seneca-w-text

The Best Thing Ever Written

I graduated from college with a degree in Classics, which essentially means that I pissed away four years studying Latin and ancient Greek — neither of which have been spoken for many centuries. Upon graduation, I was to grimly discover that what little I had learned amounted to the complete opposite of what high-paying Wall Street firms were looking for in their perky post-grad interviewees. And that’s all I’ll say about that. And while I genuinely enjoyed reading the plays, the myths and the ancient histories, my grades badly withered from neglect as I dove headlong into a beer-sodden frenzy of playing rugby and ice hockey, with my only true accomplishment being my generous contributions to the vast fortunes of the Anheuser Busch corporation and its legion of happy shareholders.  It’s hardly surprising that my recall of the Roman stoic philosopher Seneca the Younger is murky at best. Seneca lived around the same time that Jesus was doing his thing, raging against the machine, and he published a vast trove of letters to his friends, one of which I occasioned upon this week — letter 49, to his friend Paulinus. It’s about living in the moment so you don’t die with regret. Upon reading the letter — popularly referred to now as On The Shortness Of Life — it occurred to me that it is likely the best thing ever written.

Here’s a reading of the letter, best digested alone with earphones, preferably staring at a serene landscape: