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On the Shortness of Life (Penguin Great Ideas) Paperback – September 6, 2005
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About the Author
Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.
Most human beings, Paulinus,* complain about the meanness of nature, because we are born for a brief span of life, and because this spell of time that has been given to us rushes by so swiftly and rapidly that with very few exceptions life ceases for the rest of us just when we are getting ready for it. Nor is it just the man in the street and the unthinking mass of people who groan over this - as they see it - universal evil: the same feeling lies behind complaints from even distinguished men. Hence the dictum of the greatest of doctors:† 'Life is short, art is long.' Hence too the grievance, most improper to a wise man, which Aristotle expressed when he was taking nature to task for indulging animals with such long existences that they can live through five or ten human lifetimes, while a far shorter limit is set for men who are born to a great and extensive destiny. 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.
* A friend of Seneca’s.
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Top Customer Reviews
This book also elucidates the author's pet peeves, many of which sound quite modern:
* Men who comb their few strands of hair forward in an effort to hide their baldness
* Historians who memorize obscure dates and battles in an effort to appear knowledgeable
* Collectors and hobbyists of any sort
* Sports fans (men who sit at "a wrestling ring...keenly following the bouts between boys")
* Men who pretend they're younger than they are
* Lunatic poets who prose on about love
* The current mode of dance (mincing and wriggling)
There is very little talk about love or mitigating the pain of death through love. In fact, Seneca recommends that we detach ourselves from strenuous goal-seeking, repeated indulgence in sport and play, or overindulgence in anything.
Everything in moderation.
Yet his wife did commit suicide with Seneca. Was that out of love or fear?
This small book (106 pages) gives its reader a window into the life and customs of the Roman Empire as seen through the clear gaze of one of its eminent philosophers.
The three writings contained in this work are:
On the shortness of life.
Consolation to Helvia.
On the tranquility of mind.
In these writings the great philosopher warns of the dangers of materialism and how it leads to unhappiness. Life will be miserable for those who acquire through great toil what they must keep by greater toil. The wealthy are no more happy than the poor, for most worry about losing what they have. The author advises not getting to attached to money, public office, or influence because fortune can reclaim them. He suggests to love frugality and the pursuit of learning, study history and philosophy. Be careful what you exchange your time for, life goes by quickly. The ideal amount of money never falls with in the range of poverty or far exceeds it. He believes that people can be happy in simplicity and contemplation. He advises leading a balanced life and beware of fame, power, and responsibilty becasue most that are in high places became trapped and unhappy dreaming of freedom and peace. This was a delightful book and an excellent translation. If you love philosphy I highly recommend adding this little book to your collection. Spend your time wisely it will go by very quickly.
I would agree that it is not a definitive reference, but I enjoy soaking in a few gems from many writers on many subjects, and for this reason I am glad that these little great ideas books are being published.
I have not seen the other volume that was aforementioned by the previous reviewer and therefore cannot compare its qualities.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Interesting perspective, will change the way you go on about daily life.Published 2 days ago by Fernando Crisantos
Just trying to catch up on the classics. Seems to be a pretty good version. Easier to read on the Kindle than on the small Loeb edition.Published 19 days ago by Idphotodoc
This is a great book. Ordered it for each of my siblings for Christmas and everyone loved it. Shipped right on time and they were all perfectly ready to get wrapped.Published 23 days ago by Unhappy Customer
On The Shortness of Life is a collection of letters from philosopher Seneca.
It covers, insightfully, death, life, and all of the experience in between. Read more
Seneca's wisdom will forever echo and flow like a river through the human psyche, shedding light on the shadowy, slippery, jaded rocks and soothing the soul to sway and playfully... Read morePublished 1 month ago by Skyler
Very Fast shipping! Exactly as described! No issues with the book at all!Published 1 month ago by rockerstatus83
This book is insightful and has great lessons. Found myself highlighting so many things and wondering where these types of thinkers can be found today. Read morePublished 2 months ago by Jose Andres Ponciano
Interesting book and philosophy. Easy to get into, This series is really a nice look at different philosophers.Published 2 months ago by M. Collins