amo, amas, amat

The Economist‘s obituaries are always worth reading. The June 27-July 3 one, on Ralf Dahrendorf (as usual with these obits, someone fascinating I’d never heard of before), had a few sentences that struck me:

“He was in prison and in solitary, sent there for being part of a schoolboys’ anti-Hitler society. He was not yet 16. Determined to demonstrate his free spirit somehow, he tore a piece of brown paper out of his mattress and wrote down, with a blunt pencil he had cadged from a guard, all the Latin words he could remember. In the preservation of liberty, he wrote later, ‘We have the weapons we need, our minds.'”

I’m sure some of my former students would disagree that Latin vocabulary is a metonym for freedom, but the most powerful forces in human history have always been ideas.

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One thought on “amo, amas, amat

  1. James Stockdale survived seven and a half years of torture in a Vietnamese prison camp (including four years of solitary confinement) by repeatedly reciting Epictetus’ _Enchiridion_ from memory and composing commentaries on it.

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