Seneca, or how this is another several minutes of our worthless lives we will never get back, or maybe we will, in another life, somewhere
Was just prompted to poke into another of my past lives by a tweet which referred to a blog post about the Stoic philosopher Seneca. The blog post in question is a fairly cookie-cut Positive Thinking piece of semi-great/semi-bullshit quoting said philosopher. Don’t get me wrong, I already like Maria‘s material (twitter following), just this one gives me a little cognitive dissonance.
Alas, as on various other totally uncorrelated topics, I know way too much about Seneca. Thing is, years back, I lived for about a year in Cordoba, in the hot bit of Spain, where Seneca hailed from. I shared a flat* with an erstwhile Beat Poet there, David Hoyt*. He was an English teacher, serious drunkard, extremely well read for someone from the noisier side of the Atlantic, he would have been a surprise this side, say in the toilets of the British Museum, truly. Anyhow, he told me all about Seneca.
Key bit, in the context of living for today, et cetera : Seneca was told by Nero to kill himself, and complied. Some tweets write themselves, way less than 140 chars.
- the “flat” was in an ancient courtyard about 50 yards from the Mezquita, was the barest minimum you could put around your head and call it a living space. Bare power wires below the shower I never got around to fixing, frisson innit.
- I have 1001 stories about David. Little one is just his name. His surname is Hoyt, Spanish “today” + t, mine is Ayers, yesterday + s. Knew we’d get on ok when he spotted that within seconds either way of me spotting it. Well, that and the fact he cracked up laughing at mine & Nicholas’ grammar, sitting in front of a sign reading “tengo hambre“. Immediately took us for a drink, his preference Cuba Libre.
Local-to-me-now connections I wasn’t aware of:
Dante placed Seneca in the First Circle of Hell, or Limbo. Seneca makes an appearance as a character in Monteverdi’s opera L’incoronazione di Poppea.
Girolamo Cardano in his apologia of Nero, Neronis Encomium Basel, 1562, claims Seneca was a fraud, a fake philosopher, a corrupter of Nero, and that he deserved death.
I forget the literary term, but Seneca was from the branch of classical letters that today’s scholars would call fucking miserable. Think Roman-era Morrissey, with obligatory narcissus up his bum. His best-known work is probably Phaedra, his rewrite of a jolly old greek yarn about infidelity and swords, the falling on of. As the Chorus say, Lucius Annaeus Finnegan, begin again.
The blog post mentioned above is actually quite sweet, I do want to read more of this person’s material. But must be close on 140 chars calling something The Shortness of Life: Seneca on Busyness and the Art of Living Wide Rather Than Living Long.