On the Shortness of Life by Seneca [Book Thoughts]

On the Shortness of Life is more a book that I am glad to have read but did not particularly enjoy reading. For anyone interested, give the first essay a read, skip the other two.
-Imran

—————————————————

 20130812_210611

(Essay compilation)

On the Shortness of Life is an essay collection by Lucius Annaeus Seneca, a Roman philosopher most well-known for his writings on stoicism. This collection in particular contains an essay ‘On the Shortness of Life’, a letter written to comfort his mother after his exile and a letter to his friend Serenus who requested his wisdom and advice. Together the three come to just over a 100 pages.

 From what I understand, stoicism is a way of life that aims to be immune to misfortune. Like Taoism, it appears to be a philosophy of inaction rather action. Seneca frequently points to the futility of so many activities (and with good reason) and advocates that it’s better to live a life of leisure instead of toil (which I don’t agree with).

 As for being immune to misfortune, Seneca remarks that misfortune happens to anyone and everyone at without warning; he himself suffered many such as the death of his son and his exile. How Seneca deals with this is to accept misfortune without sorrow and hold possession over nothing. For instance, he notes that it’s more painful to receive wealth and then lose it than it is to have never had wealth to begin with; Seneca himself was quite wealthy but ‘remedied’ this by living frugally so that if he ever lost his wealth he would be unaffected. In fact, when he was exiled and lost all his wealth, he told his mother that poverty wasn’t much of a bother to him since he only needed to eat small quantities to survive. It almost seems as though he did not approve of the enjoyment of good fortune since this exposes one to the risk of suffering by misfortune.

 As for the writings themselves, the essays do contain several powerful quotes and much food for thought but I couldn’t help but feel that they dragged on at times. Perhaps the first essay I found quite striking but the other two just didn’t hit the same notes for me. On the whole I wish I could say On the Shortness of Life moved me or affected me profoundly but it didn’t. Seneca makes plenty of powerful and striking points he speaks in plain language but perhaps the stoic philosophies just don’t appeal strongly to me to me.

 In closing, it was nice to have some exposure to Seneca and get an idea for what he’s about, but I can’t see myself gravitating towards his writings again in a hurry.

On the Shortness of Life is more a book that I am glad to have read but did not particularly enjoy reading. For anyone interested, give the first essay a read, skip the other two.

 See you next week

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s