Quot homines, tot sententia; suus cuique mos.
(Terence, Phormio 454)
There are as many opinions as there are people; a tradition for each one.
(pron = kwoht HOH-mih-nays toht sen-TEN-tee-ah soos KWEE-kweh mohs).
Comment: I guess there being as many opinions in the room as there are people is
an ancient human reality. We joke about it now, and Terence seems to be having
some fun with it, too. What would likely have not been funny to Romans, or at
least acceptable in a serious discussion, is the notion of every individual
having his/her own "mos", custom, tradition. Roman piety was built on at least
the notion of the "mos maiorum", the tradition of the elders. A pious Roman
would invoke the "mos maoiorum" in order to say--this is how we have always
Such traditions make people feel more secure. They also impose past experience
on the present and future and imply that change is unwelcome or even evil.
Change simply is the way things work. I would not suggest that traditions be
thrown out or ignored, but I find it helpful to consider them as another voice
in the room, one of the "sententiae" among the many.
If the way we lived is conceived of as a path, and we refuse to step on any
stepping stone except those that we have walked on before, we would spend our
lives either standing still or walking backward. Rather, I see life as a path
unfolding, and often I have to step on a stone that is hidden in the mist in
front of me. When my foot steps out and finlly connects with the next stepping
stone, it may well look and feel just like so many before it. That is how
tradition helps me. But, it may look at feel very different with any given
stone. And that is how life unfolds and changes.
(Used with permission)
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