Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Sapere Aude

Yesterday was StrongOpinions' 18th birthday. We celebrated it by going for a tattoo (her, not me, since wrinkles and tattos don't look so good together). At 18, she could have gone without me, since in this state that is the age where parental permission isn't required. She had told us - note the told, not asked - that she was going to get a small tattoo when she turned 18, and she was true to her word. Curiosity and soldarity made me go, too.

She and I and her friend BettyBoop went to Rick's Tattoo Parlor, where everyone has vast quantities of ink inscribed into their skin. Some of their tattoos are describable in this space (hearts, flowers, Celtic armbands) and some are not. SO had decided on what she wanted a year ago: "Sapere aude" in script, on her forearm.

The Latin phrase is variously translated as "Dare to learn" or "Dare to be wise" or "Dare to know." The translation she likes best, however, is "Dare to seek the truth." She wanted it there so she could see it regularly and it would remind her of what is important.

It's from Immanuel Kant's essay "What is Enlightenment?"

So how did I end up with an 18 y.o. daughter who gets a tattoo of a phrase from Immanuel Kant on her arm?

PH suggested one for the other arm, which seems an appropriate counterbalance: "Mundus vult decipit." Translation: The world wants to be deceived.

She's thinking about it, but wants the pain of the first one to fade from her mind first. "Sapere aude" is only two words. PH's suggestion is a lot more tattooing. Ouch.

After the tattooing, I came home to finish some work around the house before going to St P's for the celebration of the Rector's 25th anniversary of ordination. The parish's gift to him after the celebration of the Eucharist was a set of books from the Hakluyt Society, scholarly tomes on maritime history, nautical travels, discovery etc. The only more perfect gift for him might have been some first editions of mid-19th century philosophers or theologians.

The homilist, an old friend of the Rector's, mentioned his scholarly bent at length, talking about his dissertation title, which was itself complicated, never mind the content of the thing. We tease him a bit about his ability to go off on scholarly tangents even in the most mundane conversations. Nevertheless, we respect his brilliant mind and his breadth and depth of knowledge.

When he was SO's age, it would have never occurred to him to get a tattoo saying "Sapere aude." Yet he has lived his life daring to seek truth, daring to know, daring to learn.

There's a lesson there for me, who tries so hard - sometimes too hard - to get the acclaim of those above me by being the best. It's about the learning and the daring, not about the grade.

Happy Birthday, StrongOpinions. Happy Anniversary, Rector. Thank you both for being my teachers in both conventional and unconventional ways. Remind me when I need it that it's the learning that's the thing, not the applause.

1 comment:

LutheranChik said...

I'm really impressed. And "Sapere Aude" is something you can live with for a lifetime, unlike many of the other phrases one might choose to have tattooed on oneself.