A Roman philosopher named Lucius Annaeus Seneca wrote that 2,000 years ago.
Recently I stumbled across Seneca’s essay “On the Shortness of Life.” It’s a short read, and a great one.
Seneca talks about how many people reach the end of their lives and bemoan the fact that there is “not enough time” to live fully. Seneca rejects this idea completely. He says:
It is not that we have a short space of time, but that we waste much of it. Life is long enough, and it has been given in sufficiently generous measure to allow the accomplishment of the very greatest things if the whole of it is well invested. But when it is squandered in luxury and carelessness, when it is devoted to no good end, forced at last by the ultimate necessity we perceive that it has passed away before we were aware that it was passing. So it is — the life we receive is not short, but we make it so, nor do we have any lack of it, but are wasteful of it.
He also suggests that we should manage time like money and not spend it foolishly:
Men do not suffer anyone to seize their estates, and they rush to stones and arms if there is even the slightest dispute about the limit of their lands, yet they allow others to trespass upon their life…No one is to be found who is willing to distribute his money, yet among how many does each one of us distribute his life! In guarding their fortune men are often closefisted, yet, when it comes to the matter of wasting time, in the case of the one thing in which it is right to be miserly, they show themselves most reckless.
And he comments of the need to take action right NOW because we never know when time will run out:
“Why do you delay,” says he, “Why are you idle? Unless you seize the day, it flees.” Even though you seize it, it will still flee; therefore you must vie with time’s swiftness in the speed of using it, and, as from a torrent that rushes by and and will not always flow, you must drink quickly.
It’s humbling to realize that human beings were grappling with issues of mortality and living a meaningful life 2,000 years ago. And they didn’t even have iPhones.
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