What Was There Before I Was Born?

Seneca, Moral Epistles 54.4-5

“What is this?” I ask. “Does death so often test me? Let it. I have been testing death for some time now.” “Since when?” You ask. Since before I was born. Death is not-being, I know what that’s like. What was before me will be after me. If there is any kind of suffering in this state, it is necessary that it also existed before we entered into the light. Yet, we didn’t experience any pain then.

I ask: don’t you think someone to be a complete fool if they believe that the map was worse off when it didn’t burn, before someone lit it? We are also sparked into flame and put out. In between, we suffer something, but there’s considerable rest on either side. Unless I am wrong about this, we are mistaken if we believe that death follows when it was there before and will follow too. Whatever existed before us was death.

What is the difference if you do not begin or if you stop when the outcome of either is not existing?”

“Quid hoc est?” inquam. “Tam saepe mors experitur me? Faciat; ego illam diu expertus sum.” “Quando?” inquis. Antequam nascerer. Mors est non esse; id quale sit, iam scio. Hoc erit post me, quod ante me fuit. Si quid in hac re tormenti est, necesse est et fuisse, antequam prodiremus in lucem; atqui nullam sensimus tunc vexationem. Rogo, non stultissimum dicas, si quis existimet lucernae peius esse, cum extincta est, quam antequam accenditur? Nos quoque et extinguimur et accendimur; medio illo tempore aliquid patimur, utrimque vero alta securitas est. In hoc enim, mi Lucili, nisi fallor, erramus, quod mortem iudicamus sequi, cum illa et praecesserit et secutura sit. Quicquid ante nos fuit, mors est. Quid enim refert, non incipias an desinas, cum utriusque rei hic sit effectus, non esse?

color photograph of oil painting showing a woman half skeleton but half clothed
Life and Death, Wellcome Trust https://wellcomecollection.org/search/images?query=life%20and%20death

The Talking Heads, “Naive Melody”

I can’t tell one from another
Did I find you, or you find me?There was a time before we were born
If someone asks, this where I’ll be where I’ll be

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