Thought for the Day

Thursday, April 29, 2010

My Motto

I've been giving my motto some thought, specifically, my family motto. Please bear with me. I'll try to tie this into the basic topic of this blog, being a type 1 diabetic endurance athlete.
I don't know what my family motto is, historically. There have been several different Nairn mottos used by various Nairns and Nairnes over the years. I have no idea which one would be appropriate for my branch of the family.
Nairn is a sept, a sub-clan, of the clan Mackintosh. Clan Mackintosh became part of Clan Chattan in 1291, when the chieftain of the Mackintosh clan assumed leadership of Clan Chattan through marriage.

The most common motto used for both Clan Chattan and Clan Mackintosh is the old English, "Touch not the cat bot a glove," or in Gaelic, ""Na bean don chat gun lamhainn."
There are two similar interpretations of this motto. It is either taken to mean "Don't touch the cat without (unless you are wearing) gloves," or "Don't touch the cat unless his claws are sheathed (gloved)."
At any rate, the cat is the symbol of the clan, and it means "Don't mess with us."
One family member suggested that this motto was a historical variation of the modern warning to practice safe sex, "No glove, no love."
I'm not sure about that interpretation.
I could see this as a pretty cool motto. Someone might say, "Oh, it's just a kitty cat. You gonna scratch me?"
But this is actually the Scottish wildcat, about 50% larger than the average domestic cat and supposedly impossible to tame, even when raised in captivity.
Of course, if a motto needs to be explained, that's a strike against it.
It is also a threatening, war-like motto which may have been appropriate for the feudal clans of the Scottish Highlands, but doesn't really match up with the life I lead.

Moving on, there are mottos more specific to the Nairn Clan.
Maybe part of the reason it's hard to find a definitive Nairn motto is the fact that Nairn is an armigerous clan, meaning it does not have a recognized chief and has no legal standing under Scots law.

One motto used by Nairns has been "Sero, sed serio," Latin for "Late, but in earnest," or "Late, but serious."
My first reaction to this was, "Huh?" But it refers to the Battle of Ancrum Moor.
The battle was a 1545 victory of Scottish forces over a larger English army. The victory was achieved by attacking with a small group which retreated and led the English into a difficult position, at which point the main Scottish force attacked, "late, but in earnest." The English, and their German and Spanish mercenaries, found themselves on uneven ground, fighting uphill into the setting sun.
About a third of them were slaughtered and the survivors scattered into the surrounding countryside. Several clans in the battle adopted this motto.
So this could be kind of a war-like, kick-a$$ motto.
It applies to my life a little bit in that I am slow but steady. I may finish back in the pack, but I am serious about finishing.
But that explanation is way too long.
Another motto was "Spes ultra," Latin for "Hope beyond," which is combined with the French, "L'esperance me confort," "Hope comforts me."
The hope I have for a cure for type 1 diabetes could be symbolized in this motto, but that hope is guarded. I don't see it as a key part of my philosophy.
I like to remain optimistic, hopeful, but I don't find this an inspiring motto.

So what's left? The Latin, "Plus ultra." "More beyond," or "Farther beyond."
That already sounds more like me.
(You thought I wouldn't get back into the topic of this blog?)
The tie-in with ultra-endurance events, ultramarathons, etc. is pretty obvious.
This phrase, "Plus ultra," has been used fairly often as a motto, because it refers back to an inscription which was supposed to be on the Pillars of Hercules. According to Roman mythology the pillars were built by Hercules near the Straits of Gibraltar and marked the edge of the world. On these pillars was the warning "Nec plus ultra" or "Non plus ultra," "nothing further beyond," a warning to go no further.
I might have glimpsed the Pillars of Hercules as I was diagnosed with an incurable disease back in 1974. I might have seen it as the end of a lot of things in my life.
I was fortunate that no one around me tried to tell me that diabetes was going to stop me. Unlike some other people I know with diabetes, I had no one saying, "Non plus ultra." "No more after this."
I thank my family for that.
Instead I was left to make my own choices on what was possible, and while it's often been a struggle, it's clear I chose "Plus ultra." "More beyond."

OK, that is an explanation, but it really isn't required.
"Plus Ultra" is my motto.


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