Issue № 53

Festina lente

Festina lenta is a phrase I once used as my touchstone for a year. It means, to make haste s l o w l y. It’s inherently ridiculous, but also points to the very old and very excellent point about taking one’s time. It’s an antidote to the venoms busy and hurry. “These days” things are not simply faster, they are glossed over. The super-power I need to cultivate more is discrimination: What experiences are valuable? What pursuits are valuable? There’s [almost] always a faster way… but which is the better way?

In that spirit, consider the two paradigms that follow, not as you would two spirited debaters but rather two paintings hanging at opposite ends of a gallery. You are in the middle, bathed in natural light, forced by history to judge their color and attraction.

~ Mark Helprin from,

“You are a director of a firm that supplies algorithms…” Egads, no.

“In the two days it has taken to reach your destination…” You have my attention.

An agreeable tour

No enjoyment, however inconsiderable, is confined to the present moment. A man is happier for life from having made once an agreeable tour, or lived for any length of time among pleasant people, or enjoyed any considerable interval of innocent pleasure.

~ Sydney Smith

What indeed

While there’s nothing wrong with always having our nose to the grindstone, and having every day feel the same as the last … what would it be like to open to something different?

~ Leo Babauta from,

I hate to quibble with Babauta (his writing having been so instrumental in my growth over decades). But… uhm, actually, I’m going to say there is indeed something wrong with having one’s nose to the grindstone. Working a hard dash on meaningful work is healthy. Dashing all the time is—by definition—not dashing. Lately I’m again and again (and again and again and again) returning to the same problem. I’ve so many things I want to do, but only so many hours.

Test in the kitchen

Sausages sautéed with potatoes and onions! It’s also highly advisable to have a philosopher or two on hand. A few pages of Plato while working on a baked ham. Wittgenstein’s Tractatus over a bowl of spaghetti with littleneck clams. We think best when we bring opposites together, when we realize that all these realities, one inside the other, are somehow connected. That’s how the wonder and amazement that are so necessary to both poetry and philosophy come about. A “truth” detached and purified of pleasures of ordinary life is not worth a damn in my view. Every grand theory and noble sentiment ought to be first tested in the kitchen—and then in bed, of course.

~ Charles Simic

Part two

It’s time to accept that I’m definitely in part two of my life. I’m done pretending that living to 100 is realistic. (Although, I’m open to being surprised.)

Now on my Artist’s Journey I barely drive to the grocery store.

~ Steven Pressfield from,

The thought rattling around in my head is: What are the differences between parts one and two? And I think the central thematic difference is activity versus passivity. In part one the hero expended tremendous effort bashing their way towards the objective. In part two the hero has realized it’s time to play a supporting role.

Able to hear myself

I would like to spend the rest of my days in a place so silent—and working at a pace so slow—that I would be able to hear myself living.

~ Elizabeth Gilbert


These stories illustrate two truths. 1) I’m a big ol’ nerd, and 2) the goodness and badness of memories fade over time, but the badness fades faster—that’s the fading affect bias. Some bad memories even become good memories, while good memories rarely become bad memories.

~ Adam Mastroianni from,

Like Mastroianni, I’m clearly susceptible to this bias. One thing that I use to fight it, is to write myself honest thoughts after things happen. A lot of the pleasure from something is the anticipation—the imagining of the enjoyment from some expected experience. That’s pretty easy to remember to journal and it happens without effort in the days leading up. But after the fact, I usually take a big chunk of time and decompress. What did I really think when I got hit in the head that one time at that thing? …or when I fell? …or got sick? The best adventures are when I look back and think: “ugh, that sucked. I’m glad I did it.”

Until next time, thanks for reading.



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