The philosophers and thinkers of Greece and Rome offer such interesting insights into sundry topics of life, that those who don't spend some time reading their ancient works are missing out on a rich source of advice. In this selection, Seneca defines what it means to be "alive."
--August Glen-James, editor
By the toil of others we are led into the presence of things which have been brought from darkness into light.
Of all people only those are at leisure who make time for philosophy, only those are really alive. For they not only keep a good watch over their own lifetimes, but they annex every age to theirs. All the years that have passed before them are added to their own. Unless we are very ungrateful, all those distinguished founders of holy creeds were born for us and prepared for us a way of life. By the toil of others we are led into the presence of things which have been brought from darkness into light. We are excluded from no age, but we have access to them all; and if we are prepared in loftiness of mind to pass beyond the narrow confines of human weakness, there is a long period of time through which we can roam. We can argue with Socrates, express doubt with Carneades, cultivate retirement with Epicurus, overcome human nature with the Stoics, and exceed its limits with the Cynics. Since nature allows us to enter into a partnership with every age, why not turn from this brief and transient spell of time and give ourselves wholeheartedly to the past, is limitless and eternal and can be shared with better men than we?