WHAT IS TEMPERANCE?
THE LAW OF TEMPERANCE
John Milton (1608 – 1674), in his greatest poetic achievement of ‘PARADISE LOST’ describes Man’s First Disobedience of God, and the loss thereupon of Paradise wherein Man was placed. Adam, the first Man who was created in God’s image and likeness brought Death into the World. God declares that Adam and Eve could no longer abide in ‘Garden of Eden‘, the Paradise. God sends Angel Michael with a Band of Cherubim to dispossess them. Michael reveals to Adam the ‘Law of Temperance’ which could help him to live for many long years. Angel Michael also comforted Adam by assuring him that if he observes the ‘Law of Temperance’, Death would be like the gentle act of gathering a ripe fruit when fully mature.
PARADISE LOST, BOOK XI ( 520-540) :
In John Milton’s epic poem of Paradise Lost, angel Michael explained ‘The Law of Temperance’ to Adam, the first created man to face the threat of death.
I yield it just, said Adam, and submit.
But is there yet no other way, besides
These painful passages, how we may come
To Death, and mix with our connatural dust?
There is, said, Michael, if thou well observe
The rule of not too much, by temperance taught
In what thou eatst and drinkst, seeking from thence
Due nourishment, not gluttonous delight,
Till many years over thy head return:
So maist thou live, till like ripe Fruit thou drop
Into thy Mother lap, or be with ease
Gathered, not harshly pluckt, for Death mature:
THE NATURE OF TEMPERANCE
The essence of Temperance is choosing moderation and deliberately avoid excess. In Indian Culture, and Tradition, living in moderation and living in virtue are almost identical. Socrates suggests that one should “choose that which is orderly and sufficient and has a due provision for daily needs”. He compares the intemperate man “to a vessel full of holes because it can never be satisfied”. Socrates describes the temperate man as able to satisfy his limited desires, whereas the intemperate man of boundless desire, can never pause in his search of pleasure. According to Freud, when “the ego learns that it must inevitably go without immediate satisfaction, postpone gratification, learn to endure a degree of pain, and altogether renounce certain sources of pleasure”, it “becomes ‘reasonable’, is no longer controlled by the pleasure-principle, but follows the reality-principle”, which seeks ” a delayed and diminished pleasure, one which is assured by its realization of fact, its relation to reality”.
TEMPERANCE AND COURAGE
Saint Thomas Aquinas and ‘The Law of Temperance’.
Thomas Aquinas has defined Temperance as “a disposition of the soul, moderating any passions or acts, so as to keep them within bounds. Temperate refers to a man who abstains from bodily pleasures and delights in this very fact. A man not only acts temperately but is temperate in character, when his desires are themselves habitually moderated to be in accord with reason. A temperate man is not pained at the absence of pleasure or by his abstinence from it. Temperance contributes the virtue of Fortitude which strengthens men against “the enticement of pleasure” as well as against the fear of pain. A man who is able to stand firm against the onslaught of pleasures is more able to remain firm against the dangers of death. And so “Temperance can be said to be Brave”. The endurance of pain is central to the nature of Courage. Temperance and Courage are not distinct virtues as both are based upon an ability to stand firm against pain and danger.
NINE YEARS LONG SERVICE MEDAL – A SALUTE TO THE LAW OF TEMPERANCE :
During my service in the Indian Army Medical Corps, I learned the values of Temperance, Fortitude, Courage, and delaying gratification of desires, and avoid seeking physical comforts and pleasures.
During the first nine years of my Indian Army Service, apart from taking part in the War of Liberation of Bangladesh, I participated in a variety of Army Operations that keep the men ready and prepared for a battle. Military Training and Service can be best described as habituation for a temperate character. The nature of Army Operations and Tactics always demand to overcome the onslaught of sense pleasures and voluntarily delaying the gratification of personal desires. A lifestyle based upon physical ease and comfort and indulgence in food and alcohol is not compatible with the Army way of life. The nature of Army Operations is influenced by terrain, climatic conditions, distances and the availability of transportation. There is no scope to cater for physical comfort, relaxation, and entertainment. The supply of rations and food provisions is limited because of the problems of their bulk and weight. Army Rules and the Code of Conduct would emphasize that men should honor their commitment to serve more than anything else. Such commitment to Serve with Honor would only be possible only when the man in uniform lives in accordance with the Law of Temperance.
Dr R. Rudra Narasimham, B.Sc., M.B.B.S.,
Kurnool Medical College, Kurnool, Andhra Pradesh, India,
M.B.B.S., Class of April 1970.