Bob Tamasy: Carpe Diem! (While It’s Worth Seizing)

Sunday, May 18, 2014
Bob Tamasy
Bob Tamasy

Several people I know are fond of using the term carpe diem – “seize the day.” This phrase apparently originated in 23 B.C. in the Odes, a collection of lyric poems written in Latin by the poet Horace. More than 2,000 years later, there’s a lot to be said for “carpe diem.”

In one respect it means, according to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, “enjoyment of the pleasures of the moment without concern for the future.” An old beer commercial referred to this as “grabbing the gusto.” Another way of looking at this aligns with the adage, “You only go around once.” In other words, take advantage of the present, because quickly it will be past. You won’t get a second shot at it. 

This sounds simultaneously realistic and self-serving. Terms like “look out for No. 1” and “it’s all about me” too easily fit under the carpe diem umbrella. But when we consider the remainder of Horace’s “carpe diem” declaration, it becomes a bit clearer. He added, “quam minimum credula postero,” which means, “trusting as little as possible in the next day (or, the future).”

Today we would say something like, “when opportunity knocks, for goodness sake, answer the door!” Because tomorrow, most of us have learned to our regret, might be too late. 

Interestingly, the Bible speaks much about this. For instance, King Solomon wrote, “So I commend the enjoyment of life, because nothing is better for a man under the sun than to eat and drink and be glad” (Ecclesiastes 8:15). This, combined with Isaiah 22:13 – “Let us eat and drink…for tomorrow we die!” – have formed the statement, “Eat, drink and be merry, for tomorrow we die.” While these words originally were written in Hebrew, they clearly concur with Horace’s sentiments in Latin.

The idea of seizing the day has more of an industrious context in Proverbs 20:13 – “Do not love sleep or you will grow poor; stay awake and you will have food to spare.” The book of wisdom also applies this principle to the area of generosity: “Do not say to your neighbor, ‘Come back later; I’ll give it tomorrow’ – when you now have it with you” (Proverbs 3:28). 

Carpe diem seems to be a recurring theme in the New Testament as well. During His so-called Sermon on the Mount, Jesus observed, “Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life?... Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” He wasn’t discouraging planning, but was exhorting His hearers to trust God for each day’s provision and not to become consumed by the uncertain future, failing to appreciate the here and now in the process.

The apostle Paul also stressed seizing opportunities when they present themselves. “Be very careful, then, how you live – not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil. Therefore, do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is” (Ephesians 5:15-16). The days are “evil,” he was saying, not that they are inherently sinful but rather because if we waste time and squander opportunities, the time passes quickly and can’t be retrieved. Unlike money, we can’t “save” time in a chronological bank somewhere. 

So in one sense, “carpe diem” could be understood to mean since we only have today, and tomorrow isn’t guaranteed, let’s indulge ourselves as much as possible. In other words, become hedonists. In another sense, however, “seizing the day” can inspire us to become good stewards of the time set before us, not only attending to our own needs and interests, but also looking for opportunities to be of service to others – especially God.

If there were such a thing as a time bank, one approach is to continually make withdrawals from our accounts. The other is to make regular deposits that earn dividends long into the future. As another translation of Ephesians 5:16 states, we can’t conserve time as a commodity, but we can be “redeeming the time.” 

Enjoy the moment, to be sure. Have fun and delight in a new day of life. But if you have an opportunity to carry out an act of kindness, do it now. Don’t delay. If there’s an encouraging word you can offer, don’t fail to express it now. Don’t procrastinate when it’s within your power to perform good for someone in some way. Tomorrow might be too late.

---

Robert J. Tamasy is a veteran journalist, a former newspaper editor and magazine editor. He is presently vice president of communications for Leaders Legacy, Inc., a non-profit focused on mentoring and coaching business and professional leaders. Bob has written hundreds of magazine articles, and has authored, co-authored and edited more than 15 books. These include “Tufting Legacies,” “The Heart of Mentoring,” “Business at Its Best,” and “Pursuing Life With a Shepherd’s Heart.” He edits a weekly business meditation, “Monday Manna,” which is translated into more than 20 languages and distributed via email around the world by CBMC International. He also posts regularly on two blogs, www.bobtamasy.blogspot.com, and www.bobtamasy.wordpress.com. He can be emailed at btamasy@comcast.net.


Steve Ellison: Recognizing The Babe In The Manger

Two thousand years ago faithful Jews were looking in anticipation for the promised Messiah, but I imagine most had grown weary and were totally wrapped up in their own lives, especially surviving.  After all, it had been about four hundred years since they had heard from the Lord.  When Jesus was born as promised, even those who were faithfully anticipating the Messiah ... (click for more)

"A Baby Brings Peace" Is Sunday's Topic At Middle Valley

Middle Valley Church of God announces that Pastor Mitch McClure will speak on the topic, 'A Baby Brings Peace '  in the  10:30 a.m.  service this  Sunday .  This is part of a sermon series titled 'Advent, A Time Of Hope.'  This new sermon series will focus on the advent of the Christ child at Christmas with the hope ... (click for more)

Tennessee Members Of Congress Urge President To Approve Federal Disaster Assistance For Tennessee Counties

Members of Tennessee’s Congressional delegation on Saturday urged President Obama to quickly approve Governor Haslam’s request for a major disaster declaration for the State of Tennessee to help five Tennessee counties impacted by wildfires and severe weather in November rebuild and recover. “Governor Bill Haslam has submitted a request for Public Assistance and Individual ... (click for more)

Grohn Says Integrity And Ethics Lacking In Berke Administration

Mayoral candidate Larry Grohn criticized controversies and instability coming from the mayor’s administration as a sign of unethical leadership and a lack of integrity. He said, "These scandals lay out the simple fact that it is time for new leadership which is accountable to the people." Councilman Grohn’s criticism comes after the independent auditor’s release of a memorandum ... (click for more)

New School Funding Ideas

After reading the article “County Schools Prepare To Set Priorities For Next Round Of School Building Funding,” I could not help but think about how helpful it would be to have the millions of taxpayer dollars given the owners of Walnut Common apartments to build some new schools.   In case you did not know, since 2008 our elected officials have given away millions in taxpayer ... (click for more)

Roy Exum: John Glenn’s ‘Hero’

When John Glenn became the first man to orbit earth, the timing was perfect. I was 13 years old at the time, in need of a hero, and I latched on to the astronaut tighter than a tick. All of us boys knew he’d flown 150 missions in fighters in World War II and Korea and, believe me, he was “The Right Stuff” long before the great movie about the Mercy 7 daredevils came out about 30 ... (click for more)