Do you remember the movie “Carpe Diem”? It wasn’t called that: it was called “The DeadPoet’s Society,” but of that movie, besides the vocative (which we like a lot) “O captain! My captain!” taken from a poem by Walt Whitman, that concept has stayed in everyone’s mind. “Seize the moment,” living in the present, having the awareness that everything happens here and now and that letting the mind be distracted by thoughts belonging to the past or projecting into the future-that is, into a dimension yet to come-is a waste of time.
Quotes have a twofold power: when they are done well, they say in a few words something profound that confirms an intuition you had or makes you understand something that was not clear, and above all, they are pebbles that you keep in your pocket. You know those little items that you keep and carry along with your coins and key chain? They stand quietly, and then one day you have to pay for your groceries, you pull out the coin, and you remember why you carry them around: they remind you of something.
Quotes are not the tablets of the law, nor do they serve to give your life a course, we would miss them. But they do serve to remind you of something, to give you direction at best.
“Carpe diem” is one of the shortest I know: just two words to say a fundamental and foundational concept of life: everything is just here and now, and if you don’t grasp it, it fades away.
We should be reminded of this more often, especially when we find that we are immersed in regrets about the past or anxiety about the future. For in those moments-more than in others-we are not living the only time we can really live, and that is the present.
What does this have to do with running? It is involved for at least two reasons.
When you run, you run
When you’re running you’re doing just that because you can’t do anything else. You can think, you can listen to music or a podcast (e.g., our Fuorisoglia or the weekly Il Lungo) but your mind is mostly focused on running. Let’s say you can do one active thing (running) and one or two passive things (listening, thinking). Enough.
Limiting? No, on the contrary: it is liberating to know that your options are reduced to very few options, all of which are roughly pleasant: running, listening, thinking.
Why did I start from Carpe Diem? There is a reason and it is also very simple: in a period of unsettled not to say horrendous weather the sky had opened a few hours. I had no training scheduled but I thought it was time to seize the moment. You also run in the rain and cold, but let’s face it: the sun always helps and makes people want to run more. I had no particular craving for it, yet I put on my shoes and went out for a run.
Seizing the moment also has several pleasant consequences: if you have chosen well, it fulfills you to have followed your instincts and then leaves you with the pleasant feeling of having done something, of being able to check the box. “Bad day in many ways but at least I ran,” have you ever heard yourself say that? And you may not tell yourself that but your mind knows it is so anyway because it is fulfilled.
What is left
Carpe Diem also teaches another thing: what we let slip through our fingers is lost forever. I hear the applause for the obviousness but here’s another feature of quotations: they may well be restating an obviousness. The more obvious something is, indeed, the more likely you are to forget about it because it is part of your existential landscape, like the streets of your city or the color of your house.
The quote reminds you that it is a truism but that is not why it is appropriate to forget it. Because it is still a pearl of wisdom.
The point of quotes is just that: you keep them in your pocket — in a memory pocket, perhaps — and every once in a while you pull them out and look at them. You recognize yourself in them, and at certain times in life when you are particularly confused or feel like you have no clear direction you look at them again to remind yourself where you needed to go. Maybe it is a time when you are in doubt about anything and test any intention, only to end up making no decision at all. That’s when you have to seize the moment because then it slips away. Foul.
When in doubt, go for a run.