On Time and Death

Greetings from Seneca to his friend Lucilius.

1. Continue to act thus, my dear Lucilius – set yourself free for your own sake; gather and save your time, which till lately has been forced from you, or filched away, or has merely slipped from your hands. Make yourself believe the truth of my words, – that certain moments are torn from us, that some are gently removed, and that others glide beyond our reach. The most disgraceful kind of loss, however, is that due to carelessness. Furthermore, if you will pay close heed to the problem, you will find that the largest portion of our life passes while we are doing ill, a goodly share while we are doing nothing, and the whole while we are doing that which is not to the purpose. 2. What man can you show me who places any value on his time, who reckons the worth of each day, who understands that he is dying daily? For we are mistaken when we look forward to death; the major portion of death has already passed. Whatever years lie behind us are in death’s hands. 3. Nothing, Lucilius, is ours, except time. We were entrusted by nature with the ownership of this single thing, so fleeting and slippery that anyone who will can oust us from possession. What fools these mortals be! They allow the cheapest and most useless things, which can easily be replaced, to be charged in the reckoning, after they have acquired them; but they never regard themselves as in debt when they have received some of that precious commodity, – time! And yet time is the one loan which even a grateful recipient cannot repay. 4. You may desire to know how I, who preach to you so freely, am practising. I confess frankly: my expense account balances, as you would expect from one who is free-handed but careful. I cannot boast that I waste nothing, but I can at least tell you what I am wasting, and the cause and manner of the loss; I can give you the reasons why I am a poor man. My situation, however, is the same as that of many who are reduced to slender means through no fault of their own: every one forgives them, but no one comes to their rescue. 5. What is the state of things, then? It is this: I do not regard a man as poor, if the little which remains is enough for him. I advise you, however, to keep what is really yours; and you cannot begin too early. For, as our ancestors believed, it is too late to spare when you reach the dregs of the cask. Of that which remains at the bottom, the amount is slight, and the quality is vile. Farewell.

Translation: Richard M. Gummere

Leave a Reply

HOSTED BY

SIMON DREW

I’m a philosopher in my heart, a poet by calling, and a musician in my being. As the CEO and Co-Founder of The Walled Garden Philosophical Society, I’m honoured be among other brilliant philosophers and seekers who are working to make the world a better place through great ideas and communal meaning-making. Follow the link below if you’d like to work one-on-one with me as your philosophical mentor.

ASSIGNMENT SUBMISSION

Depending on the assignment, you may need to upload multiple files. Most file types are accepted, but please let me know if you need assistance (email simon@simonjedrew.com)

ENROLLMENT

Join our growing community of seekers and citizens from around the world who are rediscovering their humanity and connectedness by way of the philosophical and spiritual path.

$15.95 weekly

SEEKER

Get access to regular classes, courses, workshops, and resources. Plus, get 10% off TWG store and access to member-only forums.

ENROLL

JOIN TO ENTER THIS ROOM

Enroll now to enter The Sanctuary.

SEEKER

$29.95* per week to get access to all classes and  forums, and a copy of
The Poet & The Sage when you enrol.

*Members of The Walled Garden Philosophical Society get 20% off this grove.

STUDENT

All Seeker benefits, plus up to four one-on-one philosophical mentoring sessions per month, starting at $100 per session.

*Members of The Walled Garden Philosophical Society get $25 off per session.

SUNDAY SEEKER

Attend a weekly event on Sundays, exploring sacred and philosophical texts. Free for Caretakers of The Walled Garden Philosophical Society.

We use cookies to enhance the user experience on our website.
Please confirm that you’re ok with this.