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Life's Span CALIFORNIA
Spem longam reseces: dum loquimur, fugerit invida Aetas: carpe diem, quam minimum credula postero. - Horace.
WE all of us complain of the Shortness of
Time, saith Seneca, and yet have much more than we know what to do with. Our Lives, says he, are spent either in doing nothing at all, or in doing nothing to the purpose, or in doing nothing that we ought to do: We are always Complaining our Days are few, and Acting as though there would be no End of them. That noble Philosopher has described our Inconsistency with our selves in this Particular, by all those various turns of Expression and Thought which are peculiar to his Writings.
I often consider Mankind as wholly inconsistent with it self in a Point that bears some
Affinity. to the former. Though we seem grieved at the Shortness of Life in general, we are wishing every Period of it at an end. The Minor longs to be at Age, then to be a Man of Business, then to make up an Estate, then to arrive at Honours, then to retire. Thus although the whole of Life is allowed by every one to be short, the several Divisions of it appear long and tedious. We are for lengthening our span in general, but would fain contract the Parts of which it is composed. The Usurer would be very well satisfyed to have all the Time annihilated that lies between the present Moment and next Quarter-day. The Politician would be contented to lose three Years in his Life, could he place things in the Posture which he fancies they will stand in after such a Revolution of Time. The Lover would be glad to strike out of his Existence all the Moments that are to pass away before the happy Meet
ing. Thus, as fast as our Time runs, we should be very glad in most parts of our Lives that it ran much faster than it does. Several Hours of the Day hang upon our Hands, nay we wish away whole Years; and travel through Time as through a Country filled with many wild and empty Wastes, which we would fain hurry over, that we may arrive at those several little Settlements or imaginary Points of Rest which are dispersed up and down in it.
If we divide the Life of most Men into twenty Parts, we shall find that at least nineteen of them are meer Gaps and Chasms, which are neither filled with Pleasure nor Business. I do not however include in this Calculation the Life of those Men who are in a perpetual Hurry of Affairs, but of those only who are not always engaged in Scenes of Action; and I hope I shall not do an unacceptable Piece of Service to these Persons, if I point out to them
certain Methods for the filling up their empty Spaces of Life. The Methods I shall propose to them, are as follow.
The first is the Exercise of Virtue, in the most general Acceptation of the Word. That Particular Scheme which comprehends the Social Virtues may give Employment to the most industrious Temper, and find a Man in Business more than the most active Station of Life. To advise the Ignorant, relieve the Needy, comfort the Afflicted, are Duties that fall in our way almost every Day of our Lives. A Man has frequent Opportunities of mitigating the Fierceness of a Party; of doing Justice to the Character of a deserving Man; of softning the Envious, quieting the Angry, and rectifying the Prejudiced; which are all of them Employments suited to a reasonable Nature, and bring great Satisfaction to the Person who can busy himself in them with Discretion.
There is another kind of Virtue that may find Employment for those Retired Hours in which we are altogether left to our selves, and destitute of Company and Conversation; I mean, that Intercourse and Communication which every reasonable Creature ought to maintain with the great Author of his Being. The Man who lives under an habitual Sense of the Divine Presence keeps up a perpetual Cheerfulness of Temper, and enjoys every Moment the Satisfaction of thinking himself in Company with his dearest and best of Friends. The Time never lies heavy upon him: It is impossible for him to be alone. His Thoughts and Passions are the most busied at such Hours when those of other Men are the most unactive: He no sooner steps out of the World but his Heart burns with Devotion, swells with Hope, and triumphs in the Consciousness of that Presence which every where surrounds him; or,