Seneca’s On the Shortness of Life

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A series of short audio meditations on Seneca’s on treatise On the Shortness of Life.

I: Is life too short? Depends on what you do with it.

I: It is not that we have a short space of time, but that we waste much of it.

II: The part of life we really live is small. For all the rest of existence is not life, but merely time.

III: We are very careful with the management of our money, but far less so with that of our most precious commodity: time.

III: Examine how you spend your time, decide how to improve, and don’t wait until tomorrow to chance.

III: Are you not ashamed to set apart for wisdom only that time which cannot be devoted to any business?

VII: 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.

VII: 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.

VIII-IX: Life will follow the path it started upon, and will neither reverse nor check its course; it will make no noise, it will not remind you of its swiftness.

IX: The greatest hindrance to living is expectancy, which depends upon the morrow and wastes to-day.

IX: Old age surprises people while their minds are still childish, and they come to it unprepared and unarmed, for they have made no provision for it.

X: The mind that is untroubled and tranquil has the power to roam into all the parts of its life.

XII: Thought experiment: if you knew you were to die soon, what sort of things would you prioritize, and what let go of entirely?

XIII: Seneca criticizes the slaughter of people and animals for the sake of entertainment. Today, the suffering continues, in slaughterhouses.

XIV: Read the great minds of humanity, those that have insights on how to live a meaningful life.

XIV: Seneca reminds us of the span of philosophical inquiry, and of how delightful it is to engage with the greatest minds from across time and cultures.

XIV: The philosophers of the past are your true friends: they give wisdom without asking for money, or imperiling your life.

XV: Honors, statues, and wealth, don’t last much after one’s death. Philosophy is forever.

XVI: Seneca reminds us what is the proper Stoic attitude toward past, present, and future.

XVII: Seneca writes a poignant passage reminding us of the futile waste of human life that war is.

XVII: People with misguided priorities live a wretched life, so let’s get our priorities straight and aim for a serene existence instead.

XVIII: What sort of things are truly important in your life, and why? Should you be reconsidering your current priorities?

XIX: People who seek external goods become the slaves of those who happen to have the power to grant such goods.

XX: Seneca notices that people fear old age in part because they fear irrelevance. But no one is irrelevant so long as they keep striving to be better human beings.