Life is short, right?
But how many times have you looked at your phone today?
My answer is: too many.
“It is not that we have a short time to live, but that we waste a lot of it.”Lucius Seneca, On the Shortness of Life
The letters of Ancient roman philosopher and dramatist Lucius Seneca are core to the bedrock of stoic philosophy.
His stunning essay, On the Shortness of Life, is one of his most valuable works, and is perhaps more relevant now than it was when he wrote it.
Time is our most valuable resource. We all have much more time than anyone did two thousand, or even a hundred years ago, but we haven’t developed the skills to use that time optimally.
Midway through his essay, Seneca distills the three types of time we dance with;
“Life is divided into three periods, past, present, and future. Of these, the present is short, the future is doubtful, the past is certain.”
He argues that those who squander the present rarely reflect of the past, because to do so is to understand their failure to seize moments and opportunities which have passed them by.
The past is painful if you’re in the habit of wasting your time in the present.
Although, those who focus too narrowly on the present without considering the future, the ‘busy’ people, those slaving away doing something they hate crossing their fingers that it’ll all pay off in the long run, are at risk of squandering their drops of time too; for the future is inconsistent and lady fortune is largely unpredictable.
The past is precious, he claims;
“It cannot be disturbed or snatched from us: it is an untroubled, everlasting possession.”
So if you wasting time guarantees future despair, and being too ‘busy’ with things which do not guarantee a future worth slaving for is a recipe for tragedy – what’s left?
What can you do – this very second – which will guarantee that you will be able to look back on today with satisfaction tomorrow, a month, and ten years from now?
Put your phone down, and do that.
Can’t think of anything? Start by reading The Tao of Seneca; a stunning free e-book, and relish in the beauty of Seneca’s stoic mindset.
You can’t go wrong.
To read the full version of On the Shortness of Life, skip straight to page 215.