Dum Spiro, Spero

No, I’ve not (completely) lost my mind; that’s Latin and not gibberish.

Dum spiro, spero … So long as I breathe, I hope.

It’s a saying most often attributed to Cicero, a great thinker and orator of ancient Rome. And it is, in my opinion, one of the best approaches to life that I can think of.

If one actively engages hope with each and every breath, one is also engaging life with that same breath. And actively engaging life in all its messy glory is really what it’s all about, isn’t it?

Quirks of Language

I love that the Latin words for “breath” and “hope” are so very close to one another. Although I’m relatively sure that it’s just a quirk of language rather than a causal relationship, I still really like it.

Every once in awhile, when I explain this phrase to people (it’s written on the white board in my office at the 5th Circle, and people ask … they think I’m weird, but they do still ask) they see the  interesting synergy between the works spiro and spero too. When that happens, they usually go up in my estimation.

In my mind, linking those two words opens up a lot of new possibilities.

If breath – which has long been linked to the idea of spirit and life itself – is linked to hope, then hope becomes coincidentally linked to spirit and life as well. And if hope is some part of that which is at the heart of life itself, then hope is set up as something more than our culture would have us believe it to be.


I don’t really know why, but hope has received a bad rap. Somehow, it has come to be confused with fanciful wishing (which I personally think is also critical to a full life, but what do I know?).

Like anything, it can be maltreated. For example, I might hope that the sky turns purple. Now I wouldn’t actually hope for that, because who really wants a purple sky, but still you understand my point. Hope seems, to me, to be something much bigger than we’ve come to think it is.

Hope is about possibility. It’s about that which can be. Hope can be that which incites us to actions which may cause our hope to come into reality as a tangible outcome.

And if hope is the first step toward creating change … toward becoming the change we want to see, then isn’t hope a critical element to life itself?

Considered in that light, hope isn’t such a fanciful thing, now is it? And my tying it to the idea of breath and life isn’t so silly either.

The Point.

We have so many things in this world pulling us down a dark hole of despair and regret.  The news. Our own versions of the 5th Circle (“day job” for those who are confused by that). Bad relationships. Envy of those whom we perceive to have it “better” than we have it (whatever the heck that means!).

Why not set that aside intentionally and purposefully and choose to hope instead? Why not use our breathing as a means of remembering that hope? Breath as a physical mnemonic to help us remember.

So long as I breathe, I hope.

Ridiculously simple. Infinitely complex.

Just like all of the best ideas.

One Response to Dum Spiro, Spero
  1. Mark W. "Extra Crispy" Schumann
    March 31, 2010 | 10:32

    The whole Latin thing makes me swoon. Just wanted to share that.
    .-= Mark W. “Extra Crispy” Schumann´s last blog ..What’s on your mind? =-.

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