Sex and the Vilification of the Every Day: A re-examination of “Carpe Diem”

 

Leuconoë, don’t ask, we never know, what fate the gods grant us,
whether your fate or mine, don’t waste your time on Babylonian,
futile, calculations. How much better to suffer what happens,
whether Jupiter gives us more winters or this is the last one,
one debilitating the Tyrrhenian Sea on opposing cliffs.
Be wise, and mix the wine, since time is short: limit that far-reaching hope.
The envious moment is flying now, now, while we’re speaking:
Seize the day, place in the hours that come as little faith as you can.

(Horace, Odes Book I: XI)

Response to “Carpe Diem and the Modern Individual”

Virgil (our Virgil, not the author of epic) writes: “This is where I think the value of the carpe diem mentality comes into play. I think the way in which we can seize the day is by being our most true self, in the hope that we make an impact on others. They will carry us with them for the rest of their days. The value of our selves is the ingraining of it into other people, in large ways and small ways.”

 

When affronted with the phrase “Carpe diem,” there are two ways that we can look it at. We can see it for what it could possibly mean for us, like that sense of mindfulness that Vergil just described, or we can take it for that popular, Epicurean understanding that we all know so well.
Let’s look at this phrase for what it is. It’s contriver was the poet Horace in ode 11. In this poem the poet is trying to convince a young girl to sleep with him. To do this employs devices like “Carpe Diem” and even #Yolo (in so many words) to seduce this uninterested woman.

Ever since this phrase has still always carried with it the same brazen (and maybe even vain) sort of quality, though we may overlook it. “Day seizing” for Horace meant sex (and perhaps more abstractly or poetically youth), and the old adage has not changed very much in popular culture as Vergil has indicated (insert link).

Day seizing is a tool of persuasion. This was the purpose Horace created it for, and this is how I see it most often used today. The heralds of “carpe diem” informs their listeners that they are not, in fact, doing any day seizing activities. The person confronted with this (in reality, empty) call to action is faced with the problem that their day (and perhaps their whole week, their whole life…?) is lacking. That they are missing out.

There is a positive aspect. Carpe Diem does not have to refer to that #Yolo quality of getting smashed, going wild, and whatnot. It could mean doing what excites you. I don’t think this is necessarily dangerous because it has the flexibility to mean something different for each individual. Unfortunately, what we (by “we” I am referring to that collective cultural mind-brain that exists my circles in social media – so “we” as I know us) generally associate “excitement” with those things that don’t happen everyday. Things that by definition cannot happen every day. They happen on the weekend, maybe once a month, once a year, or maybe even once in a lifetime. But what about all those other days? Are those days unseized? Carpe diem vilifies the every day.
So how do we seize our every day?
This is the question that each of us must find our own answer to.
I think Vergil’s post is a great place to start.

– Winston Niles Rumfoord

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