Sunday, January 6, 2008

Robbie and the Chocolate Factory

Jeannie and I went to the CVS last week and ransacked the 75% off Christmas candy rack. I pulled up to the checkout counter with 11 bags of Reese's peanut butter cups, 2 boxes of russell stover candies, 2 boxes of chocolate covered cherries, and a half gallon of milk What a sight! The teenage clerk, for her part, did not bat an eye, at least not until we had left the store.

Looking back a few days later, as if I were a private eye being asked to investigate when a sin is committed to try to find what the true sin is...kind of like a one-man jury. You have to weigh the facts; you can not judge the situation at face value. Mitigating circumstances must be taken into affect. This is ethics, or more appropriately, the court where ethics and moral theology convene. And so in the Case of the Chocolate Glutton, I have reached the conclusion that it was a lack of prudence, rather than an intention towards gluttony, which was responsible for this particular moral breach. Unless my moral compass is way out of whack, here's why:

Gluttony is an over-indulgence in or over-consumption of food or some substance. Thomas Aquinas expanded the definition to include:
  • Praepropere - eating too soon;
  • Laute - eating too expensively;
  • Nimis - eating too much;
  • Ardenter - eating too eagerly;
  • Studiose - eating too daintily.
So buying a shopping cart full of chocolates in anticipation of a gorging that has not yet taken place would also qualify under this definition as gluttony.

But Jeannie and I agreed that this sinful titillation came not from such anticipation but from the satisfaction of being good cheapskates! It is true that we had gone a little overboard, and probably spent more money then we would have by buying less and paying full price, but such a sale was almost too good to be true.

The problem, however, was not the stocking up on sale items (I stock up on tuna when it's on sale at the Acme all the time), but on the latent potential for gluttony stored within those cursed bags of butter cups. Like J.R.R. Tolkien's "Ring," the stockpile of candy in my cabinets holds power over me; as long as it is here, I am inclined to eat it, and with abandon. Truthfully, I tend to think that the only things I really am able to stockpile are tuna and alcohol--I can have a bottle of vodka sitting on my kitchen table for a year and not once be tempted to drink from it. Why this is the case I don't know; it has no power over me. But attempting to keep certain things--chocolate, cigarettes, cannabis--in the house...I can't do it. I told myself when I left the monastery in Thailand that I would keep a single cigarette and match in my pocket as a constant source of temptation, which I could meditate on in tantric fashion. But I bought a pack and just never ended up throwing the rest of them away. I think I made a serious mistake in buying all this chocolate; something has to be done to rectify this moral blunder. So if you would like a bag, stop on costume required.

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