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I’m pretty sure that all our petty little (or big) addictions that have not so obvious short term consequences and lead to “diseases of civilization” (aka diabetes, obesity, and credit card debt) are rooted in our desire for control of the material world.

Somehow, the 31st pair of shoes is supposed to make you happy. Or, that slice of pizza you ate just because it was there because it was easier than saying no.

And why was it so hard to say no? Why did you want those shoes in order to be happy? Why would you ever think these stupid things would add something of value to your life, since they were consumed in excess of your needs, but apparently not your infinite and gluttonous wants?

I don’t know. Why does shame hurt so good sometimes? Why do we love doing the thing we “shouldn’t”, but just do anyway? What is so great about THINGS? What are we really looking for at the mall or in the kitchen late at night? Is it love, hope, honor, health, happiness?

Well these unhealthy behaviors are not so likely to get us there. But nor is the opposite-

Dieting is pretty much just a trendy form of pretending anti-materialism to achieve materialist purposes. Give up food to look thin. Be “virtuous,” follow a regime, cede control, and produce a result that makes you worthy of being loved.

Forget all hope of ever making the big bucks, work for free if you can, become a martyr, say that your tight budget and old clothes don’t matter because you’re saving the world, and cuss under your breath at the banker in the bends who caused the financial crisis that bankrupted your favorite charity. I don’t think your practicing loving kindness any better than the attention seeking, vegetable-juiced up stick figure either.

And these are just caricatures, of course. Most of us aren’t really that successful in our anti-vice attempts, not succesful enough to be called stick figures in America, anyway.

So many times we try to escape or deny whatever we are feeling in the internal world with some kind of cheap (or expensive) escape. Even if it’s just chomping on celery, we try to take some kind of input (or avoidance of it) and make it a fetished thing- like the journal of everything we’ve eaten that month. But why were we so unhappy in the first place? What did we deny?

I think a lot of it is the desire for either personal or material success, and conflict over what we want. We tell ourselvs you can’t have everything, but health is about living in harmony with your surroundings. Sure, sometimes you just need a little attitude adjustment and its not always easy to change your environment and sometimes it’s just a matter of looking within and feeling gratitude. But whatever it is, it keeps you focused on the chips rather than on what’s inside. It’s ok to want both material success and internal satisfaction, and making a false choice between the two isn’t going to help you.

So basically, we all need a little bit of self-esteem to deal with these feelings, to have the courage to feel  them, accept them, and if appropriate, act on them. Maybe the Serenity Prayer is the miracle cure we’ve all been waiting for after all.