This past week my partner has been camera shopping in preparation for her trip to Africa. She researched cameras and lenses, tripods, filters and storage options. She came up with a list of prices–a list with some rather large numbers on it.
“What do you think?” she asked me.
I glanced at the list of prices, and this sentence downloaded itself into my mind: Seize today without strangling tomorrow.
I shared that with her, and now I’m sharing it with you. It feels like a good rule, a helpful way of making decisions.
Does this choice help me enjoy the present moment fully, deeply? Will this choice make achieving my long-term goals more difficult?
A little Wikipedia research tells me that the phrase “carpe diem” comes from the Roman poet Horace, and that the full quote is, “Seize the day, trusting as little as possible in the next.”
At first glance, the full quote would seem to contradict the direction I’ve taken carpe diem. If tomorrow might not come, then most of us would be tempted to fling caution to the winds, to say, “Eat, drink and be merry, for tomorrow we die.”
But Horace was an Epicurean, a follower of a philosophy that was a form of hedonism. Not hedonism as we think of it, but one that taught that the absence of pain was the highest pleasure. One that taught that excess caused pain, so a simple life was also the most pleasurable.
Perhaps Epicurus might have said, “Live today in such a way that, if tomorrow comes, today’s choices do not cause tomorrow’s pain.”
Seize today, without strangling tomorrow.