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On the Shortness of Life: Life Is Long if You Know How to Use It

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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.

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106 pages, Paperback

First published January 1, 49

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Lucius Annaeus Seneca (often known simply as Seneca or Seneca the Younger); ca. 4 BC – 65 AD) was a Roman Stoic philosopher, statesman, and dramatist of the Silver Age of Latin literature. He was tutor and later advisor to emperor Nero, who later forced him to commit suicide for alleged complicity in the Pisonian conspiracy to have him assassinated.

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Profile Image for Glenn Russell.
1,356 reviews11.8k followers
February 17, 2023

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, never once since those early teenage years have I ever been bored. 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 with 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.
Profile Image for Bill Kerwin.
Author 1 book81.5k followers
July 6, 2019

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...
Profile Image for Florencia.
649 reviews1,912 followers
January 28, 2021
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.




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.
Profile Image for Samra Yusuf.
60 reviews398 followers
October 21, 2018
"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?"
Profile Image for Abubakar Mehdi.
158 reviews221 followers
November 8, 2015
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.


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.
Profile Image for Mark  Porton.
384 reviews325 followers
April 3, 2022
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. So he did.

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.
Profile Image for Guille.
756 reviews1,543 followers
May 15, 2022

“De vivir, se ha de aprender toda la vida, y lo que acaso te sorprenda más, toda la vida se ha de aprender a morir”
Conciliar una buena vida con una muerte segura es la principal tarea que tiene todo el que aborde este complicado tema de la felicidad. Hay quién intenta que nada le afecte, hay quién niega la mayor y afirma que la vida se extiende más allá de la muerte, y hay quién, como Séneca, nos dice que la vida se acaba, sí, pero que es lo suficientemente larga como para llegar satisfechos al último momento: “no es que tengamos poco tiempo, sino que perdemos mucho”. El problema es que mientras vivimos lo hacemos como si fuéramos inmortales, desperdiciando el tiempo. Parece ser que para Séneca, vivir siempre bajo la idea de la fragilidad de nuestra vida no es un peso que nos impida vivir plenamente.
“A uno, insaciable avaricia le señorea; a otro, hacendosa diligencia en tareas inútiles; el uno rezuma vino, el otro languidece en la inercia; fatiga a un tercero la ambición colgada siempre del juicio ajeno; a un cuarto, la temeraria codicia de un negocio, que con el sueño de la ganancia le lleva por todas las tierras y todos los mares. A algunos atormenta la prisa de las batallas y nunca cesan de preparar peligros ajenos y de ansiarse por los propios; y no faltan quienes, en el ingrato obsequio de los superiores, se consumen en servidumbre voluntaria. A muchos abrevió la vida la envidia de la fortuna ajena o el afanoso cuidado de la propia; los más, sin objetivo fijo, flotan asendereados de aquí para allá en proyectos siempre nuevos por una ligereza vaga, inconstante y consigo misma displicente.”
Seneca ensalza la tranquilidad y son las pasiones enemigas del estable reposo, y contra ellas hay que luchar, no con “impetuoso denuedo”, sino con astucia sutil; nos advierte contra todos aquellos que intentan invadir nuestra vida, contra la vista puesta en el futuro o en el pasado olvidando el presente, y nos ensalza la dedicada a la sabiduría, la que aprovecha la experiencia de los muchos que vinieron antes.
"Permitido nos es disputar con Sócrates, dudar con Carnéades, reposamos con Epicuro, vencer con los Estoicos la naturaleza humana y superarla con los Cínicos"
Seneca nos mueve a buscar una ocupación que, sin apartarnos de nosotros mismos, nos evite el tedio y el desasosiego del alma, que no soporta la ociosidad, una ocupación de la que sentirse satisfecho y orgulloso. Séneca tiene como mejor empleo el servicio a la república, esto es, a los conciudadanos, conquistando, de paso, de ellos su afecto.
“Mísera es, ciertamente, la condición de los hombres atareados; pero misérrima es la de aquellos que ni aun a sus ocupaciones propias se consagran, que duermen a sueño ajeno, caminan a paso de otro, y a quienes se les impone el odio y el amor, que son las más libres de todas las cosas.”
Profile Image for Ryan Holiday.
Author 96 books13.2k followers
July 6, 2012
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.
Profile Image for 7jane.
678 reviews256 followers
May 6, 2018
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?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.
Profile Image for Sara.
6 reviews4 followers
October 2, 2007
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."
Profile Image for Nataliya Yaneva.
165 reviews323 followers
January 13, 2021
Повечето от нас живеят така, като че ли ще живеят вечно, отбелязва Сенека преди повече от 2000 години. Малко се е променило оттогава в това отношение. Пилеем време сякаш има откъде да си го набавим, когато пясъчните часовници на живота ни се поизпразнят. Нещо повече. Когато ни остане свободно време, се чудим как да го „убием“ или „запълним“. Представата за убиването на време ми се струва толкова абсурдна и пагубна, че настръхвам, като се замисля за нея. Щом така държим да умъртвим редките отрязъци от време, които понякога са си само и единствено наши, тогава за какво жалим, обръщайки се назад и въздишайки „Как бързо лети времето“?

„Времето е пари“, казал Бенджамин Франклин в средата на 18-ти век, като имал най-общо предвид, че не трябва много да се моташ, защото ще пропуснеш да напечелиш въпросните. Не съм от хората, които гордо заявяват, че парите не носят щастие, а тайно се чудят как да свържат двата края и да се докопат до повечко средства. Може да пробвате например да попитате майка на дете, което се нуждае от животоспасяващо лечение, дали парите няма да ѝ донесат щастие. Това, което ще иска да си откупи тази майка с пари, всъщност е време. Времето е най-ценното, което притежаваме и единственото, по отношение на което си струва да сме стиснати, продължава Сенека. Тогава защо толкова хора с неохота се разделят с парите си, но без проблем прекарват свободния си следобед в безмозъчни занимания? В кооперацията срещу нас например има едни хора, у които по всяко време на денонощието телевизорът е пуснат. Може генерално да бъркам и да гледат Discovery и History Channel за обогатяване на светогледа, но някак искрено ме съмнява.

Още нещо, в което Сенека обвинява съвременниците си, е че всеки някак избутва живота, като копнее по бъдещето и се отегчава от настоящето. Не е ли толкова вярно, че докато сме тук, често си мислим къде и с кого друг можем да бъдем? Тази мисъл кореспондира и с философските идеи на Адам Филипс в “Missing Out: In Praise of the Unlived Life” , че сме непрестанно впримчени между реалния си живот и този, който си мислим, че някога, някъде имаме потенциала да изживеем. Опасна идея впрочем, защото никога не сме напълно тук и никога не сме напълно ние. В най-добрия случай сме средно аритметичното между истинското си Аз и онова, което сме в представите си.

Последната точка, която бих искала да засегна, за да не се разлея прекомерно, е критиката на Сенека върху прекалената, но изпразнена от съдържание заетост. Продуктивността е немалък бич на нашето време и хората са свикнали да си я носят като медал. Да си продуктивен е почти толкова модерно, колкото да си „мотивиран“, да „случваш“ разни неща и работиш по „проекти“. „Какво правиш?“. „Работя по един проект“, отвръщаш, докато се бориш с чувала за боклук, за да идеш впоследствие до кофата. Та продуктивността заради самата продуктивност анализира Сенека. Онази, в която все си се суетил, не си стоял без работа, но накрая се оказва, че нищо не си свършил. Просто си поотсъствал още час-два от живота си. Бертранд Ръсел също има размисли по този повод – какъв е смисълът, пита той, да имаме всички повече свободно време, ако сме забравили как да го ползваме? Смятам, че утопичните идеи за равенство и базови доходи за всички ще се сбъднат вероятно след много време в някоя далечна галактика, но все пак това е добър въпрос, който си струва да си зададем сега. Защото „на „Бъди готов!“ пионерът отговаря с „Винаги готов!“ (из Уикипедия).
Profile Image for Amir Tesla.
161 reviews669 followers
October 27, 2017
داشتن یک فلسفه مشخص باعث می شه آدم زندگیش نظم بهتری داشته باشه و خیلی راحت تصمیمات درستی رو (مطابق با اون فلسفه) بگیره.
سنکا یکی از بزرگان فلسفه رواقی بوده و اساس فلسفه رواقی برا آرامش بنا شده. در همین راستا فیلسوفان رواقی اصولی رو پیدا و ترویج کردن که به کار گرفتنشون فارغ از هر شرایط و نا ملایمتی های روزگار منجر به آرامش همیشگی می شه.

در باب کوتاه بودن زندگی، کتابی هست که درون سنکا آموزه ها و پندهایی رو به دوستان و مادرش ارائه می کنه که در نهایت به آرامش خاطر برسند.

I. On the Shortness of Life
در بخش اول کتاب سنکا به یکی از دوستاش به نام پالینوس در مورد کوتاه بودن (یا نبودن زندگی) توصیه هایی می کنه:
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.
سنکا تاکیید زیاد داره بر روی این موضوع که داشته هایمان (زمان، ثروت) رو چه طوری استفاده می کنیم.
Wealth, however modest, if entrusted to a good custodian, increases with use, so out lifetime extends amply if you manage it properly
. در خصوص زمان بیشترین تاکیید سنکا روی این هست که چه طور صرفش می کنیم و می گه مردم خیلی راحت زمان رو هدر میدن. اگر از کسی پولی خواسته بشه دادنش براش سخته، ولی همه ما به راحتی وقت ارزشمند خودمون رو به هر دلیلی، به هر مقداری در اختیار هر کسی قرار می دیم.
Believe me, it is the sign of a great man, and one who is above human error, not to allow his time to be frittered away: he has the longest possible life simply because whatever time was available he devoted entirely to himself. None of it lay fallow and neglected, none of it under another's control; for being an extremely thrifty guardian of his time he never found anything for which it was worth exchanging. So he had enough time, but those into whose lives the public have made great inroads inevitably have too little.All those who call you to themselves draw you away from youself.
کلا سنکا معتقد هست که آدم باید از زمان فراغت درست استفاده کنه و بهترین استفاده از زمان فراغت رو اختصاص دادن اون به فلسفه و مطالعه می دونه
َ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.
در خصوصی اینکه خیلی ها عدم موفقیتشون رو داشتن پدر مادری می دونن که در برگزیدنشون انتخابی نداشتن می گه:
We are in the habit of saying that it was not in our power to choose the parents who were allotted to us, that they were given to us by chance. But we can choose whose children we would like to be. There are households of the noblest intellects: choose the one into which you wish to be adopted, and you will inherit not only their name, but their property too.
یکی از دلایلی که سنکا به خاطرش تاکیید بر خوندن و یادگیری داره اینه که می گه هر مال و ثروت و اندوخته ای حتی سلامتی ممکنه در هر لحظه از آدم گرفته بشه. اما در نهایت هیچ چیز نمی تونه این علم و تسلی هایی که به همراه فلسفه میاد رو از شخص صلب کنه.
II. Helvia
بخش دوم کتاب نامه هست که سنکا بعد از تبعید شدنش جهت تسلی خاطر برای مادرش می نویسه و ابتدای این نامه واقعا برای من شیرین بود:
Moreover, although I consulted all the works written by the most famous authors to control and moderate grief, I couldn't find any example of someone who had comforted his own dear ones when he himself was the subject of their grief.

یکی از تکنیک های اصلی رواقیون برای حفظ آرامش، تصورات منفی هست. یعنی کلیه شرایط بدی که ممکنه برای زندگیشون پیش بیاد رو مرتبا مرور می کنن، از دست دادن جاه و مقام، ثروت، سلامت، عزیزان، با این دیدگاه که اگر آماده این مسائل باشید، هم قدرشون رو بیشتر می دونید و هم در صورت رخ دادن اتفاقات بد آماده اون ها هستید و ضربه کمتری رو متحمل می شید.
Never have I trusted Fortune, even when she seemed to offer peace. All those blessings which she kindly bestowed on me - money, public office, influence I relegated to a place whence she could claim them back without bothering me. I kept a wide gap between them and me, with the result that she has taken them away, not torn them away. No man has been shattered by the blows of Fortune unless he was first deceived by her favours. Those who loved her gifts as if they were their own for ever, who wanted to be adrrlelrd on account of them, are laid low and grieve when the false and transient pleasures desert their vain and childish minds, ignorant of every stable pleasure. But the man who is not puffed up in good times does not collapse either when they change.
یکی دیگه از آموزه های رواقیون قناعت داشتن هست. گرچه به خاطر اصول اخلاقی محکنی که موعظشون هم می کردن همیشه به جایگاه و ثروت های زیادی هم می رسیدن، اما تاکیدشون همیشه بر عدم وابستگی به این مسائل گزرا و نا پایدار بوده.
Well did Marcellus, then, endure his exile, nor did his change of abode cause any change at all in his mind though poverty attended it. 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. For how little is needed to support a man! And who can lack this if he has any virtue at all ? As far as I am concerned, I know that I have lost not wealth but distractions. The body's needs are few: it wants to be free from cold, to banish hunger and thirst with nourishment; if we long for anything more we are exerting ourselves to serve our vices, not our needs.
مثل نیچه، رواقیون هم خیلی به استقبال سختی ها و مشقت می رفتن چرا که معقتقد هستند هر سختی اگر آدم سربلند ازش بیرون بیاد در همه زمینه ها قوی ترش می کنه:
If you have the strength to tackle any one aspect of misfortune you can tackle all. When once virtue has toughened the mind it renders it invulnerable on every side. If greed, the most overmastering plague of the human race, has relaxed its grip, ambition will not stand in your way. If you regard your last day not as a punishment but as a law of nature, the breast from which you have banished the dread of death no fear will dare to enter. If you consider that sexual desire was given to man not for enjoyment but for the propagation of the race, once you are free of this violent and destructive passion rooted in your vitals, every other desire will leave you undisturbed. Reason routs the vices not one by one but all together:
در خصوص مواردی که شخصی عزیزی رو از دست می ده توصیه سنکا اعتدال هست، نه خودتون رو از غم خفه کنید و نه بی تفاوت باشید.
In case you've been deprived of someone dear to you, to be afflicted with endless sorrow at the loss is foolish self-indulgence, and to feel none is inhuman callousness. The best compromise between love and good sense is both to feel longing and to conquer it. The grief that has been conquered by reason is calmed for ever.
در نهایت سنکا بعد از اینکه برای مادرش توضیح می ده تبعید چیز بدی نیست بهش می گه وقتت رو با آدم های خوبی مثل خواهرت بگذرون و بیشتر از همه چیز مادر، رو بیار به لیبرال استادیز یا خوندن فلسفه. چرا که آرامشی که ازش خواهی گرفت برای همیشه با تو خواهد ماند.
III. On Tranquillity of Mind
یکی دیگه از توصیه ها وو خط مشی های رواقیون خدمت به هم نوع ها و خدمت به مردم در دستگاه های سیاسی هست و اغلب اساتید رواقی مثل سنکا، مارکوس اوریلیوس و ... در رده های بالای سیاسی فعالیت داشتن. بخش سوم کتاب شامل توصیه های سنکا برای حفظ آرامش ذهن به یکی از دوستانش به نام سرنوس هست
در خصوص بهترین استفاده از زمان، مطالعه و داشتن دست آوردهای مهم در زندگی، این جمله یکی از بهترین هایی هست که تا به حال خوندم:
Often a very old man has no other proof of his long life than his age...
رویکرد یا طرز فکر و انتخاب یک دیدگاه درست به مسائل زندگی هم یکی دیگه از آموزه های اصلی رواقیون هست. مثلا در راستای خدمت به جامعه، هیچ عذر و بهونه ای رو نمی پذیرن و می گن در هر شرایطی اگر درست فکر کنید، می تونید وظایفتون رو به جا بیارید و مطعاقبا از حس مفید بودنی که به همراه داره لذت ببرید:
Even if a man's hands are cut off, he finds he can yet serve his side by standing firm and cheering them on. You should do something like that: if Fortune has removed you from a leading role in public life you should still stand firm and cheer others on, and if someone grips your throat, still stand firm and help though silent.
همچنین در انتخاب همنشین هم خیلی سخت گیر هستن.
you must especially avoid those who are gloomy and always lamenting, and who grasp at every pretext for complaint. Though a man's loyalty and kindness may not be in doubt, a companion who is agitated and groaning about everything is an enemy to peace of mind.
کلام آخرمن نزدیکی بسیار زیادی بین فلسفه رواقی و روانشناسی شناخت درمانی تا به حال پیدا کردم. هر دو تاکیید اصلیشون به شیوه فکر کردن و انتخاب دیدگاه درست هست و هردو خیلی روی تمرکز بر روی دایره ای که روشون کنترل داریم دارند. فلسفه رواقی الان در غرب به شدت در حال گسترش هست و بهترین مرحم برای محیط های کاری بسیار رقابتی و پر استرس اون ها شده. نثر کتاب چون یه مقدار قدیمیه پر هست از کلامتی که احتمالا بار اول هست بهشون بر می خورید و از این نظر خوندنش رو یکم مشکل می کنه. در کل کتاب لذت بخشی بود و سرشار هست از پندهایی که به کار گرفتنشون زندگی رو برای آدم شیرین تر می کنه.
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.
November 11, 2019
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.
Profile Image for Jon Nakapalau.
4,915 reviews683 followers
May 2, 2023
Beautiful meditation on life and the choices we make on how to live. Seneca is one of my favorite philosophers - you get the feeling that he has nothing to prove - he is just telling you what he thinks; take it or leave it. All his points are really simple yet very deep. Highest recommendation.
Profile Image for فؤاد.
1,056 reviews1,721 followers
January 27, 2020
کتاب مخصوصاً در نامه سوم سرشار از اشتباه بود، کلمات دو بار تکرار شده بودند، جمله ها ناقص و نیمه تمام بودند و... نمی دانم مشکل از حروف‌چینی فیدیبو بود یا اصل کتاب هم همین مشکل را دارد.
Profile Image for Tom Quinn.
545 reviews147 followers
April 16, 2020
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.
Profile Image for Paradoxe.
404 reviews108 followers
February 7, 2017
Ποιος είμαι εγώ για να μιλήσω για το Σενέκα;

Αν κάποιος με ρωτούσε μερικές ημέρες πριν τι είναι η φιλοσοφία, ποια η φύση της, πιθανότατα θα έπιανα ίσως κάποιο παλμό, ή όχι. Είμαι ένας επιδερμικός ερευνητής, τίποτα περισσότερο. Αυτό το βιβλίο είναι η Φιλοσοφία, δεν είναι χάρτης, αλλά προσφέρει μια παρηγοριά, σου δίνει φίλους, σου αναγνωρίζει πως η κενότητα που βλέπεις γύρω σου πραγματικά υπάρχει και έχεις όπλο να την αντιμετωπίσεις, δεν είσαι ανήμπορος. Για να αφουγκραστείς μέσα σου όμως πρέπει να έχεις δει τον κόσμο αλλά πρέπει και να έχεις διαβάσει. Η Φιλοσοφία είναι τρόπος ζωής και εργαλείο για α διευρύνεις το πνεύμα σου και το πνεύμα των ανθρώπων που αγαπάς με ευγενείς συζητήσεις.

Νιώθω πως αυτό το βιβλίο με ξεπερνάει, όχι πως δεν το κατάλαβα, αλλά ενστάλαξε μέσα μου ένα κόκκο γνώσης και εισέπραξα φροντίδα, ανιδιοτέλεια και τη δύναμη των λόγων – πράξεων του Σενέκα.

Εδώ συναντάμε και τη θαυμαστή φράση του Σενέκα, να ζεις την κάθε μέρα σου σα να ‘ναι ολόκληρη η ζωή σου, εδώ μας στρέφει το ερώτημα: μένει κάτι απ’ το παρελθόν σου φίλε; Κι αν απ’ αυτό δεν απορρέει λύπη για τη σπατάλη του, τότε ο δρόμος που πήρες είναι ορθός. Σου εφιστά την προσοχή στην ουσία της γνώσης: γνώσης είναι πως 2 + 3 = 5, βοηθάει στην εκγύμναση του νου, σε πρακτικά ζητήματα. Όμως το να ξέρεις ότι τα πρώτα 5 πράγματα που μετρήθηκαν ήταν βότσαλα δε σου προσφέρει κάτι, ακόμη λιγότερα θα σου πρόσφερε το να ξέρεις πως ήταν βαμμένα κόκκινα.

Σου μαθαίνει πως την ανάμνηση δεν πρέπει να τη φοβάσαι, πρέπει να τη ζεις με όλες τις αισθήσεις σου. Μας εφιστά την προσοχή πως τα καμώματα των θεών ως εμπνευστές και σε μια επέκταση θεοί είναι και όλα αυτά τα τωρινά επιφανή για τους όποιους λόγους άτομα που μιμούμαστε πως εγείρουν πάθη τα οποία δεν είναι καν δικά μας μόνο για να δικαιολογηθούν κάπως οι αδυναμίες μας.

Άλλο σημαντικό να αναγνωρίζουμε το τυχαίο και να μην είμαστε θύματα του, οι βάσεις των θέλω μας δε μπορούν να στηρίζονται στη ροή των πραγμάτων αλλά να πατάνε γερά στη γνώση και την εμπειρία.

Είναι και ο Σενέκας ένας ακόμη που χρησιμοπ��ιώντας το παράδειγμα του Αυγούστου με τα παιδιά του, μας ξαναλέει αυτό που έχουν πει άλλοι σπουδαίοι άνθρωποι, ποιος μπορεί να γίνει δικαστής αν δεν έχει βιώσει τη φύση του προβλήματος που θέλει να κρίνει.

Αναγνωρίζει τον κάθε Φιλόσοφο που υπήρξε, υπάρχει και θα υπάρχει ως ένα φίλο μας στον οποίο μπορούμε να στρεφόμαστε και να μας απαντά πάντα, να είναι δίπλα μας ανιδιοτελώς, έτοιμος να προσφέρει τη γνώση του ως μάθηση, να μας μαλώσει τρυφερά, να μας συγχαρεί, να μας βοηθήσει να σκεφτούμε. Μόνο που όλα αυτά απαιτούν μια μεγάλη θυσία, την αυτάρκεια. Όχι το αποτράβηγμα απ’ τη ζωή και τους ανθρώπους, κάθε άλλο, δε θέλει να στρέψουμε την πλάτη μας στους ανθρώπους, παρά μόνο σε όλα αυτά που τρώνε χρόνο πολύτιμο απ’ την αναζήτηση του εαυτού, της ζωής, των αυθεντικών, ακόμη και την αναζήτηση του θείου και του απολύτου.

Είναι στο χέρι μας να αναζητήσουμε όλα αυτά που έχουν διάρκεια, δεν είναι κενοφανή, θα είναι εκεί και όταν φτάσουμε κουρασμένοι, δε θα έχουν απομακρυνθεί, δε θα έχουν αλλάξει, θα αποτελούν πάντα μέρος της επιθυμίας, της δίψας μας. Μας ζητάει να περιφρουρήσουμε αυτό που δε βλέπουμε και σπαταλάμε απλόχερα, το χρόνο ΜΑΣ, επιτρέποντας σε άλλους να τον κατέχουν με μια ασχημάτιστη ιδέα πως μετά από δεκαπέντε, είκοσι, τριάντα χρόνια θα ζήσουμε για ‘μας, θα αναπαυθούμε, θα σχολάσουμε. Αλλά και πάλι ποια είναι η φύση της σχόλης, αν όχι η ανάπαυλα από κάθετί μικρό;

Δεν υπάρχει μεγαλύτερο έγκλημα κατά του εαυτού μας, μας λέει απ’ τη μελλοντική υπόσχεση, την Αναβολή, του στερούμε την καινούργια μέρα, του αφαιρούμε το παρόν, το μόνο βέβαιο. Τέλος όπως λέει κι ο Σενέκας τα άσπρα μαλλιά κι οι ρυτίδες δε δείχνουν πως κάποιος έζησε πολύ, αλλά μόνο ότι υπήρξε στη ζωή επί πολύ. Σαν το ναυτικό που μόλις βγαίνει απ’ το λιμάνι πέφτει σε θύελλα, δεν ήταν μεγάλο το ταξίδι του, η ταλαιπωρία του ήταν μεγάλη.

΄΄από ένα χείμαρρο που τρέχει ορμητικά αλλά δε θα τρέχει για πάντα, πρέπει να πίνεις γρήγορα΄΄

΄΄δεν έχει σημασία πόσος χρόνος σου δίνεται, αν δεν υπάρχει κάποιος τόπος για να εγκατασταθεί, ξεγλιστρά μέσα απ’ τις τρύπες και τις ρωγμές του ανθρώπινου μυαλού. Η παρούσα περίοδος είναι πολύ σύντομη, πάντοτε βρίσκεται σε κίνηση, συνεχώς κυλάει και ξεχύνεται μπροστά, πριν καν έρθει, παύει να υπάρχει και δεν επιδέχεται μεγαλύτερη καθυστέρηση απ’ όση ο κόσμος ή τα αστέρια, που η συνεχής κίνηση τους ουδέποτε τους επιτρέπει, να παραμείνουν στο ίδιο σημείο΄΄

΄΄οι άνθρωποι δε σχολάζουν, συντηρούν απλώς μια εφησυχαστική απασχόληση΄΄

΄΄Απ’ όλους τους ανθρώπους μόνο όσοι βρίσκουν χρόνο να τον αφιερώσουν στη φιλοσοφία σχολάζουν, μόνο αυτοί ζουν πραγματικά. Και τούτο γιατί τέτοιοι άνθρωποι δεν αρκούνται στην περιφρούρηση της δικής τους ζωής, προσαρτούν και όλους τους προηγούμενους αιώνες στο δικό τους, όλα τα χρόνια που έχουν προηγηθεί, προστίθενται στην παρακαταθήκη τους. Αν δεν είμαστε εντελώς αγνώμονες θα πρέπει να παραδεχτούμε ότι οι επιφανέστατοι αυτοί θεμελιωτές κάθε ιερής σκέψης γεννήθηκαν για μας, για μας διαμόρφωσαν έναν τρόπο ζωής. Με τον ξένο μόχθο οδηγηθήκαμε στη θέαση των ωραιότερων πραγμάτων, τα οποία οι άνθρωποι αυτοί ανέσυραν από το σκότος και το έφεραν στο φως. Κανένας αιώνας δεν παρέμεινε κλειστός για ‘μας, σε όλους τους αιώνες έχουμε τώρα πρόσβαση και αν θελήσουμε να περάσουμε πέρα από τα στενά όρια της ανθρώπινης αδυναμίας με τη δύναμη του νου, υπάρχει ένα μεγάλο πεδίο χρόνου, μέσα στο οποίο μπορούμε να κινηθούμε. Έχουμε τη δυνατότητα να αντιτείνουμε στο Σωκράτη, να αμφιβάλλουμε με τον Καρνεάδη, να βρούμε τη γαλήνη με τον Επίκουρο, να νικήσουμε την ανθρώπινη φύση με τους Στωικούς, να την ξεπεράσουμε με τους Κυνικούς… Εκείνο πάντως που μπορούμε σίγουρα να πούμε είναι ότι μόνο όσοι θέλουν να έχουν το Ζήνωνα και τον Πυθαγόρα και το Δημόκριτο και όλους τους άλλους σοφούς δασκάλων των ελευθέριων σπουδών, αλλά και τον Αριστοτέλη και το Θεόφραστο, στενότατους φίλους τους καθημερινά, μόνο αυτοί είναι αφοσιωμένοι στα πραγματικά καθήκοντα της ζωής. Κανένας από τους παραπάνω σοφούς δε θα απουσιάσει, κανένας τους δε θα κάνει το λάθος ν’ αφήσει τον επισκέπτη του να φύγει λιγότερο ευτυχισμένος και λιγότερο στραμμένος προς τον εσώτερο εαυτό του απ’ όσο ήταν όταν ήρθε, κανένας τους δε θα επιτρέψει σ’ αυτόν να φύγει από το σπίτι του με άδεια χέρια. Όλοι θα επιτύχουν να επικοινωνήσουν μαζί τους, είτε νύχτα, είτε μέρα΄΄.
Profile Image for BuenoBomb aka Andre Bueno.
126 reviews121 followers
February 19, 2015
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?”
Profile Image for Frankie.
231 reviews36 followers
November 30, 2012
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)
October 22, 2021
"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.
Profile Image for Priyanka.
38 reviews2 followers
March 22, 2015
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

Profile Image for Pavle.
413 reviews141 followers
May 31, 2016
Po svemu sudeći, Seneka je bio nešto kao lajf kouč antičkog Rima.

Jedan od osnivača stoicizma, njegova filozofija je vrlo zdravorazumska i uglavnom se svodi, barem u esejima prisutnim u ovoj knjižici, na pokušaj razumevanja ljudskog odnosa prema vremenu i sopstvenim životima. Iako mu je svaka apsolutno na mestu, a glas elokventan i nekako nežan, ne mogu da kažem da sam nešto oduševljen, pošto te ideje uglavnom ne pripadaju baš naročito visoko intelektualnom spektru filozofije. Kao što rekoh, sasvim zdravorazumski. A i mišljenja sam da filozofija nije za čitanje, već za (uživu) diskusiju.

Ono što me je vuklo kroz knjigu i što mi je bilo beskrajno interesantnije od same ideologije stoicizma, jeste prikaz jednog antičkog naroda (i njegovih mana, načina života itd.) koji je IDENTIČAN našem. A ma apsolutno sve je isto. Što bi rekli, isto sranje, drugo (podjednako bušno) pakovanje. Koliko je zapravo poražavajuće shvatiti da se za dve hiljade godina nazovi evolucije ništa nije dogodilo. Mislim da smo čak i gori. Trudim se da ne budem cinik, ali svi znamo kako je stari Rim završio.

Profile Image for Laura Noggle.
677 reviews387 followers
July 6, 2020
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.”
Profile Image for Ian.
722 reviews65 followers
July 27, 2018
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.
Profile Image for Frank Hidalgo-Gato Durán.
Author 10 books213 followers
May 14, 2021
„No es que tengamos poco tiempo, sino que perdemos mucho.“
“El mayor impedimento al vivir es la espera, que, por estar pendiente al día de mañana, pierde el día de hoy”.
Este es uno de esos libros con el que uno debe tomar constantemente anotaciones. Consejos por doquier que ayudan a uno a vivir más feliz.
La filosofía del particular arte de vivir en temas como la naturaleza aplicada al ideal humano, la razón y su supremacía.
Este libro se puede convertir en uno de esos de cabecera para consultar de vez en cuando. Sí que se puede ser feliz sin temor.
Sobre estas páginas el filósofo nos anima a administrar bien el tiempo, a aprovecharlo, apartándonos del exceso y de la negligencia, del vicio y del lucro, de la ambición y de la ligereza, de la soberbia, del negocio y de lo superfluo.
Magnifico libro!
Profile Image for امیر لطیفی.
159 reviews175 followers
June 18, 2018
خلاصه‌ی کتاب پند و توصیه برای خودسازی و آرامش فارغ از شرایط و محیط است. درازگویی فراوان دارد. شاید کل مطلب در نصف همین حجم جمع می‌شد. بیشتر اندرزنامه‌ست و پند تا فلسفه به معنای تلاشی برای ارائه‌ی نگاهی دقیق و قابل رد و قبول.

سنکا از رواقیون است. مسیر اصلی فلسفه‌ رواقی در دوران طلایی خود، به سمت فلسفه‌ای برای عمل و زندگی حرکت کرد. این کتاب سنکا نمود چنین حرکتی است و تقریباً تماماً فقط پندهایی است برای زندگی.

به لحاظ تاریخی و جایگاه فلسفه‌ی رواقی در تاریخ اندیشه، کتاب حائز اهمیتی‌ست. پیام کتاب روشن و تکراری است و برای انسان مدرن چیز زیادی ندارد.

گرچه توصیه به فاصله گرفتن از شرایط و احوال زمانه، صبوری، و رجوع به خود و تلاش برای صلح با دنیای بیرون، توصیه‌ای خردمندانه است ولی نمی‌توان توقع داشت، همه چیز به همین راحتی از ذهن شروع شود و در همان ذهن سامان یابد. نمی‌توانیم از انسان بخواهیم به دور خود پیله‌ای بپیچید تا از گزند دنیای بیرون برای همیشه معصون بماند، آسان بگیرد و به همه چیز لبخند بزند و منتظر باشیم چنین کند و چنان شود.

به هر صورت چیز که بیش از همه از سنکا بخاطرم می‌ماند، اصرار او به قدر دانستن زندگی کوتاه و زمان است و این جمله:
“Often a very old man has no other proof of his long life than his age.”

نسخه‌ای که من خواندم را طاقچه به صورت دیجیتال منتشر کرده بود. پر از غلط‌های املائی و گاهی نگارشی بود. نمی‌دانم اصل کتاب هم چنین است یا نه. ولی غلط‌های املائی فراوان، بیشتر غلط تایپی و دیجیتال به نظر می‌آمدند.
Profile Image for Mario Tomic.
159 reviews309 followers
October 7, 2014
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.
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