On the Shortness of Life

date Jun 23, 2017
authors Seneca
reading time 5 mins

Awareness of ending

But when time is squandered in the pursuit of pleasure or in vain idleness, when it is spent with no real purpose, the finality of death fast approaches and it is only then, when we are forced to, that we at last take a good hard look at how we have spent our life –just as we become aware that it is ending.

Various distractions of life

One fellow is obsessed with his career and spends his days based on the decisions of others. Another, ruled by the love of business and making money, devotes all his energy to the pursuit of the deal. Some are driven mad by rage, and obsessed with violence or being macho, seemingly always hell-bent upon inflicting harm on others or being overly concerned with their own safety!

Reactive approach to life

Those who choose to have no real purpose in life are ever rootless and dissatisfied, tossed by their aimlessness into ever-changing situations.

Help everyone…

Inquire into the lives of famous men and you will find this common trait: A helps B and B helps C; no one is his own master.

Time is a limited resource

You waste time as if it was a limitless resource, when any moment you spend on someone else or some matter is potentially your last.

Nobody can guarantee the future

You will hear many men say: “When I’m fifty I’ll slow down; when I’m sixty, I’ll be ready for retirement.” But what guarantee, pray, do you have that your life will last longer? Who is going to make sure your life plays out just as you plan it?

Time slipping by

The time you have, the experience of which is relative, although of course it feels like it is rushing away, by definition escapes from you quickly; because you don’t grab it firmly enough, you neither hold back nor cause to delay the fastest moving thing in the world. You let it slip away as if it were something unimportant that could easily be replaced.


Finally, it is universally acknowledged that no single worthwhile goal can be successfully pursued by a man who is occupied with many tasks –lawyer, teacher, whomever -because the mind, when its focus is split, absorbs little in depth and rejects everything that is, so to speak, jammed into it.

Being busy…

The busy man is busy with everything except living; there is nothing that is more difficult to learn how to do right.

Living vs existing

A grey-haired wrinkled man has not necessarily lived long. More accurately, he has existed long.

Life will never remind you of its swiftness

Life will keep marching on and never reverse course; it will be silent, it will not remind you of its swiftness.

Great expectations

The greatest obstacle to living a full life is having expectations, delaying gratification based on what might happen tomorrow which squanders today.

Present is short

Life is divided into three parts: what was, what is and what shall be. Of these three periods, the present is short, the future is doubtful and the past alone is certain.

Having a clear conscience

A clear conscience gives the tranquil mind power to explore all the parts of its existence; but the mind that is preoccupied, as if burdened by a yoke, cannot turn and look back.

Worry is not living

Even the leisured man is busy; in his mansion or on his couch, alone, withdrawn from the world where the only source of worry is himself. Truly, such people are not living in leisure but are busy being idle.

Acquiring knowledge

The only really leisured people are those who devote time to acquiring true knowledge rather than trivia. Such people are not content to live ‘in the moment’ exclusively but show a keen awareness of history, of all the years that have gone before them and they know that the amount of time they have left is uncertain and finite.

Learn about history, but i don’t agree about being inhabited by men better than ourselves

When life permits us to commune with every era, why not turn the tables on this absurdly short and fleeting span of time we are endowed with by spending some of it in the past, which is boundless and inhabited by men better than ourselves?

Skipping and extravagance

Restlessly these types seek new ways to be at leisure and the time between play needles them to no end. Their excitement peaks at the announcement of a gladiator bout or some other such spectacle and they long to skip the days that lie between now and the grand day of extravagant entertainment.

The point of labour

A pleasure that is ephemeral brings no true satisfaction to any man. How miserable must be the lives of those folk who labor so hard for something that once gained they must work even harder to keep.

On Stoicism

“In the last three years, I’ve begun to explore one philosophical system in particular: Stoicism. Through my preferred Stoic writer, Lucius Seneca, I’ve found it to be a simple and immensely practical set of rules for better results with less effort.” -Timothy Ferriss, author of Four Hour Workweek.