Translation II: Obituary and Origin or “On the Shortness of Life”

This is a “Translation” post used to illustrate and complement Epic entries. For a full list of the Epic, click here. To start at the beginning, click here.

We return again to the wisdom of the Stoics and a complement to the previous translation; The Tutor or Choose Yourself a Cato. Rather than choosing a model on which you can align your actions with and guide yourself, today’s translation revolves around the Shortness of Life. We began before by highlighting the relationship that exists between a good life and good actions. You are responsible for your actions and your “imaginary tutor” or Cato is the mentor whom you can judge these actions by. 

In the chaos of the modern world, choosing good actions is difficult enough. What plagues the human condition is the unconscious belief that “later” is where action can be made. People believe that they have a limitless supply of time and live without urgency. With this carelessness, it is easy to throw away the present moment and think that actions can be delayed or life can be lived later. Why then do most people arrive at death with regrets?

“You are living as if destined to live for ever; your own frailty never occurs to you; you don’t notice how much time has already passed, but squander it as though you had a full and overflowing supply…”

Recognizing the Shortness of Life emphasizes the significance of the present moment for, in truth, it is the only moment we have. 

We return again to the writings of Seneca who reminds us:

“…we are not given a short life but we make it short, and we are not ill-supplied but wasteful of it”

Seneca writes to a friend to illustrate that learning how to live and developing wisdom is not a task to be delayed. He implores his friend and us to recognize that time is passing whether we use it or not. Today the meaning of this message comes in a different form. We think that the numerous opportunities provided to us by the modern world are an advancement. History and philosophy show us that they are the same as the ancient world. 

We strive for empty goals, we value the wrong things, and we endlessly worry about perspectives and opinions other than our own. The modern world makes these distractions ever present – clouding our minds and allowing us to squander our time. Without reason and intention, we live idle and distracted lives.

“How long are you going to wait before you demand the best for yourself and in no instance bypass the discriminations of reason?”

Philosophy reminds us that time is passing and we waste a lot of it. Let this remind us that we should not delay our actions. That we should live now and not put off our lives for the invisible later. We should not live shadow lives.

Resolve to take good actions today and waste no more time. 

Glenwood Cemetery

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2 Comments on “Translation II: Obituary and Origin or “On the Shortness of Life”

  1. Great content. In line with the quest to be more present and enjoy the ordinary, everyday moments of life. Thanks for sharing!

  2. I very much enjoyed your post thank you.

    “We strive for empty goals, we value the wrong things, and we endlessly worry about perspectives and opinions other than our own.”

    This is true for many, and yet, I feel a continued awakening in the human condition … at least it’s what I hope for. Posts like yours here speak of it.

    Understanding the preciousness of every moment is what makes life a pleasure. This understanding does move us into action, a moving forward in our journey. At the same time, we must have time to be still. Time idle under a fig tree, or by the ocean, or listening to waters trickle over river stones … doing absolutely nothing,except being still with the moment … these times for me, make life pleasurable.

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