Aaron Terrazas's Reviews > On the Shortness of Life

On the Shortness of Life by Seneca
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M_50x66
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Jun 20, 11

Read in June, 2011

Profoundly insightful, if often elusive and auto-contradictory, commentary on purpose and meaning. Not all of it is realistic or applicably to modern life (no, Seneca, man cannot simply pursue his own pleasures -- we must, in the end, eat and pay rent) -- but it certainly provides useful guides.

Some top quotes:

"We are not given a short life but we make it short, and we are not ill-supplied but wasteful of it. ... Life is long if you know how to use it. But one man is gripped by insatiable greed, another by laborious dedication to useless tasks. One man is soaked in wine, another sluggish with idleness. ... Many pursue no fixed goal, but are tossed about in ever changing designs by a fickleness which is shifting, in constant and never satisfied with itself. Some have no aims at all for their life's course, but death takes them unawares as they yawn languidly. ... Vices surround and assail men from every side and do not allow them to rise again and lift their eyes to discern the truth, but keep them overwhelmed and rooted in their desires."

"People are frugal in guarding their personal property; but as soon as it comes to squandering time, they are most wasteful on the one thing in which it is right to be stingy."

"Life will follow the path it began to take, and will neither reverse not check its course. It will cause no commotion to remind you of its swiftness, but glide on quietly. ... 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 losses today."

"Man is endowed with a mind which is changeable and unsettled: nowhere at rest, it darts about and directs its thoughts to all places known and unknown, a wanderer which cannot endure repose and delights chiefly in novelty."

"We must be especially careful in choosing people, and deciding whether they are worth devoting a part of our lives to them, whether the sacrifice of our time makes a difference to them. For some people actually charge us for our services to them."

"In any situation in life you will find delight 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."

"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, provided that fickleness, that fault most inimical to tranquility, does not get hold of us."
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