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Carpe Diem

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Gaudeamus igitur, iuvenes dum sumus! :|
post iucundam iuventutem,
post molestam senectutem,
nos habebit humus!
Gaudeamus Igitur, 1st stanza

A Stock Aesop about living your life and fighting against all odds. Or "seize the day", as Carpe Diem's meaning (in Latin) goes—don't waste time, enjoy the present, live life instead of letting it pass you by. Generally used as an encouragement for people stuck in their problems and thinking they can't enjoy life. This is the common purpose of a Manic Pixie Dream Girl to the guy she's close with.

On the other hand, sometimes this Aesop can be warped into "anything can happen to us, so be crazy" - literally (read: Sex, Drugs, and Rock & Roll). The saying YOLO (you only live once) is the epitome of said warping.

This is contrasted with another saying tempus fugit (time flies away), which is about using your time for most productivity and not wasting it on useless things.

Not to be confused with the webcomic Carpe Diem.

Compare The Anti-Nihilist and We All Die Someday (aka memento mori - remember [about] death). See also We Are as Mayflies, which may lead someone to seize the day.


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    Comic Books 
  • In Wanted, Mr. Rictus follows an extreme version of this philosophy. Since a near-death experience showed him The Nothing After Death, he's convinced that he might as well do anything he feels like doing, no matter who gets harmed by it.

    Fan Works 
  • Fanfic "A Life Less Ordinary" by Jebiwonkenobi.
    "You could have died," says Derek.
    "Two hundred people die in bathtub related incidents every year," says Stiles. Derek raises an eyebrow at him and Stiles shrugs. "Death's never not on the table."

  • In Dead Poets Society this is a Discussed Trope. This film brought the ancient Latin phrase “carpe diem” into modern popular culture. Cool Teacher of poetry John Keating (Robin Williams) tries to inspire his students to love poetry and live life.
    Keating: Listen, you hear it? - - Carpe - - hear it? - - Carpe, carpe diem, seize the day boys, make your lives extraordinary.
  • In The Last Starfighter, Cool Old Guy Otis offers this advice to Alex, when the latter's angsting about living his life stuck in a trailer park.
    Otis: Oh, hi Alex. Where's your Maggie?
    Alex: Good question. Out having a good time, I guess.
    Otis: Ohhh, and you never have a good time, is that it?
    Alex: Oh sure, I love patching 30-year-old fuse panels and plunging people's toilets. Otis, I never even get a chance to have a good time around here.
    Otis: Well, things change. Always do. You'll get your chance! Important thing is, when it comes, you've got to grab it with both hands, and hold on tight!
  • School Of Life: Mr. D's teaching methods are highly unorthodox, yet he does make learning fun for his students, which increases his popularity, threatening Mr. Warner's chance of being named Teacher of the Year; later, Warner finds out that Mr. D is dying of lung cancer, and only has one lung left, so he's pretty much living everyday as if it's his last.
  • In Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein, Costello's character gets the advice, "Make the most of life, while it lasts"... from none other than Dracula! The clear implication is that with Drac around, life won't be lasting very long.

  • This trope is actually one of The Oldest Ones in the Book, as it dates back to The Epic of Gilgamesh, the oldest piece of written fiction in existence. Siduri the friendly "alewife" urges Gilgamesh to abandon his futile quest for immortality, and instead enjoy his life every day, instead of fearing death.
  • From Life's Little Instruction Book:
    322. Don't say you don't have enough time. You have exactly the same number of hours per day that were given to Helen Keller, Pasteur, Michelangelo, Mother Teresa, Leonardo da Vinci, Thomas Jefferson, and Albert Einstein.
  • Sebald from Pippa Passes believes this, saying "One must be venturous and fortunate/What is one young for, else? In age we'll sigh/O'er the wild, reckless, wicked days flown ever." Of course, it's subverted in this instance, since he's justifying murdering his girlfriend's husband.
  • Motty (Lord Pershore), the only son of domineering mother Lady Malvern, is put up in Bertie's apartment in Jeeves and Wooster story "Jeeves and the Unbidden Guest". Liberated from his mother for the first time ever, he goes on a series of drunken sprees, much to Bertie's horror. Challenged by Bertie, Motty says "This is the first time I've been let out alone and I mean to make the most of it. We're only young once. Why interfere with life's morning? Young man, rejoice in thy youth!"
    Bertie: Put like that, it did seem reasonable.
  • Years of Grace: Jimmy, who is a married man and a father of one, is trying to convince Jane, who is a married woman and mother of three, that they should ditch their respective spouses and children and run away together. He presses this point very strongly. (It does not work.)
    "We've only one life to live, Jane, and that life's half over. Let's make the most of it while it lasts."

    Live-Action TV 
  • In the first episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Buffy tells Willow she should 'seize the day'... which causes her to chat up a vampire and almost get killed. The next season Willow repeats it back to Buffy as 'Carpe Diem', which Buffy mistakes for 'fish of the day'.
  • All too aware his own life is short compared to his immortal father, Forever (2014)'s Abe actively tries to live his life this way, from twice marrying a woman whose passions are sometimes violent (including towards him) to trying half-pipe skateboarding for the first time at age 69. He frequently urges Henry to do the same.
  • On Gilmore Girls Logan gets Rory to jump from a three stories high scaffolding using this line:
    Logan: It'll be fun, it'll be a thrill. Something stupid, something bad for you. Just something different. Isn't this the point of being young? It's your choice, Ace. People can live a hundred years without really living for a minute. You climb up here with me, it's one less minute you haven't lived.
  • In Police Squad!, after an undercover Drebin takes down a threatening ventriloquist (and his dummy), his manager is concerned.
    Mr. V: That was nice work. You took a big chance doing that.
    Drebin: Well, you take a big chance getting up in the morning, crossing the street or sticking your face in a fan.
  • Samurai Gourmet is the story of a man who decides to seize his retirement by thoroughly enjoying food. And sometimes by not sitting by while other people are jerks.
  • Star Trek: The Next Generation and their films (with Star Trek Generations making it a Central Theme) have all stressed to live in the present.
    Picard!Kamin: Seize the time, Meribor – live now! Make now always the most precious time. Now will never come again.

  • Asia's "An Extraordinary Life" has this in the chorus:
    Go seize the day
    Wake up and say
    This is an extraordinary life
  • Love is compared to various unfortunate mishaps in the Bachelor Girl song, Buses and Trains. The meaning seems to be, "Love Hurts, but life can be worse and yet still Worth Living For, so why give up when it comes to love"?
    So I walked under a bus
    Keep falling in love
    I've sunk out at sea
    Crashed my car, gone insane
  • "I Lived" by OneRepublic.
    "I, I did it all
    I, I did it all
    I owned every second that this world could give
    I saw so many places, the things that I did
    With every broken bone, I swear I lived"
  • In the song "1999" by Prince:
    "Everybody's got a bomb, we could all die any day
    But before I let that happen, I'll dance my life away"
  • "Seize the Day" by Avenged Sevenfold:
    Seize the day or die regretting the time you lost
    It's empty and cold without you here, too many people to ache over
  • This sentiment is expressed in the song "Let's Live for Today". The American band The Grass Roots had a big hit with their cover of "Let's Live for Today" in 1967.
    "Let others plan their future/I'm busy loving you..../Let's live for today/And don't worry about tomorrow, hey"
  • "Love You To" by The Beatles is about this. George Harrison urges his love to "love me while you can/before I'm a dead old man."

    Newspaper Comics 
  • Calvin and Hobbes rebutted this in one strip.
    Calvin: "Live for the moment" is my motto. You never know how long you've got. You could step into the road tomorrow and — wham! — you get hit by a cement truck! Then you'd be sorry you put off your pleasures. That's why I say, "Live for the moment." What's your motto?
    Hobbes: Look down the road.
    • Another strip involves this during a story where Calvin believes the sun is going out within the next few days. Calvin claims he has nothing to fulfill before he dies, because he's always believed in living each day as though it were his last. The next panel is him eating candy and reading comic books, just as he does everyday.
  • A FoxTrot strip has Jason and Marcus turn "Carpe diem!" into a battlecry. The next panel is Paige chasing them after they've pelted her with darts, yelling "Carpe dead men!"

  • The Trope Namer is Horace, and it is found in his third book of Odes. Horace's idea was that the future is unknown, so one should seize opportunities now to make one's life better. Here is a translation of the poem in full by Charles E. Passage.
    Give up trying to learn — knowing is wrong! — what span of life the gods
    Plan for me or for you, Leuconoë, draw up no more of these
    Babylonian charts. Simply accept all that the future brings,
    Whether Jupiter means we are to know many a winter more
    Or makes this one the last, now dashing waves over the porous rocks
    Of Tyrrhenian shores. Show yourself wise: strain the wine clear, and trim
    Lengthy hope to the short space of our lives. Envious time escapes
    Even now as we speak. Harvest this day, discount tomorrow's gains.

  • The idea appears a few places in The Bible. First it appears in Ecclesiastes, where the Teacher tells the reader to do whatever his hands find to do with all his might, because there is no work in the grave where all people go. Secondly, it appears in the Book of Isaiah, which Paul the apostle in 1st Corinthians quotes — "Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die" — as an example of what we should do if there truly is no resurrection from the dead.

    Video Games 

    Western Animation 
  • The Critic. Jeremy gives Jay advice to live for now, saying, "Carpe canum!" (Jay: "Seize the dog?")
    Jay: (having seized the dog) This can't be right. This can't be right.
  • This is a major theme in Phineas and Ferb, due to Phineas' ever-enduring desire to make the best out of the summer. They even give it a full-on song! grab these opportunities when you see'em
    Ensemble: Every day's a brand new day! You gotta Carpe Diem!
  • Parodied in Rick and Morty.
    Summer: It's called "carpe diem", Morty. Look it up.
    Morty: You look it up! Y-Y-You don't even- You don't even know what it means!
    Summer: That's because losers look stuff up while the rest of us are carpin' all them diems.
  • In The Simpsons episode "Homer the Vigilante", Jimbo Jones uses purple spray paint to write "CARPE DIEM" on a wall.
    Homer: (holding a tire iron in his hand) You better have a good reason for doing that, boy.
    Jimbo: It makes me feel like a big man.
    Homer: Let me check my reason list. (checks it) Yep, it's on here.

    Real Life 
  • Barack Obama uses a variant during ads for the Affordable Care Act (aka Obamacare): "You never know when you might take a hit, so sign up today."