Nigrum in candida vertunt.
(Juvenl, Satires 3.30)
They turn a black thing into white things.
(pron = nee-groom in cahn-dee-dah wher-toont)
Comment: This is a snippet from a line in Juvenal’s third satire. Juvenl writes
at a time when speaking directly one’s thoughts about the “current
administration” could get one killed at worst, or at best, exiled. Rather than
direct criticism, Juvenal refers here to the Rome of an earlier time. It was a
time when men like Catulus could take what was black and turn it into what was
white. Juvenal seems to be saying: look at the twisted place that we call
I spent 3 hours last night at Emory University listening to James Hillman, noted
Jungian analyst, Jean Huston, noted anthropologist, and Deepok Chopra, noted
physician and bridgebuilder of western and eastern philosophies discuss “War,
Peace and the American Imagination”.
Here are three snippets from them: Hillman: we are addicted to ignorance (to
the willingness not to know about anything that disturbs our little world).
Huston: I travel this country and do not ever find stupid students, but I often
enough find stupid school systems that do not allow for the development of the
imagination. Chopra: We are suffering from the illness of separation (the
belief that I am somehow not at all related to the world around me, and that I
can do whatever I want, take whatever I want without ill effect).
In so many words, these wise people of our time were asking us to consider how
it is in our own time that we turn what is black into white, and fail to
imagine what it is like to experience another person’s life. As Hillman put
it: we plan and do numbers very well. We fail to imagine what it is like to
live out the existence of another. We say: evacuate the city, and fail to
imagine what this means for the desperately poor. We say: bomb the enemy and
fail to imagine what this means for ordinary families who live in the bombing
area. At one riveting point, Hillman thundered: I don’t want you leaving here
tonight hopeful! Hope will get us nothing. Instead, I want you to leave here
struggling with what is—struggling to deal with what really is right now.
So much easier to pretend that black is white.
(Used with permission)
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