Unless We Control Our Affairs By a Guiding Purpose

Lay’s Potato Chips once had an advertising challenge—“Bet you can’t eat just one.”

When we find something pleasurable, we cannot stop at some sensible place. We rush headlong into overindulgence—or, as the ancient philosopher Seneca put it, “the abyss of sorrow.”

I could take that Lay’s challenge—sort of. I could eat just one. One bag full, that is. No matter the size of that bag. And then I would get on the scale the next morning and read the results right there between my feet in large, black, unforgiving numbers!

Seneca pointed out how hard to keep something pleasurable within bounds. Food, drink, sex, games, whatever. He told us “there are only a few who control themselves and their affairs by a guiding purpose; the rest do not proceed; they are merely swept along, like objects afloat in a river.

We can read the Hebrew Proverbs learning the difference between the wise person and the fool. Or the teachings of Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount. Or the teachings of his brother James in the Christian Scriptures. Here and many other places we are taught about that guiding principle that keeps us from going overboard with our freedom to pursue pleasure being swept away by the currents.

Bet you can’t eat just one!

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