Wednesday, November 16, 2016

dum spiro, spero

Occasionally the alignment of random events makes me wonder how random things really are. Over the years, Santa Cruz has had more than one large truck patrolling the downtown streets, covered with words, sometimes figures like dolls or stuffed animals. Sometimes there is a loudspeaker blaring music or rhetoric. Usually these vehicles leave me more baffled than intrigued. They often seem to be advertising some fringe ideology of the driver, which you might agree with if you figure out the coherent message but then again, you might not.

Don't know this truck personally, but it's a benign example.

Last week, though, I saw a large truck with only one message on it. Along it's long black side, the white letters proclaimed "Dum Spiro Spero". As my only association to "spiro" was the not beloved vice-president Spiro Agnew, and I was pretty sure we weren't still talking about him, I thought, well, I'll look that up when I get home. And then forgot about it.

The next day, my friend came to town, and wanted to go back to a clothing store where she'd found a dress she'd decided to buy. While I was waiting with her at the counter, I passed the time by looking down into a glass case full of pendants on necklaces and things like that. A lot of them had little tags attached which explained their meanings. The first one that caught my eye said "Dum Spiro Spero" and explained that it means "While I breathe, I hope."

I'm not really sure what the driver of the black truck is hoping for, but it's a lot better motto than some are toting around these days. A lot of people may know this phrase already, as not only is it the state motto of South Carolina, but also there seem to be many people who have had themselves tattooed with it.


It is attributed to Cicero, though unlike some of his other sayings, I don't see a particular work cited. Maybe he just went around saying it all the time.

It was  also part of the coat of arms of the Kingdom of Sarawak, now one of the states of Malaysia. That creature on the top is a badger, or in the parlance of heraldry, a brock.

In any case, it seems to be a good time to tattoo it on your body or wear it as a necklace, or put it on your big, black truck. Let's be hopeful. While we can.

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