Carpe diem


Regina Brett crossed my mind yesterday and I’m glad she did.

Regina is a metro columnist for the The Plain Dealer newspaper in Cleveland. I discovered her several years ago when we both belonged to the same organization. At some point, I slipped from following her columns until yesterday.

It looks as if she’s not writing as regularly as she used to, maybe because she has several other irons in the fire, but maybe because the paper’s Web site is atrociously organized. However, I stumbled across one particular column, said to be her most popular, that was written several years ago.

As she was turning 50 years of age, she published a list of 50 lessons she’d learned from life. Read the entire column here.

Like me, many of you are also reaching those points in our lives where we feel empowered to offer a little advice. Also, we’re probably a little more receptive to good guidance. Two of Regina’s lessons jumped out at me:

  1. Burn the candles, use the nice sheets, wear the fancy lingerie. Don’t save it for a special occasion. Today is special.
  2. Be eccentric now. Don’t wait for old age to wear purple.

Who among you is nodding his or her head in agreement? Who issued a sigh of regret over lost opportunities?

She also reminds me of a quote my wife likes to spread around. It comes from another columnist, one you’re more likely to have heard of, Erma Bombeck:

“Seize the moment. Remember all those women on the Titanic who waved off the dessert cart.”

Moments are so fleeting that seizing one is such an apt verb. Should you “consider” seizing it, the opportunity is likely lost.

It’s hardly new advice. More than 2,000 years ago, Horace wrote in “Odes” the advice “carpe diem,” usually translated as “seize the day.”

Continuing beyond those two words, Horace wrote, “carpe diem, quam minimum credula postero,” which I’ve read translated as, “Seize the day, put very little trust in tomorrow (the future).”

He is not promoting the frivolous lifestyle mentioned in the book of Isaiah and that Paul warned against in his letter to the church at Corinth, “Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die.”

No, rather than calling for a frat party, Horace is saying that instead of putting trust in tomorrow to take care of itself, one should do all he or she can now … in this moment … to make the future better.

But, wait. Are Regina and Erma urging abandonment of responsibilities? Burn the candles! Order dessert!

I think not.

Today *is* special. From the 118th Psalm: “This is the day which the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.”

One is not being responsible if he or she does nothing but hoard up nice sheets and fancy lingerie. Too many of us die with an abundance of things and wasted opportunities because we were saving them for a special day when, in reality, we missed occasions to make special the days we had.

Leah and I have taken some chances by choosing to wear purple at an earlier age than most. We continue to do so, but they are well calculated risks we’re willing to take. We have admitted to ourselves that it’s possible we outlive our means of support and spend our final years with diminishing options.

However, we’ll be able to look back on good times without being burdened by regrets about what we might have done.

An image I’ve shared several times in social media (posted above, I cannot remember its origin; advise me whom I should credit) uses a quote from Randy Komisar: “And then there is the most dangerous risk of all – the risk of spending your life not doing what you want on the bet you can buy yourself the freedom to do it later.”

A Facebook friend I’ve never met (a friend-of-a-friend and a kindred spirit) continually urges people to “Get out there.”

So, I say: “Seize the day. Get out there. Be eccentric now. And have a second look at that dessert cart.”

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