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Reflections: Life In Moderation…

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“Throw moderation to the winds, and the greatest pleasures bring the greatest pains.” Democritus

Reflections: Life In Moderation...Yuza No Ki; Teaching the importance of moderation

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

Reflections: Life In Moderation... Here lies a temperance man...

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

Reflections: Life In Moderation... Hieronymus Bosch... Gluttony

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

Reflections: Life In Moderation... Les Grandes Baigneuses/The Large Bathers by Cézanne

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…

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

Until Next Time…
Ask. Believe. Receive. ©
Elizabeth Obih-Frank
Mirth and Motivation
Positive Kismet

35 Comments leave one →
  1. 03/10/2011 9:26 pm

    Life is an all or nothing proposition. If we don’t set our mind to living and living passionately, we most surely will die. A while ago, I dated a painter. We didn’t make it, in part because he was devoted? obsessed? with his work. He’d paint for hours and forget dates, etc.
    Moderation is where you rest until you get back into the rough and tumble of life.

    • 03/10/2011 10:08 pm

      I agree with you… I think some of us live life in moderation, some a life of quiet desperation and others a life full of all or nothing propositions… The latter seem to embrace their passions and their gifts fully… T! 🙂

  2. 03/10/2011 9:27 pm

    Elizabeth, just noticed that my comment was timestamped 3/10/11 @9:26 p.m. Not sure if it’s your system or mine. Weird, eh?

    • 03/10/2011 10:05 pm

      TY for your feedback Marcia! I go from NY to LA time depending on my mood… Might consider a relocation again. 🙂

  3. 03/10/2011 10:31 pm

    What is one person’s moderation may be another person’s mediocrity? Who’s to judge?

    A thought provoking post!

    • 08/10/2011 12:02 am

      True, and then we wonder why some things are acceptable in excess and others are not… a double standard, eh? TY! 🙂

  4. 03/10/2011 10:45 pm

    Maybe moderation is our reset-button which we can switch on to come home and relax after exploring our boundaries? 😉

    • 08/10/2011 12:03 am

      sure… It could be that or anything else we choose to focus on. TY! 🙂

  5. 04/10/2011 2:14 am

    “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
    not far away from Epicurus, Seneca, Stoa, Montaigne …

    • 08/10/2011 12:05 am

      Aye and many of the other philosophers who lived dramatic, excess filled lives, but were disdainful of the idea for others… TY! 🙂

  6. 04/10/2011 2:33 am

    I think keeping things in modernization is a great way to live. It is so hard for me sometimes to do such things. I am obsessive about books and reading and I guess I could scale down a bit, but it’s my favorite thing to do.
    I like that we should relax more and down size in these economic times for sure. It’s a crazy culture in this era of the “information age.” So with what has been said in your comments holds true to everyone and that I am grateful for learning from them and from you…a great reminder on this wonderful day – to glorify the Lord. Thanks Eliz.

    • 08/10/2011 12:08 am

      Some people enjoy living large, unapologetic lives. I think we should be true to our nature and then all works itself out… If you truly feel the need to cut back on the books, do it only if you are sure of it. Live life… TY! 🙂

  7. 04/10/2011 5:50 am

    A lovely post Elizabeth. You are an inspiration with the effort you put into your posts. You must do a lot of research to bring it all together to make it so beautiful. Mostly I just want to say something that is on my mind – maybe I will develop my blogging more as time goes on.

    Great stuff!



    • 08/10/2011 12:11 am

      TY Lorraine! I enjoy the process but, you know, the internet has made it very easy to find information and immediately use it… I enjoy your blog too! 🙂

  8. 04/10/2011 8:12 am

    I always think that excess should be enjoyed in moderation but as a habit can lead to the destruction of all that we most treasure

    • 08/10/2011 12:14 am

      I like your line ‘excess enjoyed in moderation.’ 😆 I think it is human to have behavior quirks that make us act certain ways… TY! 😉

  9. 04/10/2011 10:24 am

    Don’t believe all you hear, spend all you have, or eat all you want . . . or you will become fat, poor, and increasingly ignorant (never a good combination). :mrgreen:

  10. Bree permalink
    04/10/2011 10:47 am

    More food for thought. Interesting look at the subject and I agree that it seems to be that we throw caution to the winds on some things and not on others.
    Moderation is defined by each person and their own moral compass I agree.

    • 08/10/2011 12:18 am

      Well said! We all have our moral compass on how we respond to things, so I agree that it varies from person to person… My moderation might be your excess. TY! 🙂

  11. 04/10/2011 4:43 pm

    Living in simplicity and moderation is the way to live. But, I’m not the judge for those who choose to live their life differently. It sure helps the “stress” buttons !!! 🙂

    • 08/10/2011 12:20 am

      Yes, I wont even pretend to have the answers as I believe we all have the options to choose. TY! 🙂

  12. 04/10/2011 4:53 pm

    You keep us thinkin’, Eliz! I do many things with total obsession. Can’t help it. While I believe in simplicity with many other things in my life, when it comes to my photography, gardening, or art–get out of the way! Sorry! Just sayin’

    • 08/10/2011 12:21 am

      We all do have some excesses in our lives… I don’t see it as problematic… Works like a charm when you have urgent, creative matters to take care of. TY! 🙂

  13. 05/10/2011 6:18 am

    Our brains have two sides – moderation is to be applied to the vices of physical pleasures of the mind/body; excess, obsession, devotion is to be applied to enhance the knowledge, imagination and innovation of the mind/body. Thus, you inhibit only the sins with moderation and enhance the rest, talents, knowledge, inventions of the mind/body with focus… Just my opinion…

    Thought provoking post! 🙂

    • 08/10/2011 12:24 am

      Thus, you inhibit only the sins with moderation and enhance the rest, talents, knowledge, inventions of the mind/body with focus… Hmmm. Interesting observations, Karen, but then, who defines sins? TY! 🙂

  14. 05/10/2011 8:44 am

    Too much of anything is never a good thing!

    On a side note, when you mention creative people having eccentricities, it reminded me of how many famous people are Bi-polar. I didn’t know this myself until after I married a Bi-polar man and did research…some of the greats were Bi-polar. This probably explains why some of things were a little crazy and also why they ended up having problems in drugs and alcohol, too, though. 🙁
    But I also find it really inspiring how even though a person may have been given a disease that messes with their brains a bit…it can also be what ends up making them so talented and creative.

    • 08/10/2011 12:25 am

      I remember reading about that too…And being bi-polar does make some people do things excessively… TY! 🙂

  15. 05/10/2011 8:45 am

    *some of them

  16. 08/10/2011 5:12 pm

    The only thing I can think of that I did of excess of is working too hard. I used to work 70 hours a week during the winter of 2008. I was used to it, because I worked an average of 60 hours during my college semester breaks. I worked at 2 retail stores for almost 2 years.

    The Lady Gaga thing was funny! I just want to say, if she wore business suits, she would start looking more less like a pop singer. I don’t know, maybe she would look like a rock star, or perhaps a CEO who is just trying to get into singing.


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