Carpe Diem: Seize the Day
BY: T. Franklin Murphy | December 1, 2018 (modified January 18, 2023)
Carpe Diem! Seize the day; trust not tomorrow. A habit of healthy living, flourishing in life, demands enjoyment of the present. Instead of constantly chasing unknown tomorrows, hoping to discover a hidden paradise, we must treasure the moment. The precious moment in existence must be nurtured, held and appreciated. We must seize each moment, not carelessly letting then slip into oblivion, so we can be creators of life.
In 23 BCE Roman poet Horace wrote “carpe diem quam minimum credula postero,” which literally means, “pluck the day, trusting as little as possible in the next one.”
"With each moment, you have a choice: seize the moment, or let it pass by." ~Samantha Finegan
The value of the present moment shouldn’t be an ugly excuse to chase never-ending pleasures. Singing, “eat, drink and be merry for tomorrow we die.” For certainly, ignoring a future altogether is bad. Present-moments should honor the future not mortgage it. The future is built on the life we live today. Our actions in the moment should kindly shine on the future. Our choices create the environments we must live in tomorrow.
Life is Dynamic
Carpe Diem joyfully and painfully reminds of our transitory existence. We are not all-powerful creatures with no beginning and no end. We have a finite existence in mortality. Seize the day. Honor the moment. This profound message, rather than encouraging riotous living, reminds of the exigency of limited time, an inevitable death.
Seize the day is a very different message than what bombards our lives, suggesting a luxury car, a fancy dinner, and the latest technology will bring us pleasure and satisfaction. We suffer from the ruthless propaganda that we are missing out, others are enjoying life and we are not.
In Julian Baggini’s thought provoking book on the meaning of life, he wrote:
The idea that we should seize the day does not tell us what matters in life. We need first to identify that, or else what we seize may be empty or worthless. The wisdom of carpe diem is that time is short, this is the only life we have and we should not squander it. This wisdom is turned to folly if we assume this means that only pleasure counts, and thus spend our days forever grasping at moments in time which start to recede into the past even as we reach for them (2005, p. 139).
Carpe Diem and Joy
Perhaps, carpe diem is intricately tied to joy. Valuable moments wrapped together with purpose give a transcending quality to life. These moments create escapes from the superficial endeavors on our schedules and expand our sense of being. Here we find joy—not pleasure.
I believe this is what Rollo May (1953) was presenting, "joy is the effect which comes when we use our powers. Joy, rather than happiness, is the goal of life, for joy is the emotion which accompanies our fulfilling our natures as human beings. It is based on the experience of one's identity as being of worth and dignity." (p.96)
Fear of the Unknown
Instead of fearfully clinging to the drowsy known of security, seizing the moment, we reach out and venture. We, as an individual, explore the greatness of our surroundings, mastering new encounters, adapting to challenges, and building confidence in our abilities. These adventures stir joy, illuminating and fulfilling our human experience.
Alfred Adler refers to joy as a conjunctive emotion, “Joy is the feeling that most effectively bridges the distance between people” (2010). Beyond joining people, joy connects us to the moment, creating a bond and giving value. Joy is a marker of seizing the day. True satisfaction comes from focusing on, and when possible, enjoying the moment.
"Whatever you need to do, do it now! Today is the tomorrow you planned for yesterday, so start today."
Books on Seize the Day
Don't Worry About Consequences
Some wrongly define seizing the moment, not worrying about tomorrow permission to do as you please without concern for tomorrow. I shudder at using philosophy as justification for recklessness and abolishment of personal responsibility.
Seize the moment is a call for action, do now what you would prefer to put off until tomorrow. I like to ask myself when I catch a fleeting temptation to delay, "If not now, when?" Often, the small reminder is enough to motivate action.
Many face the predicament of accepting the fleeting feelings in the moment, without engaging in a undermining plan to improve those feelings. The constant focus on what’s wrong with this experience disconnects us from the moment, lacing feelings with disgust and contempt. The joy is lost and our connection to experience fragmented.
A Few Closing Thoughts
Present-moment acceptance combined with purposeful engagements is seizing the day—enjoying life in all its beauties. The present brings with it struggle and suffering, not to disconnect us from the moment, but to remind of our transitory existence. Flourishing people take those moments, gather wisdom and continue on their journey. Carpe Diem! Seize the day my friends!
Adler, A (2010) Understanding Human Nature. Martino Fine Books. Kindle Edition
Baggini, J (2005) What's It All About?: Philosophy and the Meaning of Life. Oxford University Press. Kindle Edition
May, R. (1953). Man's Search for Himself. W.W.Norton and Company: New York. Kindle Edition