American literature conflict wisdom work

day eighteen: fast or fastidious? good must be enough

Greta's face masks April 5 2020

As I cut and sew, moving as quickly as possible to supply the demand for face masks, I am haunted by the battle between “fast” and “fastidious.” So today I looked up those words.

Fast has many meanings in the dictionary; indeed “rapid, swift, quick-moving” is only no. 8 among the ten meanings listed. The first seven meanings relate to a different concept: “Firmly fixed in place,” such as a fortress or pair of dentures.*

Fastidious, a word I have long associated with, has actually quite negative meanings. It comes from the Latin fastidium, loathing, and its first meanings signify “disagreeable,” “disgusted,” and “proud, scornful, disdainful.”  The definition I expected is no. 3 but it too is more negative than I thought: “Scrupulous or overscrupulous in matters of taste, cleanliness, propriety, etc., squeamish.”**

Speed is anathema for a person like me, whose forte has always been attention to detail, precision, and care. Hearing bad grammar makes me cringe; seeing misspelled words on menus creates personal turmoil (to mention? or not?); unaligned objects call out for a nudge into alignment. “Perfect” has always been one of my favorite words. No wonder I cannot sleep! Yet in my sane moments, I realize that even if the face masks I create these days may not be quite as perfect as I’d like them to be, the orders will be met. They will be good enough: good enough to hold fast and keep people safe.

As Yehuda Yerushalmi notes, “what we do may be only provisional. But that is all right. In the terrifying time in which we live and create, eternity is not our immediate concern.”***



* The Shorter Oxford English Dictionary on Historical Principles, 5th ed. (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2002), vol. 1, p. 929.

**Op. cit., vol. 1, p. 928.

***Yehuda Yerushalmi, Zakhor. Jewish History and Jewish Memory, (2005, p. 103); quoted in Joyce Block, A Good Enough Life After Freud: Psychotherapy in Uncertain Times (2011, p. 24).



2 replies on “day eighteen: fast or fastidious? good must be enough”

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