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The Violence Of The Dog Days

Daily Stoic Emails

As summer now passes into fall and all too quickly fall turns to winter, it is worth stopping and thinking for a second. Where did that time go? Not long ago you were watching fireworks and enjoying the light late into the evening. Now, suddenly, you’re in sweaters, looking at your lawn covered in leaves, wondering why it’s so dark and the evening news hasn’t even finished.

We talked last year about Phillip Larkin’s beautiful poem about the changing of the seasons, how their circular renewal contains within them a kind of finality. Summer is over—that summer is over forever. It’s ‘the violence of the dog days’, as Bon Iver recently sang.

Perhaps that’s a good way to see it. Those hot summer afternoons where you didn’t want to go outside? Where you didn’t want to do anything. Where instead you waited for a drop in the temperature, a break in the humidity. You weren’t killing time…that was time killing you.

Seneca reminded himself that death is not this thing in the future, but something that is happening now. It is always happening. It is the ticking hand of the clock. It is the first snow of the year. It is the spring flowers. It is the summer rains. It is the fall harvest. It is the winter snow again.

This timeless reminder should sober us up to the time we have left. It should jerk us from our passivity, from being mere observers of the passage of time and of our own lives. We must be present. We must be aware. We must live the time we have been given. This season and the next and the next.