Seneca: On the Shortness of Life

“I spend far too much time on my devices”  my brother sheepishly remarked during a recent call.  “Even when we are watching TV, we still find ourselves on our devices chatting or playing games – we are so addicted to our devices”  I listened and mumbled in agreement thinking to myself about how much I rely on my technology.  “That can’t be me…can it?”

The conversation made me think about the words of Seneca the Younger in his writings On the Shortness of Life:

“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.”

We waste so much of our lives and energy on the pursuit of things we think will make us feel better.  We find ourselves in a constant struggle over the emotional toils of life.  We worry daily about how we are perceived by the world around us.  We are disconnected and detached. So much so, that our precious life slowly drains away.  We have the time   to connect with our true selves.

“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.”

Our devices are a great example of “heedless luxury” that keeps us in these various states of distraction.  The average American spends more than 11 hours a day on screen time*.   That leaves us with little time for all the other aspects of our lives – work, play, food and sleep. The more time we spend on technology, the more we loose our way.

So what do we do?  The only answer is to take back the time we have and re-prioritize what we want in our lives.  To replace screen time with me time.

I like to think my conversation with my brother offered both of us the opportunity to reflect on what we do with the time we have here on earth.  For my part, it gave me insights into the choices I make and how the forces of desire, want and need impact on those choices.  It also reminds me of the importance of being completely present in my day-to-day activities – to put down the distractions and to be aware of life in all it’s brilliance.

*Seneca The Younger (c. 5 BC – AD 65), was a philosopher and dramatist.  He is best known for his works on Stoicism.
Photo by Nils on Unsplash
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