FORSITAN

10/2014 D Vautier

Forsan et haec olim meminisse iuvabit.
"It's all gonna' be fine."
                           Publius Vergilius Maro

 


The Virgilian forsan (short for forsitan) is perhaps a good way to deal with past trauma.  The word means “maybe, perhaps, could’a, would’a, should’a, if, who knows, whatever” and it's very context can change the meaning. 

Virgil's statement appears on purpose about one third of the way into a rambling, wandering, and confusing Aeneid book one where we find our young hero Aeneas recalling all kinds of really bad things that recently happened to him and his followers, men, women and children after a violent storm.  As with any tragic figure, he manages to blame misfortune on somebody else, anybody else and always the gods.  He said this recent storm was caused by the mischievous Juno who got the wind to do her bidding and force the ships to run aground.  So Aeneas winds up on an unknown coast with a bunch of busted up ships and lots of cold, wet, shivering, angry people.  He now had to deal with all of these very unhappy dejected folks so of course he needed to give a big speech to bolster everyone’s resolve, just as any good Roman leader was suppose to do anyway.  Aeneas vents on the usual malefactors, many of the same ones that Odysseus the Greek had to contend with, such as moving rocks, whirlpools and Cyclops-like things.  He then tells the men that even bad experiences can be remembered later as not being, well not quite so bad really, so everybody just cheer up because in a few years when we are in a bar drinking somewhere, we will recall these adventures with lighter hearts and have a good laugh about it.

Beginning at line 200 of book 1 of the Aeneid we read:

O socii—neque enim ignari sumus ante malorum—

O passi graviora, dabit deus his quoque finem.Vos et

Scyllaeam rabiem penitusque sonantis

accestis scopulos, vos et Cyclopea saxa

experti:

 

revocate animos, maestumque timorem
mittite:

Listen up. We are certainly not unaware of the bad things that’s happened lately in addition to all the worse things that happened even before that, but I have no doubt that god will put an end to this string of hard luck.  You have stood up to the whirlpool with her noisy currents and dealt with those weird rock formations (Cyclopian is a type of stonework but he actually had to avoid them).

 

So revive your spirits, men, and get rid of these fears

 

Then he presents us with this neat little aside that is a sure cure for PTSD. So short and sweet.  

 

forsan et haec olim meminisse iuvabit

He then continues

Per varios casus, per tot discrimina rerum

tendimus in Latium; sedes ubi fata quietas

ostendunt; illic fas regna resurgere Troiae.

Durate, et vosmet rebus servate secundis.

 

 

After all, maybe these experiences can be remembered later in a happier way.

 

 

Through all these troubles and these dangerous

times,We will get to Rome, where everything’s going to be fine. Troy will rise again, etc, etc, etc.

 

So Virgil comes up with something brilliant by sneaking the Forsam between two rather verbose passages.  Here’s the thought.

 

  1. The usual human can experience some pretty rough times, I certainly did.
  2. How the mind deals with unpleasant things depends on DNA and attitude.
  3. Time and distance softens the impact of bad experience.
  4. We never can totally erase a bad memory but we trivialize it by remembering it cheerfully.