Tao Te Ching

The Power of Goodness, the Wisdom Beyond Words
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Ksenia Samorukova

Carpe diem

Humans attached to integrity walk a narrow path between unbridled, instinctual passion on one side and over-regimented conformity to rules on the other. The true spirit of "carpe diem" walks this road but modern advertising and culture has distorted and mistranslated this sentiment. One of the oldest and most famous dictims from Western philosophy, almost every language now has this phrase and online search results give over 62 million results. The first recorded quote goes back to the Roman poet, Horace (65-8 BCE) and since then it has become a favorite quote of philosophers, religious leaders, movie stars, movies, and rock bands from Metallica to Bob Marley. However while those with authentic understanding described it in ways similar to Henry David Thoreau — "to live deep and suck out all the marrow from life" — more modern voices have stolen the words and coopted the meaning in phrases like, "Just Do It". Although often used as justification, a carpe diem attitude differs tremendously from pleasure-seeking hedonism, power-grabbing lust, competitive striving, and apathetic complacency.

Roman Krznaric insightfully warns of how this last pitfall pervades the modern mindfulness movement—not the lineaged and authentic spiritual traditions but the diluted and over-simplified new age version. While in Buddhist traditions, mindfulness is one of the most simple practices given to beginners; the new age version often "over-promises, under-delivers." It too easily falls into the traps set by spiritual materialism, ego-promoting delusions, and attraction to animal-realm apathy. It also forgets that—while mindfulness can help people accomplish goals more successfully—it doesn't determine or decide those goals. Mindfulness could help an autocratic politician more skillfully manipulate and control, a racist segregate, an assassin kill, or a hacker steal.

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Quotes (80)

“There is no place for grief in a house which serves the Muse.”

Sappho 612 – 570 BCE
“The Poetess” and most famous Greek woman

“Look and you will find it – what is unsought will go undetected.”

Sophocles Σοφοκλῆς 497 – 405 BCE
“The Wise and Honored One”

Themes: Carpe diem

“Love makes time pass. Time makes love pass.”

Euripides 480 – 406 BCE
Ancient humanitarian influence continuing today

Themes: Time Carpe diem

“If our actions do not satisfy the mnd-and-heart, we become starved.”

Mencius 孟子 372 – 289 BCE via Daniel K. Gardner
(Mengzi)
from Book of Mencius 孟子

“Forget the years, forget distinctions. Leap into the boundless and make it your home.”

Chuang Tzu 莊周 369 – 286 BCE
(Zhuangzi)

11. Appreciating Emptiness

“A special teaching, without scriptures, beyond words and letters, pointing to the mind-essence of man, seeing directly into one’s nature, attaining enlightenment.”

Anonymous -800 to present via Paul Reps
Freedom from the narrow boxes defined by personal history

“Leave as little as possible for tomorrow.”

Horace 65 – 8 BCE
from Ode XI

Themes: Carpe diem

“[The problem] is not that we have a short space of time, but that we waste so much of it... there is nothing the busy man is less busy with than living. [The wise] plan out every day as if it were the last.”

Seneca ˈsɛnɪkə 4 BCE – 65 CE
(Lucius Annaeus)

Themes: Time Carpe diem

“It's not because things are difficult that we dare not venture. It's because we dare not venture that they are difficult.”

Seneca ˈsɛnɪkə 4 BCE – 65 CE
(Lucius Annaeus)

“the mind does not require filling like a bottle, but rather, like wood, it only requires kindling to create in it an impulse to think independently and an ardent desire for the truth”

Plutarch 46 – 120 CE
(Lucius Mestrius Plutarchus)

“The mind is not a vessel to be filled, but a fire to be kindled.”

Plutarch 46 – 120 CE
(Lucius Mestrius Plutarchus)

Themes: Mind Carpe diem

11. Appreciating Emptiness

“A half-hearted spirit has no power. Tentative efforts lead to tentative outcomes... Unless we fully give ourselves over to our endeavors, we are hollow, superficial people and we never develop our natural gifts.”

Epictetus Ἐπίκτητος 55 – 135 CE via Sharon Labell

Themes: Carpe diem

“Time is like a river of events - each arising, carried away, and quickly replaced by something also quickly replaced.”

Marcus Aurelius 121 – 219 CE via Shan Dao
from Meditations Τὰ εἰς ἑαυτόν

Themes: Time Carpe diem

“Perfection of character is this: to live each day as if it were your last, without frenzy, without apathy, without pretense.”

Marcus Aurelius 121 – 219 CE
from Meditations Τὰ εἰς ἑαυτόν

“Be confident in yourself. You have already ascended here and now, and no longer need someone to show you the way. Open your eyes and see.”

Plotinus 204 – 249 CE

“Who can leap the world's ties and sit with me among the white clouds?”

Han Shan c. 730-850 CE
(Cold Mountain)

Themes: Carpe diem

“The bird of time has but a little way to fly—and lo! the bird is on the wing...
Ah, fill the Cup:—what boots it to repeat
How Time is slipping underneath our Feet:
Unborn Tomorrow and dead Yesterday.

Omar Khayyám 1048 – 1131 CE via Edward Fitzgerald
Persian Astronomer-Poet, prophet of the here and now

from Rubaiyat

Themes: Time Carpe diem

“This is the time and place to leap beyond the ten thousand emotional entanglements of innumerable kalpas. One contemplation of ten thousand years finally goes beyond all the transitory, and you emerge with spontaneity.”

Hóngzhì Zhēngjué 宏智正覺 1091 – 1157 CE
(Shōgaku)

57. Wu Wei

“If a reader is brave enough and goes straight forward in his meditation, no delusions can disturb him. But if he hesitates one moment, he is as a person watching from a small window for a horseman to pass by, and in a wink he has missed seeing.”

Mumon Ekai 無門慧開 1183 – 1260 CE
(Wumen Huikai)
Pioneering pathfinder to the Gateless Gate

from The Gateless Gate, 無門関, 無門關

“overleap the worship of your mental powers, overleap your understanding and spring into the heart of God”

Meister Eckhart 1260 – 1328 CE
(Eckhart von Hochheim)

“The wisest are the most annoyed at the loss of time.”

Dante 1265 – 1321 CE
(Durante degli Alighieri)

Themes: Time Carpe diem

“If you pour water into a large vessel and then make a tiny hole in it, though it drips but a little, yet if it goes on steadily leaking, soon there is none left... Therefore the dealers in coffins can never make enough to keep a stock.”

Yoshida Kenkō 兼好 1284 – 1350 CE via Sir George Bailey Sansom
Inspiration of self-reinvention
from Essays in Idleness

“The most important thing in life is to learn how to live in a way that makes life worth living.”

Longchenpa ཀློང་ཆེན་རབ་འབྱམས་པ། 1308 – 1364 CE via Herbert V. Guenther, Shan Dao
(Longchen Rabjampa, Drimé Özer)
from Kindly Bent to Ease Us, Trilogy of Finding Comfort and Ease ངལ་གསོ་སྐོར་གསུམ་

“There shall be wings.”

Leonardo da Vinci 1452 – 1519 CE

“All success depends on timing. To turn out well, an endeavor must be done on its own day. At that time, seize the opportunity without hesitation.”

Balthasar Gracian 1601 – 1658 CE via Joseph Jacobs, Shan Dao, chapter #139
from Art of Worldly Wisdom

“Everyone fears death and knows they will die but still continue to fool themselves into thinking there is plenty of time.”

Karma Chagme Rinpoche I ཀརྨ་ཆགས་མེད་རཱ་ག་ཨ་སྱས། 1613 – 1678 CE via Shan Dao

50. Claws and Swords

“Desire is the very essence of man.”

Baruch Spinoza 1632 – 1677 CE

Themes: Desire Carpe diem

“If you love life, do not squander time for that's the stuff life is made from.”

Benjamin Franklin 1706 – 1790 CE
from The Way to Wealth, 1757

Themes: Time Carpe diem

“Come out of your infancy, my friend; awake!”

Jean-Jacques Rousseau 1712 – 1778 CE

“If there is confusion in your head and in your heart, what more do you want! A man who no longer loves and no longer errs should have himself buried straight away.”

Goethe, Johann Wolfgang von 1749 – 1832 CE

43. No Effort, No Trace

“He who moves not forward, goes backward.”

Goethe, Johann Wolfgang von 1749 – 1832 CE
from Herman and Dorothea (1797)

Themes: Carpe diem

“To see a World in a grain of sand,
And a Heaven in a wild flower,
Hold Infinity in the palm of your hand,
And Eternity in an hour.”

William Blake 1757 – 1827 CE

32. Uncontrived Awareness

“Time ceases to persecute only those it has delivered over to boredom.”

Arthur Schopenhauer 1788 – 1860 CE via R.J. Hollingdale, Shan Dao
from Parerga and Paralipomena, "Appendices" and "Omissions"

Themes: Time Carpe diem

“Our grand business undoubtedly is, not to see what lies dimly at a distance, but to do what lies clearly at hand.”

Thomas Carlyle 1795 – 1881 CE
"Great Man” theory of history creator

“People do not lack strength, they lack will… The ones who live are the ones who struggle; the ones whose soul and heart are filled with high purpose. Yes, these are the living ones.”

Victor Hugo 1802 – 1885 CE
Literary pioneer, poet, and social justice provocateur
from NY Post, 194​8

“I wanted to live deep and suck out all the marrow of life, to live so sturdily and Spartan-like as to put to rout all that was not life, to cut a broad swath and shave close, to drive life into a corner, and reduce it to its lowest terms.”

Henry David Thoreau 1817 – 1862 CE
Father of environmentalism and America's first yogi
from Walden or Life in the Woods

44. Fame and Fortune

“We act as though comfort and luxury were the chief requirements of life, when all that we need to make us really happy is something to be enthusiastic about.”

Charles Kingsley 1819 – 1875 CE
Founder of Christian Socialism in England

“The best piety is to enjoy—when you can. You are doing the most then to save the earth's character as an agreeable planet. And enjoyment radiates.”

George Eliot 1819 – 1880 CE
(Mary Anne Evans)
Pioneering literary outsider

from Middlemarch

“Happiness, not in another place but this place…not for another hour, but this hour.”

Walt Whitman 1819 – 1892 CE
Premier "poet of democracy" and model for Dracula

“All visible objects, man, are but as pasteboard masks... If a man will strike, strike through the mask! How can the prisoner reach outside except by thrusting through the wall? To me, the white whale is the wall.”

Herman Melville 1819 – 1891 CE
from Moby Dick or The Whale

Themes: Carpe diem

“To live is so startling it leaves little time for anything else.”

Emily Dickinson 1830 – 1886 CE

25. The Mother of All Things

“Do not seek illumination unless you seek it as a man whose hair is on fire seeks a pond.”

Ramakrishna 1836 – 1886 CE

“Live the wonderful life that is in you! Let nothing be lost upon you. Be always searching for new sensations. Be afraid of nothing”

Oscar Wilde 1854 – 1900 CE
from Picture of Dorian Gray

Themes: Carpe diem

“Forgive me for saying so, boss, but you're just a pen-pusher. Here you had the chance of a lifetime to see a beautiful green stone, and you didn't see it. By God, sometimes when I have nothing better do do, I sit down and ask myself, is there a hell or isn't there? But yesterday when I received your letter, I said, There sure is a hell for certain pen pushers!”

Georgios Zorbas Γεώργιoς Ζορμπάς 1865 – 1941 CE via Nikos Kazantzakis
(Alexis Zorba)
"Zorba the Greek"

Themes: Carpe diem

“There is a time for everything. Possibilities for everything exist only for a definite time.”

G. I. Gurdjieff 1866 – 1949 CE

Themes: Time Carpe diem

“An hour is not just an hour, it is a vase full of perfume, sounds, projects, and moods.”

Marcel Proust 1871 – 1922 CE
Apostle of Ordinary Mind
from In Search of Lost Time

Themes: Time Carpe diem

“I know so many women who have kept all the things that she had lost, but whose inner glow has faded. Whatever else was gone, Antonia had not lost the fire of life.”

Willa Cather 1873 – 1948 CE
Modern day Lao Tzu

47. Effortless Success

“The Rubáiyát is the bible of the ‘carpe diem religion’”

G. K. Chesterton 1874 – 1936 CE

Themes: Carpe diem

“Hold fast the time! Guard it, watch over it, every hour, every minute!... Hold every moment sacred. Give each clarity and meaning, each the weight of thine awareness, each its true and due fulfillment.”

Thomas Mann 1875 – 1955 CE
Deep, psychologically insightful author
from The Beloved Returns (1939)

“I never think of the future – it comes soon enough.”

Albert Einstein 1879 – 1955 CE

Themes: Time Carpe diem

40. Returning

“Even if you're on the right track, you'll get run over if you just sit there.”

Will Rogers 1879 – 1935 CE

Themes: Carpe diem

“All your hours are wings that beat through space from self to self.”

Kahlil Gibran 1883 – 1931 CE
from The Prophet

Themes: Time Carpe diem

“I knew my true face and my sole duty: to work this face with as much patience, love, and skill as I could manage... to turn it into flame so that Charon would find nothing of me to take. For this was my greatest ambition: to leave nothing for death to take—nothing but a few bones.”

Nikos Kazantzakis 1883 – 1957 CE
from Report to Greco

Themes: Carpe diem

“Why do we love Plato? Because he himself was a lover... because of his high passion for social reconstruction... because he worshiped beauty as well as truth... because he was alive every minute of his life... because he conceived philosophy as an instrument not merely for the interpretation but for the remolding of the world... because of his wild nomadic play of fancy, the joy he found in life... and because he retained throughout his 80 years that zeal for human improvement which is for most of us the passing luxury of youth.”

Will Durant 1885 – 1981 CE
Philosophy apostle and popularizer of history's lessons
from Greatest Minds and Ideas of All Time, 1968

Themes: Carpe diem

“Our grasp is greater than our reach; but therefore our reach is made greater than that grasp.”

Will Durant 1885 – 1981 CE
Philosophy apostle and popularizer of history's lessons
from Fallen Leaves

Themes: Carpe diem

“Don't sleep, don't sleep, artist,
Don't give in to sleep.
You are eternity's hostage
A captive of time.”

Boris Pasternak Бори́с Леони́дович Пастерна́к 1890 – 1960 CE
Russia's greatest poet
from Night (Ночь)

Themes: Time Carpe diem

“religious in the only way that is becoming—extracting the utmost of life from every passing minute.”

Henry Miller 1891 – 1980 CE
from The Colossus of Maroussi

“The best of the most atrocious, zeal is always intoxicating. A world without zeal would be a world deprived of many simple but savage pleasures: but at least half its present excuses for interfering and bullying would have been taken away from it.”

Aldous Huxley 1894 – 1963 CE
from Erewhon, Introduction

“It is always because of one person that all the changes that matter in the world come about. So be that one person.”

Buckminster Fuller 1895 – 1983 CE

“It is only in stopping halfway that individuality solidifies and shrinks to the notion of an egohood which contradicts or opposes universality... Individuality pursued to its end, i.e. realized to the fullness of its possibilities, is universality.”

Anagarika​ (Lama) Govinda 1898 – 1985 CE
(Ernst Hoffmann)
Pioneer of Tibetan Buddhism to the West

from Inner Structure of the I Ching

“Each moment is the fruit of forty thousand years. The minute-winning days, like flies, buzz home to death, and every moment is a window on all time.”

Thomas Wolfe 1900 – 1938 CE
(Thomas Clayton Wolfe)
Father of autobiographical fiction

“If what Proust says is true, that happiness is the absence of fever, then I will never know happiness. For I am possessed by a fever for knowledge, experience, and creation.”

Anais Nin 1903 – 1977 CE

“People say that what we’re all seeking is a meaning for life but I don’t think that’s what we’re really seeking… what we’re really seeking is an experience of being alive, the rapture of being alive.”

Joseph Campbell 1904 – 1987 CE
Great translator of ancient myth into modern symbols
from Power of Myth

“Time lost is time when we have not lived a full human life, time unenriched by experience, creative endeavor, enjoyment and suffering.”

Dietrich Bonhoeffer 1906 – 1945 CE via Eberhard Bethge, Shan Dao
from Letters from prison, 1953

Themes: Time Carpe diem

“everyone growing up faces differential opportunities... differential experiences that you don't look for, that you don't plan for, but, boy, you better not miss them. The things that make you bigger than you are. The things that give you a vision. The things that give you a challenge.”

James Michener 1907 – 1997 CE
Historical and Generational Saga Master


from Interview (1991)

“The purpose of life is to nurture our souls.”

Masanobu Fukuoka 福岡 正信 1913 – 2008 CE via Shan Dao
from Road Back to Nature

“the future is an evanescent dew, a shadow, a lightening flash, just as the past, just as now”

Jack Kerouac 1922 – 1969 CE
from Some of the Dharma

Themes: Time Carpe diem

“Nothing splendid was ever created in cold blood. Heat is required to forge anything. Every great accomplishment is the story of a flaming heart”

Warren Bennis 1925 – 2014 CE
Authentic Leadership pioneering thought leader

“People sacrifice the present for the future. But life is available only in the present. That is why we should walk in such a way that every step can bring us to the here and the now.”

Thích Nhất Hạnh tʰǐk ɲɜ̌t hɐ̂ʔɲ 1926 CE –

“The past exists only in our memories, the future only in our plans. The present is our only reality… the moment of vision before intellectualization”

Robert M. Pirsig 1928 – 2017 CE
from Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance

“Our salvation is in striving to achieve what we know we'll never achieve.”

Ryszard Kapuściński 1932 – 2007 CE
“One of the most credible journalists the world has ever seen"

“We’ve been filled with great treasure for one purpose: to be spilled.”

Yoko Ono 小野 洋子 1933 CE –
(“Ocean Child”)

67. Three Treasures

“You can achieve complete freedom; you can experience vastness. Genuine wakefulness is possible constantly.”

Chögyam Trungpa 1939 – 1987 CE via Judith Lief, editor
from Bodhisattva Path of Wisdom and Compassion

“The premature evocation of the future veils the present moment. Dwelling on one's good dream of the future and borrowing from others in the present on the basis of it is the attitude of pet dogs and cats.”

Chögyam Trungpa 1939 – 1987 CE
from Political Treatise (1972)

Themes: Time Carpe diem

“Here, the term spirit is like the spirit of the morning, or the spirit of watching the sun rise, the spirit of a journey. This kind of spirit is based on the idea of delight and joy and heroism... You are about to give birth to it.”

Chögyam Trungpa 1939 – 1987 CE
from The Enlightenment of the Buddha (1975)

Themes: Carpe diem

“Determination, energy, and courage appear spontaneously when we care deeply about something. We take risks that are unimaginable in any other context.”

Meg Wheatley 1944 CE –
Bringing ancient wisdom into the modern world.

“recognizing the ephemeral nature of existence, and being able to look death in the eye or float on its ocean, is perhaps the most crucial ingredient of carpe diem living”

Roman Krznaric c. 1964
Practical, popular, modern philosopher

from Carpe Diem Regained (2017)

“For more than 2,000 years there has been a long war against pleasure... Carpe diem hedonism was far more than the pursuit of sensory pleasures: it was a subversive political act with the power to reshape the cultural landscape.”

Roman Krznaric c. 1964
Practical, popular, modern philosopher

from Carpe Diem Regained

“For the first time in years, it seems, she's done something not just because she's expected to do it, but because she's chosen to do it and done the hell out of it besides.”

N. K. Jemisin 1972 CE –
from The City We Became (2020)

Themes: Carpe diem

“You can break down the present into smaller and smaller increments, but between the instant of present experience and the instant you identify that instant as 'now', the moment has already passed. It is not longer now. It’s then.”

Mingyur Rinpoche 1975 CE –
Modern-day Mahasiddha

Themes: Time Carpe diem

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