I’m sure you’ve heard the expression carpe diem, which is Latin for “seize the day.” This reminds me of the children’s books by Anthony Buckeridge about a young kid called Jennings and his days at boarding school. In the first story, Jennings writes on the cover of his Latin primer: “Latin is a language, as dead as dead can be. It killed the ancient Romans, and now it’s killing me!”
I’m also reminded of the comic fantasy novel Carpe Jugulum (“Seize the Throat”), which is the twenty-third novel in the Discworld comic fantasy series by the late, great English writer Terry Pratchett (RIP). In this tale, Count Magpyr and family, who are vampires from Überwald, cause more than a little trouble, and it’s left to Granny Weatherwax to sort things out. As Terry puts it: “Witches are not by nature gregarious, at least with other witches, and they certainly don’t have leaders. Granny Weatherwax was the most highly-regarded of the leaders they didn’t have.”
But that’s not what I wanted to talk about.
I was thinking about the “seize the day” (carpe diem) sentiment, which led me to wonder what the Latin would be for “savor the day.” The closest I could get was agnosco diem, or “appreciate the day,” but I’m sure there are better alternatives (please let me know if you are aware of any).
The reason for my meandering musings is that I have a friend – we’ll call him John (because that’s his name) – who is currently savoring each day like an Olympic champion.
As you may recall from my On Mushrooms, Socks, and Ducks column, John and I have known each other since our teens, we email back and forth, and we meet up for a beer or three whenever I travel back to England to visit my dear old mom.
In 2019, John was diagnosed with advanced prostate cancer and I sent him a pair of brightly colored mismatched argyle socks to pin on his “Fight Cancer” pin board. By some strange quirk of fate, I have the matching pair. I was planning on a trip to England in the summer of 2020 to celebrate my mom’s 90th birthday. During that trip, John and I were going to don our socks and meet up at the pond in the local park to throw loaves of bread at any mallards we might meet while pondering the mysteries of life, the universe, and everything.
Then COVID-19 came along, and everyone had to put their plans on hold. Ah well, as the Scottish poet and lyricist Robert (Rabbie) Burns famously said: “The best laid schemes o’ mice an’ men / Gang aft a-gley” (which was his way of saying that even the best-laid plans tend to go awry).
Anyway, John continues to fight the good fight and he is certainly savoring each moment of every day. As one example, he recently purchased a LEGO kit for the Millennium Falcon from Star Wars. I just had a quick Google while no one was looking. I had no idea these little beauties were so expensive. Now I know why John was so proud of getting a great deal on eBay.
The thing is that John doesn’t want to rush things. Originally, he was tempted to build the entire model on the day it arrived, but he forced himself to slow down and take some time simply appreciating the box. Later, when John opened everything up, he scanned the instruction book to find it contained ~420 instructions. At this point, he decided to execute only 14 instructions a day, thereby stretching out the fun for 30 days.
Actually, it will take longer than this, because John works on the project only on Mondays through Fridays — he then takes the weekends off to sit back and appreciate his artisanship.
How do I know all this? Because John is kind enough to share the joy. Each weekday morning, he performs his mental and physical limbering up exercises to prepare himself for the fray, then he takes his lunch, executes that day’s 14 instructions, emails a picture to me, and then spends the afternoon and evening chortling over his “precious.” Since the UK is 6 hours ahead of Central Time in the USA (the time zone in which I hang my hat), the latest picture awaits me in my Inbox when I stagger into my office each morning (the current state of play is shown in the image above).
Now I’m thinking of the lyrics at the start of The 59th Street Bridge Song (a.k.a. Feelin’ Groovy) by Simon & Garfunkel:
Slow down, you move too fast
You got to make the morning last
Just kicking down the cobblestones
Looking for fun and feeling groovy…
This is one of those songs that always brings a smile to my face. I’m sure that, like me, you are now humming this tune in your head, so why not take a few moments out of your hectic day to slow down and listen to a rendition by the masters themselves while playing at The Concert in Central Park.
Sometimes I get so caught up fighting my way through the day that I forget to take the time to enjoy it. I don’t know about you, but I think it’s time for us all to slow down, take a deep breath, and savor the day!