On the Shortness of Life by Seneca (Part 1)

1 – It is not that we have a short time to live, but that we waste a lot of it.

2 – … life is long if you know how to use it.

2 – … I cannot doubt the truth of that oracular remark of the greatest of poets: ‘It is a small part of life we really live.’ Indeed, all the rest is not life but merely time.

3 – Look at those whose good fortune people gather to see: they are choked by their own blessings.

4- People are frugal in guarding their personal property; but as soon as it comes to squandering time they are most wasteful of the one thing in which it is right to be stingy.

4 – Call to mind when you ever had a fixed purpose; how few days have passed as you had planned; when you were ever at your own disposal; when your face wore its natural expression; when your mind was undisturbed; what work you have achieved in such a long life; how many have plundered your life when you were unaware of your losses; how much you have lost through groundless sorrow, foolish joy, greedy desire, the seductions of society; how little of your own was left to you. You will realize that you are dying prematurely.

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

5 – How late it is to begin really to live just when life must end!

9 – But among the worst offenders I count those who spend all their time in drinking and lust, for these are the worst preoccupations of all.

13 – But putting things off is the biggest waste of life: it snatches away each day as it comes, and denies us the present by promising the future.

13 – The whole future lies in uncertainty: live immediately.

23 – Of all people only those are at leisure who make time for philosophy, only those are really alive.

26 – But life is very short and anxious for those who forget the past, neglect the present, and fear the future.

28 – To preserve prosperity we need other prosperity, and to support the prayers which have turned out well we have to make other prayers.

28 – So it is inevitable that life will be not just very short but very miserable for those who acquire by great toil what they must keep by greater toil.

29 – And so, my dear Paulinus, extract yourself from the crowd…

30 – …but believe me it is better to understand the balance-sheet of one’s own life than of the corn trade.

31 – … you will find much that is worth your study: the love and practice of the virtues, forgetfulness of the passions, the knowledge of how to live and die, and a life of deep tranquility.

32 – So, when you see a man repeatedly wearing the robe of office, or one whose name is often spoken in the Forum, do not envy him: these things are won at the cost of life. In order that one year may be dated from their names they will waste all their own years.

33 – Meanwhile, as they rob and are robbed, as they disturb each other’s peace, as they make each other miserable, their lives pass without satisfaction, without pleasure, without mental improvement.

33 – But in truth, such people’s funerals should be conducted with torches and wax tapers, as though they had lived the shortest of lives.


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