Title : On The Shortness Of Life
Author : Seneca the Younger
Date written: 49 AD
Publisher : Visit a Library / online
OK, back to my roots. In the last book review (Astrophysics for People in A Hurry) I mentioned that I failed out of the sciences. Well I found myself in the humanities afterwards studying philosophy at the University of Lagos. Although I stumbled into philosophy, it is perhaps the best thing that happened to me educationally but we would discuss that later.
There is a common joke in the academia about philosophy. It goes……
“What do you do with a philosophy degree? Become a philosophy professor, become a philosophy assistant professor or be a research student in philosophy”
A bit cynical but not far from the truth. Hence, I have since moved on from philosophy since my first degree. However, I find that my world view have been mounded by my days listening and studying the lives and teachings of great philosopher.
The stoics especially left an impression on my thinking and why not? After-all, I wrote my undergrad thesis on Immanuel Kant and his moral philosophy. The stoics in opinion are the quintessential example of the necessity of philosophic teachings in our modern civilization.
To broaden your understanding of stoicism, I have added this Youtube video I find useful…
Now to Seneca and On The Shortness Of Life. Seneca is what you will call second generation stoic philosopher and On The Shortness Of Life is one of his more popular works. This essay is quite short and easy to read. There is little to no rambling within the texts of this work so you can be sure of a productive half an hour of reading. On The Shortness Of Life has been described as a powerful insights into the art of living, the importance of reason and morality.
Lessons from On The Shortness Of Life
Life is not short. For ages and till date, people say “Life is Short”. Seneca opposes this premise. Seneca believes life is long enough, people just don’t begin to live life early enough to enjoy life. Seneca writes and I quote…
“It’s not that we have a short time to live, but that we waste much of it. Life is long enough, and it’s been given to us in generous measure for accomplishing the greatest things, if the whole of it is well invested. But when life is squandered through soft and careless living, and when it’s spent on no worthwhile pursuit, death finally presses and we realize that the life which we didn’t notice passing has passed away.”
It is futile to battle the unchangeable. Seneca argues that one of the many wastes in life is complaining about ones situation instead of working towards changing it. In the words of great stoic philosophers, all men would die, but the foolish man dies whining.
Success requires a hundred percent concentration. Seneca postulates that a preoccupied/distracted mind is not capable of mastering any discipline. Seneca believes a mind preoccupied with living is on an herculean task because there is no knowledge that is adder to acquire.
“But learning how to live takes a whole lifetime, and — you’ll perhaps be more surprised at this — it takes a whole lifetime to learn how to die.”
Seneca the Younger, 49 AD
One ought to do away with time wasters. Time wasters, ranging from hobbies, vices and people can impede personal growth since every second spend on these is time not spent on the mastery of important endeavors.
Finally, it is wise to build upon one’s natural strength. A life of reflection would expose what you are naturally good at . Then, it is up to everyone to maximize capitalize upon their natural strengths.
In conclusion, On The Shortness Of Life is worth reading. It is probably easier to assimilate this essay if you have a basic idea of stoic philosophy. Having said that, this essay is quite practical. In modern literature, it would be classed as a self help book.