Fox News reported last evening that lawmakers and the White House don’t act unless they’re backed into a corner. I nearly fell off the treadmill when I began to consider the implications of that statement! I’ve observed that tendency in individuals, but to see it institutionalized brought the bad habit to a whole new level.
Do you remember the movie “Dead Poet’s Society,” where Robin Williams taught students about the life philosophy he described as “carpe diem?” “Seize the day,” “…gather ye rosebuds while ye may…,” and many other phrases are used to compel human beings to act before it’s too late. I recall a poem we read in French class at the University of Michigan called “A Cassandre,” written by Pierre de Ronsard in the mid-1500s:
Mignonne, allons voir si la rose
Qui ce matin avoit desclose
Sa robe de pourpre au Soleil,
A point perdu ceste vesprée
Les plis de sa robe pourprée,
Et son teint au vostre pareil.
Las ! voyez comme en peu d’espace,
Mignonne, elle a dessus la place
Las ! las ses beautez laissé cheoir !
Ô vrayment marastre Nature,
Puis qu’une telle fleur ne dure
Que du matin jusques au soir !
Donc, si vous me croyez, mignonne,
Tandis que vostre âge fleuronne
En sa plus verte nouveauté,
Cueillez, cueillez vostre jeunesse :
Comme à ceste fleur la vieillesse
Fera ternir vostre beauté.
The last few lines suggest the essence of the poem:
“Be merry ere your beauty flit,
For length of days will tarnish it
Like roses that were loveliest. ”
Life changes are often precipitated by extreme events. A near-death experience, the sudden loss of a close relative, the failure of a business and so on. For most people, the only significant change in their lives occurred because of such an experience. Few and far between are those who abide in a constant state of change, growth and development.
Why is that? Is mediocrity really that interesting? Is change really that scary? Was there a flat spot in our upbringing or our education? Or perhaps the fear of being different or even the fear of success is perceived as an insurmountable obstacle? Whatever the reason, it is clear that those who are successful in life are those who are not only adaptable and flexible in the face of change but those who embrace and savor the precious and dynamic nature of life.
In general, small adjustments are much easier to make than large ones. Large shifts are invariably more stressful, require more energy, involve more pressure and upset more apple carts. Smaller, progressive changes, conversely, occur almost imperceptibly, require less input and maintain momentum. Some thrive on large, cataclysmic, revolutionary change and some think it unavoidable, but I would suggest that many of the stressful changes in life are preventable.
Procrastination constrains to a state where large, invasive, disorienting shifts are required. This is true in all of life, whether you consider car maintenance, project management, child rearing or diet and exercise. A friend recently forwarded me a link that I’d like to share with you. It’s a presentation given by a Harvard scientist who suffered a stroke at the age of 37 and recalled the entire process of progressively losing her faculties over the course of the morning. I recommend that you watch it and come back for the rest of this post.
Don’t wait until it’s too late in your life to wake up and as Ronsard suggests in the first stanza:
“See, Mignonne, hath not the Rose,
That this morning did unclose
Her purple mantle to the light,
Lost, before the day be dead,
The glory of her raiment red,
Her colour, bright as yours is bright?”
Time is too precious to waste through procrastination, self-doubt or regret. Enjoy life as it is unfolding around you. Make room for simple pleasures. Carpe diem!
3 thoughts on “Poetry to my ears…”
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Being a rather left-brained individual myself, I know too well the trap of living in either the past or the future, all at the expense of appreciating the present moment.
While our brain hemispheres are very different, and each has its own areas of responsibility, they are also connected- and for good reason. I believe we were brilliantly designed to appreciate the past, present, and future all at the same time. Drawing from past experience, looking ahead to what may come in the future, and relishing this intersection to handle effectively the opportunity of the present moment.
Thanks for sharing this post.
Gregg, what thought provoking words. In my profession as a personal trainer, this principle,”carpe diem” has been the only avenue of success when it comes to helping clients reach their health and fitness goals. The patterns that create dysfunction in the body, pain, disease or even obesity often come from fear, procrastination, apathy, and an inability to make small corrections on a daily basis. This is very often due to a lack of connection to the present moment and an incredible ability to put things off. This usually goes unnoticed until a major health crisis occurs or a favorite outfit is 2 sizes too small. At this point the journey back to health is much more difficult and requires a new level of consciousness on a daily basis. In the process of helping them to become more aware of their habits, I find that the benefits of this new awareness trickle down into all areas of their lives. I get amazing stories from clients of new family patterns emerging, relationships changing and a sense of joy and self respect that is gained , not to mention the weight loss and health gains. Who knew all of this was connected and could change with just being aware? Carpe diem!
It is easy to sit back and watch life as if you had no role to play, but the joy is found in the smallest of details as they merge to create the canvas that is your life. Your physical health and the health of the world around have everything to gain from our loving attention.