Festina Lente

When a cup of water is muddy, we have to put it down and wait for a while. It has to stay still as the dirty part would slowly sink into the bottom. Little by little, water gets transparent. And eventually, we could see a cup of clean water. It looks calm and serene.

It teaches us the value of slowness. Slow down and focus on things happening at hand as if silently observing a cup of muddy water in front of us. We could sense the rhythm and flow of the universe. By making alignment with it, we could see anything would become transparent, calm, and serene. Perhaps, we could even see angles flying innocently.

In the state of mindfulness, we can apply any activities at hand in this slowness. We can keep on moving, and yet, what controls us is not our limited intent but the rhythm and flow of the universe. We call it the Way or Being.

Let the waters settle and you will see the moon and the stars mirrored in your own Being.


Slowness, however, would be misleading by itself alone.

Let’s take a cup of muddy water again. If we place it for an extended period, what would happen? While we could say still water runs deep, most probably it would be stagnant in shallowness.

Water must flow constantly. It should never stop. Indeed, a type of water Lao Tzu described is the water that keeps flowing.

Water is fluid, soft, and yielding. But water will wear away rock, which is rigid and cannot yield. As a rule, whatever is fluid, soft, and yielding will overcome whatever is rigid and hard. This is another paradox: what is soft is strong.

Lao Tzu

Water must be still, at the same time, flow constantly. Fast-moving water current never gets stagnant, but always clean and transparent. Even it sounds so beautiful. At the very same time, still water runs deep. We could feel the rhythm and flow in the stillness of the water, but never stagnant.

It’s an oxymoron in itself.

In Latin, the well-known phrase is “Festina lente.” In English, it means, “make haste slowly” or “more haste, less speed.”

People like Emperor Augustus and the humanist Erasmus loved it as their motto. We must slow down and yet never get dull but move fast.

People have also used the dolphin and anchor as an emblem since Roman times. We must be as fast and dynamic as a dolphin; at the same time, as slow and stable as an anchor. Indeed, what is soft is strong. As long as still water runs deep, current flies like angels. They keep moving but never making haste.

Therefore thus saith the Lord God, Behold, I lay in Zion for a foundation a stone, a tried stone, a precious corner stone, a sure foundation: he that believeth shall not make haste.

Isaiah 28:16

Image by Rudy and Peter Skitterians; Image by andrzej_b

2 thoughts on “Festina Lente

  1. Wow this is so beautiful Tom…thank you! I will ruminate on this tonight I love how you worked in Rumi, Lao Tzu and a bible quote into this, as a pan-spiritual person who likes all kinds of religions and ideas all of it resonated strongly with me.

    Liked by 1 person

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