Facebook is awash with encouraging little memes of the carpe diem variety. Some are twee, some are quite inspiring, but I've often wondered what motivates people to post them. Is it wishful thinking? (As in, 'I'd love to fulfil a dream or two before I'm 90, but not this year.') Or do these injunctions to seize the day reflect the person’s intention? In which case, why are none of them ever accompanied by something along the lines of '… so I've stuck a note on the fridge saying gone to Greece and I'm off!'
Perhaps they are there to remind others to cast off the bowlines and sail away from the safe harbour (that was Mark Twain's version of carpe diem), but do they work? Is any reader actually clapping a hand to a brow, shouting 'Eureka!' and dashing out the door to engage with life? Again, I've seen lots of 'likes' pop up under a particularly persuasive statement, but never a comment to say that, thanks to this marvellous quote, someone has taken the plunge, made the leap, or whatever else one does to bring about a change in circumstances.
I’ve always considered these posts harmless and pretty useless, until one slapped me right between the eyes. It was a picture of a wrinkled couple sitting side by side in deck chairs, in a featureless landscape. A speech bubble floated above one head: 'Remember, dear, the time we almost went to Italy?'
That did it for me. I took my small inheritance and booked a trip to Europe. 'But what about your car?' some people cried. It’s true that my ancient Conquest needed to be replaced, but my father’s hard-earned cash was not going to be put into a soulless car; neither was it going to be used for pressing house repairs. It was going to be invested in a juicy life experience.
He had very few opportunities to travel in his lifetime, but he did visit Italy. 'If you ever get the chance, pet, go to Florence,' he once told me, so I did. I spent the money with glee and when I toasted him in the Piazza della Signoria, I imagined him giving me a thumbs-up from the clouds.
I don't judge inspirational quotes any more - even the one about life not being a dress rehearsal. Who knows what their cumulative effect might be, or which one might finally work some magic? Here's my wish now, when I see them popping up: that whoever is struggling with an 'almost' life finds a way to make it fly.