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On the Shortness of Life

Life Is Long If You Know How To Use It

By Seneca
10-minute read
Audio available
On the Shortness of Life: Life Is Long If You Know How To Use It by Seneca

On the Shortness of Life (49 AD) is an essay on how to appreciate life – and how to use it. These blinks show you what is truly valuable in this world and how to avoid getting distracted by unimportant matters. They’ll show you where genuine happiness comes from and why working hard will not lead to a tranquil and satisfied mind.

  • Workaholics who never have any time for anything
  • Thinkers trying to decide what it means to live a good life
  • Anyone who wants to be inspired to learn and read more

Lucius Annaeus Seneca, or, as he is better known, Seneca the Younger, was a Roman philosopher and statesman during the first century AD. Seneca was part of the philosophical school of Stoicism. He wrote a broad range of works, including essays, letters, tragedies, a biography of his father and even a Menippean satire.

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On the Shortness of Life

Life Is Long If You Know How To Use It

By Seneca
  • Read in 10 minutes
  • Audio & text available
  • Contains 6 key ideas
On the Shortness of Life: Life Is Long If You Know How To Use It by Seneca
Synopsis

On the Shortness of Life (49 AD) is an essay on how to appreciate life – and how to use it. These blinks show you what is truly valuable in this world and how to avoid getting distracted by unimportant matters. They’ll show you where genuine happiness comes from and why working hard will not lead to a tranquil and satisfied mind.

Key idea 1 of 6

Life is short if you waste it on trivialities.

People have always been good at wasting time. Most people spend the majority of their time engaged in trivial activities – even if these activities don’t seem trivial to them.

But the thing about trivial activities is that they make life seem short. For instance, life will seem especially short if you only pursue status or power. You’ll always have your eye on some future goal and won’t be able to enjoy your current situation.

People tend to think that, once they’ve achieved all their goals, they’ll have time to enjoy life. But it rarely works out this way. What usually happens is this: people spend their life preparing for life.

The Emperor Augustus is a case in point. He spoke endlessly of quietude, of the calm and rest he’d enjoy upon retirement from his public duties. But this longed-for day never came. The Roman Empire depended on him, and he could never pull himself away.

Life will also seem short to those who pursue a life of luxury. These people can't even enjoy their indulgences. They’ll always be thinking of how their current thrill will soon end, or where their next one will come from.

But worst of all are those who seek glory after death. These people get wrapped up in planning for a posterity that’s not even theirs. They'll be thinking of that pithy remark in their obituary. Or they’ll draw up plans for giant tombs. But funerals ought to be simple symbolic affairs. In fact, there is nothing more suitable than a single burning candle, an apt symbol for the shortness of human life.

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