What if this is the best time? Because it is.

Carpe Diem

Horace, The Odes of Horace 1.11  23 BC

I love this phrase. Like many phrases it is misunderstood and has been commandeered by the forces of commerce and self-centeredness.

Many critics, academics, and literary experts have discussed the bastardizing of “Seize the Day!” and its reduction into a slogan and even a mantra for materialism. Take what you want without regards to the consequences or whether you need it. So American. “Seize” has such a violent macho almost militaristic sound to it. Like some battle cry to win at all costs. Enhancing the drum beat of individualism and a me-first mentality. The extremes of a #FOMO #YOLO-infused, instant-gratification, Redbull powered, “Just Do It” consumption advertising campaign that promotes hedonism.

I am not saying that Carpe Diem is without virtue and inspiration. Like so many things it becomes superficial and thereby loses its original potency.

More than 2000 years ago Horace wrote this poem that contained these words– Dum loquimur fugerit invida aetas: carpe diem, quam minimum credula postero. Scholars have poured over these phases and there are many interpretations of this ancient Latin that emerged from Horace’s Epicurean philosophical school of thought.

Two popular translations emerged:
While we speak, envious time will have fled: seize the day, to the least extent possible trusting in the next one.
While we talk, envious time will have fled: pluck the day, trusting as little as possible to the future.
And interpretations of these translations abound:

  • Seize the day, put very little trust in tomorrow (the future).
  • Time is fleeting, to ignore the future by taking action for the future today.
  • To advance one’s future prospects, to truly improve one’s lot in life, one must fully reap the rewards, opportunities and insights from the present.

As Latin scholar Maria S. Marsilio points out, “carpe diem” is a horticultural metaphor that, literally is translated as “plucking the day” evoking the collection of sweet fruits and fragrant flowers. To be fully present to ingest the totality of the moment that is literally rooted in the sensory and spiritual experience of nature. To pluck something is a focused and intentional experience.

Carpe diem could more easily have been, “Harvest the Day!” (Not a great tattoo😊)

My Dad wrote me dozens of notes with this ending: “Stop and smell the roses!” As an aging parent and man I now know what he was saying. Probably inspired by a sentiment found in golfing great Walter Hagen’s biography from the ‘60’s: “Don’t hurry. Don’t worry. And be sure to smell the flowers along the way.” Which is widely attributed to inspiring the “Stop and smell the roses” philosophical statement.
Like much of great philosophical wisdom: Be fully, holistically, present for your waking hours. See, feel, smell, taste the experiences of the day. Pluck them, harvest them, savor them.

So Carpe Diem is not just a hyper motivational declaration of self-interest but a recipe for slowing down and connecting to the fullness of the moment to realie the truth.

For me the most interesting part of Horace’s prose is the while we talk or when we speak (Dum loquimur) portions. By the way, far less discussion or analysis of this phrase.

To me, while we are flapping our lips and filling the air with our ideas, time, precious time, “envious time” (love this phrase!), is being wasted while the future is never assured.

Stop talking about what you want or want to do. Stop waiting for a better time. For that time may never come.

No time like the present. To pursue the future. Begin today. Only actions now will secure a future you want.

We say things to impress ourselves and others. We blow smoke where there will never be any fire. We verbalize our aspirations to show we off the breadth of our interests. But interest without intention and ultimately investment is just irresponsible illusion without integrity.

Without action we can just live in this pretend world of possibilities. Making a commitment takes all the fun out of generating a facade of such superficial eclecticity.

Ambition without action should not be casually articulated.
I am going to………………….
I am planning to………………….
I really want to………………….

Say what you mean and do what you say.

Just got back from Greece and a deep dive into Athens. A trip of a lifetime that my wife Sarah and I have dreamed about. We talked about going to Greece for decades but made no plans. In fact, we never did any research or explored itineraries. We just said we wanted to go to Greece. We would chime in when someone mentioned Greece—“Greece is on our bucket list.” Just our little egos trying to show off our shared sophistication perhaps.

About 18 months ago our good friends surprised us and asked if we would join them on a cruise to Greece. It was a very personal request to spend time together that happened to be going to Greece. We agreed somewhat on a whim and an impulse. Later when we were alone looking at the itinerary, we decided that this was not the trip that we would have planned to Greece. We pointed out the trip’s many weaknesses. How we had the audacity to judge someone else’s trip and compare it to our mythical never planned vacation is shameful! It’s typical of human nature—criticize the gift we get. We finally realized what we were doing, and we were so embarrassed!. Our arrogance was converted into gratitude. Our only trip to Greece was amazing—because we actually went there!

Our minds are awash with things we want, goals we have, dreams we will pursue, and travel we look forward to.

These “important” desires remain intellectual asteroids just orbiting aimlessly in our minds. We say crazy things like, “I have always wanted to go to Greece.” 😊

Our empty talk of our unpursued and unfulfilled interests, travel destinations, unread books, somehow make us feel better about ourselves. The story of what we want becomes an essential component of our self-confidence and our biography of potential. What?!

To take guitar lessons. Write that book. Learn that language.

Make that career change, switch jobs, go back to school…..

Okay maybe you are not just a verbal pretender. That you have blueprints for your ideas rolled up and  shovel-ready. So what is the hold-up? Timing?

The economy? Your bank account? The holidays?

The waiting room is a liminal lobby of laziness. The purgatory palace of procrastination. The muddling mezzanine of malaise.

What if this is the best time? Because it is.

Don’t let near perfect get in the way of the necessary.

This is where hope has to be helped. Where wishing needs a shove.

Look my wife and I are not getting any younger. And acting on our travel experiences has urgency now. And waiting for some friends to invite us cannot be the strategy. We narrowed our list to a couple of places and started to look at websites and calendars. The real question is when?!!!!!  It is always when?

Now is the time. Harvest this day. Pluck this moment. Stop talking. And make your move.

Thanks to our friends we took in the view from the Parthenon.

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