The Latin phrase, Carpe Diem, is the major theme of one of my favorite movies, The Dead Poets Society. At the start of the new school year, professor Keating admonishes his students to Carpe Diem, translated as, “Seize the Day.” The students then spend the rest of the film trying to figure out how to fulfill this admonition. Just like those students, I believe we all struggle with how to “Seize the Day.”
I recently visited Yosemite National Park. It was breathtakingly beautiful. I felt very small and insignificant, yet part of this amazingly diverse planet. We took photos, hiked and mostly we oohed and ahhed. One day we hiked the Mist Trail to the top of Vernal Fall. It was exhilarating! We made it to the top and looked back down from where we came. It was a very impressive view. We felt like we had seized the day.
Today while checking the weather, I read about three people who tragically went over Vernal Fall and fell to their death. Apparently two people wanted to get closer to the powerful stream rushing toward the precipice when they began to slip. A man crossed the barrier to try to help them, but he slipped as well. What caused these two people to seize the day in this fashion? Was it Carpe Diem and and “seize the opportunity” to maximize the rush? Was it a failure to realize how dangerous the situation really was?
I’ll never know what happened in this situation, but I do know that many people try to seize the moment and do not necessarily think about seizing the bigger picture. I hope that when the phrase Carpe Diem comes to the forefront of your mind, that you think about potential long term ramifications of seizing the day. Carpe Diem, yes, but more importantly, Carpe Vita – Seize life!