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De nostris ætatibus loquor, quas incredibili celeritate [con]uoluit. Computa urbium sæcula: uidebis quam non diu steterint etiam quæ uetustate gloriantur. Omnia humana breuia et caduca sunt et infiniti temporis nullam partem occupantia. Terram hanc cum urbibus populisque et fluminibus et ambitu maris puncti loco ponimus ad uniuersa referentes: minorem portionem ætas nostra quam puncti habet, si omni tempori comparetur, cuius maior est mensura quam mundi, utpote cum ille se intra huius spatium totiens remetiatur.
I speak of “our life” when it is propelled forward with such incredible speed. Count the cities of the centuries, and you will see that even those which boast of a long existence in truth have not existed long. And still by comparison how short and fragile are the affairs of humans, and how they fill not the tiniest fragment of infinite time. This world of ours with its abundance of cities and peoples, with rivers and with the sea which forms its belt, if taken to the scale of the universe, our world is but a speck; and our life, when counted in this panorama, is still less than that; for the measure of eternity is still more than the measure of our world when we remember that the world must renew itself over and again within the bounds of time.
–Lucius Annæus Seneca, De Consolatione ad Marciam cap xxi (40 CE) in the Loeb Library edition of the Works of Seneca, vol. 2, pp. 72-74 (S.H. transl.)
More from Scott Horton:
Six Questions — October 18, 2014, 8:00 pm
Nathaniel Raymond on CIA interrogation techniques.
On a Friday evening in January, a thousand people at the annual California Native Plant Society conference in San Jose settled down to a banquet and a keynote speech delivered by an environmental historian named Jared Farmer. His chosen topic was the eucalyptus tree and its role in California’s ecology and history. The address did not go well. Eucalyptus is not a native plant but a Victorian import from Australia. In the eyes of those gathered at the San Jose DoubleTree, it qualified as “invasive,” “exotic,” “alien” — all dirty words to this crowd, who were therefore convinced that the tree was dangerously combustible, unfriendly to birds, and excessively greedy in competing for water with honest native species.
In his speech, Farmer dutifully highlighted these ugly attributes, but also quoted a few more positive remarks made by others over the years. This was a reckless move. A reference to the tree as “indigenously Californian” elicited an abusive roar, as did an observation that without the aromatic import, the state would be like a “home without its mother.” Thereafter, the mild-mannered speaker was continually interrupted by boos, groans, and exasperated gasps. Only when he mentioned the longhorn beetle, a species imported (illegally) from Australia during the 1990s with the specific aim of killing the eucalyptus, did he earn a resounding cheer.
Percentage of Britons who cannot name the city that provides the setting for the musical Chicago:
An Australian entrepreneur was selling oysters raised in tanks laced with Viagra.
A tourism company in Australia announced a service that will allow users to take the “world’s biggest selfies,” and a Texas man accidentally killed himself while trying to pose for a selfie with a handgun.
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“Shelby is waiting for something. He himself does not know what it is. When it comes he will either go back into the world from which he came, or sink out of sight in the morass of alcoholism or despair that has engulfed other vagrants.”