On the virtue of temperance

Column by Michael Alcorn
Posted 3/17/21

Here’s my impression of last week. Any day before Friday: “OhmyGod meteorologist X said we could get 18 feet of snow on Friday into Saturday based on the GFS model which is notoriously more …

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On the virtue of temperance


Here’s my impression of last week.

Any day before Friday: “OhmyGod meteorologist X said we could get 18 feet of snow on Friday into Saturday based on the GFS model which is notoriously more conservative than the European model which nobody is paying any attention to ’cuz it said we could get six inches of snow per hour which is of course absurd but do you think that might really happen maybe we need to go the store and load up on milk and toilet paper again.”

Saturday morning: “Those meteorologists are so dumb. I could have told them this would peter out.”

Sunday night: “I knew this was going to happen. Do we have enough milk to get through until the Texans can come dig us out?”

Meteorologists on Sunday night: Calmly sipping tea.

Seriously, people, the wide, wild, crazy swings of emotion — about trivial stuff that we have no control over — are starting to wear a little thin, dontcha think? I mean, if we have this sort of collective nutty over *the weather,* is it really any wonder that we can’t get our act together about things that we actually do have some control over? It’s gotten so bad that one local television news reporter has taken to giving a nightly outrage forecast, trying to guess to what degree the country is going to go nuts tomorrow.

Growing up, part of my catechism was learning the Virtues: you know, Chastity, Charity, Patience, Humility. And, there’s also this one in there that I never quite understood (being 12 at the time of studying these things): Temperance. Temperance is the tendency towards or the habit of acting in a measured way. It is opposed by the Deadly Sin of gluttony, which is to indulge all appetites to full satiety.

And, boy, do we, as a society, have an appetite for conflict right now.

Sure, chastity and humility are, at least in some circles, looked at with sardonic superiority these days, hardly worthy of mention in “the best company” as desirable qualities, seeing as how they serve to deny the animal instincts of the human person. But the real victim virtue has clearly been temperance, for while we point and “all the right people” snicker at Tim Tebow for his famous chastity, any mention of him sends people racing to their corners ready to come out swinging in defense of or opposition to Tebow.

Is it possible for us to just find some nice, calm, middle ground on a couple of things?

I know, I know — the middle ground isn’t going to get elevated to “call of the day” status on talk radio, and MSNBC is never going to feature a temperate person as their “worst person of the day.” There is no road to fame or “likes” by being temperate; and temperate rarely “trends.”

But, hey, sometimes, here in Colorado, the weather is unpredictable. Pitchers have a tough time at Coors Field. It is possible to reform inadequate aspects of the education system without having to discard the entire canon of Western thought. You can complain about lockdowns without having to create a deranged superspreader event, and you can do everything in your power to protect your own health without having to become an unhinged dictator of other peoples’ behaviors.

And Wednesday of this week, you can celebrate the success of our society by re-populating those Irish pubs you weren’t allowed to go to last year. And while you’re there, maybe stop to read a little about what happens to a country/culture that allows itself to over-indulge its appetite for conflict.


Michael Alcorn is a teacher and writer who lives in Arvada with his wife and three children. His new novel, “Charon’s Blade,” is available at Amazon.com, on Kindle, or through MichaelJAlcorn.com.” His opinions are not necessarily those of Colorado Community Media.

Michael Alcorn, temperance


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