Each Monday, I would like to share a reminder about the importance of being mindful. These will come from literature, popular culture, music--anywhere one might get this sort of everyday life nudge.
With this weekend being the anniversary of Julius Caesar's assassination--the Ides of March--I thought it would be an appropriate time to look at some Latin literature. Horace, a Roman poet, was in the generation directly after Caesar. His true Roman name was Quintus Horatius Flaccus and he was the leading lyric poet under Rome's first emperor, Augustus Caesar.
Horace wrote on a variety of subjects and themes. His poem Odes 1.11 (below) was the origination of the phrase carpe diem (pluck the day). This phrase became the title for a philosophy within Latin poetry. We often mistranslate the phrase as "seize the day," but carpe is actually more like plucking flowers, not ripping them from the earth. Below is the original Latin and my (quite literal) English translation.
ne quaesieris (scire nefas) quem mihi, quem tibi
finem di dederint, Leuconoe, nec
temptaris numeros. Ut melius quicquid
Seu pluris hiemes seu tribuit Iuppiter
5 quae nunc oppositis debilitat
Tyrrhenum, sapias, uina liques et
spem longam reseces. Dum loquimur,
aetas: carpe diem, quam minimum
Do not seek (to know is a sin) the limit of life which to
me or you the gods may have granted,
test Babylonian numbers.+ How much better it will be
to suffer anything that will be! Whether Jupiter
divides out more winters or the final
5 which now weaken the Tyrrhean sea on
cliffs, be wise, strain the wines and
cut short vast hope
for a long life within the brief
space allotted to us.
While we speak, envious life(time)
will flee. Pluck
the day, believing as little as
possible in the future.
* Horace is giving Leuconoe this advice.
+ Babylonian numbers were an attempt to interpret the future.
Although it can be interpreted as quite morbid, the poem stands as a reminder that life is short and it must be lived, embraced, plucked. There is no use for hoping/ begging for a longer life; we get what we're given by the gods. Whether you look at carpe diem as make the most of the day or the original YOLO [You Only Life Once], work today to experience the life you've made for yourself (and maybe even be contented with it).
What kind of day will you make yours today?
Labels: March Mindfulness, Mindful Mondays