Seneca – “Life is long …”

“Why do we complain about nature? She has acted kindly: life is long if you know how to use it.”

– Seneca

(I bought ‘On the Shortness of Life’ last November. It is extremely good. I recommend it – if you’re in the UK, the Penguin Books ‘Great Ideas’ series produces it at £4.99. £3.35 on Amazon. You can also find it online for free, e.g. here, although I like my penguin translation (C. D. N. Costa) better than ones I’ve seen online.)

It is interesting to note that at the time when this was written, the average length of a life was probably just over half of what we can now expect in the Western world (Seneca references people saying ‘when I am 50 or 60 I will do that’, and says – why plan for ages that most people don’t reach?).

I think the best way to elaborate on this theme is to quote more of Seneca’s writings:

“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 given to us for the highest achievements if it were all well invested.”

“But putting things off is the biggest waste of life: it snatches away each day as it comes, and denies us the present by promising the future. The greatest obstacle to living is expectancy, which hangs upon tomorrow and loses today.”

I really like this snippet – “Life is long enough, and a sufficiently generous amount has been given to us”. I think that’s very true. In the same way as ‘the work expands to fill the time available’, I have found that if you can master living on purpose, the time available expands (and/or expectations contract) such that the life you want to live fits the time you have for it. (A state I achieve sporadically. I don’t claim to achieve it constantly.)

Thoughts? Other favourite philosophers? Views on life, its length, and its living?

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