The Real Meaning of “Carpe Diem” (The bus *will* stop)


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It’s only when we truly know and understand that we have a limited time on earth—and that we have no way of knowing when our time is up, we will then begin to live each day to the fullest, as if it was the only one we had.” – Elisabeth Kübler-Ross

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This is the essence of Carpe Diem—living with appreciation, gratitude, perspective.

Carpe Diem means living in alignment with what really matters.   It means learning how to live more and more, day in and day out, from moment to moment—as much as is possible—in congruence with what, in the end, will have really mattered.
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For those who seek to understand it, death is a highly creative force. The highest spiritual values of life can originate from the thought and study of death.” – Elisabeth Kübler-Ross

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Carpe Diem requires beginning with the end in mind.
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When it comes to life the critical thing is whether you take things for granted or take them with gratitude.” ― G.K. Chesterton

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Carpe Diem means making the conscious choice—again and again and again—to live with appreciation, gratitude, perspective.

It’s the only sane way of responding to our lot, to the brute facts of our existence.

The non- or in-sane way of responding to our lot is to pretend otherwise, to, instead of facing reality and acknowledging the facts of our existence, deny reality and go for avoidance, irritability, orneriness, anger, ingratitude, repression, unconsciousness.
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The confrontation with death—and the reprieve from it—makes everything look so precious, so sacred, so beautiful that I feel more strongly than ever the impulse to love it, to embrace it, and let myself be overwhelmed by it. My river has never looked so beautiful. . . . Death, and its ever present possibility makes love, passionate love, more possible. I wonder if we could love passionately, if ecstasy would be possible at all, if we knew we’d never die.” – Abraham Maslow (from a letter written while recuperating from a heart attack)

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Carpe Diem requires that we’ve either lost some things and lost some people, or that we’ve really thought ahead and contemplated what life would be like without those closest to in it—what life would be like if they were suddenly and tragically to be taken away from us, or what life would be like if we were informed that we only had months to live.
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You can depend upon it, sir, when a man knows he is to be hanged in a fortnight, it concentrates his mind wonderfully.” – Samuel Johnson

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And Carpe Diem requires that we’ve also really contemplated what it would feel like to have taken life and others and health for granted, to have loved and lived as if life goes on forever.  Carpe Diem means getting a good solid taste the guilt and regret that comes with having loved and lived as if no one would ever die or be suddenly and tragically taken from us.
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Kindness” – Naomi Shihab Nye

Before you know what kindness really is
you must lose things,
feel the future dissolve in a moment
like salt in a weakened broth.
What you held in your hand,
what you counted and carefully saved,
all this must go so you know
how desolate the landscape can be
between the regions of kindness.
How you ride and ride
thinking the bus will never stop,
the passengers eating maize and chicken
will stare out the window forever.

Before you learn the tender gravity of kindness,
you must travel where the Indian in a white poncho
lies dead by the side of the road.
You must see how this could be you,
how he too was someone
who journeyed through the night with plans
and the simple breath that kept him alive.

Before you know kindness as the deepest thing inside,
you must know sorrow as the other deepest thing.
You must wake up with sorrow.
You must speak to it till your voice
catches the thread of all sorrows
and you see the size of the cloth.

Then it is only kindness that makes sense anymore,
only kindness that ties your shoes
and sends you out into the day to mail letters and purchase bread,
only kindness that raises its head
from the crowd of the world to say
it is I you have been looking for,
and then goes with you every where
like a shadow or a friend.

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What Naomi Shihab Nye says of “kindness” also applies equally to gratitude.  Carpe Diem requires that we have tasted sorrow, tragedy, loss, and regret, or that we have really slowed down and pause enough to reflect on what these things will taste and feel like.
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“Every time I’m out with my kids—this seems to happen:  An older woman stops us, puts her hand over her heart and says something like, ‘Oh, Enjoy every moment. This time goes by so fast.’  Everywhere I go, someone is telling me to seize the moment, raise my awareness, be happy, enjoy every second, etc, etc, etc.  I know that this message is right and good. But, I have finally allowed myself to admit that it just doesn’t work for me. It bugs me. This CARPE DIEM message makes me paranoid and panicky. Especially during this phase of my life—while I’m raising young kids. Being told, in a million different ways to CARPE DIEM makes me worry that if I’m not in a constant state of intense gratitude and ecstasy, I’m doing something wrong.”

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If we haven’t really tasted death and loss and sorrow and the pain of these—or if we’re living in denial of these—then Carpe Diem—appreciating life and truly appreciating who and what we have—won’t make sense to us.  It won’t yet resonate with us.  (Because we’re living in denial, and we’re probably going through life flighty, superficial, easily irritated and angered, and without any real perspective or sense about what’s really important.)
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I used to be a classic workaholic, and after seeing how little work and career really mean when you reach the end of your life, I put a new emphasis on things I believe count more. These things include: family, friends, being part of a community, and appreciating the little joys of the average day.”  – Mitch Albom

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It can be a difficult balance to achieve—raising a child (or children) and trying to instill good habits, respect, responsibility, and give consequences and corrections when needed, and “loving” and cherishing the child (or children) and appreciating the little joys, or letting those things slide which do not matter—for instance, the children carrying on in the back seat, or running wild in the aisles of Target; or a little old lady putting hand to heart and reminding you to enjoy even this, because it goes so fast and some day it will *all* be over.

“The most beautiful people we have known are those who have known defeat, known suffering, known struggle, known loss, and have found their way out of the depths. These persons have an appreciation, a sensitivity, and an understanding of life that fills them with compassion, gentleness, and a deep loving concern. Beautiful people do not just happen.” – Elisabeth Kübler-Ross

“The most beautiful people we have known are those who have known defeat, known suffering, known struggle, known loss, and have found their way out of the depths. These persons have an appreciation, a sensitivity, and an understanding of life that fills them with compassion, gentleness, and a deep loving concern. Beautiful people do not just happen.” – Elisabeth Kübler-Ross

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The most beautiful people we have known are those who have known defeat, known suffering, known struggle, known loss, and have found their way out of the depths. These persons have an appreciation, a sensitivity, and an understanding of life that fills them with compassion, gentleness, and a deep loving concern. Beautiful people do not just happen.”

– Elisabeth Kübler-Ross ……………

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Carpe Diem leads to living a more examined, contemplative, and considered life, and it is the fruit of leading such a life.  When you realize how brief and perishable we all truly are, then you sweat the small stuff less and less, and you focus more naturally more and more on love, thankfulness, kindness, truth, warmth, and generosity.
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You simply will not be the same person two months from now after consciously giving thanks each day for the abundance that exists in your life. And you will have set in motion an ancient spiritual law: the more you have and are grateful for, the more will be given you.” — Sarah Ban Breathnach

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"We can only be said to be alive in those moments when our hearts are conscious of our treasures." – Thornton Wilder

“We can only be said to be alive in those moments when our hearts are conscious of our treasures.” – Thornton Wilder

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Merry Christmas to you all!

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About John

I am a married, 46-year old, Midwesterner, with four children. My primary interest is in leading a very examined and decent and Loving life; my interests that are related to this and that feed into this include (and are not limited to) -- psychology, philosophy, poetry, critical thinking, photography, soccer, tennis, chess, bridge.
This entry was posted in "Dead Poets Society", Abraham Maslow, Carpe Diem, Elisabeth Kübler-Ross, G. K. Chesterton, Generosity, Glennon Melton, Gratitude, Kindness, Maslow, Mental Health, Momastery, Naomi Shihab Nye, Perspective, Truth, Waking Up, What is Love? and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to The Real Meaning of “Carpe Diem” (The bus *will* stop)

  1. Jenny says:

    Love you smoochyface!!!

  2. Pingback: December | Online Counselling College

  3. Pingback: The Problem with Thanksgiving (or: Why Every Day Should Be Thanksgiving) | What Is Real True Love?

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