On the Shortness of Life

During one of my recent flights I completed a short book from Seneca, “On the shortness of life”. Seneca (the Younger) was a roman philosopher, who eventually became an advisor to emperor Nero. “On the shortness of life” is a letter to Paulinus, his father in law, in which he reviews many timeless lessons on how to live life.

Bust of Seneca

Image courtesy of Jean-Pol GRANDMONT

Lessons such as, how most people (poor and rich alike) feel at the end of their days how they long for more time. Most people feel that they didn’t have enough time to enjoy all that life has to offer. But in contrast to this, Seneca talks about how most of us misuse our time. Either devoting it to useless past times or spending it on tasks which don’t bring any benefit or joy.

A key message is that it’s essential to appreciate every minute of our time. Time is the only resource that we can never buy, or recover through any means. Once gone, it’s lost forever. Building on this idea, becoming efficient with time is almost a moral imperative. Seneca argues that we need to be ruthless eliminating from our lives anything that consumes time and doesn’t bring any joy. And instead, use that time for tasks which enrich our experience in life. Studying philosophy and science, learning, teaching, enjoying nature and the arts and thinking about the world, and what matters in life.

Written on August 12, 2017