A big fat dose of Carpe Diem

I remember vividly years ago when a bunch of us at an office were ushered into a room where a motivational speaker had been commissioned to make us all feel guilty for wasting our lives. Carpe Diem, Latin for seize the day, was the theme. But the underlying intent was to shame us all into working harder for no raises or promotions. I took it too heart, completely, just not in the way my scheming employer intended.

If you really need to get your ass kicked in that regard, here’s an excerpt from a reporter in Syria who got herself into a bad situation earlier this month and wrote what she thought might be her final words:

Woman’s Work — Had I really understood something of war, I wouldn’t have gotten sidetracked trying to write about rebels and loyalists, Sunnis and Shia. Because really the only story to tell in war is how to live without fear. It all could be over in an instant. If I knew that, then I wouldn’t have been so afraid to love, to dare, in my life; instead of being here, now, hugging myself in this dark, rancid corner, desperately regretting all I didn’t do, all I didn’t say. You who tomorrow are still alive, what are you waiting for? Why don’t you love enough? You who have everything, why you are so afraid?

After our impromptu seminar years ago I let my boss know I was leaving after lunch to go rock climbing with my climbing babe girlfriend. When he blinked in surprise I explained the seminar had touched me and I was seizing the day. “Thanks for this”, I added, patting his shoulder as if he were a close friend. “After that excellent talk I know you’ll cover for me!”

The thing about rock climbing, you can’t do it for long at a high level without sooner or later getting yourself in a situation where you think you might be about to die. When that happens, you won’t think about your job, or how much money you did or didn’t make, or your fave food. Those things will all seem petty beyond words, errands for fools. The only thing that will cross your mind in a jumbled violent flash — outside of anger at getting yourself into this dumbass situation — are the people you care about most and how bad you would like to see them just one more fucking time. At least that’s my experience, and I had the opportunity over the years, skydiving, climbing, and a bunch of other stuff, to test this effect repeatedly.


  1. theignored says

    And I’ll bet that not once did you pray, eh? Good to know to deal with a particular religious argument I hear every once in a while (the “no atheists in foxholes” or whatnot)

  2. says

    Never prayed, no. As an atheist, it’s not an easy balance between something that might kill you vs not believing in an after life. The balance lays in figuring out when the fear of dying means not really living.

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