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May 31, 2006

Day Seizing

I keep coming back to this notion of living now, seeking pleasure, enjoying this world, as the positive alternative to religion, with its sacrifices, renunciations and postponements, with its otherworldliness.

Here for the record is the complete Ode by Horace which uses the Latin phrase "carpe diem":

Ask not - we cannot know - what end the gods have set for you, for me; nor attempt the Babylonian reckonings. How much better to endure whatever comes, whether Jupiter grants us additional winters or whether this is our last, which now wears out the Tuscan Sea upon the barrier of the cliffs! Be wise, strain the wine; and since life is brief, prune back far-reaching hopes! Even while we speak, envious time has passed: pluck [seize?] the day, putting as little trust as possible in tomorrow!

Not quite sure how to conceptualize this. How does it relate to other atheisms: naturalism, reason, science? Is it just hedonism? Is this larger than other atheisms? Do we lose morality?

Posted by Mitchell Stephens at May 31, 2006 6:19 PM


If you take it just a bit deeper and seize the moment you have Zen.

What higher moral position is there than dealing with the world as it is rather than how it used to be?

Posted by: Jay Saul at June 1, 2006 11:15 AM

Sounds great, Jay, and I want to agree w/ you. I'd suggest an alternate ending to your statement, maybe: '...than dealing with the world as it is rather than how we wish it to be'...?

But I worry about the potential loss of ethics(don't wish to call this morality, Mitch, which has far different connotations to me, including potentially entrenched structural aspects) in the event that 'the world 'as it is' is seriously screwed up. Like, slavery for example. Or patriarchy. Or corporate greed run amok, such as those industrialists here and elsewhere making a profit on the nazi war machine, no matter that there was genocide taking place. I'm guessing that 'carpe diem' suited them just fine as a rationale. That's what always gets me about this way of thinking....

Posted by: JM at June 3, 2006 12:43 PM

Seize with love; just as easy and just as hard as that.

And when I say, "how it used to be", I mean the historically revised cultural version we store in memories. How can I deal responsibly with the world as it is if I am constantly comparing it to the way I/we think it was?

Throw all the love you can at each moment and watch the mystery explode. The past is a curtain of preconceived patterns we must raise to experience the mystery of creation. And we are the Gods in our own magic universes.

Posted by: Jay Saul at June 3, 2006 6:40 PM

OK. I'm with you insofar as your insight about the highly problematic nature of constant (inevitable?) comparison of 'what is' to 'what was' (which I'll still suggest is somehow equivalent to, even if different from, the 'what we wish it was').

Perhaps (playing a type of devil's advocate for a moment) we humans are only able, though, to ascertain 'reality' or 'what is' *by means of* difference. Is this not in a generic way Derrida's overall position? Or to put it another way, 'difference' is the condition for the possibility of the construction of identity, and *not* the other way round (as most institutional discourses would have it, and, I'd suggest, that this includes all religions, with perhaps the exception of buddhism).

So perhaps from Mitch's perspective (please talk about disbelief! dammit) unbelief (rather than dis-belief-- i think prefixes make a real impact here and would love to have Mitch provide some etymological support for 'history of dis-' rather than 'history of un-' or 'non-belief'...) is the condition for the possibility of 'belief.' How might that alter the equation, if at all ?

Posted by: JM at June 4, 2006 11:59 PM

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