October 04, 2007

In media luce erras

In English: You are stumbling around in broad daylight.

I thought this saying would be a good follow-up to the previous proverb about truth standing in medio, "in the middle." In this saying, you can see that the Latin word medius is used somewhat differently from what we do with the word "middle" in English. In English, we talk about being in the middle of something - I woke up in the middle of the night, I fell asleep in the middle of the movie, and so on. In Latin, on the other hand, medius is used regularly as an adjective, as we do in some fixed phrases in English, such as stopping "mid-stream" or having a "mid-life" crisis.

So, in today's saying, the feminine noun lux is modified by the adjective, media - resulting in the phrase, in media luce, in the middle (of the) light. In other words, not off to the side, not in the darkness, but in the very brightest place where the light is shining. You might also compare the English phrase, "in broad daylight."

The idea of the saying is that despite the fact that it is absolutely bright and light, the person is still lost, still unable to find their way. In other words: there must be something wrong with the person, since they cannot blame the darkness for the fact that they are lost.

Although it is not quite the same thing, this reminds me of a wonderful joke about the proverbial Nasruddin. The story goes more or less like this: One of Nasruddin's friends came to visit him and found him crawling around outside his house, looking for something in the dirt. The friend asked Nasruddin what had happened and Nasruddin told him he was looking for a coin that he had lost. The friend, wanting to help, got down in the dirt and started looking for the coin, too. Much time passed, and there was no sign of the coin, but Nasruddin kept painstakingly examining the dirt around his house. Finally the friend asked whether Nasruddin had any idea just where he might have dropped the coin. Nasruddin explained that he had dropped the coin in the house most certainly. The friend leaped to his feet and asked why on earth they were crawling around in the dirt looking for the coin, if it was somewhere in the house. "It is dark in the house," Naruddin explained, "and it is easier to look for something in the light."

It's a different kind of fool's errand, of course - kind of the inverse of the Latin saying. Nasruddin has gone to the light to look for what is lost, even though he lost it in the dark. Meanwhile, the Latin saying describes someone who cannot even find something right there in front of him, in the midst of the light!

So, hoping that you are not afflicted today with either one of these forms of "light blindness," here is this week's saying read out loud:

1203. In media luce erras.

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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