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Learn the key ideas of the book by Lucio Anneo Seneca

On the Shortness of Life

Seneca’s teachings for a life with meaning

The most important lesson in Seneca’s Tenth Dialogue, The Shortness of Life, is that we must learn to value time and avoid wasting it on useless tasks. We are all aware of the theory, but how many of us actually put it into practice in our everyday lives? Seneca’s enduring wisdom reminds us to apply this often forgotten essential lesson, in order to avoid simply existing in the world, and instead, make sure we are able to live life to the fullest.

On the Shortness of Life
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Life is not short: the truth is that we waste most of it on activities that have no real value. Seneca’s message has spanned two millennia, and is still as relevant as ever

As Italo Calvino once said, a classical text has the power to endure throughout the centuries, and help us understand the present. Although Lucius Annaeus Seneca could not possibly have predicted the complexity of life two millennia after his own time, in his tenth Dialogue, he addresses some of the difficulties we actually still face today, particularly those concerning time. As was the case in Seneca’s era, we still believe that life is not long enough to allow us to fulfil our potential, that it slips by too quickly, and that it is too short for us to achieve true happiness.

Seneca’s tenth Dialogue is addressed to Pompey the Great, who at the time was the prefect of the annona, in other words, he was responsible for the harvest and distributing grain. As well as being Seneca’s father-in-law, Pompey was also a friend, and this friendship shines through clearly in the Dialogue. Seneca advises Pompey to give up his public activity and retire to private life, in order to focus on what is truly important to him, because contrary to what people believe, life is not short, and if we are able to live it to the full, our life can be very long indeed.

  

The key ideas of "On the Shortness of Life"

01.
Life is not short: the truth is that we waste most of it on activities that have no real value. Seneca’s message has spanned two millennia, and is still as relevant as ever
02.
The life we are given is not short, but we often make it seem shorter by wasting time on pointless activities
03.
We only actually experience a small part of life, and everything else is just time passing us by: humans perceive and embrace authentic life so superficially that it makes us feel that life is short and futile
04.
Everyone’s life will come to an end eventually, but Seneca urges us not to face death with sadness, but peacefully and calmly, and this is only possible if we have truly lived
05.
In order to live wisely in the present, we need to focus on the past and the future, without wasting energy on fleeting desires and pointless nostalgia
06.
Time is our most precious commodity, yet it is also the easiest to waste. People who focus on their wealth often do not treasure the one asset that cannot be bought: time
07.
Quotes
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Take-home message
 
 
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