Seneca’s View on Wasting Time
This is Seneca’s perspective; it is not that we have a short time to live, but that we waste a lot of it. Life is long enough, and a sufficiently generous amount of time has been given to us for the highest of achievements, if it were all well invested. But when time is wasted in heedless luxury and spent on no good activity, we are forced at last by death’s final constraint to realize that it has passed away before we knew it was passing.
So it is: we are not given a short life, but we make it short; and we are not ill-supplied but wasteful of it… Life is long, if you know how to use it.
This is the opinion I hold as well. Most of us are squandering the most fragile resource of all… TIME! What adds insult to injury is the nonsense that we spend our time on. When you finally have the wherewithal to take a step back, and examine existence for what it truly is, then it is almost embarrassing what we do with our ephemeral time.
Marcus Aurelius on Evaluating Necessity
Marcus Aurelius even calls on us to ask ourselves at every moment, “is this necessary?” The stoics are well aware of the fleeting aspects of time. Time is a currency that increases as time goes by (a very meta concept). Marcus also reminds us that we can leave this life at any moment. Therefore, life is not only precious, but it is also extremely volatile, which increases the value of it tenfold.
Let’s take a step to the side to evaluate Marcus’s declaration, “is this necessary?” We oftentimes believe we have a solid grasp on which things in life are a priority. However, I would be willing to bet that you don’t. I make this assumption because I have only met a handful of people in the world who have evaluated this concept deeper than what society dictates for them. They think they need a house with multiple rooms. Guests rooms, multiple bathrooms, extravagant kitchen, etc. Yet, most humans have existed through most of time without any of these things. They think they need a career making so much money, with so many benefits, which swallows so much of your time. People think they need a complicated mattress, complicated shoes, complicated diet, complicated everything.
I strongly suggest reading my last blog, if you haven’t already, about simplifying your life. Really, really, consider what is actually necessary in your life. Then, consider how many things you are doing to support unnecessary habits. Then, realize how many assets you are potentially missing out on in life in order to support this lifestyle. There is a popular concept that we don’t own things, things own us, and I completely agree with this. However, I take it a step further to say that this extends to habits owning us.
Imagining Yourself on Your Deathbed
One practice I like to run through on a regular basis is to place myself on my deathbed. What would I be begging for on my deathbed? What would I be regretting on my deathbed? What would I wish I had done differently?
In these thought experiments, “time” tends to be the recurring motif. What did you do with your time? I wish I had more time. Did you waste time believing you would always have enough time? Or rather, did you always make decisions with your subconscious believing there would always be more than enough time to accomplish things? What habits and practices did those lead to?
It makes sense that most of us don’t practice this. As a survival mechanism, we want to avoid death. However, the stoics declare for us to practice Memento Mori (remember you are going to die). Live in the uncomfortable truths. Remind yourself frequently. Bring yourself to your deathbed, then once you’ve visited it, ask yourself right now, “is what I am doing actually necessary?” Most of the time the answer to that question is “NO!”
An Example of Buying Back Your Time
Let’s check out an example I like to give to my friends:
If you were on your deathbed, how much would you be willing to give in order to buy back more time? In fact, how much would you be willing to spend in order to time travel right back to this moment, right fucking now, so you can undo your wrongs and start living your life appropriately. Let’s say you’d be willing to spend a million dollars. Yet, maybe you don’t have a million dollars. That’s fine. You can pay in installments. You then travel back to this moment, right now, and you start buying back your time. How? Rather than spending more money on the time, accept less money as a trade for more of your time to be freed up. Sell all your unnecessary things. Stop buying unnecessary things. Stop buying food that damages your health. You’ll extend your life, live a higher quality life, and save money.
Marcus Aurelius on Living Properly
Marcus asks us to entertain the idea, “Think of yourself as dead. You have lived your life. Now, take what’s left and live it properly. What doesn’t transmit light creates its own darkness.”
The Benefits of Buying Back Your Time
By doing all this, you will have less things you own, but less things will own you. Buying back your life, buyinging back your time, in installments. Then all of the sudden you will realize how much time you have been wasting on nonsense. Then your lifestyle will change. Then your career will most likely change. You will no longer accept things in exchange for your time, because you remember you own a million dollars to the deathbed version of you. You will truly start to capture the preciousness and value of your fleeting existence. Everything you do will have more purpose because you will have filtered out what is necessary. Resulting in each action you take part in is so much more impactful and meaningful. Depression, anxiety, and existential angst will begin to vanish. But you MUST start to buy back your time now! Then we will understand what Seneca was talking about.
You Don’t Really Need Most of These Things
“But Chad, I need this job in order to pay my mortgage.” No. Stop living to work and instead work to live doing something you love, which supports a life you love. You don’t really need a new, giant T.V. In fact you don’t really need a T.V. at all. You don’t really need a $2000 mattress. A futon that is 100% cotton goes on the ground and is healthier for you. $120 bucks. You don’t really need a giant kitchen. Once you simplify your diet you barely need anything. You don’t really need a ton of bedrooms. You don’t really need video games. You don’t really need to drink. You don’t really need most of these things. You just want them. Once you get rid of all this B.S. you will see how much of your life was propagating this ridiculous wastefulness. Just propping up wealthy people, and keeping you working more and more, making you feel as if you cannot break away. That is the trap. The easiest way to break free, is to first free your mind from the trap. Stop accepting it. Stop tolerating it. Start demanding more from yourself. Be very deliberate on what you agree is worth an exchange of your one and only existence. At every moment.
Visit your deathbed often. Memento Mori.
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