Mater artium necessitas.
Necessity is the mother of invention.
pron = MAH-tair AHR-tee-oom neh-KEHS-see-tahs
Comment: Just yesterday, I had a discussion with students about this
very saying (not knowing that it was about to come up on this list).
What provoked the discussion was the fact that ancient Rome had a
working steam engine, but it never was for them anything other than a
toy for the wealthy. How is it that something like a working machine,
powered by steam, would have to be lost to human memory and discovered
again hundreds of years later?
A civilization that had pervasive slavery in place to do heavy labor
had no need for machinery to do that. As I offered to the class, when
institutionalized injustice prevails, a people's imagination is
hindered. Need is not seen as universal when those who hold power
over others see themselves as radically other than them. There is no
universal need to motivate new ideas, new invention, creativity for
the common good. In the house of pervasive injustice, good is not
seen as common.
We whisked ahead to American slavery. Why use a cotton gin to
separate seed from cotton pods if you have human slaves to do the
work? Why even imagine a machine that can do such things? Why use
such a machine if it is already available? Who would think of it with
the injustice blinding the need that all humans held?
We moved ahead to my own life time. Just 40 years ago, judges,
doctors, lawyers, scientists,police officers, fire-fighters and clergy
were all men. Women were housewives, laborers, waitresses, cooks,
nurses and teachers. The institutionalized injustice of gender
discrimination impeded the imagination: of how a man might make a good
and capable nurse or teacher; of how a woman might make a strong and
inventive attorney or scientist or member of the clergy.
Sometimes, need forces a crack in the walls of injustice, and
imagination has its way. Art, skill, invention, work,
technology--they hinge on the things that all creation needs to
survive and thrive.
(Used with permission)
Latin Proverb of the Day Archive