As a young professional and like many people my age, being productive or busy is a major source of pride and even boasting. We can’t wait to tell our friends and family how busy our life is and how we cant take time off to do the important things in life except work and get busy. I frequently worry that being productive is the surest way to lull ourselves into a trance of passivity and busyness the greatest distraction from living, as we coast through our lives day after day, showing up for our obligations but being absent from our selves, mistaking the doing for the being.
It is not that we have a short space of time, but that we waste much of it. Life is long enough, and it has been given in sufficiently generous measure to allow the accomplishment of the very greatest things if the whole of it is well invested.
On what is a generally accepted idiom these days, “time is money,” Seneca cautions that we fail to treat time as a valuable resource, even though it is arguably our most precious and least renewable one:
People are frugal in guarding their personal property; but as soon as it comes to squandering time they are most wasteful of the one thing in which it is right to be stingy.
To those who so squander their time, he offers an unambiguous admonition:
You are living as if destined to live for ever; your own frailty never occurs to you; you don’t notice how much time has already passed, but squander it as though you had a full and overflowing supply — though all the while that very day which you are devoting to somebody or something may be your last. You act like mortals in all that you fear, and like immortals in all that you desire… How late it is to begin really to live just when life must end! How stupid to forget our mortality, and put off sensible plans to our fiftieth and sixtieth years, aiming to begin life from a point at which few have arrived!
Whatever your opinion is on Seneca’s work and if you agree or not, his counsel on what we do with our time and how deal with daily adventure is a powerful tool to help us lead a more fulfilled life.