Seize Today

by Anne Bennett on February 19, 2010

In the film, “Dead Poet’s Society”, Robin Williams plays Mr. Keating, an unorthodox teacher at an elite boy’s school. In a pivotal scene he takes the boys into the hall to gaze at the faded photographs of students from long ago, black and white images of unsmiling athletes dressed in what are now old-fashioned uniforms.

Keating suggests to his students that the boys in the photos were once just like them–young and seemingly invincible; they believed they were destined for great things; their eyes were full of hope. But now, these long years hence, they are all dead.

Keating asks his students, “Did they wait until it was too late to make of their lives just one iota of what they were capable?” He then leans in and whispers, as if the dead boys in the photographs are speaking directly to them, “Carpe diem, boys. Seize the day. Make your lives extraordinary.”

I love this film particularly because of its theme, that life is not only brief, but too dear to be taken for granted. And yet, that is what we do. We constantly ignore the present and focus our attentions and our energies on tomorrow, or next week, or next month. If we begin a task now, it’s easy to abandon when the work becomes either difficult or inconvenient, telling ourselves that we can begin again later. Like Scarlet O’Hara, we take comfort that, “After all, tomorrow is another day.”

We act as though we have all the time in the world, when, in fact, we do not.  That is why there are so many famous poems and quotes that instruct us to act now: Carpe diem. Gather ye rosebuds while ye may. There’s no time like the present. Don’t put off till tomorrow what you can do today. And let us not forget the ever annoying, Today is the first day of the rest of your life.

If you want to lose weight and get healthy, well, you know when you need to begin. As yet another quote states, “If not now, when?”

John William Waterhouse, 1909

John William Waterhouse, 1908

To the Virgins, to Make Much of Time
Robert Herrick 1591–1674

Gather ye rosebuds while ye may,
Old Time is still a-flying:
And this same flower that smiles to-day
To-morrow will be dying.

The glorious lamp of heaven, the sun,
The higher he’s a-getting,
The sooner will his race be run,
And nearer he’s to setting.

That age is best which is the first,
When youth and blood are warmer;
But being spent, the worse, and worst
Times still succeed the former.

Then be not coy, but use your time,
And while ye may, go marry:
For having lost but once your prime,
You may for ever tarry.

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{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

lin February 24, 2010 at 12:32 pm

Good stuff; thanks for the encouragement.

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