The writings of the ancient Roman philosopher Seneca offer powerful insights into stoicism, morality and the importance of reason, and continue to provide profound guidance to many through their eloquence, lucidity and wisdom.
Picking this book was entirely thanks to a video by PewDiePie, who, in between his usual meme and gaming content enjoys indulging in books, and particularly those of a philosophical nature. This time he explored Stoicism. Being at a loose end for a book, and not having a copy of Marcus Aurelius’ Meditations to hand, this slim tome was the next best thing.
Of the three essays on offer, those being On the Shortness of Life, Consolation to Helvia, and On Tranquillity of Mind, the first was my favourite, mainly because of all the famous Roman military and political figures that have become familiar over many books about that empire. The message of bettering oneself is always one that resonates strongly as well and writing that encourages reading is already preaching to the converted.
Each essay is written to a particular person, the first to Paulinus talks of spending time fruitfully in the timeless pursuit of wisdom through philosophy, the second consoles his mother on his exile to Corsica, and the final essay is written in letter form to Serenus, in which he offers advice on how to achieve a peaceful mind with moderation and self-control.
Simply written and extremely worthwhile, this slight book – barely over one hundred pages – holds the attention, it gives the reader a chance to slow down and contemplate how life is lived and the state of our relationships with others. The themes are timeless, and that makes this a worthy addition to any library, and this a worthy edition in my library.
More importantly it asks the question how could we better live our lives? On the Shortness of Life, is not a ‘life changing’ book but it is pleasantly thought provoking, and unlike these modern self-help books, it has, and will, continue to stand the test of time, and so far that’s two thousand years and counting.