The Middle Path

Supposedly Buddha recommended avoiding extremism, suggesting we should instead pursue the middle path. But where exactly are the edges of the middle path? Does the middle path mean the average path, close to what everyone else is doing? No, I don’t think the middle path is something you can measure with an external yardstick. This is something you must evaluate for yourself.

Consider some things many would consider extremist today — could any of these be included as part of the middle path?

  • Eating a natural diet instead of an artificial one. Those who shun factory-produced edible matter are wacko indeed. To make a breakfast of fresh fruit, you must have steely discipline or perhaps a serious socio-emotional disorder. Bovine growth hormone is your friend! Don’t worry about your organs — there are plenty of donors now. You are rich, aren’t you? Be mad-cow strong!
  • Being addiction-free. Would you like some drugs (sugar) with your drugs (coffee)? It’s legal, so it must be OK. Look, here are some studies showing that some of the thousands of chemicals in this stuff are good for you. So what if the others are all carcinogenic? It has phytostuff!
  • Supporting a nonviolent leader. We can’t be led by a wuss! Ya gotta show everyone else on this planet who’s boss, or they’ll invade ya right quick… or worse — they could stop making cheap stuff for us! Who cares about the freedoms we lost to the pro-splosion guy? At least we still have enough slaves. Sucks to be them, but that’s how it is. Lower taxes AND more bombs? Let’s do it!
  • Not having a job. No job? Are you insane? If everyone did that, we’d all starve. I mean… how would the apple trees know to keep growing apples if people aren’t there to spray stuff on them? The bugs will eat everything! I hate gardening! Why don’t you get a real job, like the rest of us? Get out there and help sell stuff people don’t need, so we can eat.
  • Reading books. Who has the patience to read so many words on the same subject? When you have TV and Internet, everything is bite-sized. So what if it’s shallow? At least we get the important stuff fast. You gotta keep up on the lobster kingdom!
  • Thinking for yourself. How dare you try to live differently than Homer J? Who gave you permission to think? People much smarter and far more caring than you have already figured things out. Society works pretty darn well… aside from a small glitch with the planet not being a team player. You’d better follow our example and fit in, or we’ll kick you out right quick.
  • Being consistently happy. Don’t even go there!

What would Buddha do? Would he follow the path of the conformist… or the savage? What would today’s middle path look like?