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Life is long if you know how to use it. From the author of Letters From A Stoic (Epistulae Moralis), comes another brilliant, timeless guide to living well. Written as a moral essay to his friend Paulinus, Seneca’s biting words still pack a powerful punch two thousand years later. With its brash rejection of materialism, conventional lifestyles and group-think, On The Sh Life is long if you know how to use it. From the author of Letters From A Stoic (Epistulae Moralis), comes another brilliant, timeless guide to living well. Written as a moral essay to his friend Paulinus, Seneca’s biting words still pack a powerful punch two thousand years later. With its brash rejection of materialism, conventional lifestyles and group-think, On The Shortness of Life is as relevant as ever. Seneca anticipates the modern world. It’s a unique expose of how people get caught up in the rat race and how for those stuck in this mindset, enough is never enough. The ‘busy’ individuals of Rome Seneca makes reference to, those people who are too preoccupied with their careers and maintaining social relationships to fully examine the quality of their lives, sound a lot like ourselves. The message is simple: Life is long if you live it wisely. Don’t waste time worrying about how you look. Don’t be lazy. Don’t over indulge in entertainment and vice. Everything in moderation. Seneca defends Nature and attacks the lazy. Materialism and a love of trivial knowledge are exposed as key time wasters, along with excess ambition, networking and worrying too much. In this new non-verbatim translation by Damian Stevenson, Seneca’s essay comes alive for the modern reader. Seneca’s formality of language has been preserved but the wording is more attuned to a contemporary ear. This is a rare treat for students of Stoicism and for anyone interested in seeking an answer to the eternal question, “How should I best use my time?” Includes biographical sketch ‘Seneca The Stoic’ and Seneca image gallery.


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Life is long if you know how to use it. From the author of Letters From A Stoic (Epistulae Moralis), comes another brilliant, timeless guide to living well. Written as a moral essay to his friend Paulinus, Seneca’s biting words still pack a powerful punch two thousand years later. With its brash rejection of materialism, conventional lifestyles and group-think, On The Sh Life is long if you know how to use it. From the author of Letters From A Stoic (Epistulae Moralis), comes another brilliant, timeless guide to living well. Written as a moral essay to his friend Paulinus, Seneca’s biting words still pack a powerful punch two thousand years later. With its brash rejection of materialism, conventional lifestyles and group-think, On The Shortness of Life is as relevant as ever. Seneca anticipates the modern world. It’s a unique expose of how people get caught up in the rat race and how for those stuck in this mindset, enough is never enough. The ‘busy’ individuals of Rome Seneca makes reference to, those people who are too preoccupied with their careers and maintaining social relationships to fully examine the quality of their lives, sound a lot like ourselves. The message is simple: Life is long if you live it wisely. Don’t waste time worrying about how you look. Don’t be lazy. Don’t over indulge in entertainment and vice. Everything in moderation. Seneca defends Nature and attacks the lazy. Materialism and a love of trivial knowledge are exposed as key time wasters, along with excess ambition, networking and worrying too much. In this new non-verbatim translation by Damian Stevenson, Seneca’s essay comes alive for the modern reader. Seneca’s formality of language has been preserved but the wording is more attuned to a contemporary ear. This is a rare treat for students of Stoicism and for anyone interested in seeking an answer to the eternal question, “How should I best use my time?” Includes biographical sketch ‘Seneca The Stoic’ and Seneca image gallery.

30 review for On The Shortness Of Life: De Brevitate Vitae (A New Translation with Image Gallery and Seneca Biography) (Stoics In Their Own Words Book 4)

  1. 4 out of 5

    Glenn Russell

    The great Roman philosopher, statesman, dramatist Seneca ( BC 4 – AD 64) wrote many letters encouraging friends to apply themselves to the task of living a free, wise, tranquil and joyful life. On the Shortness of Life is one of my personal favorites since Seneca, ever the true eclectic, brilliantly draws from the various streams of ancient wisdom: Stoic, Epicurean, Platonic, Skeptic, and Cynic, as he addresses some of the most important questions we face as humans. Below are several quotes alon The great Roman philosopher, statesman, dramatist Seneca ( BC 4 – AD 64) wrote many letters encouraging friends to apply themselves to the task of living a free, wise, tranquil and joyful life. On the Shortness of Life is one of my personal favorites since Seneca, ever the true eclectic, brilliantly draws from the various streams of ancient wisdom: Stoic, Epicurean, Platonic, Skeptic, and Cynic, as he addresses some of the most important questions we face as humans. Below are several quotes along with my comments. “It is not that we have a short space of time, but that we waste much of it. Life is long enough, and it has been given in sufficiently generous measure to allow the accomplishment of the very greatest things if the whole of it is well invested. But when it is squandered in luxury and carelessness, when it is devoted to no good end, forced at last by the ultimate necessity we perceive that it has passed away before we were aware that it was passing. So it is – the life we receive is not short, but we make it so, nor do we have any lack of it, but as wasteful of it.” --------- One thing I personally find highly distasteful: television sets in hospital rooms. I wonder how many men and women have spent their last hours watching Daffy Duck cartoons or a weather report. When in the hospital several years ago, I insisted on a room where the television would not be on. As an adult I’ve always recognized every single moment of life is precious, not to be wasted on silliness or surrendered to commercialized mind-control. “Many are kept busy either in the pursuit of other men’s fortune or in complaining of their own; in following no fixed aim, shifting and inconstant and dissatisfied, are plunged by their fickleness into plans that are ever new, some have no fixed principle by which to direct their course, but Fate takes them unawares while they loll and yawn.” ---------- As a teenager I distinctly recall lolling around the house, bored out of my skull. Fortunately, once I encountered philosophy and literature in college, boredom completely dissolved. And why do people continually complain or gab incessantly or become easily bored? According to Seneca, such a person knows nothing about the art of living. “You will hear many men saying: ‘After my fiftieth year I shall retire to leisure, my sixtieth year shall release me from public duties.’ And what guarantee, pray, have you that your life will last longer?” --------- How many people project their happiness into their retirement years? My modest advice: life is too short for drudgery – If you don’t like your current job, find another one; if you don’t like your current life; it’s time for serious transformation. There is nothing the busy man is less busied with than living: there is nothing that is harder to learn. . . . it takes the whole of life to learn how to live, and – what will perhaps make you wonder more – it takes the whole of life to learn how to die.”---------- This quote from Seneca reminds me of a Japanese aphorism: "Life without death isn’t life, it’s self-preservation." Death as a taboo subject is one of the tragedies of modern culture. And so there is no reason for you to think that any man has lived long because he has grey hairs or wrinkles, he has no lived long – he has existed long. For what if you should think that man had had a long voyage who had been caught by a fierce storm as soon as he left harbor, and, swept hither and thither by a succession of winds that raged from different quarters, had been driven in a circle around the same course? Not much voyaging did he have, but much tossing about.” ---------- Such a vivid image. If you feel your life is an endless cycle of frantic activity, time to step back and take a deep breath with Seneca. “Unless you seize the day, it flees.” ---------- Carpe diem. It has been said so many times, it sounds like a cliché. But, in this case, the cliché is spot-on true. “Of all men they alone are at leisure who take time for philosophy, they alone really live. . . . We may argue with Socrates, we may doubt with Carneades, find peace with Epicurus, overcome human nature with the Stoics, exceed it Cynics. --------- The world expands for us when we participate in the great wisdom of the philosophical tradition. This is one way to view the Platonic ideas. For the great philosophers of the ancient Greek and Roman world, philosophy was a path to personal transformation and liberation. And this path is still open to us today.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Bill Kerwin

    Now that I've read a few philosophical essays by Seneca the Younger, I am inclined to believe every bad thing I have ever heard about him. Before this, I've cut him some slack. Sure, he—along with his cronies, one of whom was Burrus, prefect of the Praetorian Guard—ruled Rome during his pupil Nero's young manhood, but the edicts and laws of this period are much more humane than the bloody despotic measures which followed. True, his The Pumpkinification of Claudius—a vicious satire attacking the n Now that I've read a few philosophical essays by Seneca the Younger, I am inclined to believe every bad thing I have ever heard about him. Before this, I've cut him some slack. Sure, he—along with his cronies, one of whom was Burrus, prefect of the Praetorian Guard—ruled Rome during his pupil Nero's young manhood, but the edicts and laws of this period are much more humane than the bloody despotic measures which followed. True, his The Pumpkinification of Claudius—a vicious satire attacking the newly dead Emperor--is morally repulsive, but Claudius exiled Seneca and almost had him killed, so Seneca had a reason. He also almost certainly had a hand—either in the crime or the cover up--in Nero's murder of his mother Agrippina, but then it was probably very hard saying “no” to a personal request from Nero. His tragedies are marred by rhetorical excess, and oddly clotted with bloody descriptions, but they also contain much good and sensible advice. True, it is disturbing that many of his contemporaries labeled him a serial adulterer and a money-grubber, but then again, they were his enemies. And besides, Tacitus seemed to like him. But now that I've read the three philosophical essays in this book, I have difficulty in standing up for Seneca any longer, for Seneca, in these his most moral works, seems to lack the philosophical attitude and the courage of his convictions. Unlike Marcus Aurelius, who took the Stoic perspective to heart and put it into action (as well as reflecting upon it in clear, tranquil meditations), Seneca argues for Stoic positions like a lawyer vigorously asserting—although he is not quite convinced—that his client is telling the truth. It is rather sad listening to someone argue the benefits of tranquility when he argues them in a hurried and turbulent manner. Of the three essays included here, the “Consolation to Helvia” is the most historically interesting, for in it Seneca addresses his mother on the occasion of his exile, arguing that exile itself is a benefit not a punishment. (I never believed him for a second.) “On Tranquility of Mind” is more convincing, making the case that a balance of leisure and public service can help a man dispel boredom and achieve inner peace, particularly when it is joined with self-knowledge, an ordering of priorities, and the mastery of fear. My favorite essay, though, is “On the the Shortness of Life,” for it is filled with precise, satirical examples of how the typical upper class Roman wastes his time. (Come to think of it, if Seneca had concentrated on satire, he might have been a much greater writer.) In this passage from “On the Shortness of Life,” Seneca catalogues the many stupid kinds of busyness with which a wealthy Roman spends his “leisure” time: Do you call a man leisured who arranges with anxious precision his Corinthian bronzes, the cost of which is inflated by the mania of a few collectors, and spends most of the day on rusty bits of metal? Who sits at a wrestling ring (for shame on us! We suffer from vices that are not even Roman), keenly following the bouts between boys? Who classifies his herds of pack animals into pairs according to age and colour? Who pays for the maintenance of the latest athletes? Again, do you call those men leisured who spend many hours at the barber's simply to cut whatever grew overnight, to have a serious debate about every separate hair, to tidy up disarranged locks or to train thinning ones from the sides to lie over the forehead?...And, good heavens, as for their banquets, I would not reckon on them as leisure times when I see how anxiously they arrange their silver, how carefully they gird up the tunics of their page-boys, how on tenterhooks they are to see how the cook has dealt with the boar, with what speed the smooth-faced slaves rush around on their duties, with what skill birds are carved into appropriate portions, how carefully wretched little slaves wipe up the spittle of drunkards...

  3. 4 out of 5

    Florencia

    The problem, Paulinus, is not that we have a short life, but that we waste time. Life is long and there is enough of it for satisfying personal accomplishments if we use our hours well. But when time is squandered in the pursuit of pleasure or vain idleness, when it is spent with no real purpose, the finality of death fast approaches... That notion is the book. You surely used different ways to rephrase the essence of your thoughts, Seneca, which are mainly intended to point out that despite our wh The problem, Paulinus, is not that we have a short life, but that we waste time. Life is long and there is enough of it for satisfying personal accomplishments if we use our hours well. But when time is squandered in the pursuit of pleasure or vain idleness, when it is spent with no real purpose, the finality of death fast approaches... That notion is the book. You surely used different ways to rephrase the essence of your thoughts, Seneca, which are mainly intended to point out that despite our whiny attitude, we have time. The problem is that we don’t use it wisely. I can’t say I didn’t feel slightly guilty while reading those words, as I remembered all the times I just stayed here, lying down on a couch looking at the ceiling, planning things I was never going to say or do or cook or fix. If I express that point of view using those exact words, it might sound like life going to waste. But what if I say “I stayed at home wistfully looking at the whitness of my wall, savoring my fictitious freedom, questioning my own existence and contemplating the futilily of life as I obstinately keep searching for meaning?” A more elegant way to convey the same thing: the waste of time. On the other hand, what if I actually enjoy that? What if I think that discussing in my head the nature of thinking and the possible consequences of things that I’ll probably never do is, for me, another manifestation of life? I know some people think that staying at home reading is not living life fully. Neither going to the park with your backpack full of books nor hoping for a rainy Sunday since it’s the perfect excuse to stay at home reading and writing and not looking like a dull creature surrounded by coffee and blueberry muffins that taste like heaven. However, the fact that one might be able to find enjoyment in such activities should be enough to avoid regret, right? No, regret is an inherent part of my nature and can’t be avoided by reading nor bungee jumping – it doesn’t matter the degree of passiveness or risk. I can’t relate to the meaning of your affirmation, which by the way brims over with prejudice. I may not be a fascinating riddle but you can’t know everything about me, pal. I’m aware of the passage of time on a level that could be considered almost unhealthy. Yeah, that’s how I live life. I hear ya. Although one might wonder, what the on earth is living life? Couch, rollercoaster? Cake or salad? Silence or crowds? Love or complete independence? All? Oh, jeez... none? Choosing nothing is still a choice. What kind of sick, little game is this? You’re writing and talking to the screen. You're typing exactly what you're thinking. I wish I could say that’s normal. You should leave this paragraph alone. Now. Thank you, I thought I was ready to grab a sword and become Highlander. My birthday is next week, please come and say exactly those words, we’ll have a blast. Though your presence might be the real news – and rather unsettling if I’m the only one who can see you. (This review was written before my birthday, actually.) I don’t think watching videos with cats sleeping or jumping like ninjas should be considered trivia. Neither it’s binge-watching series and sitcoms on Netflix. There’s a lot to learn, even from women who spent 15 years in a bunker. *high-fives* The last part sounds familiar; a constant source of disappointment. I think that’s all the help we can provide to the mortal who have the time to read this. This little chat in the form of a “review” has been pure joy and I’m sure you are now bursting with a contagious can-do spirit, feeling more positive than Enthusiastic Parker. Or maybe you’re looking at the ceiling, immobile, sensing the minutes that will never return, seeing life as a choice between a path that leads to an abyss and another path that leads to, well, another darker abyss – I bet Melodrama Cioran sounds like a peppy cheerleader to you now. Searching for meaning is philosophical suicide. How does anyone do anything when you understand the fleeting nature of existence? It wasn’t Camus or Sartre. It wasn’t a half-asleep Kierkegaard nor a drunk nihilist, but the point is still valid. You keep going, they said. You just keep writing. P.S. I feel awkward writing Holiday wishes after this little ode to the shortness of a meaningless life but still, Merry Christmas everyone. Dec 24, 17. Review written on Nov 2017. * Also on my blog.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Samra Yusuf

    "Can anything be more idiotic than certain people who boast of their foresight? They keep themselves officiously preoccupied in order to improve their lives; they spend their lives in organizing their lives. They direct their purposes with an eye to a distant future. But putting things off is the biggest waste of life: it snatches away each day as it comes, and denies us the present by promising the future. The greatest obstacle to living is expectancy, which hangs upon tomorrow and loses today. "Can anything be more idiotic than certain people who boast of their foresight? They keep themselves officiously preoccupied in order to improve their lives; they spend their lives in organizing their lives. They direct their purposes with an eye to a distant future. But putting things off is the biggest waste of life: it snatches away each day as it comes, and denies us the present by promising the future. The greatest obstacle to living is expectancy, which hangs upon tomorrow and loses today. You are arranging what lies in Fortune’s control, and abandoning what lies in yours. What are you looking at? To what goal are you straining?"

  5. 4 out of 5

    Abubakar Mehdi

    This is an excellent philosophical essay written by Seneca, one of the most significant Roman philosophers and one whom we might call the father of Stoicism. The problem is simple, we are never content and happy with our lives and at the end we think it was too short. The solution is even simpler; we must start living today. We must find pleasure in today rather then burn the midnight’s oil for a better tomorrow. Seneca is very pissed off on those who waste their present, for the sake of past or This is an excellent philosophical essay written by Seneca, one of the most significant Roman philosophers and one whom we might call the father of Stoicism. The problem is simple, we are never content and happy with our lives and at the end we think it was too short. The solution is even simpler; we must start living today. We must find pleasure in today rather then burn the midnight’s oil for a better tomorrow. Seneca is very pissed off on those who waste their present, for the sake of past or future. Today is what matters, we have no control over what will happen tomorrow nor can we change the past. What we have is ‘today’, right now, so we better live it before it’s too late. Seneca contends that the pursuit of philosophy is the finest example of a time well spent. He advises us to read philosophy and ponder upon its great principles, and that, he believes will greatly enrich us. He dismisses other pleasure for they don’t improve us as person nor they stimulate our intellectual abilities. We must abstain from idleness and treasure the time we have by doing something positively invigorating. But I guess we must do what makes us happy, we don’t have to read Nietzsche or Plato all the time, we can watch great movies, listen to good music, read books that entertain us, acquire knowledge and skills, help the people around us and try to do at least one thing that makes the world a better place to live. I think Seneca would have agreed that just reading philosophy all the time, sort of , takes the fun out of it. While reading this, I was constantly reminded of a beautiful poem by W.H.Davies which is quite congruent with the essence of this essay. I am sure Seneca would have greatly appreciated Davies’s poem. Leisure WHAT is this life if, full of care, We have no time to stand and stare? No time to stand beneath the boughs, And stare as long as sheep and cows: No time to see, when woods we pass, Where squirrels hide their nuts in grass: No time to see, in broad daylight, Streams full of stars, like skies at night: No time to turn at Beauty's glance, And watch her feet, how they can dance: No time to wait till her mouth can Enrich that smile her eyes began? A poor life this if, full of care, We have no time to stand and stare.

  6. 5 out of 5

    7jane

    This Stoic's three writings in this book came at a perfect time for me. I feel that I'm at a point when you want to look at your life, and make sure the rest of it goes more in the way you want. It's true that the life is more likely to be longer now than how it was then (even for the richest and luckiest), but the advice here is timeless. The book has three writings: "On Shortness Of Life", "Consolation To Helvia" (his mother), and "On Tranquility Of Mind". The writings have a certain connection This Stoic's three writings in this book came at a perfect time for me. I feel that I'm at a point when you want to look at your life, and make sure the rest of it goes more in the way you want. It's true that the life is more likely to be longer now than how it was then (even for the richest and luckiest), but the advice here is timeless. The book has three writings: "On Shortness Of Life", "Consolation To Helvia" (his mother), and "On Tranquility Of Mind". The writings have a certain connection, so it was good to put them together. I will now write about each separately. 1. How the complaint on the shortness of life happens in all classes - of life wasted in the useless and achieving-nothing activities. Wearing it out in cultivating bad habit, wearing yourself out in things like overworking or people-pleasing, on being miserly or temperamental. He then shows how time should be better used, including spending time studying wisdom, and the 'view each day as if it was your last'. One shouldn't procrastinate, nor retire from work so late that there is not much time left before illness or something similar comes. I feel this text fits everyone, even though it probably is the beast for those in the middle of their life or later. Time-wasting can start early ;) 2. A letter of consolation to his mother, mourning the writer's recent exciling, away from her. He tells her he has accepted his exile, that though he is now exiled, he still has enough to live on, he can still study the skies and nature, and ponder on wisdom. His poverty has brought him some freedom more wealthier people don't have. He praises her virtues and ask her to dry her tears now. She can now study wisdom books, and has comfort of her other relatives (including the two other sons) and her good friend who has experienced losses also. She should think of him happy, even though he's not there. 3. Starting with a question from the writer's friend: he is troubled - he has found his ideal ways of living, but he still gets the 'grass always greener' feels when looking at those living the opposite way - how to quieten this?(view spoiler)[ He needs to find confidence at being the right path; he should count himself lucky at having found exactly what he values, and not settling for the first choice or moving from one thing to another. The writer presents various solutions, like helping people, even if all we can do is offer a smile; also taking tasks possible to finish, and choosing people we will be around with well. Also the fewer our possessions, the better - things that we really use. How we should view the circumstances, and practice detachment, letting things go with thankfulness. We should balance action and rest, work and freetime well.... (hide spoiler)] the letter has no clear ending, but it has a lot to say. I think the first and last writings in this book are the best, but all connect to each other. I felt like I should put this in the 'read regularly' category, for it is a quick but deep kind of a reading. It's certainly inspiring me to think of ways to use it in my life, to cut time-wasting out of it. A little treasure of a book.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Sara

    It is amazing how something written so long ago can have such relevance today. I found this essay really inspiring. here is a good quote: "Life is long enough, and it has been given in sufficiently generous measure to allow the accomplishment of the very greatest things if the whole of it is well invested. But when it is squandered in luxury and carelessness, when it is devoted to no good end, forced at last by the ultimate necessity we perceive that it has passed away before we were aware that it It is amazing how something written so long ago can have such relevance today. I found this essay really inspiring. here is a good quote: "Life is long enough, and it has been given in sufficiently generous measure to allow the accomplishment of the very greatest things if the whole of it is well invested. But when it is squandered in luxury and carelessness, when it is devoted to no good end, forced at last by the ultimate necessity we perceive that it has passed away before we were aware that it was passing. So it is—the life we receive is not short, but we make it so, nor do we have any lack of it, but are wasteful of it. Just as great and princely wealth is scattered in a moment when it comes into the hands of a bad owner, while wealth however limited, if it is entrusted to a good guardian, increases by use, so our life is amply long for him who orders it properly."

  8. 4 out of 5

    ¸¸.•*¨*•♫♪SomeBunny Reads (Phoenix)•*¨*•♫♪

    It takes the whole of life to learn how to live, and--what will perhaps make you wonder more--it takes the whole of life to learn how to die. Seneca the Younger (c. 4 BC – AD 65), fully Lucius Annaeus Seneca, is undoubtedly one of the greatest thinkers of all times. In this book he forces us to ask ourselves the question: if this was your last day on earth, how would you live it? And, more importantly, how would a life lived as if any day was the last one look like, and why don't all our lives l It takes the whole of life to learn how to live, and--what will perhaps make you wonder more--it takes the whole of life to learn how to die. Seneca the Younger (c. 4 BC – AD 65), fully Lucius Annaeus Seneca, is undoubtedly one of the greatest thinkers of all times. In this book he forces us to ask ourselves the question: if this was your last day on earth, how would you live it? And, more importantly, how would a life lived as if any day was the last one look like, and why don't all our lives look like that? As Horace the poet said: dum loquimur, fugerit invida aetas: carpe diem, quam minimum credula postero. (in the moment of our talking, envious time has ebb'd away. Seize the present; trust tomorrow e'en as little as you may.) In this brief dissertation, the author reviews all the different ways in which people (especially wealthy people) waste their time on Earth: by being generous with it but stingy with their money, as the latter was more important and more limited than the first; by carrying their existences projected onto the future, delaying living their lives to the fullest to the moment of retirement, as if it was guaranteed for them that they will actually see that day; by wasting it in the empty pleasures of the flesh, lust, greed, gluttony; by trying to do so many things at the same time that they can never master any of them. A person who has lived a long life like this has not lived long, he has existed long. Any philosopher, thinker, life coach, therapist, author, singer, parent etc. we listen to tries to tell us how to live our lives in a satisfactory way, as not to waste them. But why are we so preoccupied by "living our lives to the fullest" in the first place? Isn't it because we fear, more than anything, that when our final moments will come we'll regret wasting our mortal days? Has there even lived even one man or woman who died completely satisfied, without any kind of regret because he or she followed any of these sets of ideas? I do believe that everything is how you see it, and that the only way to be completely satisfied with one's life is just to be satisfied with one's life. I know people who have every human possession or blessing imaginable and are miserable, and others who have so little yet they thrive. I do believe the key is to be thankful for what we have, and count our blessing instead of our sorrows. With that being said, even though I don't completely agree with Seneca's way of seeing life and the human condition, I do consider this one of his most illuminating works and a great food for thought. It has been a pleasure re-reading it after the college years. So, we know we are not supposed to live our life by projecting to the future (one thing that I, as a Christian woman, consider an especially important caveat as to not just live for the afterlife, discarding my mortal existence), by giving our time to others instead of ourselves, by throwing it away in empty pleasures. So, the final question is: how are we supposed to live our lives so as not to waste them? The answer is very simple: we should be philosophers, and study the work of other philosophers. By studying the lives and ideas of wise men who lived before us, we will make our lives hundreds of times longer, because their lives will add to our time on earth, making us virtually immortal. Incidentally, it is especially interesting that Seneca would tell us that in order to be satisfied with our lives we should live like him, considering that, at it is well-known and as it emerges from his work, he was quite miserable; but at least he was conscious of it, so I guess it's better to live a sad life but knowing and owning it, than live a life full of pleasures without even knowing it. So, at the end of the day, know thyself, live mindfully, and never stop learning. After all, as Ghandi supposedly said: Live as if you were to die tomorrow. Learn as if you were to live forever.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Ryan Holiday

    As a general rule, avoid any translation of a classic work that comes up with its own new title. It normally means that the author is trying to appeal to contemporary readers more than the spirit of the original work. They'd rather have some catchy name than describe it as the anthology it actually is. This was the reason I was skeptical of reading On the Shortness of Life since Seneca wrote no such collection (it's the title of one of his essays) but I was thankfully proven wrong. Although ther As a general rule, avoid any translation of a classic work that comes up with its own new title. It normally means that the author is trying to appeal to contemporary readers more than the spirit of the original work. They'd rather have some catchy name than describe it as the anthology it actually is. This was the reason I was skeptical of reading On the Shortness of Life since Seneca wrote no such collection (it's the title of one of his essays) but I was thankfully proven wrong. Although there are some instances where the author is pandering, it is for the most part accurate and reads much like Letters from a Stoic (Penguin Classics). However, there aren't any footnotes, an introduction or a conclusion, important parts of a classic work that you only miss when they're gone. The first essay is probably the best. See: Seneca's concept of slavery. That we would never let someone steal our money or property, but we give them free reign to take our time from us. If you're in a hurry, skip the consolation to his mother and finish the third essay about tranquility. See: having faith in your position, as peace is the assuredness that you're going in the right direction.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Tom Quinn

    Seneca does it again: big life lessons delivered simply, sternly, and sagely. I heartily recommend the translation by Gareth Williams, whose introductory remarks distill Seneca and Stoicism into their absolute essentials and provide valuable historical context. 4 stars. Quite strong when used as a "daily devotional" but by the nature of its form very brief. Letters like these serve as a good jumping-off point into deeper reflection.

  11. 5 out of 5

    BuenoBomb aka Andre Bueno

    I really like this read. I compiled some of my favorite quotes and organized them by order of importance, in my opinion of course. My favorite ones follow: “You act like mortals in all that you fear, and like immortals in all that you desire” “You live as if you were destined to live forever, no thought of your frailty ever enters your head, of how much time has already gone by you take no heed. You squander time as if you drew from a full and abundant supply, though all the while that day which y I really like this read. I compiled some of my favorite quotes and organized them by order of importance, in my opinion of course. My favorite ones follow: “You act like mortals in all that you fear, and like immortals in all that you desire” “You live as if you were destined to live forever, no thought of your frailty ever enters your head, of how much time has already gone by you take no heed. You squander time as if you drew from a full and abundant supply, though all the while that day which you bestow on some person or thing is perhaps your last.” “People are frugal in guarding their personal property; but as soon as it comes to squandering time they are most wasteful of the one thing in which it is right to be stingy.” “It is not that we have so little time but that we lose so much. ... The life we receive is not short but we make it so; we are not ill provided but use what we have wastefully.” “They lose the day in expectation of the night, and the night in fear of the dawn.” “Life is long, if you know how to use it.” "But life is very short and anxious for those who forget the past, neglect the present, and fear the future.” “The greatest obstacle to living is expectancy, which hangs upon tomorrow and loses today. You are arranging what lies in Fortune’s control, and abandoning what lies in yours. What are you looking at? To what goal are you straining? The whole future lies in uncertainty: live immediately.” “...it is more civilized to make fun of life than to bewail it.” “Whatever can happen at any time can happen today.” “Of all people only those are at leisure who make time for philosophy, only those are really alive. For they not only keep a good watch over their own lifetimes, but they annex every age to theirs.” “And so there is no reason for you to think that any man has lived long because he has grey hairs or wrinkles, he has not lived long – he has existed long. For what if you should think that man had had a long voyage who had been caught by a fierce storm as soon as he left harbour, and, swept hither and thither by a succession of winds that raged from different quarters, had been driven in a circle around the same course? Not much voyaging did he have, but much tossing about.” “We must indulge the mind and from time to time allow it the leisure which is its food and strength.” “Our minds must relax: they will rise better and keener after a rest. Just as you must not force fertile farmland, as uninterrupted productivity will soon exhaust it, so constant effort will sap our mental vigour, while a short period of rest and relaxation will restore our powers." “The time of the actual enjoyment is short and swift, and made much shorter through their own fault. For they dash from one pleasure to another and cannot stay steady in one desire.” “Can anything be more idiotic than certain people who boast of their foresight? They keep themselves officiously preoccupied in order to improve their lives; they spend their lives in organizing their lives. They direct their purposes with an eye to a distant future. But putting things off is the biggest waste of life: it snatches away each day as it comes, and denies us the present by promising the future. The greatest obstacle to living is expectancy, which hangs upon tomorrow and loses today. You are arranging what lies in Fortune’s control, and abandoning what lies in yours. What are you looking at? To what goal are you straining?”

  12. 5 out of 5

    Mark Porton

    I am writing this review as a layperson, Philosophy isn’t my area of expertise and my level of knowledge is limited at best. I ended up here, as I’ve been researching Rome for an upcoming holiday. I’ve taken an interest in that crazy gang of early Roman Emperors from Augustus to Nero (i.e. the Julio-Claudian dynasty). So, this review is for those of us who stumble across a book with little or no knowledge of the subject matter – easy I know. The edition I read contained three essays, the one I en I am writing this review as a layperson, Philosophy isn’t my area of expertise and my level of knowledge is limited at best. I ended up here, as I’ve been researching Rome for an upcoming holiday. I’ve taken an interest in that crazy gang of early Roman Emperors from Augustus to Nero (i.e. the Julio-Claudian dynasty). So, this review is for those of us who stumble across a book with little or no knowledge of the subject matter – easy I know. The edition I read contained three essays, the one I enjoyed the most is called “On the shortness of Life” ……….and Wow!!! Seneca was born in Spain, just before the birth of Christ and died by his own hand in 65 AD. Apart from his philosophical works, he was known for being an intellectual, an orator, a politician, an author of letters and plays and most dangerously, an Imperial advisor and mentor to the young Emperor, Nero. It turns out that inhabiting the same orbit of an Emperor, especially that of a nutter like Nero, was a very hazardous calling indeed. The other two essays are called ‘Consolation to Helvia’ and ‘On tranquillity of Mind’. The first is a piece which consoles his mother after he was exiled to the Island of Corsica for a few years (sounds ok right?), the latter essentially details advice he gave to a mate of his called Serenus who was struggling with some of his vices. Humankind hasn’t changed much hey? But let’s focus on “On the Shortness of Life”, it could pass as a contemporary piece of work. This essay is quite dense, the words of wisdom come at you at machine-gun pace, I found myself being impacted by one sentence or paragraph only to be smashed by an even more stunning thought immediately after. As such, this should really be a slow read, to allow you to ponder, let it sink in. I will continue to revisit this book, it is ideally suited to keeping in my man-bag or laptop case to be pulled out while travelling, or when modern life is becoming a bit much. Yes, I found it that good. Some thought provoking examples include: “It is not that we have a short time to live, but that we waste a lot of it” “So, it is, we are not given a short life, but we make it short, and are not ill-supplied but wasteful of it” “It is a small part of life we really live; Indeed, all the rest is not life but merely time” Seneca’s intention here is to ask us to examine the problems most of us experience of time passing us by too quickly. To nurture our most important asset – our own life. Following are more gems, particularly relevant in this modern, busy, materialistic world we find ourselves in: “People are frugal in guarding their personal property; but as soon as it comes to squandering time they are most wasteful of the one thing it is right to be stingy” “In guarding their fortune men are often closefisted, yet, when it comes to the matter of wasting time, in the case of the one thing in which it is right to be miserly, they show themselves most extravagant” …..and my favourite, on the topic of not nurturing ourselves: “X cultivates Y and Y cultivates Z – no one bothers about himself” The words of wisdom come at you thick and fast, no headings, no breaks – it is relentless, but oh so worth it. There are some aspects of Seneca that bother me though. For example, he was the richest man in the Empire at the time but found it necessary to lecture us on frugality. Perhaps an easy thing to do for a well-heeled aristocrat. He also was the mentor and imperial advisor of Nero and even though it is often argued the first five years of Nero’s reign were respectable, it rapidly spun out of control, and the remaining eight years revealed the true monster he really was. It seems Seneca failed spectacularly in this endeavour. Some even criticise him for being a Nero sycophant. Either way, Nero didn’t appreciate his mentoring and told Seneca to kill himself at the age of 68. I loved these essays and will certainly re-read them. If you read contemporary self-improvement books, or books on mindfulness and the like, it is worth checking out this guy. I know I’ll certainly read more about him, and his works. 4.5 stars.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Fioo!

    "No one has to be found who is willing to distribute his money yet among, how many does each one of us distribute his life! In guarding their fortune men are often closefisted, yet, when it comes to the matter of wasting time, in the case of the one thing in which it is right to be miserly, they show themselves most prodigal." Seneca is trying to tell us we have got to be wiser about how we spend our time. This is the type of book that will make you a better person. My recommendation is necessary "No one has to be found who is willing to distribute his money yet among, how many does each one of us distribute his life! In guarding their fortune men are often closefisted, yet, when it comes to the matter of wasting time, in the case of the one thing in which it is right to be miserly, they show themselves most prodigal." Seneca is trying to tell us we have got to be wiser about how we spend our time. This is the type of book that will make you a better person. My recommendation is necessary, and it will only take you an afternoon to read it, please, do it.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Frankie

    This is, so to speak, Seneca the Younger's greatest hits album. The first "On the Shortness of Life" is probably his most popular, but I prefer the last "On Tranquillity of Mind". I realize there has been some apprehension for Seneca because of his supposed dissipation and association with Nero. I simply don't believe these details are historically accurate. Not only is history written by the victors, and we all know of what distortions the Roman empire was capable, but being on the staff of a d This is, so to speak, Seneca the Younger's greatest hits album. The first "On the Shortness of Life" is probably his most popular, but I prefer the last "On Tranquillity of Mind". I realize there has been some apprehension for Seneca because of his supposed dissipation and association with Nero. I simply don't believe these details are historically accurate. Not only is history written by the victors, and we all know of what distortions the Roman empire was capable, but being on the staff of a dictator can almost guarantee martyrdom. If half of what we know of Nero's cruelty is correct, Seneca most likely lived in fear for his life. I try to judge him only by what scraps of his wisdom we have, whether they are mere summations of Greek, Biblical and Maccabean influence, or something original for his time. In fact, one of the comforts I take from his work is his secular angle on motivational philosophy. The Stoic way is essentially one of common sense. There is no great call to action in Seneca's words, but a calling back to what we know or at least ought to know on a personal level. "On the Shortness of Life" may appear at first glance to be a bit self-possessed, as secular wisdom often does. On page 25, he entreats you not to be defined by your parents or lineage. To live publicly if you must, but stay true to yourself inwardly. To treat good fortune as temporary and on loan, so that you're prepared for its loss. "No man has been shattered by the blows of Fortune unless he was first deceived by her favors." (p 39) The second article is a touching tribute to his mother, probably meant as his own eulogy. His wisdom is worth reading, regarding what we now refer to as the "standard of living", when he speaks about Apicius and his excessive riches. The story goes that Apicius, after a considerable spending orgy, figured up his remaining wealth, and when he found it to be 10 million sesterces (something like today's $50 million), then he poisoned himself. "What luxury, if ten million meant poverty!" (p 51) The final article is a culmination of the wisdom of all three. He describes the spiral of increasing laziness and unwillingness to learn. "From this arise melancholy and mourning and a thousand vacillations of a wavering mind, buoyed up by the birth of hope and sickened by the death of it." (p 75) He also returns to the subject of poverty vs. wealth – "For you are mistaken if you think that rich people suffer with more fortitude: the pain of a wound is the same in the largest and smallest bodies." (p 85-86) In the last 20 pages, Seneca sums up his thoughts on death. "What is the harm of returning to the point whence you came? He will live badly who does not know how to die well. So we must first strip off the value we set on this thing and reckon the breath of life as something cheap…. He who fears death will never do anything worthy of a living man. But he who knows that this was the condition laid down for him at the moment of his conception will live on those terms…." (p 92-93)

  15. 5 out of 5

    Priyanka

    Haven’t we found ourselves, at some point or the other, wondering how we are not given enough time in which to live. But is this really true? Or are we just gripped by an insatiable greed and a laborious dedication to useless tasks mistakenly calling them productivity and a busyness which is nothing but the surest distraction from living. “… you don’t notice how much time has already passed, but squander it as though you had a full and overflowing supply – though all the while that very day which Haven’t we found ourselves, at some point or the other, wondering how we are not given enough time in which to live. But is this really true? Or are we just gripped by an insatiable greed and a laborious dedication to useless tasks mistakenly calling them productivity and a busyness which is nothing but the surest distraction from living. “… you don’t notice how much time has already passed, but squander it as though you had a full and overflowing supply – though all the while that very day which you are devoting to somebody or something may be your last.” Despite being nearly 2000 years old, this spectacular essay fits so beautifully in our age, where, we so easily mistake the doing for the being. This trance of everyday passivity is an unambiguous admonition. “No one will bring back the years; no one will restore you to yourself. Life will follow the path it began to take, and will neither reverse nor check its course. It will cause no commotion to remind you of its swiftness, but glide on quietly. It will not lengthen itself for a king’s command or a people’s favor. As it started out on its first day, so it will run on, nowhere pausing or turning aside. What will be the outcome? You have been preoccupied while life hastens on. Meanwhile death will arrive, and you have no choice in making yourself available for that.” Seneca suggests that a greater vice than mindless preoccupation is procrastinating endlessly, hoping the future will provide a better time for pursuing our purposes. “Putting things off is the biggest waste of life: it snatches away each day as it comes, and denies us the present by promising the future. The greatest obstacle to living is expectancy, which hangs upon tomorrow and loses today. You are arranging what lies in Fortune’s control, and abandoning what lies in yours. What are you looking at? To what goal are you straining? The whole future lies in uncertainty: live immediately." Seneca’s masterful diatribe is timeless in its advice on how to inhabit our own selves fully. “It is a small part of life we really live. Indeed all the rest is not life but merely time.” After all, “How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives”. - Annie Dillard

  16. 4 out of 5

    Laura Noggle

    After letting this one marinate a bit, and with the pandemic still raging, this book has become even more timely and important. Trying to take every word to heart. *All, save a very few, find life at an end just when they’re getting ready to live.* “They lose the day in expectation of the night, and the night in fear of the dawn.” “Putting things off is the biggest waste of life: it snatches away each day as it comes, and denies us the present by promising the future. The greatest obstacle to livin After letting this one marinate a bit, and with the pandemic still raging, this book has become even more timely and important. Trying to take every word to heart. *All, save a very few, find life at an end just when they’re getting ready to live.* “They lose the day in expectation of the night, and the night in fear of the dawn.” “Putting things off is the biggest waste of life: it snatches away each day as it comes, and denies us the present by promising the future. The greatest obstacle to living is expectancy, which hangs upon tomorrow, and loses today. You are arranging what lies in fortune’s control, and abandoning what lies in yours. What are you looking at? To what goal are you straining? The whole future lies in uncertainty: live immediately.”

  17. 5 out of 5

    Jon Nakapalau

    Beautiful meditation on life and the choices we make on how to live - highest recommendation.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Daniel Clausen

    A great book on making the most of your time...enough said?

  19. 4 out of 5

    Ian

    A relatively rare foray into philosophy for me. Apart from the Title essay this edition also contains the letters “Consolation to Helvia”, and “On Tranquillity of Mind.” Reading this stuff makes you realise that a lot of the maxims of today are derived from things the ancients wrote thousands of years ago. For example, an expression I hear nowadays is “What doesn’t kill me makes me stronger.” In “Consolation to Helvia”, Seneca writes “Everlasting misfortune does have one blessing, that it ends up A relatively rare foray into philosophy for me. Apart from the Title essay this edition also contains the letters “Consolation to Helvia”, and “On Tranquillity of Mind.” Reading this stuff makes you realise that a lot of the maxims of today are derived from things the ancients wrote thousands of years ago. For example, an expression I hear nowadays is “What doesn’t kill me makes me stronger.” In “Consolation to Helvia”, Seneca writes “Everlasting misfortune does have one blessing, that it ends up toughening those it constantly afflicts” The message of the Title essay is essentially one of “Seize the Day” (perhaps in this context I should use “carpe diem”), or as Seneca puts it “It is not that we have a short time to live, but that we waste a lot of it.” We don’t know how many days we have, so we should always live immediately. The number of highlighted passages showing in my Kindle suggests that many people relate to “On the Shortness of Life”, but I wasn’t all that impressed with it. I agree with Seneca’s argument about making the best use of our days, but he seems to think philosophy is the only worthwhile subject on which to spend a life. He dismisses everything else as worthless, which seems a little narrow minded. No doubt if he were next to me now he would say I was wasting my days by writing amateur book reviews that hardly anyone will ever read, and I’d be inclined to tell him to mind his own business… Helvia was Seneca’s mother and the “Consolation” was a letter Seneca wrote to her after he was exiled to Corsica. Helvia was apparently heartbroken at her son’s exile and, touchingly, Seneca begins the letter “I thought I would be laying aside all my troubles when I had at least wiped away your tears, even if I could not stop them coming.” “The Consolation” allows Seneca to set out some classic Stoic arguments. Added to the pain of exile are poverty and social disgrace, but using eloquent argument, Seneca tells his mother that none of these are as bad as they seem. A couple of quotes; “…there can be no place of exile within this world because nothing within this world is alien to men. From whatever point on the earth’s surface you look up to heaven the same distance lies between the realms of gods and men.” “But there is no evil in poverty, as anyone knows who has not yet arrived at the lunatic state of greed and luxury, which ruin everything…I know that I have lost not wealth but distractions.” “On Tranquillity of Mind” takes the form of advice that Seneca provides to his friend Serenus, who seems to be suffering from some sort of anxiety or depression. There’s much in the way of good advice, again eloquently set out, and applying the principles of Stoicism. I could include lots of quotes, but this review is long enough without them. I would give the latter two pieces 4 stars each. For me the Title piece brings the overall mark down to a slightly harsh 3 stars.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Kevin

    This is a very short book, really a collection of three letters. The first one is primarily cautioning a friend about getting caught up in "life" - meaning the demands and expectations placed on us, and the forum for empty ambitions that the business of the world provides - to the detriment of our contentment or long-term happiness. A classic analogy from this letter is that one who is old has not really necessarily lived long, any more than one who embarks on a ship and is tossed around on the This is a very short book, really a collection of three letters. The first one is primarily cautioning a friend about getting caught up in "life" - meaning the demands and expectations placed on us, and the forum for empty ambitions that the business of the world provides - to the detriment of our contentment or long-term happiness. A classic analogy from this letter is that one who is old has not really necessarily lived long, any more than one who embarks on a ship and is tossed around on the waves in the harbor has made a long journey; he has only existed long. The second is a letter to console his mother after he was banished from Rome (Seneca lived ~5 B.C. to ~60 A.D. according to the book), reasoning essentially with her why it is not the external surroundings and circumstances that matter but the mind's attitude towards them; and the third is written as a reply to the letter of another younger Stoic asking for advice (his letter is also included). There are a lot of gems of Stoic philosophy in here, simple practical ideas and thoughts about how to spend one's limited time and how to be true to oneself that anyone could apply in their lives. "So it is—the life we receive is not short, but we make it so, nor do we have any lack of it, but are wasteful of it. Just as great and princely wealth is scattered in a moment when it comes into the hands of a bad owner, while wealth however limited, if it is entrusted to a good guardian, increases by use, so our life is amply long for him who orders it properly." And because of when he lived, there are some very cool anecdotes and examples he cites to illustrate his points, like how Caesar sailed around an entire country because he couldn't bear to see the once-great man in exile there (stories almost as good as Kierkegaard's citations of Archimedes' and Diogenes' behavior when their cities were assaulted). And it is a short light book that fits in your back pocket (as all the Penguin Great Ideas books are), which is great.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Wiebke (1book1review)

    This was super interesting and fascinating how much is still true today. I had many thoughts which I explain in a rather long video for such a short book, so forgive me for just linking that here. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mPo4r... (7:34) This was super interesting and fascinating how much is still true today. I had many thoughts which I explain in a rather long video for such a short book, so forgive me for just linking that here. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mPo4r... (7:34)

  22. 5 out of 5

    Steven-John Tait

    "Life is long enough, and a sufficiently generous amount has been given to us for the highest achievements if it were all well invested." I always felt like I was on the outside, hovering above life as it streamed by underneath me; likewise I've felt like I'm moving too fast, not taking the time to actually live, to enjoy the moment. I remember being in Hong Kong, walking down Canton Road when I saw a painting on an easel in the middle of the pavement. What did I do? I stopped, noticed it was an "Life is long enough, and a sufficiently generous amount has been given to us for the highest achievements if it were all well invested." I always felt like I was on the outside, hovering above life as it streamed by underneath me; likewise I've felt like I'm moving too fast, not taking the time to actually live, to enjoy the moment. I remember being in Hong Kong, walking down Canton Road when I saw a painting on an easel in the middle of the pavement. What did I do? I stopped, noticed it was an unfinished painting of the street view ahead, took out my phone, snapped a photo, and kept walking. It was only after I'd put fifty metres between myself and the painting that I realised I hadn't even paid attention to it. As if a photo of the moment was as valuable as actually living it. I hurried back and this time really looked at it. The painter, who'd been close by, saw my interest and came over to talk me through it. And that's what this book is about. Its Seneca telling you that when you get caught up in the rush of life, remove yourself from all the distraction and focus on what's important.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Mario Tomic

    Nearly every sentence of this book could be a quote for an inspirational poster. It's one of the best books I've read on the value of ones time, Stoicism in general is one of my favorite philosophy schools especially Seneca and Marcus Aurelius. Definitely check out this book, it's easy to read and understand while still being so powerful. I've read it 2 times in a row just because there's so much value concentrated in such a short book.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Anna

    4.5 stars (only dinging a half star b/c the middle selection wasn't as good as the first and last essays) A good read for the early part of the year as a time of goal-setting and re-prioritizing. Stoicism is gaining a new 21st Century following in our highly politicized, social-media driven, anxiety-ridden culture. Reading the work of Seneca is a nice antidote to a poisonous mental and spiritual atmosphere. A great book for everyone to read, re-read and keep handy.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Graham Mumm

    This is a book everyone should read at least once a year. Don't let the little time you have slip away... “The greatest obstacle to living is expectancy, which hangs upon tomorrow and loses today… The whole future lies in uncertainty: live immediately.”

  26. 5 out of 5

    rahul

    Ozymandias BY PERCY BYSSHE SHELLEY I met a traveller from an antique land,  Who said—“Two vast and trunkless legs of stone  Stand in the desert. . . . Near them, on the sand,  Half sunk a shattered visage lies, whose frown,  And wrinkled lip, and sneer of cold command,  Tell that its sculptor well those passions read  Which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things,  The hand that mocked them, and the heart that fed;  And on the pedestal, these words appear:  My name is Ozymandias, King of Kings;  Look Ozymandias BY PERCY BYSSHE SHELLEY I met a traveller from an antique land,  Who said—“Two vast and trunkless legs of stone  Stand in the desert. . . . Near them, on the sand,  Half sunk a shattered visage lies, whose frown,  And wrinkled lip, and sneer of cold command,  Tell that its sculptor well those passions read  Which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things,  The hand that mocked them, and the heart that fed;  And on the pedestal, these words appear:  My name is Ozymandias, King of Kings;  Look on my Works, ye Mighty, and despair!  Nothing beside remains. Round the decay  Of that colossal Wreck, boundless and bare  The lone and level sands stretch far away.” Good way to spend the last day of 2017!

  27. 4 out of 5

    Farhan Khalid

    It is not that we have a short time to live, but that we waste a lot of it. Life is long enough, and a sufficiently generous amount has been given to us for the highest achievements if it were all well invested You will find no one willing to share out his money; but to how many does each of us divide up his life How stupid to forget our mortality No activity can be successfully pursued by an individual who is preoccupied Living is the least important activity of the preoccupied man The man who organ It is not that we have a short time to live, but that we waste a lot of it. Life is long enough, and a sufficiently generous amount has been given to us for the highest achievements if it were all well invested You will find no one willing to share out his money; but to how many does each of us divide up his life How stupid to forget our mortality No activity can be successfully pursued by an individual who is preoccupied Living is the least important activity of the preoccupied man The man who organizes every day as though it were his last, neither longs for nor fears the next day Life will follow the path it began to take, and will neither reverse nor check its course. You have been preoccupied while life hastens on. Meanwhile death will arrive, and you have no choice in making yourself available for that Putting things off is the biggest waste of life People tend to think that, once they’ve achieved all their goals, they’ll have time to enjoy life. But it rarely works out this way. What usually happens is this: people spend their life preparing for life And then there are those who devote their prime years to lust, greed and gluttony. They keep telling themselves that, someday, they’ll amend their ways – but they never do The whole future lies in uncertainty: live immediately Reading and writing philosophy is the only way to prolong mortality – even to convert it to immortality Life is very short and anxious for those who forget the past, neglect the present, and fear the future Everlasting misfortune does have one blessing, that it ends up by toughening those whom it constantly afflicts Bias always affects our judgment People could have achieved wisdom if they had not imagined they had already achieved it We must realize that our difficulty is not the fault of the places but of ourselves. We are weak in enduring anything, and cannot put up with toil or pleasure or ourselves or anything for long I would not deny that one has to yield sometimes – but by a gradual retreat, and holding on to our standards and our soldier’s honour The first thing to realize is that there is no one path that will ensure tranquility. We must each forge our own You must consider whether your nature is more suited to practical activity or to quiet study and reflection, and incline in the direction your natural faculty and disposition take you You won’t gain anything by taking on tasks to which you are ill suited. Accept only those enterprises that you are sure you will finish Nothing delights the mind so much as fond and loyal friendship. What a blessing it is to have hearts that are ready and willing to receive all your secrets in safety, with whom you are less afraid to share knowledge of something than keep it to yourself, whose conversation soothes your distress, whose advice helps you make up your mind, whose cheerfulness dissolves your sorrow, whose very appearance cheers you up You must especially avoid those who are gloomy and always lamenting Those people are more cheerful whom Fortune has never favoured than those whom she has deserted It is far better to devote yourself to a few authors than to get lost among many In any situation in life you will find delights and relaxations and pleasures if you are prepared to make light of your troubles and not let them distress you So you have to get used to your circumstances, complain about them as little as possible, and grasp whatever advantage they have to offer: no condition is so bitter that a stable mind cannot find some consolation in it Think your way through difficulties: harsh conditions can be softened, restricted ones can be widened, and heavy ones can weigh less on those who know how to bear them He who fears death will never do anything worthy of a living man. But he who knows that this was the condition laid down for him at the moment of his conception will live on those terms, and at the same time he will guarantee with a similar strength of mind that no events take him by surprise. For by foreseeing anything that can happen as though it will happen he will soften the onslaught of all his troubles, which present no surprises to those who are ready and waiting for them, but fall heavily on those who are careless in the expectation that all will be well We should also make ourselves flexible, so that we do not pin our hopes too much on our set plans, and can move over to those things to which chance has brought us, without dreading a change in either our purpose or our condition So we should make light of all things and endure them with tolerance: it is more civilized to make fun of life than to bewail it The mind should not be kept continuously at the same pitch of concentration, but given amusing diversions We must go for walks out of doors You act like mortals in all that you fear, and like immortals in all that you desire They lose the day in expectation of the night, and the night in fear of the dawn The part of life we really live is small. For all the rest of existence is not life, but merely time It’s astonishingly easy to acquire wisdom from great thinkers and, in time, to train yourself to be a better person. You can, for example, engage with the works of Plato or Hegel, Derrida or Arendt, and come to a better understanding of people, power, society and culture Pick your philosopher, and discover new ways to tackle life, from the everyday trifles to universal preoccupations. A great thinker can be both a solace and a companion Life is long enough to devote yourself to self-knowledge and true wisdom. The great minds are your torchbearers in this task. A wise person is self-reliant and independent. The loss of status or money is no real setback to him, since his sense of self is not founded on external circumstances The surest path to true satisfaction is to conduct yourself within your means and to appreciate your lot in life. This way, you will never feel that you’re lacking anything. The instant you start to covet unnecessary material items, however, you will feel that you are stuck in a sort of poverty A life filled with doubts and regrets is no life at all Have faith in yourself. Trust your instincts. And don’t be too harsh on yourself once you have selected your course. You will enjoy the journey all the more if you have confidence in yourself and your actions Set aside some time for yourself. Relax Socrates, when he wasn’t philosophizing, enjoyed playing with the local children Moderation is the best policy To live a fulfilling life you shouldn’t seek immediate validation or base your worth upon the judgments of others

  28. 5 out of 5

    Milan

    A book to be read again and again, until it becomes a part of who you are.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Nick Klagge

    I really loved this book. As so often happens on Goodreads with books I really loved, I waited forever to write the review because I felt like I really needed time to do it justice; unsurprisingly, the result is that I now have less access to the specifics of the book than if I had just written the damn thing right away. I bought this book on a total whim. I was in New York for business, and had brunch with my brothers and sister in law the morning before my flight. I had a little time to kill be I really loved this book. As so often happens on Goodreads with books I really loved, I waited forever to write the review because I felt like I really needed time to do it justice; unsurprisingly, the result is that I now have less access to the specifics of the book than if I had just written the damn thing right away. I bought this book on a total whim. I was in New York for business, and had brunch with my brothers and sister in law the morning before my flight. I had a little time to kill before I needed to be at the airport. I walked to what is probably my favorite bookstore in the world, Unnameable Books in Prospect Heights, and browsed around there a little. I was sort of looking for something to read on the flight, although I think I did have something else that I could have read. Anyway, I came across this slim volume and picked it up, mostly on the basis of having a general interest in Roman Stoicism but never having read Seneca before. Suffice it to say that Seneca is now one of my favorite dudes! The book actually contains three essays, all of which treat classic Stoic themes: how to use our finite time on earth wisely, how to maintain tranquility of mind, and how to keep setbacks in perspective. I would say that none of the conceptual content will be very new to anyone who has read the other two most famous Roman Stoics, Epictetus and Marcus Aurelius. But even more so than either of those two others (both of whom are also among my favorite dudes!), Seneca's writing style is extremely appealing. Each essay is, at least nominally, a letter to a close friend or family member. In keeping with this, Seneca does not spend time developing theoretical propositions, but rather writes in a warm and hortatory style. I obviously don't know how much to credit the translator (CDN Costa) vs. Seneca himself, but the writing of the essays is extremely accessible and did not feel dated in the least to me (after 2000 years!); neither did it feel overly modern in a forced manner ("Yo Lucilius, sup!"). Much of Seneca's rhetorical style relies on the use of illustrative analogies, and he is most prolific and imaginative in conjuring these up. After reading this, I did some reading on Seneca's life, which is also very interesting. In keeping with the Roman Stoic style, he did not withdraw to a contemplative life but involved himself in public affairs. In fact, he was an adviser to the very disreputable Roman emperor Nero! Seneca by no means comes across as a perfect Stoic sage, and many people use this to paint him as a hypocrite. I found it fascinating though, and it didn't diminish his appeal to me at all. I just understand him as a very bright but also flawed person. As a side note, I can also thank this book for bringing me for the first time to the excellent Brain Pickings blog. I was looking on the internet for articles other people had written about this book, and found Maria Popova's review: http://www.brainpickings.org/2014/09/...

  30. 5 out of 5

    Rebecca Washecheck

    I was wary of this, as a sexily recovered, retitled thing that looks like something you'd read on a train to look clever--but it really is a wholesome anthology of 3 essays and letters from the justly beloved Seneca. Deeply satisfying and soothing advice, tremendously timeless (if you set aside issues like forums and slaves, or find a good metaphor to translate these), and as peaceful as watching The Frugal Gourmet was when I was tiny--I feel like Seneca is the sage parent we all wish we had, wh I was wary of this, as a sexily recovered, retitled thing that looks like something you'd read on a train to look clever--but it really is a wholesome anthology of 3 essays and letters from the justly beloved Seneca. Deeply satisfying and soothing advice, tremendously timeless (if you set aside issues like forums and slaves, or find a good metaphor to translate these), and as peaceful as watching The Frugal Gourmet was when I was tiny--I feel like Seneca is the sage parent we all wish we had, who has both a kind word and a bracing slap on the back to offer. His style and the translation of it are very lovely, crisp, lucid, and modern. If only all thinkers were such good writers. If only Kant had written like this. If only we all did.

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