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Perhaps it will be pleasing…

At the international school that we work at currently, a colleague of mine has an email signature with very small print. It reads the following:

Trivia of the Week

Did you know…the book on the coat of arms for the school represents the advancement of life through learning. The sentence written on the book “Olim meminisse iuvabit” is based on a quote from Virgil: “forsan et haec olim meminisse iuvabit” which translates as “and perhaps it will be pleasing to have remembered these things one day”.

Personally, the cartoonist in me just can’t ignore the word “perhaps”. It’s actually hysterical. Here they are, young students, lesson after lesson, studying for hours on end to write tests and exams for a piece of paper that qualifies them and will “perhaps” be useful one day.

Lol.

Part of what makes this funny is the colleague who shared it. He has a dry sense of humour and a laissez faire approach to the world around him. This is the kind of thing he would say. It’s kind of like saying “Who knows? Maybe all this work will be useful one day. Maybe it won’t. Who cares?”

(There’s also some argument around the translation of the word for “pleasing”. You can read about that here.)

On a serious note, however, I will reference the book of Ecclesiastes. It’s a “so what” kind of a book, based on Solomon’s life reflections. At the end of the day, what does all the hard work amount to? What do all the lessons amount to?

If you’ve read Ecclesiastes, some of the answers to those questions are diabolical. “So I hated life, because the work that is done under the sun was grievous to me. All of it is meaningless, a chasing after the wind” (Eccl. 2:17)

Some Christians may wonder what that kind of a book is doing in their Bible. But the book’s resolution points towards something greater, which is worth reading. More on that in another blog post.

For me, I find solace in the fact that it’s not necessarily what a man works to achieve, but what a man becomes while working.

Here’s a ridiculous anecdote to augment my point (because it just popped into my mind):

I recall playing mashie golf with my uncles and cousins one day. My tee shot clanked in the teeth of the club while everyone cringed in low tones at how horrible it sounded, as the dimpled white golf ball skidded across muddy patches before settling 100 metres away on the fairway. By contrast, my uncle, teeing off straight after me, skyrocketed his ball a million miles into the atmosphere. Everyone murmured in appreciation at the velocity, squinting up into the blue. The ball eventually came back down to earth with ice flaking off it. Everyone marvelled at his shot. However, the ball landed directed next to mine – 100 metres away on the fairway – which I took great delight in pointing out to them. “Guys, same end result,” I quipped.

“It’s not about the destination,” retorted my uncle, grinning mischievously. “It’s about how you get there.”

Perhaps the work we put in will be useful. Perhaps we’ll remember. What is true, is that we won’t be the same further down the line. There’ll be stories to tell and things to reflect on. That’s life.

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