Monday, February 9, 2009


"The majority of mortals, Paulinus, complain bitterly of the spitefulness of Nature, because we are born for a brief span of life, because even this space that has been granted to us rushes by so speedily and so swiftly that all save a very few find life at an end just when they are getting ready to live."
- Lucius Annaeus Seneca, On the Shortness of Life

"I don't know why we are here, but I am pretty sure that it is not to enjoy ourselves."
- Ludwig Wittgenstein

"Time flies like an arrow. Fruit flies like a banana."
- Groucho Marx

My greatest concern, that is, not my fear, nor my worry, nor my faith, but my concern has, for many years, been time. And, commonly, that I may not have enough.

Although I should not be so quick to say my concern is a 'common' one. There are unknown scores, hundreds, billions, who, throughout their lives, have rarely, if ever, concerned themselves with their time on earth.

For some this was a historical point: they were concerned with their life after death, or had neither the capacity or leisure to consider such things. Truly, one's time is a concern for the well-off.

Time is fretted over by those with high expectations of themselves. It is feared by those who had expectations and did not meet them. It is the concern of those who are unsure of their expectations and abilities.

Nothing reinforces these disturbing states like a good illness. There's three days off the tablet. Wasted.

You'll not be getting those back again.

If you find you fall into one of the categories of 'time disturbia' and ever want to horrify yourself, do a quick calculation of how many months of your life-total will be spent tying shoes. Or flossing.

* * *

The accomplishments of life are not brought about suddenly. Rather, they develop organically and slowly.

Thinking over those people I hold dear, nearly all were gradual developments. The 'holding dear', of course. Although, to be fair, the gradual development applies to the people themselves, as well.

We develop gradually, and while there may be life-changing moments, our selves are not events.

Nor our friendships.

You could, for what it's worth, measure time through these developments. But then you have to ask yourself when did they begin? When did I become who I am, and when did she and I begin to be friends?

Obviously we couldn't have been friends before we met. But when we first met we didn't hit it off right away. There was that one night, but at the beginning of the night I still didn't think of her as a friend, well, let's see...

The paradox is old. Most often it's referred to as the paradox of the heap. If you have a heap of sand, and take away a single grain is it still a heap? Of course it is. Two grains? Three grains?

And when you find yourself with a single grain of sand left, where has you heap come to now?

And if you wish to think of the grains of sand as time, and the heap the measure of your life, then when is your life spent?

So it may not be the case that one's life is wasted if one does not accomplish great things. For their time may be spent cultivating stuff of a richer sort, which takes dedication and perseverance and patience before they can reap the benefits.

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