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  • Writer's pictureD. Randall Faro

Homo incurvatus in se

A current “joke” making the rounds is that cell phones are so called because so many people appear to be imprisoned by them. A synonym for imprisoned is captive. Addictions and obsessive compulsions fit the definition.

A little Latin. “Homo incurvatus in se.” “Incurvatus in se” literally means turned or curved inward on oneself. Put “homo” in front of it and you get a person inescapably imprisoned in him/herself. Theologians use it to describe a life lived inward for oneself rather than outward for God and others.

The application of this Latin phrase in any context is almost always negative. The reason is that a life lived primarily or only for the self is destructive. We’re not talking about affirming one’s own identity and applying one’s values to life in spite of what others might think or try to dictate. We’re talking about always caring for oneself and satisfying one’s desires even when it neglects or harms someone else. And this is the point: living by an I’m-of-utmost-importance-and-too-bad-if-it-harms-anyone-else attitude generally does harm others. The effect is operative on every level from the family to relationships between nations. And verifiable damage is also generally experienced by the individual curved in on him/herself.

If I’m going to be captive to anything, I want it to be having a caring, compassionate concern for the creation and all others within it. To be sure, I have needs and desires like anyone. But if pursuing them results in harm to the planet and others, I need to remind myself that the earth and the people who populate it need my care, my compassion, my cooperation for harmony and well-being to prevail.

Around twenty-six hundred years ago a fellow named Jeremiah adjured the people of his community to “seek the welfare of the city, for in its welfare you will find your welfare.” This encouragement was not based on a self-serving mindset, but on the premise that everyone is as valuable as I am and affirming such as we live together will bring about the greatest amount of good for all. Jeremiah’s wisdom is needed as much today as it was those many years ago.

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