Carpe Diem?

I have loved the term, Carpe Diem. To me, it has embodied the idea that each day should be put to good use. To not let any day go to waste. I also love John Mark Comer. His preaching, speaking, and writing is refreshment to my wisdom-seeking soul. So as I read The Ruthless Elimination of Hurry, one line caught my attention.

I hate the popular maxim carpe diem. It’s Latin, but what could be more American? Seize the day! As if time is a precious commodity and it’s every man for himself.

Is time not a precious commodity? If I see each day as a part of the life that God has given me, shouldn’t I seize each day and use it wisely?

C’mon John Mark. You totally blew it on this one! 🤣

I’m kidding! I really respect John Mark’s wisdom, so I’ve given him the benefit of the doubt long enough to consider where he’s coming from. And finally, I’ve come to understand what I think John Mark is alluding to.

The definition of maxim:

maxim: a general truth, fundamental principle, or rule of conduct

Carpe diem fits this well. The people who find it valuable look to it as a rule of conduct. So it makes sense that we should look at the fruit that would come from a life lived with that as a rule of conduct or fundamental principle.

Seize is an active word. One that demands a level of forcefulness. It takes control. It puts the individual in the driver’s seat and in control of his or her destiny. I think we all desire that at some level.

I can see why many, including my past self, would idealize the idea of seizing the day. Packing every moment full of awesome. If my time isn’t building my epic biography, it’s wasteful.

That all sounds great at first glance. However, it all assumes that we actually get to control our situation. Control (other than self-control) is an illusion.

The heart of man plans his way, but the Lord establishes his steps.

Proverbs 16:9

The desire for control is the root of a lot of sin and disappointment. Eve was tricked into thinking she could have control of her destiny instead of doing what God had instructed. Lies are our attempt to control situations and the feelings of others. The more I learn about emotional and spiritual health, the more I see the danger of attempting to control the world around me.

On another note, it seems that “seize the day” isn’t actually the best interpretation of carpe diem in its original context. Originally from the Roman poet Horace’s Odes, it turns out that “pluck the day” would have been a better interpretation.

Some folks picture flowers when they think about plucking, but I prefer to think about fruit. Imagine yourself standing in an orchard. No matter how much you demand or do, there is no way you can force a tree to give you fruit. The incredible dance of fruit production happens at its own pace.

There are things you can do to help the process. You can water the ground. You can prune the bad fruit. But there’s no way you can force that tree to grow an apple. And once the fruit is there, you can pluck the fruit. You can revel in its sweetness. You can work around a rotten bit. You can spit out the seeds if you bite some.

I’ve come full circle. I LOVE the term carpe diem. It just doesn’t mean to me what it has in the past.

So carpe diem! Pluck the day. Maybe invest in the soil so there are more good bites than rotten in the future. And savor the fruit. Let the juice flow down your chin and be grateful to the creator.

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