Above, the cup is tilted when empty. If you pour water into it, it tilts upright. If you pour excess water, it tilts down again.
We often talk about throwing caution to the wind when we aim for success in any field of interest, then in the next breath, we warn against indulging our passions or senses excessively. Sometimes, it is hard to determine which actions brings success; excess or moderation. Do accomplished artists develop their craft with temperance in mind? Probably not. They obsess about their work, create, practice or rehearse endlessly, go over their work again and again, until they can express it in their sleep. Can you imagine Picasso, Monet or Cézanne painting moderately? I think moderation, as Democritus references in his quote above, tends to come into play over things that are harmful for us; drugs, alcohol, smoking, unsafe sex, and perhaps excess food. In those things, balance is key… even abstinence. We don’t seem to think about moderation when it comes to creating talent or becoming the best at a skill…
“Moderation has been called a virtue to limit the ambition of great men, and to console undistinguished people for their want of fortune and their lack of merit.” Benjamin Disraeli
Meden Agan (μηδεν ἀγαν) – ‘Nothing in excess.’
Even as I think of the simplicity and beauty in this quote, “Water, taken in moderation, cannot hurt anybody.” Mark Twain, I can’t help but think that moderation seems to apply mainly to things that are clearly harmful or that don’t have huge rewards in terms of accolades. I mean, other than a mention in the Guinness Book of Records, who wins awards for drinking excessive amounts of water. Do Olympic athletes or professional sportsmen and women practice in moderation? Not entirely. They push themselves to the limit, testing their bodies and even pushing through injuries to set new records and beat the competition… and let’s not even talk about some who indulge in sports drugs.
Perhaps Disraeli was unto something when he made the statement above, no? How often do you come across a creative type who acts out in eccentric ways and seems a tad away from being over the top; “Oh it’s the muse expressing him/herself” we hear… How many of them need to imbibe a bit more of product X to get their creative juices flowing..? Ahh, and let’s not forget one of my favorite authors, Hemingway, who drank as vigorously as he wrote… And what fun would it be if Lady Gaga wore business suits to her shows…? Okay, I’m pushing it but perhaps a life in moderation is… a bit overrated?
“Temperance and labor are the two best physicians of man; labor sharpens the appetite, and temperance prevents from indulging to excess.” Jean-Jacques Rousseau
The Little Glutton by Pedro Pablo Sacristán
Once upon a time there was a little glutton who only ate sweets and candy. One day, in an antique shop he found an old magnifying glass. He liked it very much, and his parents bought it for him. He was so happy with his magnifying glass! As soon as he could, he used it to look at a little ant. It was great! The ant looked so big. But then a strange thing happened. When he took the magnifying glass away, the ant stayed the same size it had appeared through the glass. Very surprised, the boy kept experimenting, and he found that anything he looked at through the magnifying glass would get bigger, and stay that way.
Suddenly, he realized how he could best use this special ability, and he ran home. At home he took all the candies and sweets, and he made them gigantic with his magnifying glass. Then he completely stuffed himself with them, until he could eat nothing more. However, the next morning he woke up totally swollen, a bit purple, and with a huge bellyache. When the doctor came to see him, he said it was the worst case of upset tummy he had ever seen. Night and day, the little glutton suffered so much that for a long time he didn’t want to hear mention of large amounts of food. His parents were happy about this. Thanks to their son’s latest gluttony their pantry was full of the food he could not eat. What’s more, he gave up being a glutton who only ever ate sweets and candy. He wanted nothing to do with them.
And so it was that the little glutton learned that even with the best things in life, if you have too many of them, you will end up feeling ill. He decided to keep the magnifying glass in a box until he found something that would really be worth making bigger. How about you? What would you use the magnifying glass for?
The story above teaches a lesson about excessive behavior; in this case with food, but would we say the same to the boy if he practiced the piano 12 hours a day or wrote novellas for 13 hours a day with publishers banging on the door and bidding like crazy for his works? A life in moderation might be a great thing, perhaps, if one feels compelled to offer nothing as a special, unique contribution to the world… Superlative contributions demand tremendous effort and usually caution/moderation is thrown to the wind. Once we address the obvious issues that we must not indulge in, we must live life fully or perish… more below… 😉
“Moderation, which consists in an indifference about little things, and in a prudent and well-proportioned zeal about things of importance, can proceed from nothing but true knowledge, which has its foundation in self-acquaintance.” Plato
You might wonder if this is sort of a tongue in cheek reflection on the subject of moderation… It is not. While I understand, like Cicero, that “Never go to excess, but let moderation be your guide.” Marcus Tullius Cicero, there are times in our lives when we must take a leap of faith and do the thing we must, even if it means working excessively for a concentrated period of time to complete a manuscript, prepare for a show, rehearse for that dance, and practice for an upcoming recital. The human spirit seems to shine brightly when it steps out of its comfort zone of moderation to tackle a dream or a goal with courage and zeal. In those things, a life of moderation does not necessarily apply. What do you think? What are your thoughts? Do you believe in moderation in some things? all things? Have you ever done something to excess? How did it make you feel? Do share! Thank you. 🙂
This post was inspired by a prompt from WP Daily Post: Should everything be done in moderation? They say “do everything in moderation” when it comes to decisions about how to spend your time and your life – do you agree? Or are there some things that should be done at the extremes, or perhaps that are truly all or nothing propositions?
Positive Motivation Tip: Moderation can be an apt guide, as long as you don’t stop living your dreams…
- Should Everything Be Done in Moderation? (daniellaindie.wordpress.com)
- Barcelona’s last bullfight (americablog.com)
- What is it About Color ? (mycreativevoice.wordpress.com)
- Eye-Found-It! (betsyandrewsetchart.wordpress.com)
PHOTO CREDITS/ATTRIBUTIONS: All Photos Yuza-no-ki, Temperance Man, Hieronymus Bosch, Les Grandes Baigneuses/The Large Bathers by Cézanne, via Wikipedia.
Stories: The Little Glutton via freestoriesforkids.com