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On the Shortness of Life

4.21  ·  Rating Details  ·  4,139 Ratings  ·  385 Reviews
The Stoic writings of the philosopher Seneca offer powerful insights into the art of living, the importance of reason and morality, and continue to provide profound guidance to many through their eloquence, lucidity and timeless wisdom.

Throughout history, some books have changed the world. They have transformed the way we see ourselves—and each other. They have inspired de
Paperback, Great Ideas, 106 pages
Published September 6th 2005 by Penguin Books (first published 50)
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Glenn Russell
Dec 06, 2014 Glenn Russell rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition

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 al
Nov 08, 2015 Abubakar rated it liked it
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
Oct 02, 2007 Sara rated it it was amazing
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
Mar 22, 2015 Priyanka rated it it was amazing
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
Nov 30, 2012 Frankie rated it it was amazing
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 ...more
Mar 09, 2015 Kevin rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Ancient Greco-Roman Stoic devotees or anyone else who thinks they might not live forever
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 ...more
André Bueno
Feb 19, 2015 André Bueno rated it it was amazing
Shelves: classics
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
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. But when it is wasted in heedless luxury and spent on no good activity, we are forced at last by death’s final constraint to realize that it has passed away before we knew it was passing. So it is: we are not given a short life but we make it short, and we are not ill-supplied but wastef ...more
Ryan Holiday
Jul 05, 2012 Ryan Holiday rated it really liked it
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 ...more
Rebecca Washecheck
Feb 02, 2011 Rebecca Washecheck rated it it was amazing
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
Mario Tomic
Oct 07, 2014 Mario Tomic rated it it was amazing
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.
Aaron Wolfson
Hiding behind my copy of On the Shortness of Life

This set of three essays by Seneca has been on my list for a long time. A death in the family moved me to buy it and read it now.

But the titular essay isn't really about death at all. It's about this:

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.

The key to understanding Seneca's thesis is the phrase, "highest achievements." Seneca ge
Seneca here pleas for people to consider how much time (or rather how little) a common life holds and points out how people find safety in postponing everything from minor plans to massive dreams.

The text, filled with on the one hand plain language but on the other metaphors and other figures of speech, provides the reader with the sound advice of not living in the past nor the future but in the here and now, to act upon ideas today rather than tomorrow. Rather than resting vague and superficia
Oct 07, 2015 Iamjudgedredd rated it it was amazing
A short, sweet read. This was my first foray into stoicism and I felt that Seneca made some excellent points. This was one of the first books in a long time that made me want to get up and grab a pencil and underline somethings and make annotations. The wisdom contained in this volume is relatively simple, and sometimes common sense stuff; hearing it said so plainly yet eloquently however made it resonate with me. I would recommend.
Jalendhari Tabeeb
Dec 31, 2015 Jalendhari Tabeeb rated it liked it
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ﺍ ﺏ ﻋﻤﺮ ﮐﯽ ﻧﻘﺪﯼ ﺧﺘﻢ ﮨﻮﺋﯽ
ﺍ ﺏ ﮨﻢ ﮐﻮ ﺍﺩﮬﺎﺭ ﮐﯽ ﺣﺎﺟﺖ ﮨﮯ

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ﮨﮯ ﮐﻮﺋﯽ ﺟﻮ ﺩﯾﻮﻥ ﮨﺎﺭ ﺑﻨﮯ

ﮐﭽﮫ ﺳﺎﻝ ،ﻣﮩﯿﻨﮯ، ﺩﻥ ﻟﻮﮔﻮ
ﭘﺮ ﺳﻮﺩ ﺑﯿﺎﺝ ﮐﮯ ﺑﻦ ﻟﻮﮔﻮ

ﮨﺎﮞ ﺍ ﭘﻨﯽ ﺟﺎﮞ ﮐﮯ ﺧﺰﺍﻧﮯ ﺳﮯ
ﮨﺎﮞ ﻋﻤﺮ ﮐﮯ ﺗﻮﺷﮧ ﺧﺎﻧﮯ ﺳﮯ

ﮐﯿﺎ ﮐﻮﺋﯽ ﺑﮭﯽ ﺳﺎﮨﻮ ﮐﺎﺭ ﻧﮩﯿﮟ
ﮐﯿﺎ ﮐﻮﺋﯽ ﺑﮭﯽ ﺩﯾﻮﻥ ﮨﺎﺭ ﻧﮩﯿﮟ

ﺟﺐ ﻧﺎﻣﺎ ﺩﮬﺮ ﮐﺎ ﺁﯾﺎ ﮐﯿﻮﮞ
ﺳﺐ ﻧﮯ ﺳﺮ ﮐﻮ ﺟﮭﮑﺎﯾﺎ ﮨﮯ

ﮐﭽﮫ ﮐﺎﻡ ﮨﻤﯿﮟ ﻧﭙﭩﺎﻧﮯ ﮨﯿﮟ
ﺟﻨﮩﯿﮟ ﺟﺎﻧﻨﮯ ﻭﺍﻟﮯ ﺟﺎﻧﮯ ﮨﯿﮟ

ﮐﭽﮫ ﭘﯿﺎﺭ ﺩﻻﺭ ﮐﮯ ﺩﮬﻨﺪﮮ ﮨﯿﮟ
ﮐﭽﮫ ﺟﮓ ﮐﮯ ﺩﻭﺳﺮﮮ ﭘﮭﻨﺪﮮ ﮨﯿﮟ

ﮨﻢ ﻣﺎﻧﮕﺘﮯ ﻧﮩﯿﮟ ﮨﺰﺍﺭ ﺑﺮﺱ
ﺩﺱ ﭘﺎﻧﭻ ﺑﺮﺱ ﺩﻭ ﭼﺎﺭ ﺑﺮﺱ

ﮨﺎﮞ ،ﺳﻮﺩ ﺑﯿﺎﺝ ﺑﮭﯽ ﺩﮮ ﻟﯿﮟ ﮔﮯ
ﮨﺎﮞ ﺍﻭﺭ ﺧﺮﺍﺝ ﺑﮭﯽ ﺩﮮ ﻟ
Vincent Russo
Jan 02, 2016 Vincent Russo rated it it was amazing
It's enlightening to realize that so many of the things that Seneca talks about thousands of years ago still rings true today. The first and third portions of this book are by far my favorite. Seneca argues that life is not short if you spend the duration of it correctly. As Seneca puts 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 an
Ivan Damjanović
Dec 07, 2015 Ivan Damjanović rated it it was ok
Ovo < Epiktetov Enchiridion i.m.o. Seneka ovdje propagira ponešto kontradiktorne stvari: ljubav, vježbanje vrlina, zaborav strasti, spoznaju o životu i smrti te život u dubokom spokojstvu. Također, njegov najbolji učenik kontradiktira po nekim pitanjima njemu (što je, naravno, pozitivno). Ali… kao da ima previše irelevantnih i zastarjelih primjera (a čuj, it’s been a while) o tome što da se ne radi, a premalo o tome što da se radi. Evo, navrat-nanos nekih od misli, zatvara se knjižnica: nema ...more
Dec 29, 2015 Mike rated it really liked it

It is more difficult for us to attain leisure from ourselves than from the law, Seneca writes, noting that the law does not draft a soldier after the age of fifty, nor call a man to the Senate after the age of sixty. The specifics may vary, depending on time and place, but his point is well-taken: we do not use our time wisely. Those of us who are ‘engrossed’, Seneca says, move passively from entertainment to entertainment; but when there is no gladiatorial spectacle scheduled, no fine banquet t
Amy Alkon
Mar 27, 2015 Amy Alkon rated it it was amazing
I've long valued the thinking of the Stoic philosopher Seneca (along with his fellow stoic Epictetus), but the additionally wonderful thing about this book is the form it comes in. Beautifully done little paperback edition by Penguin with an inlaid-print cover -- only about $7 new at Amazon.
Jan 07, 2015 Ananya rated it really liked it
Recommended to Ananya by: Ryan Holiday
"You act like mortals in all that you fear, and like immortals in all that you desire".

First book of the year. Thought provoking. Quite like digging an archaeological site and discovering gems.
Nov 15, 2014 Dan rated it really liked it
This short essay on the shortness of life was written in 49 AD by Seneca to his friend Paulinus, but it could just as well have been written today. Man has still not learned to stop wasting his most precious resource; time.

"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. But when it is wasted in heedless luxury and spent on no good ac
Sep 06, 2012 John rated it it was amazing
Wow, a recommendation from a friend that blew my hair back. Great book!
Oeystein Hanssen
Nov 03, 2015 Oeystein Hanssen rated it really liked it
Shelves: reread, philisophy
Any man can achieve tranquility of mind and live a happy life. He does not need any equipment for living a good life, because it is his mind that creates his wealth, not things money can buy him. Additionally, he has prepared himself in advance for any coming conflict, and will easily withstand it. This man will have a sufficient amount of time living, and when death finally arrives, he will welcome it.

But most people are not like the man mentioned above. Most people are what Seneca calls the pr
Nick Klagge
Jul 05, 2015 Nick Klagge rated it it was amazing
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
May 06, 2015 Tanay rated it really liked it
Just as I was about to finish typing a lengthy review of this book, I accidentally closed my browser -- aargh! Too soon Fortune, too soon!

I discovered Seneca after reading a few quotations from the first essay, 'On the Shortness of Life', which were featured on Brain Pickings. Having no prior acquaintance with Roman or Greek philosophy, I dove into the first few pages enthusiastically. But soon, I felt encumbered by an uneasy impression - it was feeling more of a rant. But then again, Seneca's
May 06, 2011 Jeremy rated it really liked it
Seneca - an important stoic - wrote 'on the shortness of life' in the first century A.D. Firstly I will outline what he says, then I'll briefly state my agreements and disagreements.

He comes down on the reader without restraint - time is the most precious thing we have, it is irreplaceable and priceless yet people just barter it away. When we squander our life away doing unimportant things we effectively shorten our life-span.
"The part of life we really live is small. For all the rest of exis
Jan 02, 2010 Fraser added it
Ah, the stoics... I do love the Romans, regardless of their faults, and their equanimity is always reassuring. These three essays/letters by Seneca are the perfect sort of thing to read at the start of the New Year, pondering how it is that we can get the most satisfaction from the time we are given. Seneca's answer? Relax. Stop worrying so much about getting rich and famous and popular. Instead, do what you must - and then, philosophize. Humans have three times: the past, the present, and the f ...more
Aug 13, 2014 Ben rated it really liked it
Thoroughly enjoyed this. Familiar sounding people and incidents found in this book. Reinforced convictions I already held and taught me several new ones.
Sep 19, 2015 Yulenka rated it it was amazing
Recommended to Yulenka by: Braydon
Shelves: sb
My friend bought this book for me and it's probably one of the best book recommendations I've had in a while. It's just filled with life lessons, and titbits of applicable advice. Although at times the anecdotes are a little thick to wade through, the overarching ideas and themes are sound.
I wouldn't have expected a book like this (just because I tend to not read this genre of literature) to change the way I thought about time and life, but it did.

Good read to take notes on and discuss. Actual
El alquimista del tedio Alquimista del tedio
Este es uno de esos libros que tenía pendiente de leer desde hace muchísimos años.
El presente año lo pienso dedicar a leer esos libros que siempre tenemos en mente y que por distintos motivos a menudo nunca pasan de ser lecturas potenciales.

El libro del filósofo cordobés Séneca (4 a.C a 65 d. C), es una carta dirigida a Paulino, el padre o hermano de su mujer, Paulina Pompeya, que finaliza recomendando a éste que se aparte de la vida pública.
Séneca siempre estuvo luchando con dos fuerzas, la e
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  • The Inner Life
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Lucius Annaeus Seneca (often known simply as Seneca) (ca. 4 BC – 65 AD) was a Roman Stoic philosopher, statesman, dramatist, and in one work humorist, of the Silver Age of Latin literature. He was tutor and later advisor to emperor Nero. While he was later forced to commit suicide for alleged complicity in the Pisonian conspiracy to assassinate Nero, the last of the Julio-Claudian emperors, he may ...more
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“You act like mortals in all that you fear, and like immortals in all that you desire” 198 likes
“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.” 168 likes
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