“At my daughter’s bat mitzvah, I told her to say yes to life. That was my greatest hope for her. I long to infuse in her the power of holding another’s gaze, putting your face to the wind and fully feeling the cool breeze and mist kiss your skin, opening your heart to nature and feeling the transformative power of truly letting go. I long for her to laugh out loud with abandon, to feel free to be exactly who she is and know that is enough and that it’s okay to share her insides with the outside world, to fully capture and drink in the glorious moments no matter how small.”
Carpe diem is a Latin phrase meaning seize the day. This notion is the heart of the message author and rabbi Steve Leder conveys to his young daughter – and to us – as she steps into the world. Seize the day, don’t miss out on the simple wonder of the cool breeze and mist kissing your skin, laugh with abandon, and share what is inside you with the world at large. Nothing is too small to rejoice in.
The injunction to live life fully is reminiscent of a Mary Oliver poem in which she says “…are you breathing just a little and calling it a life?… Fall in, Fall in.” It is often the case that as we move through our day we fail to grasp its small blessings, its simple wonders. We can be so focused on accomplishing tasks that we miss the mystery of being, and of being a human being. “Are you breathing just a little” – shallow breathing is an indication that we need to “fall in,” that is to stop, inhale, and give ourselves to the moment.
One of the reasons it can be difficult to see and fully experience the sacredness of life’s little things is the message many of us received in our religious upbringing – what matters most, it was taught and preached, awaits us in the afterlife. Here on earth we are to earn our way to heaven – forgo life’s pleasures, not succumb to them. In contrast to this is Jesuit priest and psychologist Anthony DeMello’s claim that a sure sign we are on a spiritual journey is disinterest in the afterlife! When the fear of eternal punishment and the hope of everlasting reward cease to be preoccupations, we can become free to live with abandon – not a bad definition of faith. It is when we carpe diem that we might just experience the stunning truth that heaven is here.