simple is beautiful

Lagom is a Swedish word with no direct English equivalent, meaning ‘just the right amount.’ It is also widely translated as ‘in moderation,’ ‘in balance,’ ‘optimal,’ ‘suitable,’ and ‘average.’ But whereas words like ‘sufficient’ and ‘average’ suggest some degree of abstinence, scarcity, or failure, lagom carries the connotation appropriateness although not necessarily perfection. The archetypical Swedish proverb ‘Lagom är bäst,’ literally ‘The right amount is best,’ is translated as ‘Enough is as good as a feast.’ The concept of lagom is similar to that of the Middle Path in Eastern philosophy, and Aristotle’s ‘golden mean’ of moderation in Western philosophy.

The value of ‘just enough’ can be compared to idiom ‘ess is more,’ or contrasted to the value of ‘more is better.’ It is viewed favorably as a sustainable alternative to the hoarding extremes of consumerism. It can also be viewed as repressive: ‘You’re not supposed to be too good, or too rich.’ In a single word, lagom is said to describe the basis of the Swedish national psyche, one of consensus and equality. In recent times Sweden has developed greater tolerance for risk and failure as a result of severe recession in the early 1990s. Nonetheless, it is still widely considered ideal to be modest and avoid extremes.

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