“Life, if you know how to use it, is long” — Seneca
In AD 65, Seneca the Younger was ordered to take his own life by the Roman Emperor Nero. Seneca followed tradition by severing several veins in order to bleed to death, while also ingesting poison.
This order was a response to Seneca’s supposed involvement in a conspiracy to assassinate Nero. Former consul and advisor to the emperor and one of the richest and most powerful men in Rome, Seneca decided to embody the stoic philosophy to the very end. He accepted his fate with calm, even though those around him urged him to beg for his life.
While Seneca’s words of wisdom touched on countless aspects of life, he is perhaps best remembered for his piercing thoughts on the value of time.
This wisdom is relevant to this day, or maybe even more so, as we live in a world that makes it easy to lose track of time as we immerse ourselves in countless micro-distractions.
Carpe diem, as the Romans used to say, is an art that needs tinkering with as we do our best to seize time rather than waste it.
You Only Have Life Time
“Let us prepare our minds as if we’d come to the very end of life. Let us postpone nothing.” - Seneca
Our modern-day obsession with striking a work-life balance has numerous downsides. We tend to divide time into work and leisure. We procrastinate on our most difficult and important tasks, and we panic when those tasks become urgent.
We fail to realize a simple truth:
“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… 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… Life is long if you know how to use it.” - Seneca
Life is long if you know how to use it.
I believe that the stoic way of dealing with time is one that is often described by various other stoics as well, including Marcus Aurelius and Epictetus.
We’re either busy living or we’re busy dying.
The time we waste, whether we like it or not, is time that slowly carries us towards death.
If you use your time wisely, with purpose, clarity, and passion, that time has been lived. If, on the other hand, you procrastinate or otherwise wander aimlessly through time, then you’ve been brought closer to death.