General Introduction
– We’re all back!
– Farmer’s hobbit faux pas

Defining the Phenomenon
– Robin Williams and the English Romantics
– Personal fulfillment
– Raging against the machine with Glee
– How does one make life extraordinary, anyway?
– “Let your freak flag fly”: carpe diem gets crass

Hebrews and Greeks: A New Kind of Lazy Dichotomy
– Horace coins the terms
– How we all got Epicurus wrong
– Moderate partying, CHARLIE SHEEN
– Lack of ambition in Epicurean circles
– The Hebraic conflation
– Misreading Ecclesiastes
– The range of reactions in the canon

Is Christ a Hippie?
– We’re not supposed to worry about tomorrow, man
– The cultural difference
– A matter of faith
– Paul’s nod toward Epicurus

Let’s Talk Literature!
– Church of England priests get nasty
– Material reasons for carpe diem
– King Edwin regrets
– Drinking with Medieval Robin Williams
– Seizing the university life
– Privileged and petulant
– Libertarians and Stoics

Mad Dog Gilmour Breaks the Chain
– Why you can’t live every day like you’re dying
– Responsibility matters
– The lesson of J. Alfred Prufrock

The Takeaway
– Theological context is important
– Existentialism! Existentialism! Existentialism!


Bede. Ecclesiastical History of the English People. Trans. Leo Sherley-Price. New York: Penguin, 1991.

Epicurus. Letters, Principal Doctrines, and Vatican Sayings. Trans. Russel M. Geer. New York: Macmillan, 1964.

Herrick, Robert. The Poetical Works of Robert Herrick. Ed. F.W. Moorman. Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell UP, 2009.

Horace. The Complete Odes and Epodes: With the Centennial Hymn. Trans. W.G. Shepherd. New York: Penguin, 1983.

Marvell, Andrew. The Complete Poems. Ed. Elizabeth Story Donno. New York: Penguin, 2005.

Thoreau, Henry David. Walden. Boston: Beacon, 2004.

4 thoughts on “The Christian Humanist Podcast, Episode 41: Carpe Diem”
  1. So I think this comment relates to this last podcast, where existentialism reared its . . ., though I have to admit that I’ve been catching up in my OCD way.
    So, how to reconcile existentialism with Christianity? At SWU, we often hear in chapel that God has a purpose for our lives, a purpose He determined before we were ever conceived. Unfortunately, some of them seem to be waiting for Him to twitter them as to what exactly that purpose is. I tell my students that it’s okay, and perhaps even positively good, to be an essentialist in your belief, but that it is just as okay, and perhaps good, to be an existentialist in how your live your life.
    OTOH, regarding another recent podcast: if you are afraid of the Tea Party and Sarah Palin, then you don’t understand what the movement is about. IMHO, they are not about gaining power but about returning to a more federalist condition, where power is divided more.
    During the 2000 election debacle, sometime in December, I think, I had one of those talking heads shows on in the background while doing something else, and I heard this analysis: If Bush loses (in the courts), he’ll go back to being governor of Texas and move on with his life; if Gore loses, he’ll be devastated because he really wants to be president.
    The analysis turned out to be fairly accurate.
    What scares me is people like Gore who really want to be president, who really want to have power over others. My political role models are George Washington (refused a crown, left the presidency after two terms) and Cincinnatus (went home after performing his service). We need some politicians who are willing to go home after they’ve served for a few years, not a few decades.

  2. Paul, lots to respond to.

    To start with the last bit, I have to admit that, as someone not enamored of either of America’s twin political factions, I don’t see that much of a psychological difference between Bush and Gore. Over the last eleven years, after all, Gore hasn’t been making Marius-like attempts to regain the consulship; he’s taught journalism, made a documentary, written a (surprisingly good) book about public discourse in the Internet age, and reaped some of what he’s sown with regards to his marriage. None of that reads “devastated” to me.

    With regards to the Tea Party, I honestly couldn’t tell you the first thing about what “they” are about, because every Tea Partier I’ve talked to has a slightly different conception of what “they” are. I know that none of them likes Barack Obama very much, but beyond that, I’ll concede that some of them are probably Federalists in the Alexander Hamilton vein if you’ll concede that some of them are probably national-security-state true believers who want to amp up the USAPATRIOT act rather than dismantle it.

    And as far as essentialism and existentialism go, I think that waiting for an unambiguous divine message is something worth naming, but I don’t think that essentialism is the best name for it. After all, essentialism, as far as I understand it, is the historical movement within philosophy that denies rather than trumpets the scandalous particularity of individuals like Abraham and Paul and attempts to explain their famous moments in universal psychological terms so that they’re not called particularly but merely suffering from generalizable psychological issues. If anything, Kierkegaard (who is, by most accounts, one of the early existentialists, even if the word weren’t around) stands as one of essentialism’s greatest critics precisely because he insists upon the particularity of Abraham’s call.

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