What is this? When I read a book, I write summaries as I go. I started in July 2010 so the collection is small.
Peter's Notes for...

On the Shortness of Life

Seneca the Younger

Seneca's insights into how we use our time


Seneca the Younger (5 BC - 65 AD) was a Roman Stoic philosopher and tutor, then advisor, to the emperor Nero. He was ordered to commit suicide after being implicated in a famous plot to kill Nero, though it is believed Seneca was innocent. On the Shortness of Life (originally titled De Brevitate Vitæ in Latin) was written in 49 AD.


Point by Point

Life is long enough, and a sufficiently generous amount has been given to us for the highest achievements if it were all well invested.

Certain people reveal the most stupid indignation: they complain about the pride of their superiors because they did not have time to give them an audience when they wanted one. But can anyone dare to complain about another’s pride when he himself never has time for himself?

You act like mortals in all that you fear, and like immortals in all that you desire.

So you must not think a man has lived long because he has white hair and wrinkles: he has not lived long, just existed long. For suppose you should think that a man had had a long voyage who had been caught in a raging store as he left harbour, and carried hither and thither and driven round and round in a circle by the rage of opposing winds? He did not have a long voyage, just a long tossing about.

Vices have to be crushed rather than picked at.

Of all people only those are at leisure who make time for philosophy, only those are really alive. For they not only keep a good watch over their own lifetimes, but they annex every age to theirs.

We are in the habit of saying that it was not in our power to choose the parents who were allotted to us, that they were given to us by chance. But we can choose whose children we would like to be.

[I]t is better to understand the balance sheet of one’s own life than of the corn trade.

Indeed the state of all who are preoccupied is wretched, but the most wretched are those who are toiling not even at their own preoccupations but must regulate their sleep by another’s, their walk by another’s pace, and obey orders in those freest of all things, loving and hating. If such people want to know how short their lives are, let them reflect how small a portion is their own.

That is the feeling of many people: their desire for their work outlasts their ability to do it. They fight against their own bodily weakness, and they regard old age as a hardship on no other grounds than that it puts them on the shelf.

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