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On the Shortness of Life: Life is Long if You Know How to Use It - An Essay by Seneca (veg advocate), Part 1 of 2



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Seneca, also known as Seneca the Younger, was a prominent Roman philosopher, orator, statesman, and a tragedian author. He was considered Rome’s leading intellectual figure during the mid-1st century. Seneca’s philosophical works are important, in that they initiated the further development of ancient Stoicism, as we know it today. Apart from philosophical writings, his contributions included plays, tragedies, essays, and letters, dedicated to moral issues. Today, we will open the pages of the well-known essay by Seneca, entitled “On the Shortness of Life.” “It is not that we have a short space of time, but that we waste much of it. Life is long enough, and it has been given in sufficiently generous measure, to allow the accomplishment of the very greatest things, if the whole of it is well invested. But when it is squandered in luxury and carelessness, when it is devoted to no good end, forced at last by the ultimate necessity, we perceive that it has passed away before we were aware that it was passing. So, it is — the life we receive is not short, but we make it so, nor do we have any lack of it, but are wasteful of it.” “Vices beset us and surround us on every side, and they do not permit us to rise anew and lift up our eyes for the discernment of truth, but they keep us down, when once they have overwhelmed us and we are chained to lust. Their victims are never allowed to return to their true selves; if ever they chance to find some release, like the waters of the deep sea, which continue to heave even after the storm is past, they are tossed about, and no rest from their lusts abides.” “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.”
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