Russian proverb of the week

В здоровом теле – здоровый дух

With accent marks:

В здоро́вом те́ле – здоро́вый дух.


In a healthy body, healthy mind.


Today, the meaning of this proverb is often understood that if the body is healthy, then the spirit in it is healthy too. Or vice versa: a healthy mind cannot be in an unhealthy body. Hence physically healthy people should always have a healthy mind, and people who are healthy spiritually should not suffer from physical diseases.

But life continually refutes this verbal formula: healthy people are not so strong spiritually, and seriously ill and physically disabled people often demonstrate tremendous fortitude in the fight against their ailment.

So where did such a controversial statement come from?

As it is often the case, the phrase came to us from the ancient Roman era, but back then it sounded slightly differently: "Mens sana in sorroe sano - avis rara" which means "In a healthy body, a healthy mind is a rare luck". Turns out that the meaning of the Roman proverb was completely the opposite! And in this version, it is fully consistent with the real life. It is believed that this phrase became popular thanks to the Roman poet and satirist Juvenal, who wrote: "We must pray to the gods that the spirit be healthy in a healthy body ...".

So what sense does it make to take a phrase out of context and distort its original meaning?

It makes a perfect sense from a pedagogical point of view. The formula "In a healthy body, healthy mind" became widely known in the XVII-XVIII centuries thanks to European philosophers and educators J. Locke and J.-J. Russo. In their interpretation, it expresses the ideal of the harmonious development of the soul and body - the goal to which we all must strive, and not just “praying to the gods”, as Juvenal advised, but working on it ourselves.


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