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Carpe Kairos

Be careful then how you live, not as unwise people but as wise, making the most of the time, because the days are evil.  Ephesians 5:15-16

How do you live?   What are the things in your life that you are most proud of and what are the things in your life that you regret?

If we are honest with ourselves, we have things that we are proud of and we have things that we regret.

My junior year of college I was lost.  I did not know what I wanted to do with my life, I was attending Luther College in Decorah, Iowa but I was not really going to my classes.  Instead I was either working at a local restaurant as a cook or  I was sitting in my dorm room, alone.

In another attempt to avoid doing my homework I was searching through my video collection for a movie to watch.  I pulled out Dead Poets Society. In this movie Robin Williams portrays John Keating, an English teacher who returns in the late 1960s to his alma mater, the prestigious prep school Wellton Academy. Keating’s unconventional teaching ways have some strong effects on his students, in particular: Charlie Dalton, who hates the school; Knox Overstreet, who is helplessly in love with a girl; painfully shy Todd Anderson, who has been sent to the school where his popular older brother was valedictorian; and Neil Perry, who wants to be an actor despite his father’s refusal. Keating inspires the boys to think on their own and to go against the status quo.

They re-initiate the Dead Poets Society, a group that Keating was in as a student at Wellton. Through their club, the boys discover the magic of poetry and the power of words. Keating uses famous quotes from Whitman, Thoreau, and other classical thinkers to motivate his students. In their own way, each student is motivated and is changed for life.

Relating to most of the characters one way or another, I was looking for inspiration. In one scene Keating tells his students  “We are food for worms, lads! Believe it or not, each and every one of us in this room one day will stop breathing, turn cold, and die.”

He is meeting the boys for the first time, and he is trying to inspire them to reach their full potential. He has them stand in front of a glass case with pictures of past students.  Keating invites them to think about the students: “They’re not that different from you, are they?” He says,  “same haircuts, full of hormones, just like you. Invincible, just like you feel. The world is their oyster. They believe they’re destined for great things, just like many of you. Their eyes are full of hope, just like you. Did they wait until it was too late to make from their lives even one iota of what they were capable? Because, you see gentlemen, these boys are now fertilizing daffodils. But if you listen real close, you can hear them whisper their legacy to you. Go on, lean in. Listen, you hear it?”

Then he says in an eerie voice as if coming from the grave, “Carpe. Hear it? Carpe, carpe diem. Seize the day, boys. Make your lives extraordinary!”

Right then, I knew that I needed to make a change.  Instead of living my life fully, instead of seizing the day I was existing.  I did not have any motivation to do anything and I was starting to regret my life.  Soon after watching the movie I made a decision, I was going to leave college after the semester was over and I was going to find a place to reboot, to recharge and reexamine my life so I could find ways to Carpe Diem, to seize the day.

We learn these lessons in the Bible as well.  In the Apostle Paul’s letter to the Ephesians he writes “Be careful then how you live, not as unwise people but as wise, making the most of the time…” What I Paul is saying (from the Greek translation) is “Redeem the kairos.”

The ancient Greeks made a distinction of two types of time: chronos, which is chronological time, and kairos, which is the moment. Chronos has a beginning and an end — birth and death. Kairos is now — the significant occurrences in between. Paul is saying:

Carpe diem! 

Claim the moment!

Go for the gold!

Strike while the iron is hot!

Now is the time!

Seize the moment!

When we examine our life, we can often find ourselves running from one activity to another.  Instead of living our life, instead of seizing the moment or seizing the day we are just plainly existing.

Each of us, has a physical and emotional need for something bigger than ourselves.  Some kind of spirituality.    We need to know that we are not alone in this gigantic and sometimes unkind world.

When we feel overwhelmed we tend to follow the latest fad, to search for the newest fulfillment, to seek some external treasure. We consume and devour until we are fed up with life.  And still we want more.

And that may temporary fill a need — it may force us into some kind of fulfilled coma — but we need the food, the spirituality that will last eternally and that will enable us to live life fully and that can be found in God. 

God comes to us.  We may not know why, or how God comes to us, but when we encounter God we have this feeling, this sense of hope, of promise.  We have a new found energy that enables us to have a sense of calm in our lives.  We no longer are searching for the latest thing that will temporary fill our needs — instead we are given food that fills our souls and drink that quenches our thirst and water that cleans us from inside out.

How we live makes a difference. Paul says to make the most of the time given to given to us as a blessing and free gift from God.

Carpe Kairos – Seize the Moment

This article first appeared in The Gardner News on August 15, 2015