Wednesday, April 22, 2020

#113 / We Who Are About To Die

Ave Imperator, morituri te salutant
Each day, as we individually and collectively go into battle with the coronavirus, some of us may be thinking about the salute of the gladiators (as that emblematic salute has always been conveyed to us):

We who are about to die salute you.

Presuming we can trust Wikipedia (and I tend to rely on it for my quick fact checks), this salutation was not, actually, ever used by the gladiators at all; not even once, and definitely not regularly, which is the way I have always thought about it. Click the link if you want to study the origins of the salute. 

I am not, actually, too much concerned with the origins of the salute, or with its actual history. Instead, I have been ruminating on how the salute echoes within me; how this salute seems such an appropriate and correct way to confront our current situation (and, if we want to be honest, to confront our existential position in life, at all times, and in all places).

The gladiators (the way I have always understood the story) entered the Coliseum to fight with each other, or with wild animals, and generally understood that they were not going to survive. The salute to the Emperor (again, the way I have always understood things) was both an appeal for clemency and, at the same time, a statement of the nobility and importance of each gladiator's individual life, given to the struggle that life has presented. 

It is in this way of thinking about the salute that I think we can all see ourselves. At least, that is how I tend to see myself: I am doomed; I am hoping for mercy; but I am proud that I have fought before, and that today I will fight again, and that I will bring everything I have to the struggle. 

And to whom, no Emperor being apparent, do we make our salute?

To each other, I suggest. 

With great love, and with compassion, for we are all in the arena. 

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