“Carpe diem. Seize the day, boys. Make your lives extraordinary.” That was the parting sentiment John Keating gave to his class at the end of the movie “Dead Poet’s Society.” It inspired a generation to live their lives beyond the status quo. To him, confining oneself to the expectations of authority just because it was authority was not an acceptable existence. In the film, authoritarian expectations clash with self-expression. Mr. Keating wanted his students to believe in something and live a life of meaning.
The heartbreaking scene took place when Mr. Keating had to leave his teaching position because the school blamed him for the suicide of a student. It was the “establishment,” blaming individualistic expression for a horrible tragedy. Students stood on their desks to support Mr. Keating, showing they were going to do what they thought was right instead of living according to expectations. While the focal point was upon those students who stood, many remain seated. The expectations were more potent than their love for their teacher.
The Christian mandate is to live a life of love in the moment one is living, but plans get in the way and create conflict. James tells us, “You don’t really know about tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for only a short while before it vanishes. Here’s what you ought to say: ‘If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that. (4:14-15)'” The sentiment in these verses is not that we fail to plan. Instead, James is telling us that our character in Christ takes precedence. The love of Christ demands an expression, and the time for that expression is now.
James asks, “What is the source of conflict among you?” Conflict is a derivative of a sinful heart. We desire a perceived outcome, which is often out of our control. Our notion of what is right differs from someone else’s desire, and the result is friction. When sin is present in our hearts, unity is not possible because we each seek a different outcome. The culprit to which James alludes is a divided heart. As long as we try to serve both God and the cravings of our hearts, we will live in mediocrity and be a divided people.
“All his life has he looked away, to the future, to the horizon. Never his mind on where he was, what he was doing.” Those were the words of Master Yoda regarding a young, impulsive Luke Skywalker. If we are to live extraordinary lives, we must have the same mindset as Jesus. Forgiveness is more important than being right. Showing compassion is more significant than keeping our schedule. Let’s put aside our petty differences, humble our hearts, and live in harmony. With a humble heart, let’s stop straddling the fence. May we live extraordinary lives in the love of Christ, right here, right now.