Sunday, January 10, 2016

Tempus Fugit, Time Flies: And It's All Your Time...

Benjamin Franklin wrote:

Dost thou love life? Then do not squander time, for that’s the stuff life is made of.Poor Richard’s Almanack, 1746 edition.

The ancient Romans, with life expectancies much less than ours today, had an even keener understanding that time and our lives are fleeting. Let’s look at some quotes worth knowing that speak to these important matters.

The most famous of all is Tempus Fugit, ordinarily translated as “Time Flies,” but which literally means time flees. The original quote comes to us from Vergil, who wrote:

fugit inreparabile tempus

Irretrievable time flees
Vergil, Georgics 3.284

The original is actually better than the quote we usually use. Every second that passes, whether we use them well or squander them, are gone, they’re irretrievable. And so we should be very careful about how we allocate our time.

The poet Horace has given us that notable quote which teaches us the proper attitude toward life, in light of the fact that it is fleeting.

carpe diem

Seize the Day!

The full quote is:
carpe diem quam minimum credula postero

Seize the day, trust tomorrow as little as possible.
Horace, Odes 1.11.8

Don’t live in tomorrow, because you can never actually know if you even have a tomorrow. Now that might sound pessimistic, it might sound morbid, but, again, the ancients lived with death as a much more present and real possibility than we do today. My chances of dying tomorrow are much less than what a typical ancient Roman faced. But my chances of eventually dying are exactly the same. Not a one of us is getting off this planet alive.

That brings us to an important Medieval Latin quote:

Memento mori

Remember that you will die

This quote tells us to keep the certainty of our eventual demise constantly in thought in order to properly prioritize the precious gift of time, of life that we have on this earth.

In closing, let me offer a few personal thoughts on time and life. I’ve frequently heard people speak about their lives as being divided into their work time and their own time. So, for instance, people might say, I’m going to complete that task while I’m on the clock, so that I don’t have to do it on my own time.

But here’s something we should all keep in mind. Between right now, and the moment you die, it’s all your time. It’s your time to spend however you wish. On a practical level, most of us choose to spend a significant amount of that time, our time, doing jobs we don’t necessarily love, for the simple fact that we need money to eat and survive.

But owning that reality can help us truly live all of our time. You spend time with people every day on your job. You are pouring out precious minutes of your finite time on this earth with them. They’re not your family, but you actually end up spending more time with them than you do with your own family. So you might as well enjoy authentically interacting with them as much as is professionally appropriate and value those relationships as an important part of your life.

If you’re like me, you spend a significant amount of time in a commute to that job you need to do in order to keep body and soul together. And so you might as well somehow turn that time into a valuable enrichment of your life. I personally make sure I am current on the world’s news through the radio and then I listen to recorded dialogues of languages I study. Maybe you need to listen to recorded books you wish you had time to read. Or maybe you know in your heart of hearts that you need to unwind with music that gives you energy and joy. But whatever it is we decide to do with that time, it needs to be deliberate, intentional, and life giving.

And when the workday is over, when the commute has concluded, we find that a few precious minutes remain truly for ourselves and for our loved ones. That is our reality. But that is the time when squandering our time is something most to be avoided. It was your time, all day long. By necessity, you spent most of it on survival. So don’t miss the chance to spend what you can of it on enriching your life in relationship with those you love.

carpe diem

Seize the day.


Memento mori

Remember that you will die.

fugit inreparabile tempus
irretrievable time flees away

And it’s all your time…

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