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In passing


SIC TRANSIT gloria mundi. Thus, passes the glory of the world.

It was my Ars Latina professor in the seminary that most impacted to me the full meaning of that phrase – “fleeting are the things of this world” – weaving it around the legendary triumphs of Rome.

Both a religious rite and a civil ceremony, the triumphus Romanus is a celebration of the military achievement of a general or the emperor himself, whereby, dressed as a demigod and riding a decorated chariot, he brought the rear end of a procession of war spoils and booty, the leaders of the army he defeated included.

As the procession marches on, a slave walks alongside the triumphator’s chariot, shouting to him – amidst the din of the praises from the assembled crowd of admirers – ”sic transit gloria mundi.“ To remind him that everything in the world is transitory.

The practice was apparently appropriated by the Church for the ritual of papal coronation. When the newly elected pope, imperial in his sedia gestatoria (the portable throne borne on the shoulders of Swiss Guards), is taken from St. Peter’s Basilica, the procession is stopped three times. Each time, a papal master of ceremonies would kneel in front of the pope, knock a brass staff and mournfully shout: “Sancte Pater, sic transit gloria mundi.”

So what current of events dredged the mind pool of these vignettes from my classical studies?

It is that time of year when elected officials do their respective SOGAs – state of governance addresses, SOPA for provinces, SOCA for cities, and SOTA for towns. SOTAng bastos not included there.

SOGAs have become the modern versions of the Roman triumphs, the elected official making a verbal procession of what s/he has accomplished in the fiscal year just past: from the kilometers of roads and the number of bridges and school buildings constructed to the volume of funds deposited in the public coffers, from the number of the sick, elderly and persons with disabilities served to the number of jobs generated, etcetera ad nauseam.

Sic transit…makes some sort of a reality check to officials taken in by the “greatness” of their own doing, most specially those who tend to believe the propaganda they themselves weave around themselves. The double pronouns there, for effect.

Without the sic transit…reminders may come what I first came to know this time from my Greek tutor in the seminary: hubris.

Generally translated to “arrogance, pride, haughtiness, insolence,” hubris often is indicative of a superior sense of self, an overestimation of one’s competence, most prevalent among those in positions of power.

Thus, there are the officials so suffused with awards and recognition that just can’t accept any failure in their programs and projects, seeking and finding convenient scapegoats for it.

Worse are those who totally go on denial in the face of the real: What floods? What dumpsite? What stench? What tree? What not!

And those that just can’t accept losing: not once, not twice, not thrice, persistent in their ululations… er, in their simple- and singleminded pride in maximum overdrive.

Be reminded though: Hubris always ends in self-destruction.

Sic transit gloria mundi. Hubris.

Ah, what things to think about, to pass the time this drizzling July morning. What nut!

(Zona Libre, July 11, 2011)


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