By Oswald Sobrino, J.D.; M.A. (Econ.); M.A. (Theo.); M.L. (Master of Latin), doctoral student, University of Florida.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

To Rest or To Struggle: A False Choice?

Small things can spark reflection. As I make my way through pages of Latin reading, I try to find ways to intuitively remember the vocabulary I come across. At times, my intuition is stretched!

For example, the verb "nitor" can mean both to rest upon something and to rise up and struggle (check the online Lewis & Short Latin dictionary). What were they thinking? But, then again, language is not something drawn up artificially to make rational sense. Rather, language develops organically and by trial-and-error, much as the common law or other customs of our culture did.

In any event, whatever the sources of this etymological mystery (at least a mystery to me), two ideas are juxtaposed that we would normally not put together: to rest and to struggle. Are these two ideas really at odds?

In a world of hectic activity, especially in American culture, it may actually be a struggle to rest on something, especially if you cannot find that something. Rest can be a sign of strength and maturity. The person who rests has the grace to resist the pressure to be mindlessly busy and can use that rest actively to contemplate what he must do next. In a way, all our struggles should begin with resting on something and should end with resting on something. What is that something? It must be something that enables you to rise up again and again to engage in the struggle of life. And so our mission is to find that something to rest upon that enables us to rise up! Maybe, there is a method to the different dictionary meanings: to rise up requires that we get a foothold on a rocky ledge as we climb up. So, possibly the two meanings came together: gaining a foothold is struggling upward.

(I am reminded of a recent book celebrating how Sherlock Holmes would calmly meditate before solving a mystery; while others, like Watson, would run around like chickens with their heads cut off.)