Disce ut semper victurus, vive ut cras moriturus

by Alden Cole on April 10, 2016 · 0 comments

“Learn as if you were to live forever; live as if you were to die tomorrow.”

ThorntonLibraryWPI was either fourteen or fifteen years old when I first started wrapping my mind around the Latin motto DISCE UT SEMPER VICTURUS, VIVE UT CRAS MORITURUS that is inscribed in marble on the plaque surmounting the door in the portico of the Thornton Academy library in Saco, Maine where I was fortunate enough to attend high school from 1958-62. Although I haven’t traced my way back to a clear memory of the moment when the lightbulb went on in my head, I was either a freshman taking first year Latin, or a sophomore who didn’t get enough the year before. It must have been Harriet Patrick, our extraordinary Latin teacher who eventually became a friend and mentor, who pointed out this motto to us as a class, since the library is such a landmark on campus whose architecture mimics the classic styles inherited from Rome. The thoughts behind the motto proved so audacious to my indoctrinated world view at the time, that I eventually forgot the accurate wording, and even started misquoting it to suit my own purposes, which I’ve been doing ever since, even though the words ceased making sense. Now they do, thanks to a brief article by Emma Deans about Thornton Hall, picture above, in the latest Postscripts, Thornton’s biannual alumni magazine. Included in the article is the Latin motto which I had totally forgotten existed, along with a translation, which took my breath away when I read it, connecting back to the first time I heard it over fifty years ago when the light-bulb first went on. Now it’s back on again, giving me an understanding of where some of those attitudes of questing and intense living-in-the-moment have their roots, which also ties into the apocalyptic Christianity with which I was raised that expected the end of the world at any moment. Looking back, I see it was all basic training for Being Here Now!

InTheEyeOfLife'sStormWP1980-83: In the Eye of Life’s Storm • oil on plywood panel 36″ x 78″ • collection of Betsy Alexander and Burnell Yow!

And part of being here now is taking a dispassionate look at where I was then, back in the early 80s, in this ongoing Slow Motion Memoir. Having left NYC behind after a decade, I was trying to patch together a life for myself back in New England, which was not proving to be an easy affair. Once again I was discovering the truth of the statement You Can’t Go Home Again, but I was giving it an earnest try, if not necessarily my best shot. After one of the more interesting summers of my life – living by myself in the country with only two cats to talk to on a regular basis – I was faced with one of those decisions with life-altering consequences as the fall season came on: move in with cousin Emily just down the road from where I was living for the winter season and continue commuting to Cape Neddick from Dayton; or move into a winter rental closer to work; such as one of the small cabins across the road from the Weiser compound, which rented for exorbitant prices during the summer, but were bargain-priced during the off-season. You guessed it; I opted for cutting the commute, and being able to walk to work, which is almost anyone’s dream work situation. In the process, my life was about to change radically.

to be continued…

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