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Peccata Nobis. Our sins or virtues?

“Peccata nobis” is Latin for “our sins”.


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I’ve heard this before while attending church with my dad as a little kid. Or was it “peccata mundi” when I listened to the solemn Agnus Dei chants adapted by the great choral composers, full of sadness and sorrow?

Regardless of where the name came from, I’m certainly not saying that my new painting of the iconic dollar bill expresses any sadness or sorrow relating to our currency. To the contrary, I believe the good, old ‘buck’ can be a token of great happiness and pleasure when we use it wisely to pay for stuff we really need to make life better for ourselves and those around us.

But as we all well know, besides solving many good issues, money can also buy trouble and suffering if invested irrationally or in unethical ways.

As I was playing with a humble dollar bill, wrinkled, stained and worn out by years of passing through different hands, I became curious about its history. How many people have touched it?What has it purchased: pleasure or pain? Who were its owners? And when I examined it even closer and under magnification, I realized I won’t find my answers, but instead I discovered I’ve been missing much of its plainly visible content and many minute details inviting further investigation. Guess most of us do. They are hardly noticeable.

Understandably, we relate mainly to the imposing visage of our revered George Washington on the front, without whom - obviously - the bill or perhaps U.S. currency at large wouldn’t exist at all. But what about the small inscription next to him in the upper left informing us that that the note is a legal tender for all debts? Does this imply one is to in-debt oneself prior to obtaining the means of paying off what he owes? And what are all these symbols, letters and numbers of different size and style scattered throughout the front and reverse? And what’s with the one-eyed topped pyramid on the verso encircled by quotes “ANNUIT COEPTIS” and “NOVUS ORDO SECLORUM” I traced to ancient Egypt and Roman poet Virgil? And why is it green, not red, for example?

I invite you to do your own research. And I welcome you to view your next ‘greenback’ not only for its face value, but also in the context of its origins delineated by our forefathers, who gave us some interesting clues to evaluate its purpose.

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