Seneca: On the Shortness of Life

It has been awhile since I have posted on here.  Sorry for the delay but hopefully I will pick it up and be more consistent.

I recently finished a book called Seeking Wisdom by Peter Bevelin.  I think it is my new favorite.  That is not saying much because that changes pretty consistently for me.  It is definitely at the top though.  Bevelin essentially analyzed great philosophers and thinkers to discover how to gain wisdom.  He spends a lot of time studying Charlie Munger (Warren Buffet's partner at Berkshire Hathaway) because he has developed a simplicity and clarity to analyzing any situation.  I will definitely have to reread it a few times in the future.  It is pretty expensive but will definitely bring more value to your life than the cost of the book.

Bevelin ends the book with part of an essay from Lucius Seneca about how short life is.  It left me sitting and thinking in silence for probably ten minutes.  I'll let you read it and come to your own conclusions.  Hope you enjoy it...


Why do we complain of Nature?  She has shown herself kindly; life, if you know how to use it, is long.  But one man is possessed by an avarice that is insatiable, another by a toilsome devotion to tasks that are useless; one man is besotted with wine, another is paralyzed by sloth; one man is exhausted by an ambition that always hangs upon the decision of others, another driven by the greed of the trader, is led over all lands and all seas by the hope of gain...many are kept busy either in the pursuit of another mens fortune or in complaining of their own; many, following no fixed aim, shifting and inconstant and dissatisfied, are plunged by their fickleness into plans that are ever new; some have not fixed principle by which to direct their course, but Fate takes them unawares while they loll and yawn - so surely does it happen that I cannot doubt the truth of that utterance which the greatest of poets delivered with all the seeming of an oracle: "The part of life we really live is small."  For all the best of existence is not life, but merely time.

You live as if you were destined to live forever, no though of your frailty ever enters your head, of how much time has already gone by you take no heed.

You squander time as if you drew from a full and abundant supply, though all the while that day which you bestow on some person or thing is perhaps your last.  You have all the fears of mortals and all the desires of immortals.  You will hear many men saying: "After my fiftieth year I shall retire into leisure, my sixtieth year shall release me from public duties."  And what guarantee, pray, have you that your life will last longer?  Who will suffer your course to be just as you plan it?  Are you not ashamed to reserve for yourself only the remnant of life, and to set apart for wisdom only that time which cannot be devoted to any business?  How late it is to begin to live just when we must cease to live!  What foolish forgetfulness of mortality to postpone wholesome plans to the fiftieth and sixtieth year, and to intend to begin life at a point to which few have attained!

Photo by Gabriella Clare Marino

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