Carpe Diem

María F. Jiménez

The gestalt approach highlights the importance of being present in the here and now. From a therapeutic point of view, this contrasts with analytic therapies focussed on examining the past. Claudio Naranjo distilled the gestalt philosophy in some basic principles, the first of which says “Live now. Be concerned with the present, rather than with past or future.”

How is this related to the aphorism Carpe Diem?

Carpe Diem has become part of popular culture: enjoy the moment and do not worry about the future. Is it assumed that the present is always pleasant? Or is it that one should only yield to the present when that is the case?

Actually, Horatio’s (65 a.C. – 8 a.C.) Carpe Diem is not a motto which belongs in a Coca-Cola ad, set against a backdrop of ongoing celebration. What Horatio says is that one should be engaged with the present so that the future depends a little bit less on fate. The future emerges out of the present, and an awareness of how the being-becoming emerges allows for more active participation in the process.

Epicure, the father of Epicureanism, talked about searching for pleasure, true, but defined in the following way: “By pleasure we mean the absence of pain in the body and of trouble in the soul”1 nor wholly not ours”.2

The gestalt approach expounds that, in the present, it is possible to hone one’s awareness in order to perceive what is there, what needs are moved and what options are available to satisfy these needs as the moment proceeds. If attention is not placed before or after the present, it is possible to interact directly with what is there rather than with one’s own projections. The less the projection of what believes to know, the greater the attention that is available to perceive the less obvious and open up to possibilities that can better integrate the different aspects of the person and the person in their environment, achieving a greater harmony. Or the pleasure described by Epicure. This alignment with what is, just like balance, or like breathing, needs to be renewed moment by moment, directing the attention time and again to perceiving the present. Thus, Carpe Diem unfolds as what it actually is, a profoundly philosophical and existential orientation.

Gracias a Francesca Prince por su asesoramiento y la inspiración de su artículo “La Píldora de Epicuro”, publicado el 5 de Mayo de 2011 en el No5 de Filosofía Hoy.

1 Epicure, Letter to Menoeceus.
2 Epicure, Ibid.

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