powers, whether strength, speed, invisibility, divisibility. They find they have super senses, which they employ to solve crimes (if they had super senses all along, how did they not detect that they had super senses?), which seem to be committed by others who have also discovered that they have super abilities but want to rule the world as a result. (None of these works of fiction seem to depict anyone discovering previously unknown super-capacities for human compassion, but most Christians would say that there was only one such figure, and He was sufficient.)
The cultural desire for superheroes reflects a cultural infantilism, a desire for super-parents in a world that we tell each other—in the news and other movies—is a darn scary place. Many of our original fictional superheroes were created in a similarly scary world, during the Second World War. We felt that we needed rescuing, we desired a rescuer, so we created a spectacular hero in our comic books, novels, movies. The hero represents what we discover we had inside us all along: strength to face any foe, bear any burden. (But “pay any price,” to finish JFK’s quote? Not so much. Maybe a few bucks for a ticket and some popcorn.)
We live in a similarly scary world, so we are seeing a lot of superheroes in our cultural fantasy life once again.
However, not a one is super-moderate in his lack of vices. “Super Moderate Man.” Our movie makers could depict him displaying restraint of tongue and pen and keyboard when confronting things with which he disagrees. He is no teetotaler, but knows his limitations and thus never consumes. (Myself, I am a teetotaler, because I do not know my limitations.) If he stays up late fighting villainy one night, they could show him getting to bed early the next night. He rarely swears, so when he does it makes a point. He “stops and smells the roses,” but not every darn time, because sometimes he has places to go. The movie makers could write a dramatic scene in which he heroically fills out product warranty cards … and pays his taxes. He never lectures or wags his finger and he takes the time to show others how to make a fine pot of coffee. Some complain that the coffee is too strong, and some say it is too weak.
“Super Moderate Man” does not wear a cape, because really, who wears a cape? There is not one rack of capes to be found in any mall anywhere. (He shops in malls.) If he possesses a cloak of invisibility, it is only there to mask any evidence of a sense of style.
Super Moderate Man: A hero some of the time for most people, but it is okay if he is not.
The WordPress Daily Prompt for September 27 asks, “‘Perhaps too much of everything is as bad as too little.’—Edna Ferber. Do you agree with this statement on excess?”