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Monday, 13 May 2013

Is Life Too Short?

Gather and preserve your time - which up till now has either been carried off, been stolen or has fallen away from you.  

                                   - Epistle 1

     We hear it said often and sometimes say it ourselves that "life is short".  Many people go as far as to claim that "life is too short".
     But a constant theme of Seneca is that life is not too short at all.  In fact, he even writes an entire essay on this subject, entitled On The Shortness of Life (De Brevitate Vitae). Life is not short, he would say.  Our time is abundant, if only we know how to use it.
     Seneca has encouraged his friend to "liberate" himself (see last post). Now he instructs him to "gather and preserve" his time.  In the same manner that the Stoic understands true Freedom to be Freedom from Vice and the Liberty to be virtuous, the Stoic also knows that nothing and nobody can take his time away from him but himself.  
     How is time "carried off" from us?  When we are ruled by our Passions and not by Reason. How is time "stolen" from us? When we allow Vice to snatch moments away from Virtue.  How does time "fall away" from us?  When we become neglectful in our study of philosophy, forgetting that Virtue is the sole good and that we always have time for Her.