You know it when you see it

A friend of a friend of mine, a health freak like her, said that her friend was a water fanatic who drank eight tall glasses of water every morning and every chance she got. She collapsed from the loss of electrolytes. I have kin so strict in their diet that by the start of old age their bodies were fit to live indefinitely because their arteries were clear of plaque, but they were drooling because their brains had shrunk from malnutrition.

The key, I am sorry to repeat a cliché, is moderation.

Although I cannot define what is that, like pornography we know moderation by experience. Pornography defies definition. Indeed, Justice Potter Stewart admitted that he could not define pornography—but he knew it when he saw it; adding, according to my law professor Laurence Tribe, that Stewart said he saw it once sailing off the coast of Algiers.

Moderation is somewhere indefinably between the satisfaction of a craving and the start of achieving it. After that, you should stop. Anything more starts to be immoderate.

While I cannot precisely identify the stage where that is at, you and I know when we have reached it. Go one step beyond and we cannot stop.

This happens in all walks of life whenever we overkill in talk or action. Once you get it right – once get your point across, do not twist the knife.

My most rewarding experience in Congress was when I was made to realize that I had talked so much that I put my foot in my mouth. I had my colleague in the ropes, I was beating him senseless, and I could feel the majority swinging to my side of the argument. And then I went too far, saying, “And what lousy law school did you go to?” To which my colleague answered, slyly, “I just went to _______; my parents were too poor to send me to a better school.” The school he named, in fact, is a good school. But the members swung against me. I gave up the podium knowing I had shot myself in the foot where my mouth had descended and lost the argument.





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