Not many students now learn Latin but a few Latin words and phrases have entered common usage. “Carpe diem”, translated as “seize the day”, is one Latin phrase that is widely understood and still used in modern times. Although originally taken from a poem written in the Odes by the Latin poet Horace, the phrase was made popular when used in the movie The Dead Poet’s Society.
“Carpe diem” has become a call for action and an impetus for each of us to make the most of each day. The phrase is used to suggest one should not put off doing things indefinitely but rather act here and now in order to live life to the fullest. In other words, we should grab opportunities that present and decide to do things today. The implication is that if we don’t take opportunities now, the opportunity may not present itself again and it may be too late to do things at another time.
This concept applies to students who can take immediate action in many ways: taking notes in class; asking questions about a topic; getting started on assignments immediately; undertaking research projects; doing revision and making early preparation for exams. There are lots of ways that students can take immediate action and seize an opportunity; using time efficiently and taking advantage of whatever time is available. There are many opportunities outside of school, including within extracurricular activities, when an unexpected opportunity arises and students must make a decision as to whether or not to act upon this. Of course, students who are already well prepared and have developed critical skills are in a much stronger position to utilize such opportunities.
“Carpe diem” refers to using time well and taking opportunities now in order to create a better future and enjoying life to the full. This approach does not promote dangerous, risk taking behaviour or impulsively making decisions without sufficient information or caution. A thoughtful, considered approach that encourages effective use of time and preparedness to take up opportunities as they present is embodied by the phrase.
Mindfulness, which has been practiced in Eastern philosophies for thousands of years, is based upon a similar premise: paying attention to the here and now; focusing one’s attention upon and utilizing the present. This doesn’t mean that the past or the future is ignored; learning from the past can inform current decisions and allows individuals to focus on the present in ways that will create a better future. Seizing the day is similar to mindfulness in suggesting a focus on the present and both imply maintaining openness to possibilities. None of us knows what the future holds but we can prepare for the future by acting today and remaining open to utilizing opportunities that may arise in the future.
© Michele Juratowitch