My brother recently mentioned that he had learned that the word "diligent" comes from the Latin "diligere", which means "to love, take delight in". I thought that was pretty neat. It puts a whole new spin on how we might think about hard work. If love and delight is always behind our efforts, our work might become a lot more fun and inspired.
Latin is cool. I learned this through Dr. Fiveash, one of the best teachers perhaps to ever walk through a high school. He taught in Lexington, MA for almost forty years and was something of a celebrity in town. He passed on recently, and a memorial event in his honor on a snowy evening boasted an auditorium bursting with former students and community members. Humble yet commanding respect, deeply committed to his academic subject yet playful and always ready with an irreverent joke, he showed great care for all his students and remained in touch with many of us long after we had left his classroom. In fact, I contacted "Doc" as he was called (he had a PhD in Classics but chose to spend his teaching career at a public high school) when I was in seminary working on a paper in which I wanted to offer an alternative to the theological concept of "creatio ex nihilo" (the belief that creation came out of nothingness).
This was part of Doc's email response to my question: "This is a great idea and a very interesting question. Just off the top of my tiny little head:
The famous/infamous verses at John 3:16, 'For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life./For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved' suggest to me that God's agape is an exuberant, joyful, unconditional kind of love...So.... I propose: Creatio ex caritate. Even if caritas is not quite agape, the title might perhaps capture something of the sense of mysterious wonder and generosity that this beautiful world invites us to examine."
Creation out of God's love and care- what a beautiful concept, thanks to my high school Latin teacher!
I'd like to share another time when Latin was especially meaningful to me. It involves a little prefix: "ex-". When I was in college, at the end of a semester I appeared to have a serious case of bronchitis. I barely had a voice and felt so overwhelmed by everything I needed to have done within a few days, including performing a scene for an acting class and a song in a singing class. I had contacted a Christian Science practitioner for help, and she told me to consider the word "expression".
In Christian Science, we speak of individuals as "expressions" of the Creator. In Science and Health, Mary Baker Eddy writes, "Man is the expression of God's being" (p. 470- note: "Man" here refers to male and female). The word "press" is familiar, used in the word "pressure", which is exactly what I was feeling at that point in the semester. The practitioner reminded me from my study of Latin that "ex" can be translated as "without". So, she pointed out, as an expression of God, I was completely without, or free from, pressure of any kind. "Effortless expression," she said. I quickly felt stronger and free of the symptoms I had been experiencing. My voice came back enough for me to do the scene and sing the song (at first it was a little more alto- sounding that usual, but it kind of worked for the song, and it came back fully within a couple days).
That phrase "effortless expression" has stayed with me and has often come to mind as a comfort when I have felt overwhelmed with tasks and situations. A deeper understanding of language can often shed light on words and ideas in a way that brings healing into our lives. And it can be just plain fun. It's cool how even if we aren't at expert level in a language, we can research words and learn a lot online.
Today, as we take delight in our work, enjoy the beauty and generosity of the world around us, and experience the freedom of effortlessly expressing our Creator, let's hear it for Latin!