Madeline—the gal who owns the ceramic shop up the street—sat down at my table at Roxy yesterday morning. She noted that whenever she encounters me, I’m scribbling in my notebook.
“Nulla dies sine linea,” she said. Latin for not a day without a line. This is one of her favorite mottoes, which naturally can be interpreted as encompassing all of art, of craft, of one’s occupation or interests. Just do what you have the talent to do, and you’ll be happy. No?
I said my favorite Latin phrase is, “Ars longa, vita brevis.” Art is long, life is short. And what goes with it is: “Fortuna favet fortibus,” Fortune favors the brave.
Madeline countered with, “Fortuna adiuvat fortes.” Fortune brings luck. Hmmmm. A challenge to my interpretation that good behavior brings good results. “You should know that Fortuna, the Roman goddess, frequently takes away every good thing she brings us,” Madeline said. “We never know what we’ll end up with!”
“All right,” I said. “The last Latin aphorism I can think of right now is: ‘Amor vincet omnia.’” Love conquers all.
Madeline replied, “Labor vincet omnia.”
Ha! Madeline believes that to get what you want you don’t fall in love, instead you work! As she does at her shop every long day shaping clay at her wheel.
This difference in approach reflects two competing ancient philosophies. On the one hand the Epicureans believed the highest value is pleasure. Which was countered by the Stoics who insisted a wise man is free of passion, and calmly resigned to fate.
“Do you know the Italian word astinente? From the Latin abstinere, which means to withhold? ”
“Yes. This, too, is an important value.”
Indeed, I thought. Obviously very important to a Stoic like her.
And then Madeline looked at her wristwatch: “Oh, look at the time!” she said. “I must go now. Ciao!”
An intriguing encounter. Who said there are no accidents? Here I am on this island, for several years a solitary man. And wholly abstinent! Faithful to my Vittoria. At the same time I know my sweetpea and I will be together. Sooner rather than later. I know love will triumph, after all.
This is our fate. A gift from goddess Fortuna we both will gladly—stoically—accept!