Seneca, “On The Shortness of Life,” XIV

Of all people, only those who take the time for philosophy really live, for they are not content to live out only their own lives but live in all the ages—all of history adds to their lives. Unless we are most ungrateful, all those before us—the makers of sacred thoughts—were born for us—because they prepared a way of life.

The labors of others lead us to see things of beauty wrested from the darkness and brought to life. No age is closed to us if we wish to expand our minds—we roam through the ages. We may argue with Socrates; doubt with Carneades; find peace with Epicurus; overcome human nature with the Stoics;, go beyond it with the Cynics. Since nature allows us intimacy with every age, should we not turn from our own short and paltry time, surrendering ourselves to the past, which is boundless, and eternal, and filled with our betters?


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