Carpe diem, (Latin: “pluck the day” or “seize the day”) phrase used by the Roman poet Horace to express the idea that one should enjoy life while one can. Different thoughts are going on in the world about life and death, this includes the reincarnation. Reincarnation is the belief that the soul, upon the death of the body, comes back to earth in another body or form. Well, I am personally a firm believer in the thought process that there is no reincarnation. The life that we have got is the only one we have got. The picture above displays Sundial, which indicates that time is always slipping by! So, seize your moment if you can!
What do we do with life, and how has the dice fallen for you? How your mind is made? Circumstances or genes or DNA make your persona. But that is not what we are talking about. This one little life that we have is all we are getting. We don’t know when it is going end, we have no control over where you are born, you have no control over who your parents are. You are what you are. You are born with a mix of different characteristics. But maybe you have control over what you become, what memories you leave behind!
Carpe diem to me is a philosophy! It is like writing in the sand on the seashore depicted in the picture above! If you don’t seize the moment, the wave will swallow the writing! Either it can be used constructively or destructively. In today’s world, the term gets misused in the wrong way. You have an important meeting the next day or a job interview or an opportunity to meet someone to settle a broken friendship or relationship. A long-lost friend calls you the previous night and suggests to have a night out and have fun! Well, that’s a great opportunity to make, and you think it’s a Carpe diem moment! It’s YOLO moment as per today’s buzz words! You Only Live Once! But will it be the right thing to do? Is it the right thing to seize the opportunity to meet your long-lost friend? Probably not, because next day you are trying to finalise that once in a lifetime deal, you may get your dream job, you are finally getting to settle that long-time issue which is dear to your heart! The interpretation “To seize the opportunity” comes with a rider! It is for the betterment of life, improvement of the quality of life or dream cum true! It is not just binging with friends and have a night out! Yes, that is also important when done at the appropriate time.
There is a story about the 89-year-old Naval officer from the British Navy. In the year 2014 people had decided to celebrate 50 years of landing at Normandy, 2nd world war’s decisive invasion point! This gentleman was in a sanatorium, passing his retired life. He decided that he must join the celebration, but there was no question of him getting permission. He simply dressed up, wore a raincoat and a hat and walked out of the sanatorium to the railway station, 1 km away. He took a train, hopped into a ferry to go to Normandy. By the time people realised that he was missing, he was already in Normandy. He knew that he would be admonished when he came back. But the story of his escape was all over media; when asked by a reporter, he said only two words, “Carpe diem !” To hell with everything else! The ferry company gave him a lifetime pass for the journey he took! Alas, he died in six months!
Taking risks at appropriate times is seizing the opportunity, it is not doing whatever comes to your mind, though the end results may be bad, sometimes! It is about doing the proper risk analysis, thinking through the opportunity and then seizing the moment. It is not for only seizing the moment or for YOLO.
The message of Carpe diem matters more than ever today. We live in an age of distraction, where we are checking our phones, on average, 110 times a day, and are more interested in being spectators of life on the screen than living it for ourselves. Immersed in the second-hand pleasures offered by our electronic gadgets, we need to reconnect with the wisdom of Carpe diem. This philosophy calls on us to taste the wonders of experiential living in the short time we have before death. In a group of college friends, we made the group, forwards free. There were so many fights, so much resistance. We have very become used to the second-hand pleasure of sharing forwards. Finally, when we could make the group forwards free, there are only 3 to 4 contributors, most others prefer to be silent spectators because they have nothing original with them. We seem to have forgotten that the formation of the group of friends, who were in college together 50 years back, was a Carpe diem moment!
I will share one simple incident. A gentleman aged 84was in a hospital for a few days. His daughter went to be with him for the day. He said to her that he wants to eat Masala Dosa. The daughter said, ok, I will get it. He said no. He got up, changed his hospital clothes and said let us go. They went to the restaurant, had the dosa and came back. Of course, it was no big deal, but that was Carpe Diem. But change the case to a 45-year-old patient sick with liver issues; he goes out similarly and has a couple of drinks and comes back. That is not Carpe Diem, it is sheer stupidity.
Carpe diem is seizing the moment or seizing the opportunity! The word “opportunity” comes from the Latin ob portum veniens, meaning “coming toward a port”. It originally referred to a favourable wind that would push a ship into a harbour. So, the question is whether we’re going to hoist our sails and catch the wind, or whether we are so worried about hitting the rocks that we keep the sails down. Yes, if the real opportunity is there, take it even at the cost of some risk.
Spontaneity is a form of Carpe diem, which involves throwing plans and routines to the wind and becoming more experimental in the way we live. We need to liberate ourselves from our electronic calendars and booking up our weekend’s weeks in advance and take a more unplanned approach. Take an unplanned weekend holiday when we are not constantly checking the time and are obsessed with being “efficient” and “productive”. Let go things once in a while!
Political and social Carpe diem? Don’t be surprised! This is about taking up from the individual level activity to the collective level through mass political action. Think of the Carpe diem demonstrations that brought down the Berlin Wall in 1989, which were full of spontaneous and enjoyable spirit. We need more of this today to challenge the big issues of our time, from climate change to the rise of far-right extremism. Look at what is happening about the MeToo movement! It is happening by the collective action of women from a different field, coming out in the open for their rights!
As the modern generation says, YOLO! Yes, you only live once, so make the best use of the opportunities, make the best of the chances you get! What are you waiting for? Just jump from the plane you are flying on but don’t forget that you have your parachute with you!