What is Ars longa, vita secundus?

Ars longa, vita secundus is a play on an ancient (attic Greek, originally) aphorism we now remember best from the Latin, ars longa, vita brevis – “art is timeless, life brief” (others may render this differently).

This quotation from Hippocrates’ Aphorismi (an early Greek medical text) is rendered into English:

Life is short, and art long, opportunity fleeting, experience perilous, and decision difficult

Hippocrates, some readers will know, was the best known of the Greek physicians.  It is his Oath that modern physicians still follow, and so his legacy has endured over 2,380 years since his death.  He was the first physician to state that diseases had natural causes and were not caused by divine retribution or the caprice of evil spirits.

While some of what  Hippocrates still taught is what we now regard as fallacious science – the importance of so-called humors in disease processes – he started medicine along the path of science followed by the physicians to whom we owe modern medicine.  And his code of ethics is timeless.  Even as a physician only in Second life, I have a certain queasiness about violating the Hippocratic Oath – even to the point of not accepting an invitation to dally with an attractive patient while she’s in my care.

But this blog is only glancingly about medicine in Second Life (though I’ll write about it from time to time here).  Art – or technique – in general is the theme of this blog.  How things are done.  It could be building, it could be our halting attempts to imitate the practice of medicine, it could even be what passes for my dress sense.

In each of those categories, life is short, and art long, opportunity fleeting, experience perilous, and decision difficult


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