The Health of the Whole Being
by: Hercules P. Callanta
“MENS SANA IN CORPORE SANO” How many times have we come across this popular Latin saying that means “A HEALTHY MIND IN A HEALTHY BODY”? Written by the Roman Poet Juvenal as part of his Satire X in the 1st Century CE, it suggests that physical exercise is an essential part of mental and psychological well-being. Through the years, it has assumed a range of meanings: “only a healthy mind can lead to a healthy body”; “only a healthy body can produce or sustain a healthy mind”. Whichever way it is taken, it does not merely suggest the connection between the mind and the body; it emphatically binds them together, as they are meant to develop conjointly. This made it popular among sports, fitness, and health promotion personalities and organizations: a motto, a rallying cry, an inspiration for a name. While previously demeaned and treated trivially by society, sports, exercise, and physical activity as a whole are now linked with mental development and overall health, giving them a new aura of necessity.
The beneficial effects of exercise and ample physical activity on the overall health and efficiency of the body are already widely accepted. Healthy bones and strong muscles, strong heart and respiratory function, ideal bodyweight and body fat maintenance, movement skills, and improved functionality have all been firmly established as physiological benefits of long-term exercise and ample physical activity. So it goes for mental and emotional health and development: promotion of self-esteem, reduction of anxiety and depression, better quality of sleep, reduction of violence, better cognitive performance, higher concentration levels, and improved academic performance. The list of physical and mental health benefits continues to grow as studies become more detailed and specific toward studying the molecular, cellular, systemic, and behavioral levels of human performance. Even athletes now consider mental training an important and indispensable aspect of athletic development. All these give credence to what the saying avers—a sound mind in a sound body.
It might interest us to note, though, that the quote is just the latter part of the first line of Juvenal’s satire. The complete line is: “ORANDUM EST UT SIT MENS SANA IN CORPORE SANO”or “YOU SHOULD PRAY FOR A HEALTHY MIND IN A HEALTHY BODY”. While the partial quote seems to have done its part in the propagation of the idea of hand-in-hand development of physical and mental capacities, the message of the full line goes further to involve someone else other than oneself. It commands praying to someone, emphasizing the spiritual aspect of one’s development. This changes the message to something that is in agreement with the Bible in 1 Thessalonians 5: 23 – “And the very God of peace sanctify you wholly; and I pray God your whole spirit and soul and body be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ” (KJV).
The body is the physical expression of oneself; the mind is the seat of all thoughts, desires, aspirations, wants, and needs. Will the development of these two aspects of our self be enough to ensure health and efficiency, as the partial quote says? Will training the body and the mind guarantee total development toward success? Isn’t it but right that God be involved in the development of God’s most cherished creation? Can Juvenal’s wisdom expressed in his work be the missing ingredient toward total well-being and success? It speaks of the spiritual dimension, paying homage to an entity to whom we should pray for favors towards a healthy mind in a healthy body. It’s about time we consider the complete message of the quote that we have long used. It’s about time we pray for total well being.