My brother gave me “On the shortness of life” book to read a while ago. This book though a short one changed the course of my river. Seneca’s brilliant words pierced like a thunderbolt though I’m not a stoic as such.
I never knew that there was such a thing called as the “Art of living” until I met this great thinker. It inspired me, it brought an existential crisis to me, and in a way crucified and resurrected me.
And it also brought a sense of urgency to my hibernated-slumber life. And every page of the book washed my soul and put me in deep meditation and contemplation. Here are a few of them for you to burn the flame—
- 1)Life is not short.
This sounds contradictory to the title of the book but this is the first truth that Seneca hammers on your head. He says—
“It is not that we have so little time but that we lose so much. … The life we receive is not short but we make it so; we are not ill-provided but use what we have wastefully.”
We waste so much time on things that don’t matter or on things that don’t matter now. We feed on Insta posts, drink YouTube scrolls, and sleep on Netflix-ing. If that’s not enough, we binge-envy on others and reflect for far too long on why life sucks though we exactly know why it does.
In fact, we tik tok our lives and finally think on the deathbed—How has life gone by?
That’s why Lucius Annaeus Seneca pushes you to grab hold of your time and act like a mortal who is a simple slave to the silly fates.
- 2)What is the proof for a long life?
“Often a very old man has no other proof of his long life than his age.”—Seneca.
This is a saintly saying if you think about it. Long life doesn’t mean we add more numbers to our life but add more meaning to them. Consider Indian freedom fighter Bhagat Singh who was hanged at 23 or Bruce Lee who died due to Cerebral edema(That’s what Wikipedia says) at 32, they didn’t become oxygenarians or nonagenarians but their life was well spent.
Both changed the world in ways we cannot. And that matters a lot. The mere existence and sleepwalking to our tombs won’t do any good either to us or anybody.
Every living minute of our life should have some wonder and awe like a shining star.
- 3)Choose your parents
I’m talking about intellectual parents, not birth parents. Seneca says that we can choose to be educated by brilliant minds and great thinkers of history.
History is full of philosopher kings and queens, realists, and stellar rebels who can teach us a lot. In other words, you can choose your mentor and be a mentee by sitting in libraries or swimming in the pools of wisdom.
Pick the classics and have talks with Plato, Aristotle, Kant, Buddha, Confucius, Lao Tzu, Hannah Arendt,and Simone de Beauvoir and forge yourself under their guidance and light.
“You should rather suppose that those are involved in worthwhile duties who wish to have daily as their closest friends Zeno, Pythagoras, Democritus and all the other high priests of liberal studies, and Aristotle and Theophrastus. None of these will be too busy to see you, none of these will not send his visitor away happier and more devoted to himself, none of these will allow anyone to depart empty-handed. They are at home to all mortals by night and by day.”—Seneca.
This is the true “Walking with the dead,” we all should do.