This virtue is the condition or quality of being temperate (exercising moderation and self-restraint). In Balma's depiction, temperance is depicted as the ability to remain free of distraction and focused on a goal. A stoic woman walks amid a fantastic forest filled with strange beasts. They depict the vices of temptation that face us. The grasshopper reclining on an anthill represents idleness, calling to mind Aesop's fable of the Grasshopper and the Ant. It is seated in front of a television, which Balma considers a potential instrument of a wasted mind. The satyr, half-man, half-goat, traditionally offered wine; but instead, here he offers a bag of drugs. The strange figure in the tree was inspired by the ancient siren, half-woman and half-bird, who sang seductive songs to lure sailors off course toward eventual destruction. Here a rock music diva becomes a contemporary siren. The monkey in the other tree accuses with a pointed finger, but is blindfolded as well. It represents prejudice. The fox, dressed in the garb of a religious man, offers the olive branch of peace while concealing a dagger; he feigns virtue while symbolizing treachery and is a comment on the many wars that have been raged over religious differences. The pig, traditionally the symbol of gluttony, holds a globe covered with the by-products of careless overconsumption.
On Oct. 20, 1994, an open house was held to celebrate the completion of the Frescoes of St. Thomas. Seven community members were invited to comment about what each panel meant to him or her, personally.
Kandis Knight, a city of Minneapolis Scholarship recipient, spoke of the Temperance panel.
"Although the images of the past, shown in this fresco of Temperance are from long ago – the siren, the fox – Balma has shown us how current their symbolism is. He seems to know that today's society is such a very different one for our children. I have tried hard to teach my children, Brandon, Kandis and Joe, the simple meaning of right and wrong. The simple sentence, 'Just say no.' The simple lesson of respecting one's health and one's self. I do this with genuine – and constant – love and interest in their lives."
Recently, Ms. Knight sent me this letter, I was so moved, I asked if I could add this letter to her previous comments about this panel. With her permission, here is the letter dated 10/18/99:
I just thought I'd write to give you an update. October 20, 1994 I spoke on behalf of my mother about the virtue of "temperance", I now have my own child and a husband, I have graduated from St. Thomas and I am a law student at William Mitchell College of Law and a part-time law clerk at the Minneapolis City Attorney's Office. I now fully understand what temperance is and I can fully appreciate it. I remember speaking that day, and saying great things about what I thought temperance was from the perspective of a 19 year-old college student.
I just want you to know that truly am that stoic woman walking amid that fantastic forest filled with strange beasts, in 1998 I became the first college graduate in my family (maternal and paternal), I conqured the distractions of poverty, the gangs, the drugs and the crime to give a future to myself, my child and all of the children in my family who look up to me. I was tempted millions of times to give up, but I refused. I was tempted by drugs and the underworld lifestyle....but I fought against all of these things and I almost didn't make it, but now my feet are planted on firm ground and I can say that I truly understand what temperance is about.
That moment I spoke about temperance is forever burned into my consciousness and it may even be the reason why I fought so hard to get to where I am today. So I kindly thank St. Thomas and who ever chose me to speak about temperance. One day I hope to be in a position to contribute to such a fine institute of higher learning.