Carpe diem

July 26th, 2016 Sections: Calendar, From an Expat

Apparently, … and, to be honest, I have absolutely no idea where this comes from … today is All or Nothing day.

It seems that the idea is encourage people to:

  • … break through the barriers that normally hold them back;
    • … gird their loins,
    • … taking it on the chin
    • … ignore the fears and reservations
    • … throw caution to the wind and ‘go for it’;
  • … and take action …
  • … take risks … and live on the edge
  • … live as if this is their last day on earth
  • … cross the rubicon and
    • … like,Julius Caesar, burn bridges , or
    • … like William the Conqueror before the Battle of Hastings burn their boats
  • … Sieze the day.

To be honest. it’s not a day with which I have a lot of sympathy.  All or Nothing implies a sense of desparation …

march24It is said that, when the crowds massed outside the White House, (here in Bishkek – not the one in Washington), on March 24th, 2005, an aide went to President Akaev to appraise him of the situation and asked if the troops gaurding the building should be given instructions to open fire … and, to his credit, Akaev replied something like “we don’t do that sort of thing” … collected himself and left by a back exit … crossed the border to Kazakhstan and made his way to Russia … where he still lives to this day … whilst the crowds burst into and ransacked the building.

April7It is also said that when a similar scenario developed five years later, on April 7th, 2010, the situation developed somewhat differently.  The crowds were just also numerous and vociferous …but when they stormed the fence surrounding the White House, ramming the gates with a stolen armoured personnel carrier, it was apparent that this was going unfold along a different path.  On this occasion, the order to open fire was given, (according to the official account by Jenish Bakiev, the President’s brother …), and obeyed by the soldiers on duty (… amongst claims that they were already under fire), and over 80 people lost their lives.

It was said afterwards, that the crowds were imbued with the Spirit of Manas, fired up in the knowledge and belief that the order to open fire would be given … and that, if they didn’t succeed in removing the Bakiev regime that day, things would only get worse … that severe draconian measures would be implemented in the aftermath.

To them, they felt that it really was a case of …  All or Nothing.


Although I have my doubts about All or Nothing … I have to admit, however, there are some positive aspects … in that, succeed or fail, by seizing the day one is no longer paralysed by indecision … and there are indeed times when it is the appropriate course of action.

I have more sympathy with the idea of Carpe Diem …  Seize the Day, … albeit with some reservations.

Although Seize the Day has come to be seen as a call to action that wasn’t the original meaning.

The phrase comes from the works of the Horace, a Roman poet who lived from 65BC to 8BC – a period when Rome was underging a tremendous change … the transition from from Republic to Empire … some of his poems were eulogies in praise of Augustus the first Roman Emporer.

The phrase Carpe Diem is part of an ode (the eleventh in the first of four ‘books’ of odes that he wrote).

In it, he seeks to dissuade the reader from heeding what he sees as the false arts of astrologers and diviners …

… as the Doris Day song puts it: Que sera, sera … Whatever will be, will be …

… or the predeterminist view, ‘it is the will of God”

… it is vain, he says, to inquire into the future, (which, anyway, is ‘forbidden knowledge’) …

In The Weaver’s Answer – a song written and performed by the Brtish Rock band Family in the late 1960’s … and was the opening song on their album Family Entertainment …  The song is about an old man who asks the “weaver of life” to show him “the patterns of my life gone by upon your tapestry” … listing some of the main episodes that have occured … his childhood, his marriage, the birth of his firstborn son …

Note that he asks to see the past – not the future … I think Horace might appreciate that …

… but then he starts to wonder how things might turn out for his children, and that’s when the weaver decides to satisfy his request and show him his tapestry of life … and he comes to understand why his request is being granted … why his life is flashing by before his eyes … because he is about to die.

… and, instead, Horace encourages the reader to ‘enjoy’ the present, for this is all we can know.

The short poem ends with the line: carpe diem, quam minimum credula postero – Seize the day, and trust tomorrow as little as possible.

In a way, this is like the attitude “Eat, Drink and be merry, for tomorrow we die” … an attitude of which St. Paul is scathingly critical in his epistle to the Corinthians when postulating about the imoprtance of resurection and the ‘Life to come’.

Having said that – there is an element of it in the teaching of Jesus: “Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?”, (Matthew 6:26) …

My attitude parts with Horace here … one of my favourite sayings is that “I live in the Real World, Here and Now” … not on some counterfactual world of ‘maybe’ and wishful thinking.

Although I live for the present, (Carpe diem), I do pay attention to the past and try to learn from it … in order to plan for the future … and although I do take heed of possible future outcomes I do not ask ‘seers’ to divine about what is yet to happen and is (probably) not fixed.


I was talking to a young man the other day … who owned up to having made a few regretable mistakes in the recent past  … and I said … Don’t worry too much about the past … it is over and done with … you cannot change it … what you can do is to try and make amends for any errors you have committed, to learn from the past … so that you live better in the present … and try to ensure that a better future .

In other words: Seize the Day.  


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