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The Individual’s worth

 

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

My car happened to be created in the lucky transition between cassette players and audio input jacks. As such, I have to listen to CDs (which I’ve burned a ton of) or the radio. I’ve been sick of hearing the same CDs over and over and too lazy to buy new ones, so I’ve been listening to the radio for the past few weeks. Two of the stations that I listen to are Top 40 Hits stations. They play a few songs that I like, and then a whole bunch that I’m not fond of. I’ve noticed a trend with the music of today though: a lot of music is about seizing the day.

Of course, they think that seizing the day means to go out and get smashed, hook up with random people, and then do it all again the next day.

The past year of classes has shown me a lot about the carpe diem attitude. Ultimately, what it stems from is the idea that as humans, we are only given a specific amount of time on this earth. If I do not do something of value with my July 2nd 2014, that day is pointless. I may not as well have lived it. The problem lies in what we truly find as valuable.

We get stuck in a rut as children. We’re always asked,” What do you want to be when you grow up?” We think about the future, when we’ll be adults and be actually able to do things of merit, like be a doctor and help sick people. When we become adults though, we realize the triviality of our every day life. Not many people get to grow up and become superheroes. Upon this realization, we turn to trying to find a meaning in our life. We find some way to make value of our day, possibly drinking and partying like in the songs.

Hedonism is one manner in which we see the manifestation of carpe diem. If I’m happy, then my day was worth something.

I think there is a better way to live out the carpe diem though. It is based on the way in which I fundamentally view the world (like anything is). I feel that I am the combination of all of my experiences, even though I may not be able to recognize their effects in my life. I feel that every person I have ever seen (and even some people that I haven’t seen) has created my identity to be the way that it is today. In that sense, we are all important to the formation of everyone we come in contact to.

When I worked at an internship a couple of years ago, I saw a fellow intern watching the ground as she walked. She scanned the ground, searching for something. Then she stopped, reached down, and picked up a paper clip. It seemed really strange to me. She told me that paper clips are all over the ground. People drop them all the time without a care about them. She picks them up, and then she doesn’t need to buy staples.

Now, walking around, I will periodically see a paper clip lying on the ground and think back to that experience. It shifted the way I see the world in an ever so slight way. I bet hundreds of people passed by that paper clip without seeing it, because they had never been told to look for it. Because of my fellow intern, I had gained a new perspective on life.

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 ourselves is the ingraining of it into other people, in large ways and in small ways.

Sincerely,

Virgil