Wednesday, March 26, 2014

CARPE DIEM--Seize the day

 A sundial inscribed Carpe diem reminds us of the brevity of life and the elusiveness of time.

The term Carpe diem is an aphorism usually translated "seize the day." It is originally taken from a poem written in the Odes in 23 B.C. by the Latin poet Horace.

Carpe is the second-person singular present active imperative of carpō, "pick or pluck," used by Ovid to mean "enjoy, seize, use, make use of." Diem is the accusative case of the noun "dies," which means "day." A more literal translation of Carpe diem would thus be "enjoy the day" or "pluck the day [as it is ripe]"—i.e. to enjoy the moment. However, in its modern-day usage, the "diem" usually gets abstracted as "opportunity," as in "make use of the window of opportunity today."

First, a little historical background. In Horace, the phrase is part of the longer Carpe diem quam minimum credula postero, which can be translated as "Seize the day, put very little trust in tomorrow (the future)." The ode says that the future is unforeseen and that one should not leave to chance future happenings, but rather one should do all one can today to make one's future better. 

The Carpe diem phrase is often misinterpreted and misused in contemporary popular culture to justify reckless behavior: "you only live once." However, the original meaning of Carpe diem is not to ignore the future. It is rather that you shouldn't believe that everything is going to fall into place for you automatically, but you should take action for the future today.

A related Hebrew expression to Carpe diem is the phrase ?ואם לא עכשיו ,אימתי rendered "And if not now, then when?" In other words, do and say what you want to now because you may not have another chance.

  A similar Latin expression attributed to Virgil encourages youth to enjoy life before it is too late. "Gather ye rosebuds while ye may," that is, "make much of the time you have."

What does Jesus say about Carpe diem and living in the present?   He gives us detailed, practical  instructions in Matthew 6: 25-34. He puts our day into perspective: We are not to be anxious either about daily necessities or even our very lives since our heavenly Father knows we need all these provisions and He will care for us as He provides for His natural created world.

That doesn't mean that we should squander our day by "gathering rosebuds" or passively spend our time "smelling the roses." It is not a license to "eat, drink, and be merry" because life is short and today is all we have. On the contrary, we should actively "seek first God's kingdom and His righteousness." We should seize the day for Kingdom business and make much of the brief time we have on Planet Earth. We are to make use of our "now," and live in the present moment and invest it for the Lord, all the while enjoying it, "plucking its ripeness" as an investment in tomorrow.


Jesus gives us His divine summary on Carpe diem: Seize the day today and don't be anxious for tomorrow "for tomorrow will care for itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own." Since tomorrow is in God's hands alone, we are to trust Him with it. 


God is in my now.
This moment is His
and His this day
to seize for Him.

I turn from yesterday.
I can't expect
to live in retrospect
looking over my shoulder
to see either ghosts
or pleasant memories.

God will be in my future
when I arrive there.
I can't live it in advance
nor leave it to chance
but trust His plan.

God is in my now.
My “burning bush”
is my present state
where God speaks to me
in the present tense
declaring “I AM.”

So all of daily life
is holy ground
each duty crowned
as a royal moment
by the presence of The King.

I am to seize the day
and celebrate my now
to find my joy in Him

  ("Gather ye rosebuds" painting by John William Waterhouse.)

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