August 02, 2007

Multae manus onus levant

In English: Many hands lighten the load.

Like yesterday's proverb about the five fingers of the hand, today's proverb is also a positive and optimistic one, in praise of cooperation.

There are actually a considerable number of variant expressions in Latin that convey the same idea. A comparative adjective can be used, making the load "lighter" rather than light: Multae manus onus levius faciunt, "Many hands make the load lighter." You can even use a superlative: Multae manus onus magnum levissime redducunt, "Many hands render a big load perfectly light."

Instead of "many hands" you can have "many people," as here: Multorum manibus alleviatur opus, "By the hands of many people, the load is raised up." You can also emphasize the weight of the load: multorum manibus grande levatur onus, "with the hands of many, a great load is lightened." Instead of grande, the burden can be grave, "heavy," as here: multorum manibus grave levatur onus. For even more alliteration, the load can be magnum, a big load: multorum manibus magnum levatur onus.

In any case, the point is that cooperation, the many hands at work, can make a difficult task easier to accomplish.

I was prompted to choose this proverb today both because it features "hands" but also because I read a very thought-provoking article in the New York Times yesterday about a scientist who uses computer models to study cooperation at all levels - between people but also on down to the microscopic level of cooperation between cells. It's a mind-bending article - definitely worth taking a look at! Here is the article online: In Games, an Insight Into the Rules of Evolution.

So, hoping that you have enough hands about you to lift any and all burdens, here is today's proverb read out loud:

1264. Multae manus onus levant.

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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