As we get away from everyday routines, we find more time to reflect on issues that we otherwise just have to leave aside, or think about only in passing. Now a few days before Eid-ul-Azha and Pakistan’s Independence Day on 14 August, we are busy preparing everything for the big events, buying new clothes and gifts, making preparations for animal sacrifices, making everything ready to receive relatives and neighbours, and to visit them, and planning and preparing for travels. The latter is certainly essential for all the workers in big towns and cities, who get a chance to go to their home towns and villages. This year, if employers allow, they may get a whole week off.

In the midst of the hectic and busy life, preparations for the big events also mean changing daily routines. We get an opportunity to reflect, mostly about own situations and those closest to us. Eid-ul-Azha is about feeling and showing empathy with others, such as those who don’t have a job, maybe they are day labourers and get work some days but not all, maybe they are graduates from colleges and even universities, who keep seeking searching for a job every day. They, too, would like to go home for Eid, not to show off and talk about success, but simply be with their families, like everyone else.

The title I have chosen for my column today is ‘seize the day’. It is taken from the Roman poet Horace’s comprehensive work entitled ‘Odes’, published in year 23 BC. In Latin, the saying is ‘carpe diem’, which has almost become a phrase in English and other modern languages. The full phrase is longer, though, and not so easy to remember, “carpe diem quam minimum credula postero”. In English, “seize the day, trusting as little as possible in the future”. Horace encourages us all to make the most of the present rather than dwelling on the future, or for that matter, the past, but that cannot be read directly into the saying. We are encouraged by Horace to ‘seize the day’, make the ‘here and now’, remembering that tomorrow has enough worries for itself, as yesterday had, too, referring to Matthew 6:34 in the Bible’s New Testament.

The unique and highly productive Swedish hymn writer Lina Sandell (1832-1903) wrote in 1865 the famous and still used hymn ‘Day by day, and with each passing moment’. In Swedish: ‘Blott en dag, ett ögonblick i sänder’. She wrote it some years after her father, a pastor in the Church of Sweden, fell overboard from a small boat on a lake and drowned in front of her eyes. She found trust and comfort in her faith. In her hymn she is describing her trust in God as a child trusts her father. She also says that the burden we and others carry shall not be more than one can take: “As thy day, thy strength shall be in measure. This pledge He made to me.”

Lina Sandell finds trust and strength in her faith, and in her husband and people around her, even after she loses father and later, her only child in childbirth. Her success as a hymn writer was unsurpassed by men and women in her time. Oscar Ahnfelt catching melodies to Lina Sandell’s hymns made them loved by all. Not all has the same strength as Lina Sandell, and not all has the same closeness to God as she had. She ‘seized the day’ and made the best out of it, also in sacrifice and duty.

‘Amor fati’ is Latin, too, meaning accepting one’s fate, even love it as God’s will, the way things are. We cannot change the past, not much of the present and future either. To be able to ‘seize the day’ and be able to see all the good things around us, we have to realize this.

But since we human beings have a free will, we don’t only accept everything around us. We also want to change and improve things, build on the present and the past. And then, I have come to the political part of my article. I cannot quite see that we can be happy, that we can ‘seize the day’, unless we take part in social, economic and cultural change and progress. I would find it purposeless and stale if we didn’t. Also, it is important to show fellow human beings how to live in peace and harmony with each other – and to live with a God who is everyone’s God, even those who may not believe. It is only through being active members in society that we can be happy.

In the past few hundred years, to work for change has often been a cold and rough class struggle. The lower classes had to fight against the upper classes for change. The upper classes did not listen to reason and accept peaceful ways of finding fairer ways of sharing; they resisted giving up power and privileges, silver and gold, although they may well have seen that there wasn’t justice and fairness in the old order. Even today, especially in developing countries, we have a long way to go to make life good for all – although even poor people are able to ‘seize the day’ in the midst of it all.

I believe that people in all classes, people of all faiths, philosophies, persuasions and world views, who embrace justice and equality, are those who are on the right path. They are the ones who ‘seize the day’. Thus if we do the best we can for the right change, then we can celebrate Eid-ul-Azha and Pakistan’s Independence Day in the spirit it was meant to be.

If we don’t do this, we will feel hollow an empty when we sit down to reflect, when we pray in the mosque, church or temple, when we make up our balance sheet and write the bottom line of the accounts at the evening our life on earth. We should all be able to say: I did my best; it was not good enough, but at least I tried.

For today’s concrete issues in politics, economic and social sectors, and so on, we must keep reflecting on how best to change things so that life becomes better for all. It certainly includes stopping the tragic Kashmir dispute, whose resent negative developments top the new this week.

Dear reader, may I wish you a peaceful Eid-ul-Azha, wherever you are in the world, whatever creed and cradle you come from. All Pakistanis and friends of Pakistan, may I congratulate you on the Independence Day, hoping that you and I are doing the best we can to be good custodians of God’s creation, and be the good change-makers we should be. It is only if we show empathy and compassion that we can do what is right, what is God’s will. Then we can indeed ‘seize the day’ and be happy, shout in triumph, ‘eureka’, the universal Greek word meaning, ‘I have found it’.