Brevity of Life

The Psalmist remembers how short is his life. “Man is like to vanity: his days are as a shadow that passeth away” (Ps. 144:3). The Lord said that his spirit shall not always strive with man. God gives riches and wealth, “hath given him power to eat thereof, and to take his portion, and to rejoice in his labour; this is the gift of God” (Eccl. 5:19).

Pakistani novelist Moshin Hamid (b. 1971) says, “I take six or seven years to write really small books. There is a kind of aesthetic of leanness, of brevity.” Some may assume that something is wrong with brevity and look for expanded versions of publications. They might have a case when it comes to writing, but in life it could be a different matter. Gifts of some short lives are filled with glorious moments, while those of longer souls might not. It has to do with individuals with these God-given talents. Blessings could be found in some saints who died young.

Gifts come to us from the hands of the Lord. St. Ignatius of Loyola (1491 -1556), Spanish knight from a local Basque noble family, hermit, and priest noticed this, when he said, “Realize that illness and other temporal setbacks often come to us from the hand of God our Lord, and are sent to help us know ourselves better, to free ourselves of the love of created things, and to reflect on the brevity of this life and, thus, to prepare ourselves for the life which is without end.” Despite suffering, it’s this preparation during affliction which gives us the victory.

With speech, it’s better to come to the point than to beat around the bush. Marcus Tullius Cicero (106 – 43 BC), Roman philosopher and political theorist, felt, “Brevity is a great charm of eloquence.” Hosea Ballou (1771 -1852), Universalist clergyman and theological writer supported Cicero, but added, “Brevity and conciseness are the parents of correction.” Ironically, there’s much information to be gained from brevity. Minutes of meetings are summarized, for easy comprehension and focus on essentials.

It’s clear that persons might appreciate simplicity in life. This is equated with brevity. Confucius (551 – 497 BC), Chinese teacher, politician, and philosopher, remarked, “Life is really simple, but we insist on making it complicated.” Do you view life this way? Are you willing to take life as it is? Do you have to ask the many questions about life as you do? Some believe living by the Golden Rule is enough. Others say, just living according to the Ten Commandments, is all it takes.

But why do we do these things? We dwell on the past and wonder about the future. Buddha (563 or 480 – 483 or 400 BC), Indian ascetic, sage, and founder of Buddhism, advised, “Do not dwell in the past, do not dream of the future, concentrate the mind on the present moment.” It is clear that Buddha chooses to live in the present. How many of us could really embrace the events which are happening now? It is certain, that for most, they prefer reflecting on past experiences, and wondering, what the future is like, if things were different.

Italian poet, novelist, and literary critic, Cesare Pavese (1908 – 1950) was certain, “We do not remember days, we remember moments.” Does this statement say something about us – concerning what matters most? Coming to think of it, we often recall the good and bad moments in our lives. These gifts continue to shape us, but living in the present might escape us.

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