Monday, 17 September 2012

Walking The Talk - Carpe Diem And All That Goes With It

Carpe diem.  Just a phrase to some, a cliché to others, perhaps something heard in a Robin Williams movie (note 1).  But to me, this phrase has become synonymous with the way in which I try to live my life.  For me, these two words symbolise every thing.  Each time that I feel the urging of my heart, each time I here the call to arms, each time I see a path that as opened in front of me, it is these two words which push me forward.  These two words are the difference between staying static and forever wondering, and taking the first step and allowing myself to fall into the unknown. 

What is carpe diem?  It is a phrase in the Latin language, that was once spoken throughout the Roman Empire but now exists only as a scholarly language.  A quick search on the internet provides the following definition:-

car·pe di·em/ˌkärpā ˈdēˌem/
Exclamation: Used to urge someone to make the most of the present time and give little thought to the future.

I have adopted this phrase as a philosophy for my life.  Whenever I talk to other people and give encouragement for them to follow their heart, the calling they feel, I use this phrase and if I do not, then all the language that I use could be summarised by its simple two words.

When  Henry David Thoreau wrote of going to the woods because he wished to live deliberately, and that he  'wanted to live deep and suck out all of the marrow of life', this was his own way of saying carpe diem (note 2).  Thoreau went to the woods and he conducted his experiment.  He walked the talk, it was no mere idle chatter.  It was an urging to do, to be, to witness, to experience - and he did. 

Walking the talk is the hard bit.  No matter how much we talk over something, there only ever comes one single moment when we have to act and take the first step on the path that we have chosen.  It is the hardest step to take, but the comforting part of taking that first step, is that all other steps become easier.  Sometimes we wish a thing so much, that we become scared that the reality will not meet with our expectations, will never live up to the dream.  To illustrate that point, I will relate the story of my tattoo.

The Irony of my Tattoo
During 2005, before I had begun on my true journey, I had awoken spiritually to what it was that I wanted to do, but I had not yet reached the point of embarkation.  At some time, I had begun to have an idea of a tattoo, perhaps it was the seed planted by watching my brother having a tattoo the previous summer, but wherever the idea came from, it began to grow.  That summer, I took a trip to California and on Venice Beach, I had found a henna tattooist, who created exactly what I had wanted on my arm.  I wore that henna tattoo with pride and I would look at it daily and smile, until, as all henna eventually must, it finally washed off and was gone.   

A year later, I am on my journey in Asia and I started to doodle the idea for my tattoo in the back of my journal.  I knew that I wanted the design similar to the henna version, it was the words  'carpe diem' tattooed around the symbol of a sun.  The design for the tattoo needed to be meaningful and personal.  It needed to symbolise me, it needed to be something I deeply and profoundly believed in.  Where I wanted the tattoo was never in doubt - on my upper left arm, mid-point between my shoulder and elbow.  If I was going to have a tattoo, then it would be part of me - a window to my soul that I chose to open.  In my head, I knew the typeset for the writing.  It needed to be olde English, medieval.  The sun had to be simple in design but emote what I needed it to.  I could picture it in my mind but I could not bring that picture to life on a page in front of me in quite the way I wanted.

Some of my 'art' work :-)

Some of the early sketches from my journal
A rather crab like looking sun

In April 2008, I was in Wellington, New Zealand, following another calling of my heart.  The thought of the tattoo was still strong in me, but I had still not found the right place or time, the right moment to commit to it.  I knew where several tattooists were in Wellington and I decided that I would check them out.  I knew that I needed someone who would listen to me, someone who would help me make this the personal experience become a reality.  As I wondered along Cuba Street I discovered a skate clothing store that also did tattoos at the back.  Something seemed right about the place, it spoke to me.  So I booked an appointment for two days time.  

On the appointed day, I turned up at the store and I helped the guy with the design.  I had one of my very poor sketches with me which he took as a base.  He worked with it, playing with different sun designs, different fonts and sizes for the writing, until we were both happy.  Then he told me that he would need an hour to create the stencil and prepare, so I went over the road to a cafe.  As I sat drinking a coffee I thought about what I was doing.  I realised that now I had a chance to say no, to decide against having something permanent inked into my skin.  I still had a choice.  But then, as I sat there sipping my trim flat white, a thought occurred to me.  There I was, a few minutes away from having a tattoo whose meaning was 'seize the day' and I had waited three years before I was ready to have it done.  I smiled to myself.  Carpe diem indeed - oh the irony!     

All that mattered was that I finally got my tattoo and ever since that day in Wellington, I have worn it with pride.  Every time I look at it, it reminds me that I followed my heart, it reminds me that I am walking my path, in my way. What matters most is that I have the tattoo, not how long it took me to get it.  I had waited because I was not sure that the reality of having the tattoo would meet my dream.  But now, not a day goes passed without me looking at my arm and smiling.  I eventually took the step and the reality is better than I could have imagined.

And so it is with life.  The reality is always better than the dream.  I shared this story because I think it is important to know that every one shares the same fears and trepidations in life.  It does not matter how you walk the path, it does not matter when you walk your path.  All that matters is that you do walk your path.  From that moment on, nothing else will ever be the same again.  The seconds, minutes, hours, days, weeks, months and years of waiting will become meaningless, forgotten in the moment you step forward.  Carpe diem.  Seize the day.

1: Henry David Thoreau - Walden, or Life in the Woods
2: Dead Poets Society (1989)

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