Is Moderation Good or Bad?

I’m a sucker for pithy quotes and glib statements (hence all the posts that reference quotes by others), but real life reminded me this week that nothing is as simple as a cleverly turned phrase would have us believe. Proverbs tell us that we should seek moderation in all things, even moderation. But is this true?

When I was writing about finding the middle way, I discovered that not everyone is a fan of moderation. Of the many applicable quotes I found in Bergen Evans’ Dictionary of Quotations, only some considered moderation a virtue. Some were downright nasty about it.

Men have made a virtue of moderation to limit the ambition of the great, and to console people of mediocrity for their want of fortune and of merit.

La Rouchefoucauld in his Maxims

Whether it is a virtue or an excuse seems to me depend on the situation. When it comes to writing, moderation is my friend. I write a little each day, inching my way forward, knowing that I work best with slow but steady effort. Normally I would say the same is true for my health. But there are times when the solution requires excess instead of moderation.

Ironically, right after my last post went up, I got to binge on books, just as I’d longed to do, because I got sick. I was knocked down by a bad infection that would not let go. I’ve had to cancel every obligation and spend most of my time in bed, reading and resting. Even with antibiotics, my recovery has crept along like a snail, requiring more patience than I usually have.

To get better, I had to go with another anti-moderation quote I found.

Moderation is a fatal thing. Nothing succeeds like excess.

Oscar Wilde in A Woman of No Importance

I had to rest in excess while I waited for my body to heal. I wanted moderation to work, but it didn’t. Every time I thought I could get up and do a little something, bad nausea or chills put me right back in bed.

Moderation’s value is both relative and contextual. There are times and places to be moderate, but it is not always the healthiest option. I don’t know if moderation is truly fatal, but I do know when it comes to getting healthy, sometimes excess is best.

Do you like pithy quotes? Which is your favorite? And what’s your take on moderation: is it good or bad or does it depend?

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