Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Life is only as short as you let it be...

"It is not that we have a short time to live, but that we waste a lot of it. Life is long enough, and a sufficiently generous amount has been give to us for the highest achievement if it were all well invested. But when it is wasted in heedless luxury and spent on no good activity, we are forced at last by death's final constraint to realize that it has passed away before we knew it was passing. So it is: we are not given a short life but we make it short, and we are not ill-supplied but wasteful of it." - Lucius Annaeus Seneca (3 B.C.-65 A.D.)

Just a thought...but what have you done today?

My Christmas went something like this - ate sticky buns and opened presents with the nephews in the morning. They were sufficiently happy and energetic to make it a festive time even for my half-asleep self. Came home to do some more wrapping and then went to Mom and Dad's house for a second round of present gluttony and an afternoon Christmas dinner. It was nice. Came home again and thought about heading out for a drink, but stayed in and read started reading some Seneca.

Seneca was a Roman of no small influence. He's known for his plays and also for some of his other writings. Interestingly, his writing reveals quite a bit about Roman life at the time that is unchanged in ours. I also found it interesting that many of the ideas and ideals attributed to the rise of Christianity were already firmly in place at this time, perhaps showing that Christianity was more a result of already changing attitudes than the cause of them. But I digress...

The little ditty that I've been reading is called, "On the Shortness of Life." He argues rather well that in the shortness of life, only philosophers know how to live and spend their time wisely. It's not a lot different than similar Buddhist beliefs or early Christian writings that encourage introspection.

It's a bit chilling to grasp the similarities of Roman culture during this time and our own. It also lends some credence to the anti-evolution beliefs of many. He wrote 2,000 years ago, and it's obvious that most of society hasn't evolved at all since then. He wrote about corruption in the government, the vanity of aging men ridiculously thinking they could comb a few strands of hair over a bald spot and hide it, the competition to have a better house, throw a better party, or gain the most prestige. He talks of people wasting time learning useless trivia - something that struck me close to home - and working long hours in the employ of others while always talking of slowing down when they retire.

Seneca argues that we should take more time to not only question ourselves, but to take time to listen to our answers. Are we living our lives to the fullest or are we just chasing after the newest shiney thing or the loudest praise? It's often not until much of life is already wasted that we realize there are things we really wanted to do, but never did because we were too busy wasting our time with things that weren't fulfilling us.

So, that's it for today. No observations, no rants, no little illustrations...just a question to ask yourself. Are you making your life short, or long?


tshsmom said...

That's what I've always told my kids: technology changes, but human nature has ALWAYS been the same.
My husband has taught me a LOT about living a life that I'm proud of and not caring what other people think of my decisions.

K said...

This is the second time today that this question has been posed to me. I get the feeling that the universe has ceased whispering and is now officially starting to hit me upside the head with a cinder block. Thanks for the pondering.

Shawn said...

The Universe and I are's cool and all, but sometimes I'm like, "Dude why don't you ever buy the beer?"

Anyway, this time he was all, "Hey why don't we smack Me upside the head with a cinder block?"

I lobbied for just a pillow, but The Universe gets all out of control when he's been drinking.

So, you're welcome for the pondering, but I'm sorry about the cinder block.

Laura said...

It's sad to think that we (Americans) spend so much time focusing on work and economic success that we lose sight of the important things. We spend the majority of our time either working (mostly at jobs we don't like) or sleeping.

We need to make free time, and vacations, and relaxation valued activities. Right now the only activities that have real social value are those connected to wages. That's sad.

THis made me think of George Carlin's bit "Wasted Time" from Class Clown

K said...

no worries about the universe's weapon of choice... I'm remarkably resilient (though, you'll now have to learn to overlook this unfortunate welt on the side of my face. Of course, I think it gives me "character")

Debby said...

It must be the time of year for such thinking. I've been trying to figure out where the hell my life went, and wondering why I never did all those great and wonderful things I was going to do!!

gregg said...

Maybe you can do something you love AND get paid for it, and also recieve big shiny accolades; please see Friday's Cue section ( page 12 dining out) of the Milwaukee Journal, seems like this guys got it dicked.

Shawn said...'re a fuckin' celebrity! Not only are you featured in a glowing review...but you stayed on top of trivia for two weeks!

Do you have a copy of the story, I didn't get to read it?

gregg said...

Must be my year, God knows it's been a long time coming. I do indeed have one limited edition ( signed and numbered ) copy avialable for purchase.

The Zombieslayer said...

I hope long. do work too many hours though.

Do philosophers really know how to live life better? I sometimes question that, because know too many people who think about living instead of living.