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My takeaway

Time is what you pay attention to. It’s not that life is short but that we waste a lot of it, by not being intentional. Take stock of what matters to you and happily disregard what doesn’t.


My notes

These are my informal notes from On the Shortness of Life. It contains a mix of key highlights as well as my own thoughts and lessons.

  • 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. It is not that we have a short time to live, but that we waste a lot of it.
  • Living is the least important activity of the preoccupied person; yet there is nothing which is harder to learn.
  • The person who spends all his time on his own needs, who organizes every day as though it were his last, neither longs for nor fears the next day.
  • The greatest obstacle to living is expectancy, which hangs upon tomorrow and loses today.
  • It does not matter how much time we are given if there is nowhere for it to settle; it escapes through the cracks and holes of the mind.
  • 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.
  • In this kind of life 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 tranquillity.
  • There is no evil in poverty, as anyone knows who has not yet arrived at the lunatic state of greed and luxury, which ruin everything.
  • Nothing satisfies greed, but even a little satisfies nature.
  • “So if you must fill your time, write something in a simple style for your own use and not for publication: less toil is needed if you study only for the day.”
  • This evil of taking our cue from others has become so deeply ingrained that even that most basic feeling, grief, degenerates into imitation.