The four word motto of Saint Theresa of Jesus is “Aut Pati Aut Mori”. She is often pictured holding a book with these words.
They are often translated as “Either suffer or die”. This sounds harsh and punitive, not to mention depressing. Is she telling us we had better get used to pain or die? Is she making a pushy bottom’s brag: all I am so into is suffering and if I don’t get it I want to die? On either interpretation, the sadistic drill sergeant’s or aggressive masochist’s, what kind of motto is that for a saint?
It is mistranslated.
The Latin word “PATI” is related to “PASSION” “PATIENT” and “PATENT”. The root meaning of all of them is to be part of a process of unfolding. A passion in it’s original sense is contrasted with an action — when we are in a passion we are subject to an emotion that connects us with something outside ourselves. A patient undergoes a treatment from a doctor. When you are “patient” you await the results of a process that is in motion. When something is “patent” –as in a patent lie, a patent contradiction, a patent fool — it is no longer folded up and concealed that it is what it is. What it is now it lies before us to be experienced.
The conjunction “aut…x…aut..y” does not mean “you must do x or y” in the sense of a forced choice, but rather that everything is one or the other, or, better, everything only is to the extent that it is one or the other. As in the poker expression “if you look around the room and don’t see who the fish is, it’s you” — by the nature of a rigged gambling game you are either the tricker or the trickee.
By the nature of life we are either engaged in “pati” or “mori”. Either we are part of the unfolding of a process or we are dying.
Every moment we can look within and see what aspect of us is “pati” and what aspect of us is “mori”.
Aut Pati Aut Mori.