February 11, 2017 – Festina Lente

Festina lente is Latin for “make haste slowly.”  Another of this blog’s authors mentioned this recently and it reminded me of the Latin saying, which was a favorite of the Roman Emperor Augustus.  According to the Roman historian Livy, Augustus liked his commanders to understand the idea that a task done well had necessarily been done quickly enough. That idea was so popular that the Cosimo Medici, the powerful Tuscan Duke, used it as his personal motto on his coat of arms.

Cosimo Medici and his family were influential in Renaissance Italian politics for decades and it was the Medicis who commissioned Leonardo da Vinci to create many of his masterworks. Leonardo was perhaps the poster child for festina lente. He is still the measure for what we call a true “Renaissance man,” interested in many things and well versed in the sciences.  Leonardo was criticized in his day for being slow – but he would tell you that everything he created was fashioned according to schedule.

Another way to look at festina lente is that if a task is worth doing, it’s worth doing well.  The time it takes to accomplish the task, accordingly, is the correct amount of time for the task. My dad told me and my brother when we were young that it seemed we never had enough time to do a job right the first time, but we always had time to do it over.

When we reflect on how much time it takes to do something – whether it’s your own magnum opus, or just painting the dining room – remember to hurry slowly. Everything will be done in its own time.

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