Seize the day. You Only Live Once, or YOLO. Just do it. Live like it is your last day. Eat dessert first. What do each of these phrases have in common with each other? The idea of carpe diem, which is Latin for seize the day, is ingrained in each of the above phrases. This is a common term that most people have heard of, but the meaning of carpe diem has changed since the first time it was introduced to society. The origin of carpe diem can be traced back to Horace and followed through history to the current day. Time has effected the meaning of carpe diem, and different schools of thought interpret it in different ways.
Running parallel to the embrace of carpe diem throughout history is the way religion either encourages or discourages the idea of carpe diem. Religion, particularly Christianity, has much to say about the idea of carpe diem. For example, Soren Kierkegaard, a Christian philosopher, wrote an essay about the idea of working towards heaven and what that idea entails. His essay disagrees with the idea of carpe diem. In response to his essay, Albert Camus, an atheistic philosopher, wrote an essay which argued against the idea of religion and working towards something in the future. Two essays debating the idea of either living in the present or looking towards the future were sparked from a religious view of the idea of carpe diem.
Finally something that has changed over time is the true purpose of carpe diem, or seizing the day. It originated as a warning against the untrustworthy gods of the Romans. Now, the idea of carpe diem is seen in everything from graduation speeches to music videos. What was issued as a religious warning to not expect tomorrow has transitioned into an expression used to give permission to do whatever a person wants. Horace introduces the phrase for his first time in his poem “Ode 1.11”, but the phrase is part of a warning against expecting a future from the gods. Today, musicians like Drake and Pitbull have introduced the idea of carpe diem and YOLO as a way to convince people that they can live their lives without fear of what could happen. Instead of carpe diem meaning to not plan to far into the future, it has become an excuse to party, drink, and have sex.
Over the course of the next nine pages, I will be discussing the historical context of carpe diem, starting with Horace and ending with Herrick and Longfellow. I will also be analyzing the concept of carpe diem explained in Albert Camus’ essay, “The Myth of Sisyphus”. Finally, I will be evaluating the concept of carpe diem based on the biblical framework given in the book of Ecclesiastes as well as in Soren Kierkegaard’s essay, “Purity of Heart is to Will One Thing”. I will explain carpe diem by examining the history of the phrase, analyzing its use in Camus’ essay, and through evaluation based on a biblical framework determine that it does not fit the Christian worldview.