On the Shortness of Life - Life is long is you know how to use it


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It is as good as it is old, yet timeless. It has as much wisdom as simplicity.


On the Shortness of Life

with very few exceptions life ceases for the rest of us just when we are getting ready for it.
Hence the dictum of the greatest of doctors:† ‘Life is short, art is long.’

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 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.

one man is gripped by insatiable greed, another by a laborious dedication to useless tasks. One man is soaked in wine, another sluggish with idleness.
Many are occupied by either pursuing other people’s money or complaining about their own. Many pursue no fixed goal, but are tossed about in ever-changing designs by a fickleness which is shifting, inconstant and never satisfied with itself.

Some have no aims at all for their life’s course, but death takes them unawares as they yawn languidly.
‘It is a small part of life we really live.’ Indeed, all the rest is not life but merely time.
Vices surround and assail men from every side, and do not allow them to rise again and lift their eyes to discern the truth, but keep them overwhelmed and rooted in their desires.
Never can they recover their true selves.

How many find their riches a burden!
How many are pale from constant pleasures! How many are left no freedom by the crowd of clients surrounding them!
Ask about those whose names are learned by heart, and you will see that they have these distinguishing marks: X cultivates Y and Y cultivates Z – no one bothers about himself.

You will find no one willing to share out his money; but to how many does each of us divide up his life!
People are frugal in guarding their personal property; but as soon as it comes to squandering time they are most wasteful of the one thing in which it is right to be stingy.
hold an audit of your life. how much of your time has been taken up by a money-lender, how much by a mistress, a patron, a client, quarrelling with your wife, punishing your slaves, dashing about the city on your social obligations.
Consider also the diseases which we have brought on ourselves, and the time too which has been unused.

what work you have achieved in such a long life; how many have plundered your life when you were unaware of your losses; how much you have lost through groundless sorrow, foolish joy, greedy desire, the seductions of society; how little of your own was left to you. You will realize that you are dying prematurely.’