I wrote this one up a few months ago. I will probably end up getting this tattooed on my right chest, opposite my crossed torches.
“Vae Victis” is Latin for “woe to the vanquished.” The phrase comes from early Roman Republican history, when the Gauls sacked Rome in 390 BC. The Gaulish general, Brennus, demanded 1,000 pounds of gold to ransom the city. When the Romans complained about the scales being unequal in the Gauls’ favor, Brennus threw his sword on the scale and said “Vae Victis!” Meaning, the conquered had to suffer whatever penalty the conqueror wanted to impose.
While I certainly don’t think that’s an ethical way to conduct world relations (not to mention personal relations), I like to remember this phrase in my day to day life. It helps me remember not to let myself become “the vanquished,” whatever form that takes in a particular situation.
(Note: This is going to sound quite a bit like works-based living. I fully acknowledge that I am a sinner, and all my best efforts will fail.)
For example, if I’m running, and thinking about giving up (because running is one of the worst things in the world), I’ll think about “Vae Victis”, and that hopefully helps me push on past that point, because I know I’ll regret it afterwards. Or if I’m feeling tempted to lash out in anger, or submit to a bad attitude, “Vae Victis” reminds me to pray that God, through the Holy Spirit, would help me resist, and not become vanquished.
I heard about “Vae Victis” from the Hardcore History episode 60: “The Celtic Holocaust.” Hardcore History is my favorite podcast ever, and I highly recommend listening to the current episodes, as well as many of the former episodes. They are well worth the few bucks they cost.
But I carved a map
In the back of my arms.
So don’t worry; I’m coming home.
-“Down to Your Soul” by Right Away Great Captain!
…you simply walk up behind them and stab them in the heart.
Two of the best quotes from Batman Begins.
Alternate title: Trash, Part 3
More from the walk.
A while ago, I posted a composition quoting “Gorin-No-Sho,” or The Book of the Five Rings, written by Miyamoto Musashi around 1645. The quote was “The principle of strategy is: having one thing, to know ten thousand things.”
You could take this principle a few different ways. I’m sure there is an official, scholarly way to interpret this quotation. I am not, nor will pretend to be an expert in Japanese or Samurai culture, so you’re going to get my version of it. I like to think about it as an admonition to understand the substance of whatever issue you’re facing. Because if you understand the underlying substance, you have at least some amount of mastery of the issue, and will know how to handle individual issues.
I’ll give an example. In the last six months or so I’ve started Olympic weightlifting (barbell snatch and clean and jerk). I’m still quite the beginner, so when I miss a lift, my mind goes to the thousands of little things that may have gone wrong – did my hips rise early? Was my foot pressure uneven? Did I make contact too low? Did I lose tightness in the catch? And so on and so forth. My mind goes to the ten thousand things, but not to the one thing. If I was a master of the substance of weightlifting, I would be able to understand what went wrong. But since I am not yet, I have to go through the mental checklist. I might arrive at the same conclusion that a master weightlifter would – e.g. i made contact too early and pushed the bar out in front – but it would take me a lot longer than the master.
You can see this at work in many situations. You can usually see a beginner or intermediate practitioner thinking through a problem, while a master does things seemingly automatically, without thinking. This brings to mind Bruce Lee’s quote about a beginner being someone who practices a thousand things once, while a master is someone who practices one thing a thousand times. The master has practiced and thought so long that what takes thought for the beginner is automatic.
All that to say, if you want to be strategic in any given situation, practice enough to become a master and you’ll have ten thousand things.
Photo from a walk around the neighborhood a few months ago.
I’m going to try to put some more stuff up here – photos, compositions, essays, etc.
This has long been one of my favorite songs. I don't understand most of the lyrics, but the musical quality of the words themselves are intoxicating.