Reading the excellent, comprehensive, astonishingly informative Macrobiotics for Dummies last night, I came across a phrase I didn’t know: ‘Vivre parvo’.
Parvo (Latin) means ‘small’ and vivre (French) means ‘to live’. They have it down as a Latin phrase, in which case I think they might have lost an ‘e’ somewhere, and meant to say vivere parvo. Though I think it should be vivere parva. So a bit of a mongrel phrase, really! They translate it ‘Take the minimum required’, saying that to achieve maximum health you should not ever pig out, but eat only what your body needs for nourishment in the context of your personal lifestyle. As a guide, take the capacity of your stomach (same as a heaped amount in your two cupped hands) and eat no more than that (you can have less!) Frugal feeding. Sounds like wisdom to me.
Anyway, for some reason, the word parvo wanted to team up in my mind with the word humilis, and tagged itself to the song Panis Angelicus. A little digging around turned up that the phrase I was thinking of in Panis Angelicus is in fact servus et humilis, more fully pauper servus et humilis – ‘poor and humble servant’ being the most usual translation. Interestingly, both pauper and servus can be either adjective or noun, so I’m not sure if it really means ‘poor and humble servant’ or ‘a poor person of lowly servant status’ (which clearly would be too clunky a translation to serve up).
So having scratched around in this dust of ages for a while, I came back to the phrase that had formed in my mind, parvo et humilis, which had apparently turned up by itself then, and means ‘small and lowly’. Humilis is a great word (where ‘humble’ and ‘humility’ come from – as well as ‘bumble-bee’, which used to be ‘humble-bee’ did you know?) It comes from the same source as humus - earth, compost, so implies substance of earth, close to the earth, dusty, bumping along the bottom - all that.
And I thought that as well as vivre parvo (I’m worried about that phrase now – what language does it think it is?) being good practice for healthy eating, parvo et humilis is what I want to be: small, insignificant, close to the earth, of no account.
Unsurprisingly like most people I have wild ambitions to be rich, famous and enormously important too, but that’s just the gibbering ego, the froth on the wave.
Parvo et humilis is what I want to be. Now what I really need is Julia Bolton Holloway to check my Latin!
Thank you for checking my Latin, Julia! The phrase I need, Julia says, is parvula et humilis. Thank you!
Oh, but wait!
Julia says: "Parvo would be something that's small, Parvula would be a little girl, the dictionary being for, belonging to, Parvulorum, little boys studying with the Carmelite hermit in Lynne.
Latin has three genders, feminine, masculine, neuter."
And Julia gives a link to the relevant place on her website, here.
I am so grateful. I think it is 'parvo' I want - something small - rather than 'a little girl'. What I am looking for is a small unremarkable object, a thing of no account - that kind of parvo.