The origin of carpe diem can be traced all the way back to Horace and the Romans, yet it is still relevant in today’s society. It takes many different forms, some of which have already been looked at. In our current society, the idea of carpe diem has been embraced by the younger generation. It is often used to rationalize activities such as partying and one night stands, but at the same time, it is a common theme for graduation speeches. Young people are told that if they live in the present they will make a name for themselves, and that all it takes is hard work in something you love to get what you want. Essentially, pop culture and media are teaching people that pleasure is more important than anything else. This idea can be seen in Pitbull’s song, “Give Me Everything”. This way of living seems to be exhausting and hopeless. If a person is only living in the present, what are they living for or working towards. The book of Ecclesiastes and Soren Kierkegaard’s essay, “Purity of Heart is to Will One Thing”, create a biblical framework for how Christians should view the idea of carpe diem. The Christian framework for viewing framework is in direct opposition of what pop culture and secular literature teaches. In Ecclesiastes and “Purity of Heart is to Will One Thing”, Christians are told that they are working towards the Eternal and that everything has a season and a time.
Soren Kierkegaard’s essay, “Purity of Heart is to Will One Thing”, tells people that there is something that everyone is working towards. The idea of the Eternal is a prominent theme in his essay. Christians believed that there is eternal life and that starts in the present. Everything done on earth is done with this in mind. To help his readers understand what he is talking about when he tells them to work towards the Eternal, he gives the example of a flower. This flower is past its season and should be dying. However, instead of dying it declared itself immortal (Kierkegaard 3). People who saw this flower would scratch their heads trying to figure out the meaning behind what happened. Kierkegaard gives this example and says, “If the flower were really immortal then immortality must be just that which prevented it from dying, and therefore immortality must have been present in each instant of its life” (3).
Kierkegaard is trying to tell his readers that the idea of the eternal is always with them, in every moment of their day. With this in mind, his readers must be looking towards the Eternal. The Eternal is what people work for and are working in the present. It give purpose and a reason to continue in this life. If this is true than all of the past must come together and shape our Eternal. Contrary to the views seen in pop culture, Christianity maintains that people cannot just live in the present because “the Eternal is that which is set over all” (3). When everything is working towards Eternal, it means that there is a time when the Eternal is reached, but until that point there is a time and place for everything that is being done. Camus states that people labor in the present without a future to work towards, but Kierkegaard says that people are working in the Eternal, living in the season of life that they have been placed in.
Much of Kierkegaard’s work is based on the book of Ecclesiastes, in which is it stated multiple times that there is a season for everything and that seeking out pleasure gains nothing. King Solomon imparts his wisdom on his readers and warns them against the fleeting nature of pleasure. Pop culture teaches that everyone should live for their own pleasure, trying to gather as much as possible, but Ecclesiastes says that pleasure “is vanity and grasping for the wind” (Ecclesiastes 2:17 NKJV). Carpe diem means seizing the day, but Ecclesiastes teaches that it is impossible to seize the day because it will flee before we can grasp it.
Rather than living each day for the fullest possible amount of pleasure, Ecclesiastes teaches that “to everything there is a season, a time for every purpose under heaven” (Ecclesiastes 3:1 NKJV).
This statement introduces a new paradigm. Instead of chasing after dreams and pleasure, Solomon is telling Christians that things will come and go. He says that there will be times of joy and times of sorrow. A important fact is that none of these seasons will last forever. There is something that is being labored to, and when that time comes, the reward for labor will be received. Solomon ends the book by reminding his readers that, “God will bring every work into judgment, including every secret thing, whether good or evil” (Ecclesiastes 12:14 NKJV). There will come a time when everything that has been done in the past will be brought forward. Carpe diem believes in living in the present only and not worrying about the past, but in reality the past will one day define a person’s present. With a season for everything and knowledge that pleasure is like trying to grab the wind, Christians are shown that pop culture’s version of carpe diem does not have a place in a Christian worldview.
While Horace is the first person recorded to have used the term carpe diem, the book of Ecclesiastes has much to say about the subject from a Christian viewpoint. Rather than viewing life as not knowing what tomorrow will bring, Ecclesiastes instructs that life is lived with awareness of the past and working towards the future. Kierkegaard argues against Camus’ view that there is nothing to labor towards, stating that the thing everyone is laboring towards is Eternal. Carpe diem may have started due to the Roman polytheistic religion, but it does not agree with Christian theology. Instead of living to seize the day, a Christian is to live each day according to God’s calling on their life. They do not need to seek out worldly satisfaction which will ultimately only bring emptiness. Remembering that there is a time and place for everything gives Christians the chance to fully embrace everything in their life without world about something slipping through their fingers.
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