Stoicism. I have been practising this throughout my life, without knowing what it is! Oh yes, since my childhood, I have learned how to hide my feelings (pains) towards others and keep emotionless and not bother someone. Being logical was and still is my motto.
And now, as I get to know Seneca and his Stoicism, I find it interesting to compare him with myself. Of course, there is a slight difference in between; I kept all my emotions only not to hurt others, but Seneca talks about self-love and that one should take care of oneself that I had never cared about myself.
Although, we have a lot in common in thoughts.
Seneca’s words were so brief yet concise and rich in depth and meaning, albeit here I ask myself what he’d mean: if suffering is an image that doesn’t exist in reality? Or whatever is the definition of reality?!
The orator and philosopher Lucius Anne of Seneca (4 BC-65) is a unique case in the history of philosophy. His life works and death collide with each other creating a controversial personality of a philosopher. He was one of the wealthiest philosophers, as, despite being a Stoic, he acquired wealth (300 million interest-bearing loans in the provinces of Italy and the regions of the Roman Empire), taking advantage of his position in the court of Emperor Nero, of which he was a member. But Nero was not only his student but also his killer. In 65, he ordered the death of Seneca, at the same time giving him a choice to commit suicide, which the philosopher followed.
However, his writings are undoubtedly philosophical texts worthy of an orator who remained in history as one of the most important Stoic philosophers, between the emperor Marcus Aurelius and the enslaved person Acquired. His moral essay “On the Shortness of Life” (De Brevitate Vitae), a letter addressed to his father-in-law Paulinus, is one of his best-known works in which he rhetorically exhorts the reader of Nero’s time (but also of today). ) to evaluate his time: “Remember and think, whenever you had a specific plan in your life, how few days you spent as you had planned them, how many times you were really available for yourself when your face had its natural expression when your mind was restless, what work have you completed in such a long life, how many were the ones who took a part of your life when you did not yet know what you were missing, how much of your life you spent in pointless sorrow, in silly joy, in greedy desire, in conventional discussions and, finally, how little part of it you are left with yourself; and then you will understand that you are dying long before your time “. (Seneca, On the Shortness of Life, III)
The most valuable thing one has is one’s time. Seneca places time before us and urges us to seize it before it is too late. Our time is our life. And yet, how many of us, from the time of Seneca until today, do not take it for granted? But, as we waste our time, we shorten our lives. This is an awareness that comes with ageing when it is too late. Why is this happening;
Seneca addresses all of us: “And what is the cause of this phenomenon? The reason is that you live as if you were going to live forever, without ever thinking about how fragile you are and without ever noticing how much time from your life has already been lost. “You waste your time as if you were drawing from a complete and abundant legacy, and all this when the day you give to a person or thing could be the last day of your life.” (III)
Memento Mori. Remember that you will die. The Stoic reminder of our mortality is the only one that offers the consciousness of life that we must live every day. Because every day is precious, not just the last. We understand life with death.
“How late is it to start living only when our life necessarily ends!” (III)
People, arrogant towards time, think that they will live forever and wait for the days to pass, always planning for tomorrow or reminiscing about yesterday. But life is now.
By giving value to our time, we provide value to our lives. And it ceases to be short.
Writes Dr Elsa Nikolaidou teaches Philosophy at Med High School.