Gaudeamus Igitur and mindfulness

Having put up this post the other day – Igitur qui desiderat pacem, praeparet bellum – it brought me back to the phrase in which the Latin word “igitur” is most famously found – Gaudeamus igitur – which is the title of a mediaeval song that has been sung by students since the thirteenth century. I heard it first in Latin class in Grade XI sung by our Latin teacher, Mr Ireton. Here are the words, Latin first and then in English translation, the opening verse only.

Gaudeamus igitur,
Iuvenes dum sumus,
Post jucundam juventutem
Post molestam senectutem
Nos habebit humus.

Let us rejoice
While we are (still) young.
After a pleasant youth
After a troubling old age
The earth will have us.

I may already have worked out by then that life would fly by before I knew it, but that was the song that put that thought firmly into my mind, a thought which has never disappeared. And when I saw the word the other day – and I might note I was taught “igitur” never comes at the start of a sentence which when I saw the phrase quoted I knew I was not dealing with a scholarly use of the word – I thought of that song and its message. The message has been more than reinforced by a book I have just come across and have almost finished – Galileo & the Art of Ageing Mindfully : Wisdom from the Night Skies – which is discussed here.

With meditations on gravity, the turning Earth, and letting go, [its author Adam] Ford offers a personal synthesis of ideas on mindfulness, curiosity, ageing and stargazing. Part of the joy of growing older, he says, is in “letting go of certainties and living without answers”: but it’s a powerful thing to ask questions, and to contemplate those of centuries past.

It is the only book on mindfulness I have been able to resonate with, perhaps because the author and I are almost at the identical point in our lives. Not only was he at exactly the same age I now am when he wrote the book, not only has he also retired from work, but he had also, as I had myself, spent part of his youth in Hammersmith in London (not as odd as it was for me since I am Canadian-born and he is English). He also discusses on a couple of occasions when he had been in Australia.

I will only add that for me I have found dwelling on the brevity of life and living in the moment something I have always done (well, sort of). But if I were to name the philosophers in my reading past that have brought me here, they would include David Hume, as I have just discovered here: Was Hume a Secret Buddhist? The question for me then is this, am I now one as well?


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