Thursday, March 25, 2010

Life's Short Says Seneca

Now that we've reached India, and are in the warm protective embrace of family, the questions have started. So what are your plans? The truth is, our plans are none -- we are simply out of life plans right now. I feel like I've been on a very long road trip, and not the literal one we were just on, but the metaphorical life journey, and we've managed to pull over into a rest area to have a look around, eat some warm paranthas, and flip through the atlas. I had one goal for this trip, and it is being met. My goal was simply that our lives would slow down -- that time itself would slow -- that a great life divider would appear: before the trip, and after. Back home, we have a wonderful life; we're blessed with loving friends and family, a beautiful city, a lovely neighborhood, and work that I love. All this is such great fortune, and I strive to be thankful every day, but the one thought that couldn't escape me, is that our life is simply racing by. I would blink and a new holiday season would be upon me. Mondays would appear as if I had just taken another breath. My 10th anniversary appeared and it was only moments before we were completing our final lavan. I was chatting with a good friend about this, and he suggested I read a classic philosophical work by Lucius Annaeus Seneca titled On the Shortness of Life. It was great advice. Here is a short but poignant snippet:

Though all the brilliant intellects of the ages were to concentrate upon this one theme, never could they adequately express their wonder at this dense darkness of the human mind. 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—nay, they themselves even lead in those who will eventually possess it. 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 prodigal. And so I should like to lay hold upon someone from the company of older men and say: "I see that you have reached the farthest limit of human life, you are pressing hard upon your hundredth year, or are even beyond it; come now, recall your life and make a reckoning. Consider how much of your time was taken up with a moneylender, how much with a mistress, how much with a patron, how much with a client, how much in wrangling with your wife, how much in punishing your slaves, how much in rushing about the city on social duties. Add the diseases which we have caused by our own acts, add, too, the time that has lain idle and unused; you will see that you have fewer years to your credit than you count. Look back in memory and consider when you ever had a fixed plan, how few days have passed as you had intended, when you were ever at your own disposal, when your face ever wore its natural expression, when your mind was ever unperturbed, what work you have achieved in so long a life, how many have robbed you of life when you were not aware of what you were losing, how much was taken up in useless sorrow, in foolish joy, in greedy desire, in the allurements of society, how little of yourself was left to you; you will perceive that you are dying before your season!"7 What, then, is the reason of this? You live as if you were destined to live forever, no thought of your frailty ever enters your head, of how much time has already gone by you take no heed. You squander time as if you drew from a full and abundant supply, though all the while that day which you bestow on some person or thing is perhaps your last. You have all the fears of mortals and all the desires of immortals. You will hear many men saying: "After my fiftieth year I shall retire into leisure, my sixtieth year shall release me from public duties." And what guarantee, pray, have you that your life will last longer? Who will suffer your course to be just as you plan it? Are you not ashamed to reserve for yourself only the remnant of life, and to set apart for wisdom only that time which cannot be devoted to any business? How late it is to begin to live just when we must cease to live! What foolish forgetfulness of mortality to postpone wholesome plans to the fiftieth and sixtieth year, and to intend to begin life at a point to which few have attained!


Mara said...

Very inspiring! It's so true that time is speeding up and seems to go so fast. It does take such conscious effort to make time for the priorities in our lives. Thank you for sharing your thoughts and reminding us of this!

Baljit said...

Thanks deep for sharing this. I really needed to read this and too feel on a journey to slow down time, which I know is not possoble, but rarther fill ones time with what matters most or at leasr xontimplate what matters and where to spend our time. Glad to seevyou are having an amazing time as a family and thanks for sharing this milestone with us.

Maryam in Marrakesh said...

Yes, it's so true -- it's all passing us by in the blink of an eye! So we had better make it count!

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