Carpe Diem Regained

 In Sintra Culture

If there is one book you should take with you on a retreat, it should be Roman Krznaric’s enlightening Carpe Diem Regained.

The term ‘carpe diem’ –or seize the day- has been popularised through the film –  Dead Poets Society, with the late Robin Williams playing an inspiring and maverick English teacher called John Keating.  Keating warns his students to live life to the full because ‘we are food for worms, lads’.

Krznaric is one of the founding members of the School of Life and has been named by the Observer as one of Britain’s leading popular philosophers.  He does a fantastic job of re-interpreting the carpe diem concept for our modern times through looking at how the original concept first expressed by the Roman poet Horace has been hijacked by commercial brands such as Nike and the instant gratification temptation of modern entertainment media.

He usefully outlines the major psychological barriers to carpe diem as being procrastination, risk, apathy, and overload and goes on to suggest how we can create a space in our lives to seize the day through engaging with people,  collective movements, art, and other activities to recover our spontaneous selves.

You may be wondering how all this corresponds to Xintara. 

Well, the original author of carpe diem was Quintus Horatius Flaccus, known to us today as Horace, who was a leading poet during the reign of the Roman Emperor Augustus. Horace wrote his famous poem Ode XI where the term carpe diem is first used from his beloved farm in the Sabine hills near Rome in around 23 BC.  

Xintara is based in the Sintra hills near Lisbon and was originally a small farm or Quinta.  Sintra has also been a favourite location of poets across the centuries.  This modicum of similarity has fueled my imagination in trying to create a connection across the centuries– (what a co-incidence also that I should have a sister called Sabine!).  

Of more relevance perhaps is that the different types of retreats that Xintara hosts are all designed in some way to help recover our spontaneous selves whether that is creating a calm space in which to relax and stretch or in igniting our creative selves through an artistic pursuit.

In a similar vein to Horace, the Moorish poet Mucana wrote of the simplicity and beauty of a Sintra farm and the virtues of plain living, despite also being a mayor of Lisbon. Some interpret Horace’s view as being less of aggressively ‘seizing’ the day, but more that we should gently ‘pluck’ it like the most delicate flower, and value each and every moment of existence, no matter what life happens to throw at us.  

Sounds a bit like the modern mindfulness movement.  

Right- I better stop watching the TV, get off the sofa- and find my old paint brushes………

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