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.