Life is not short: the truth is that we waste most of it on activities that have no real value. Seneca’s message has spanned two millennia, and is still as relevant as ever
As Italo Calvino once said, a classical text has the power to endure throughout the centuries, and help us understand the present. Although Lucius Annaeus Seneca could not possibly have predicted the complexity of life two millennia after his own time, in his tenth Dialogue, he addresses some of the difficulties we actually still face today, particularly those concerning time. As was the case in Seneca’s era, we still believe that life is not long enough to allow us to fulfil our potential, that it slips by too quickly, and that it is too short for us to achieve true happiness.
Seneca’s tenth Dialogue is addressed to Pompey the Great, who at the time was the prefect of the annona, in other words, he was responsible for the harvest and distributing grain. As well as being Seneca’s father-in-law, Pompey was also a friend, and this friendship shines through clearly in the Dialogue. Seneca advises Pompey to give up his public activity and retire to private life, in order to focus on what is truly important to him, because contrary to what people believe, life is not short, and if we are able to live it to the full, our life can be very long indeed.