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Reclaiming “Carpe Diem”

The ancient Roman ideal has been hijacked

By Roman Krznaric  

It’s the name of a heaving nightclub in Croatia, and a tiny guesthouse in Southern China. Judi Dench even had it tattooed on her wrist for her 81st birthday. More than two thousand years’ old, a phrase from a dead language gets 25 million online search results: carpe diem.

Usually translated as “seize the day”—or sometimes “harvest,” “pluck” or “enjoy” the day—carpe diem is one of the oldest philosophical ideals in Western culture. It goes back to a few lines written by the Roman lyric poet Horace in 23BC: “Even as…

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