When one is in running away, death is wretched; when one is victorious, death is
(M. Tullius Cicero, Philippics 14.12.32)
(pron = in foo-gah foy-dah mohrs ehst; in wik-toh-ree-ah, gloh-ree-oh-sah)
Comment: I can work with the metaphor. Cicero is saying that sacrifices are
really lousy when they only come to loss, but that the same sacrifices are
badges of honor when they produce something valuable.
Few can disagree with that. His comments can certainly be applied to war.
Cicero lived in a time of frequent Roman warring, and sadly, civil war that
nearly destroyed "the Roman Thing". His own death came at the hands of fellow
Romans who killed him and displayed his dead body parts in the public arena as
a warning to those who got in their way. Cicero was also a politician, and so
his comments might also be applied to politics.
This proverb can offer us a very practical way of viewing things, a practical
ethic. Underneath it is the question of what I am investing my energy and
resources in. If the investment of my time and resources (my sacrifices, so to
speak) are being channeled toward ruinous things or activities that will end in
loss, sadness, illness, pain, shame, or just a plain old dead end, then my
investment seems wretched. If my investment of time and resources will end in
something positive, helpful, will open doors, simply put, then my investment
seems a good one. Sometimes, we don’t know until we are partially given to a
course of action before we can see what the end will be. And sometimes, our
course of action and its effects are just almost stupidly plain.
Where is this action of mine leading? This applies to students and their work,
adults and their careers. It applies to parents and how they work with their
children, and employers and how they work with their employees. And, as for
Cicero, it still applies to wars and to politics. In all, a life given for the
sake of ruin is wretched. A life given for the sake of real achievement is
(Used with permission)
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