Stephen Newman

Seize The Day? Carpe Diem, Redefined by Stephen Newman

I first learned the meaning of Carpe Diem as a teenager. The year was 1989. I was an acne-prone nerd without a learner’s permit, watching “Dead Poet’s Society” with my parents, at the Cinedome Theater in Southern California.

Now, 29 years later, the phrase has morphed into what I like to call “Carpe Diem 2.0.” Instead of seize the day, this new and not-so-improved version means: seize your smartphone and take a picture of something happening today.

In “The End Of Absence,” author Michael Harris explains how people today live in a culture of recorded living, in which they are more eager to upload a picture of their dinner to Instagram than they are to eat it. They snap, filter, and crop the events of their lives in a way that’s supposed to portray true life, but only shows a synthetic surface — one far removed from reality.

I was amused, but not surprised, at a recent article urging readers to actually experience the eclipse (instead of merely filming it with their smartphones or watching it on YouTube the next day).

From my itty bitty prison TV, people looked hugely ridiculous during 2017’s Super Bowl. As Tom Brady was making an historic comeback, they were busy looking down at their phones, missing the action, missing the experience, missing the future memories.

When I think back to the hundreds of concerts I’ve attended in my life, few were as memorable as two artists that most have never heard of — Bobby McGee and Eddie B. These shows took place right here at the ICIO rec yard, just outside my cell window, yet amazingly I remember them more fondly than Alabama, Carrie Underwood, or even U2. The reason is simple: before prison, I was focused on recording and documenting experiences, but not actually experiencing them. Prison has forced me to go all-in and embrace everything life has to offer. It’s not always great, it’s not always good, but it’s always real. And it’s always now.

Stephen Newman
DOC #90843

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