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Omnia sapientibus facilia

Original post date: Monday, May 21, 2007

In English: All things are easy for the wise.

Like yesterday's proverb, today's saying is about the advantages of being wise. In today's proverb, the emphasis is on what the wise person is capable of doing. Anything at all is easy for the wise person to do. You can also find this phrase expressed in variant forms, such as Facilia sapientibus cuncta, and the superlative version, Omnia sapientibus facillima.

Note the shared root in the Latin word for "easy," facilis, and the verb meaning "to do," facere. "Easy" in Latin means "easy-to-do." To keep that connection in the English translation, we might say "all things are do-able for the wise."

You can find this saying in Erasmus's Adagia (2.9.56), who adds the following comments: Nihil est tam arduum, quod prudenti consilio non facile conficiatur, "Nothing is so difficult that it cannot be easily accomplished with careful planning." So, that is one reason why things are easy for people who are wise. If you are wise, you can think things through in advance, and if you think things through in advance, it will all go much more easily!

Yet Erasmus adds another comment which deepens the notion of just what is involved in being wise: Aut, nihil tam acerbum, quod sapiens non aequo animo facileque ferat, ratione cuncta leniente, "Plus, there is nothing so bitter, that the wise person is not able to bear it easily with equanimity, since thoughtful reflection alleviates everything."

This seems to me the heart of wisdom - something like the famous serenity prayer: "Grant to us the serenity of mind to accept that which cannot be changed; the courage to change that which can be changed, and the wisdom to know the one from the other." I'm not sure that's the kind of wisdom we are teaching in school, but it is definitely the kind of wisdom we would all do well to have!

Meanwhile, here is today's proverb read out loud:

494. Omnia sapientibus facilia.

The number here is the number for this proverb in Latin Via Proverbs: 4000 Proverbs, Mottoes and Sayings for Students of Latin.

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