On the Shortness of Life: Life Is Long if You Know How to Use It (Penguin Great Ideas) 1st Edition, Kindle Edition
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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.
- ASIN : B00BCU07LO
- Publisher : Penguin Books; 1st edition (September 6, 2005)
- Publication date : September 6, 2005
- Language : English
- File size : 447 KB
- Text-to-Speech : Enabled
- Enhanced typesetting : Enabled
- X-Ray : Not Enabled
- Word Wise : Enabled
- Print length : 111 pages
- Lending : Not Enabled
- Best Sellers Rank: #235,241 in Kindle Store (See Top 100 in Kindle Store)
- Customer Reviews:
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Top reviews from the United States
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As one of the founders of stoicism who is often quoted and referenced by modern philosophers, these letters lived up to my expectations. I've marked probably over a hundred interesting phrases and quotes. It's worth a read, especially if you're interested in stoicism.
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While "On the Shortness of Life" definitely isn't one of the longest books ever written (paperback edition has 111 pages), it isn't one of the easiest-to-read books ever written as well. The message is often very condensed and it requires a lot of concentrated effort to fully comprehend it. I think this might be one of the most philosophical books I've read in a while, while luckily not being very philosophical (as compared to distant memories of reading Hegel's Phenomenology of the Spirit for my high school philosophy assignments).
I must admit that this is the most highlighted book in my collection. There are many different insights worth remembering and contemplating upon, and I think I might keep doing this for at least a while.
I don't think that this is the type of a book that you can read and expect it to change the entirety of your life (nor I think that you can expect this from anything, for that matter), yet it can definitely have an effect on how you live your life. I'd say this the kind of a book that falls into your hands when you are ready. You must have already started contemplating on life and changing your life in order to even be searching for such literature.
Already on the first page, Seneca writes that "it is not that we have a short time to live, but that we waste a lot of it." To refer back to the point I'm trying to make is why would one even care about the inevitable shortness of life or wasting of time in the first place, unless one was pursuing a hard-to-achieve goal and/or struggling on their own path to excellence?
I believe that simply the best way to properly describe this book is by quoting a fellow Amazon reviewer, who said:
"A must read for anyone who needs a jolt to kick you in the right direction."
Highly recommended to everyone interested!
Where he is not so good, another reason for four stars, is in advising what one should do with one's time, and that's partly because - to my thinking - he never settles in his own mind the criteria for deciding who we should be happy to give some of our precious time to supporting. It shouldn't go solely on private pleasure, should it? How much of it should go on good works, helping others less well placed than ourselves, maybe through public office? And what about the close up decisions about the gift of our time in partnerships?
But he sets you thinking. And probably the best philosophers set you thinking for yourself, which he does, if you give his book the time it deserves.