Sapere aude: Dare to think on your own

22 07 2008

I remember as a kid my mother explaining to me that, in Japan, people referred to Korea as “cho-sen”, meaning “Land of morning calm”. Being a pain in the neck since my early years, I always wondered how one could possibly say “land of morning calm” using just two syllables – that’s when my mother gently suggested me to shut up🙂 .

Latin shares some of that hidden magic with Japanese and can also express a lot in a few words. Ad augusta per angusta, Caveat emptor and Urbi et orbe all seem to have this elastic semantic property. My favourite among the short Latin quotes is sapere aude, which mysteriously means “Dare to think on your own”.

In the last couple of years, I have read my fair share of business books (or at least portions of them, as I’m admittedly a lousy reader):

  • Get things done
  • The long tail
  • The world is flat
  • Wikinomics

and I’m currently reading:

  • Web 2.0: a strategy guide
  • Groundswell: Winning in a World Transformed by Social Technologies
  • Here comes everybody
  • Thinkertoys

While many things can be learned from those books, they are written in a way that can lead us to refer to them as gospels, and not simple sources of opinions.

Likewise, many times we see the use of blank statements disguised as common wisdom justifying policies or courses of action. Here are some that examples:

  • You can’t teach an old dog new tricks
  • Jack of all trades, master of none
  • Perception is reality

The real world is so much more complex than that. And I don’t mean to say I’m immune to that: from time to time I catch myself unconsciously trapped in that herd mentality. That’s why I enjoy to hear people who disagree with me, as they may be my only chance to snap out of it

If we have to choose a blank statement to adopt, I like this one better: “when everybody thinks alike, nobody thinks much”. If everything looks rosy and everybody is agreeing with you, think twice. And above it all, sapere aude.


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2 responses

13 08 2008
Li

I know exactly why cho-sen can be translated to ‘land of morning calm’. I understand it because both Japanese and Koreans have their culture root in chinese. And the chinese name for korea (朝鲜) reads almost cho-sen in chinese pronunciation. These 2 chinese characters can be literally translated to be ‘morning’ and ‘fresh’, from which I can see the interpretation of ‘land of morning calm’, not a stretch at all.

In fact, just 2 weeks ago, I went to a korean restaurant, that had the chinese/kanji name of 朝鲜屋, which literally translates to korea house. All menu/patron/staff were korean, but the outside sign was in chinese/kanji. I highly recommend their pork bone potato stew. Yonge St, on east side, north of steels, south of hwy7.

21 09 2008
Aaron

Hey Li, thanks for shedding some light on the mystery of 2 syllables becoming such a long sentence in English.

You know, I like most of the international cuisine I have tried, but I’ve never really been into Korean food. I’m ok with kim-chee and also like some kind of omelet with vegetables that I had as a kid in some Korean get-togethers. Other than that, I can say that I’m closer to tolerating Korean food than actually enjoying it, but maybe it’s because I have not tried the right things or places. Next time I go up North on Yonge I’ll keep an eye for the Korean House place you mentioned.

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