I thoroughly enjoyed Seneca’s “On the Shortness of Life”, in which he talks about death and dying. Essentially, in that article, he says that every day, we get slightly closer to death and closer to the end of our lives. This makes our lives seem futile and our actions, particularly the more mundane ones, unimportant. It makes everything we do seem meaningless because in the end, all we do is live and die. Of course, this is not what Seneca is arguing, but his attitude on this subject certainly makes it seem as though that should be our attitude. And frankly, it’s hard not to feel that way when faced with the question of what our lives actually mean. But let me argue why it is important to live lives of honor and dignity, and to perform good works while we are here.
A life spent effectively and usefully is one that will be remembered for years after that person dies. The quickest way to be remembered positively is to perform good and moral works, whether these be for charity or merely for a person in need of your assistance. Even though life may seem meaningless while you are living, but if you live the right way, you can make a meaningful and lasting impression upon others. After all, life is most meaningful for the relationships we cultivate and are able to keep, and the substantial contributions we can make with others can be enough to outlast the pain and suffering that comes with each and every life well-lived.
This also leads into another question I would like to ask about suicide and lives cut short. If you are tragically taken from us or decide to end your own life prematurely, what would that mean to Seneca? And how would we measure your time? In my opinion, the measurement of time and the “closeness to death” idea would become completely altered and obsolete at this point. If you take your own life, you are also choosing to end its meaninglessness and suffering. You are choosing that the pain you are currently feeling outweighs the resources you have to fight it, and therefore, you can’t go on. However, you are also cutting off some of the meaningfulness and purpose of your life. The moral of the story is this: your life has meaning. You matter. And, despite what some, like Seneca, may say, being one step closer to death doesn’t mean you can’t take advantage of life.