Silly Mortals, Lifetimes Are Plenty Long!

Seneca, De Brevitate Vitae I

“A great number of mortals, Paul, grumble about nature’s cruelty–that we are born to a short life and that this time rushes by so quickly and surprisingly through its granted span that, with the exception of only a few, life’s end comes just when we’re ready to truly live. And it isn’t just a complaint of the public and the uninformed masses: this feeling brings the same quarrel from famous people too–this prompted the shout from the most famous doctors, that “life is short, art is everlasting.”

This also caused Aristotle to express a charge ill fit to a wise person when he was hypothesizing about Nature that when it comes to lifespan she has granted so much to animals that they live five or ten lives when so little has been given to human beings who achieve so much more! We don’t have too little time, but we do waste much of it.

Life is long enough and it has been granted sufficiently for finishing great things as long as the whole time is dedicated to them. Yet when life is wasted in luxury and recklessness or when it is devoted to nothing good, we are forced by the last moment to understand that life has left us before we understood it was going. So it goes–we don’t get a short life, but make it so; and it isn’t limited, we just waste it.”

Maior pars mortalium, Pauline, de naturae malignitate conqueritur, quod in exiguum aevi gignamur, quod haec tam velociter, tam rapide dati nobis temporis spatia decurrant, adeo ut exceptis admodum paucis ceteros in ipso vitae apparatu vita destituat. Nec huic publico, ut opinantur, malo turba tantum et imprudens1 volgus ingemuit; clarorum quoque virorum hic affectus querellas evocavit. Inde illa maximi medicorum exclamatio est: ‘vitam brevem  esse, longam artem’; inde Aristotelis cum rerum natura exigentis minime conveniens sapienti viro lis: ‘aetatis illam animalibus tantum indulsisse, ut quina aut dena saecula educerent, homini in tam multa ac magna genito tanto citeriorem terminum  stare.’ 

Non exiguum temporis habemus, sed multum perdimus. Satis longa vita et in maximarum rerum consummationem large data est, si tota bene collocaretur; sed ubi per luxum ac neglegentiam diffluit, ubi nulli bonae rei impenditur, ultima demum necessitate cogente quam ire non intelleximus  transisse sentimus. Ita est: non accipimus brevem vitam, sed facimus, nec inopes eius sed prodigi sumus.

Tower clock at the south side of the Schwabentor with the painting “Kosmos” by Carl Roesch, Vorstadt 69, Schaffhausen, Switzerland

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