Saturday, January 26, 2019

On The Shortness of Life - "Life is long enough" if it is well lived.

At church two weeks ago an acquaintance shared with me that he is a student of stoic philosophy. I was delighted to learn this, because it is an interest of mine as well.

I have noticed that Seneca's essay entitled, "On The Shortness Of Life" has become popular again over the last couple of years so I thought it is worth a discussion here on UU A Way of Life Ministries blog. Over the next few weeks, there will be posts describing ideas from this work. Please share your ideas and comments.

Seneca's idea that life is long enough is based on the presumption that it is well lived. As a kid, I found myself mildly depressed and I would reassure myself by muttering, "It's not a bad life if you know how to live it."

I was probably 10 years old when I realized this and could articulate it. Where I got the idea from I do not know. It was long before I learned about Seneca and the stoic philosophy.

Talking with my daughter 60 years later, we both commiserated that this idea is not studied in our schools. It is a basic existential question which is not overtly asked and studied by the young.

In our society, young people are fed a steady diet of materialism, consumerism, competitiveness, and violence. Competitiveness and regenerative violence is the basis of our American society. Based on these egotistical values, life seems very short indeed with young people dying from gun violence and drug overdoses. The death rate from drug overdoses, gun violence (2/3rds suicide), and DWI fatalities are leading causes of death.

Life, indeed, can be short for many, even if they have lived for years. As Osho has said, growing old, and growing up are two different things.

What is the good life? What does the well lived life consist of? If we are to die well, we have to live well.

Unitarian Univeralists covenant together to affirm and promote seven principles implying that this covenant and the application of these principles are the basis of a well lived life.

The fourth principle, to affirm and promote the free and responsible search for truth and meaning, is something which it seems Seneca would heartily approve of and, in fact, seems to at the end of his essay as we shall see.

Will you join me in reading and reflecting along as we study On The Shortness of Life?


  1. I look forward to the posts and I will comment. Thanks for this.

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