Never go to excess, but let moderation be your guide. – Cicero
What does that mean?
Excess is often synonymous with too much of something. But you can also have an excess of caution, or in other words, you can also have too little of something.
The quote asks us to consider a middle path, somewhere between the extremes of too much and too little. Whether it’s food, drink, work or play, we can have too much as well as too little.
While the quote is old, and shows up (in variations) in Greek, Roman, and Eastern philosophies, it is still applicable in the modern era, in my opinion.
Why is avoiding excess important?
Turned around and asked as a question, you might ask “Can you have too much of a good thing? Let’s start by defining a ‘good thing.’ Air? Water? Food? Yes, we can die from too much oxygen, too much water, too much food, so we can have too much of those. What else can you have too much or too little of?
What about money? How do you define enough, and excess? What do you do with it? There can be negative repercussions to having too much, right? There are also repercussions if you do not have enough money. The same goes for any other material possession I can bring to mind. Can you think of something? Please leave a comment if you do.
What of the non-material? Can you have too much love? It depends on how you define the word, I guess. Ask Don Juan or Casanova, although some would call that lust. How about Romeo & Juliet? Anthony & Cleopatra? In each case, their love, while legendary, brought about their downfall. I guess you can go to excess in wanting love too much.
But what if you don’t want love, just to give it? Can you be in excess there as well? That would probably depend on why you were doing so, and to what lengths you were willing to go. Again, you can go to excess in anything, although if you have a counter-example, I’d love to hear it in the comments section.
Where can I apply this in my life?
That would depend on what in your life tempts you to excess, in either the too much or too little direction. I can’t imagine anyone having never taken anything to excess in either direction. The only questions are how often, in which direction, and in which aspects of your life has excess ever been a problem?
Take a moment and consider when in your life you have done anything to excess, either in commission or in omission. You can start with recent events, or you can go to your most spectacular excess. Try to find more than just one, as we are looking for patterns. That is because a pattern, once solved, can cure many ills at once, and inoculate you against future recurrences.
What did you come up with in your examination of your life so far? Do you tend to do too much, or too little? Or does that depend on what part of your life is being discussed? What patterns do you see in your excess? How would the situation have played out if you had been able to be a bit more moderate in your thoughts or actions?
In my life, one of the biggest failures in moderation was in College, when I had difficulty moderating my alcohol consumption. Once I started drinking, I just didn’t know how to stop. Since then, I have been able to fix that pattern by stating from the beginning, only one. Whether it’s wine with a meal or a mixed drink, I only ever have one.
My leverage for the absolute rule of no more than one (neither too much, nor too little, although I have had discussions with people who have argued that one was either too much or too little) was a time long ago, when I parked the family car sideways in the front yard after visiting friends at a bar. That could have ended much worse, and that is my reminder.
What can you do to help you resolve some of your issues? How do you recognize that you are entering the danger zone? How do you then do more, or do less? Can you use the memories of past excesses and use them to help you make a rule that you cannot and will not break? That’s what I did, and it works for me.
Whether it’s food (quantity) or a specific food, drink, activities (or lack thereof), there are plenty of things in our lives where we can be excessive, either in action or inaction. If we can examine our lives and look more deeply into our behaviors, we can attempt to moderate our behavior, and live (implied by the quote) a better life.
What are you going to do, right now, to moderate an area of your life where you might be doing or thinking just a little too much, or a too little? Where is the happy medium, between the excesses? Will you act now, or will you do too little until it’s too late?
From: Twitter, @philo_quotes
confirmed at : another weakly sourced quote, and not exactly an uncommon thought.
photo by Amy Stephenson