Friday, 29 April 2016
100%! And is the secret to happiness living every day twice?
Carpe Diem Reclaimed is now 100% funded! I feel completely overwhelmed and honoured by the backing given to the book. It's been an amazing process in which I've received incredibly generous support from a huge range of people - old high school friends, neighbours, readers of my previous books from around the world, and others who've simply believed in the project of reclaiming carpe diem from the hijackers! Enormous thanks to you all. It could never have happened without the crowd.
What next? I now have to put the finishing touches on the manuscript and it can then go into production. That includes all the steps needed to turn it into a beautiful book, from editing and proofreading to cover design, layout and copyright permissions. Please be patient - all these stages are obviously really important and take time. I'll be keeping you up to date as we go along, and be seeking your advice at various points - such as your opinion on book covers.
I'm also keen to get your reflections on some of the content. Here's an excerpt from Chapter 2. What do you think? Should we try to live every day twice? Please leave your thoughts in the comment box below!
The Secret to the Good Life: Live Every Day Twice
‘Live as if you were living already for the second time and as if you had acted the first time as wrongly as you are about to act now.’
This mind-bending maxim is courtesy of the Austrian existential psychotherapist and Auschwitz survivor Victor Frankl. He considered it to be one of the keys to living a meaningful life and confronting ‘life’s finiteness’. So what does it really mean, and what light does it shine on seizing the day?
One way of interpreting it appears in the 2013 film About Time, directed by Richard Curtis. What at first looks like a typical romantic comedy turns out to be an enlightening take on Frankl’s idea.
About Time concerns a young man, Tim, who on his 21st birthday is told by his father that, like all men in his family, he has an inherited ability to transport himself back in time to any date or place in his memory. After overcoming his disbelief, Tim first uses his new power – unsurprisingly – to get himself a girlfriend.
But the film becomes far more philosophically interesting towards the end (get ready for some spoilers). Tim’s father is dying of cancer and reveals to his son the secret to a happy life: live each day as normal, with all its tensions and worries, then go back and live it again, but this time making an effort to notice all the beautiful moments and small pleasures life has to offer.
Tim tries this himself, but then discovers an even richer philosophy which doesn’t require any time travel at all: ‘I just try to live every day as if I’ve deliberately come back to this one day, to enjoy it.’ Now that’s a profound idea and one we can all try out.
We see him putting it into practice – kissing his wife tenderly as she wakes in the morning rather than rushing out of bed; having fun with his kids while he makes them breakfast before school; and making an effort to look the cashier in the eye and smile when buying his lunch. Treat yourself to some of this in the wonderful final scene here.
The carpe diem message of About Time is about being in the moment, being attentive and present, noticing the sweetness of the world. As Richard Curtis said in an interview, the ‘movie is saying that we should relish every normal day and live it just for the day itself, not for what the day might achieve’.
I doubt Frankl would have agreed with this approach to life (he believed it was important to focus on future goals), but I think if he’d watched this film he still might have given it five stars.
P.S. It's never too late to seize the day - you can still encourage others to pledge their support for the book and get their name printed in the back!
Mind-bending, as you say Roman! I like them both, and I think they're two different philosophies. Victor Frankl provokes us to think about what we may be doing WRONG at this moment, so we can catch ourselves, stop before it's too late, and act or think differently. Quite challenging. From your description, the message of About Time is simpler: Enjoy the moment. It's less profound, but also less challenging to put into practice. I would like to try both! Thanks for the taster of Carpe Diem.
posted 4th May 2016
I felt there was something rather non-carpe-diem-ish, non-Roman-Krznaric-ish, about the Curtis quote. Or to put it more carefully: 'living in / savouring the moment' - Or for that matter, 'living each day as if it is your last' - are neither of them, it seems to me, intelligible or desirable in themselves, and equally corrupt. 'Being awake to what you are doing, to what is happening right now' - because... because... because we're supposed to Savour, truly Enjoy, the experience? Really? This weird aestheticisation of everyday life, this disappearing up the back passage of one's own conscious aliveness, seems like a crock to me. What seems like far less of a crock: living true to one's values, not taking one's own and others' lives for granted, keeping a finger on the loving ethical pulse of each encounter. Kiss your wife tenderly when you leave the house - not because it Feels Just So Great to do something loving - but simply because it Is a loving thing to do. It shows care, it puts you in touch with your own care, it honours your relationship, your wife knows more securely too that she's loved, you come together in this, you've stood up against the banalising forces of taking-for-granted-ness. Curtis' description seems to unwittingly do what the mindfulness sometimes brigade do - to reduce the value of a life lived mindfully to a life lived in the moment without thought for the future. Honouring the day rather than savouring it - or perhaps better: savouring it not for the sake of savouring it but rather as a form of honouring it - that sounds more worthwhile to me. It can be harder in a secular idiom to do this. If we could see what the day brings as God's grace in action it's easier to plug into the aptly humble stance. But for us secularists it's not, I think, Impossible to feel existential gratitude - gratitude for the fact of existence, for the givens of our lives - and, furthermore, we still have just as available to us the possibility of everyday relational gratitude - to one another, for what we have together.
posted 5th May 2016
Really interesting thoughts Richard. In fact, I'm no great advocate of the 'savour the moment' approach to life. In the book I come out as rather critical of it (and of the new mindfulness too), and do so by contrasting it with Frankl's idea of the 'concrete assignment' and the importance of dedication to future goals and values that transcend the self. On the other hand, it's absolutely fascinating - and historically unprecedented - that if you ask people today what 'carpe diem' means to them, a lot will say it's about 'living in the moment', in effect taking the Curtis position. This approach to carpe diem has only really emerged in the last 20 years - and there's 2000 years before this where it meant something rather different!
posted 6th May 2016