One you can finish

The worker must be stronger than his project; loads larger than the bearer must necessarily crush him. Certain careers, moreover, are not so demanding in themselves as they are prolific in begetting a mass of other activities. Enterprises which give rise to new and multifarious activites should be avoided; you must not commit yourself to a task from which there is no free egress. Put your hand to one you can finish or at least hope to finish; leave alone those that expand as you work at them and do not stop where you intended they should.

~ Seneca, On Tranquility

Festina lente

From the Roman historian Suetonius, we learn that festina lente became Octavian’s motto. Octavian, making Athenodorus’ influence clear, “thought nothing less becoming in a well-trained leader than haste and rashness.” His favorite sayings were: “More haste, less speed”; “Better a safe commander than a bold”; and “That is done quickly enough which is done well enough.” The first one is rendered simply enough in Latin that it’s worth saying again: Festina lente. Make haste, slowly.

~ From

I’m taking up the phrase Festina Lente, (make haste, slowly,) in place of “unrestrained moderation.”

There are countless examples of this idea throughout history. The archetype is, I think, “Slow is smooth. Smooth is fast.” Perhaps, “festina lente,” though, is the archetype? …or maybe the original Greek? Anyway.

I’m trying to keep it in mind as a touch phrase for those moments—say, when I’m literally knee deep in tree trimmings stumbling around my yard, exhausted and I should quit soon before I get hurt… “festina lente.”


Unrestrained moderation

I’m finding myself draw to this phrase. It’s clearly messing with me; At first brush it might seem to be an oxymoron. However it depends on which definition of “moderation” I choose. If moderation is something I have—say, I am moderate in my opinions—then that moderation simply is. That moderation is neither short nor tall, slow nor fast, and neither restrained nor unrestrained.

But if moderation is thought of as an action—something I am doing continuously, like running or living or talking—then it can clearly be done to different degrees. My running can be slow or fast. (Technically, my running is uniformly slow, but bear with me for this simile.) My living can be conservative or outlandish. And so my moderation can be restrained or unrestrained. Currently, my moderation dial is turned to about, 2; Picture me knocking on the control panel asking, “Hello? Is this on?” I need to twist that moderation up to 11.


Update Oct 2020: See also, Festina Lente.