On the purpose of books, owning your time, and learning how to die
On the purpose of books After reading Seneca's On the Shortness of Life, what will you change? What will you cease to do? What will you become mindful of? It's fairly simple to read a book quickly and ingest the information inside. That's not why you read, however. You read to apply. You read to improve. If you do not live the philosophy, then you have no business reading any more of it. That would mean that you have not learned nearly enough from the philosophy itself. So, what? You've read another old philosophy title that most people do not recognize and will not understand. That's not why you read! You don't read to show anyone else the title and proclaim to them, with complex verbiage and touted up language, that you (of all people!) have read such a masterpiece. That is vanity if I've ever seen it! Of course, this isn't what you're doing either, but in order to stay away from such vanity, I advise you to run in the complete opposite direction. Focus on applying what you learned and the things you were made aware of.
On owning your time How much of your time is truly yours? Seneca asks this question as a measuring stick of whether or not you are living a life worth living. Many men have gone through their whole lives without living a moment for or with themselves. Yes, some of them have even managed to avoid the dangers of downtime and fill their days with edifying activity. Some of those have still completely failed! Their activity was objectively good, but they did it to please others and to live up to an external expectation. Not one fueled by philosophy or moral good, but simply by others. How foolish can you be? Everyone else's expectations for your life will guide you, rather than your own introspection and reflection with your God? If you are at the whim of other people (who are less introspective and reflective in the first place), you are on shaky ground. Ground that will collapse when their hearts have wandered to another distraction. Suddenly, you are no longer important and even the things that you once stood for are no longer attractive. You lived a life for others and never stopped to ask how this was right for you. Don't give others what they irrationally want, and you will own more and more of your time.
On learning how to die Learn how to die! If you can predict one thing in life, it will be your own death. It can be said that the only reason you were born is so that you could soon die, for the one thing that life guarantees is not life, but death. Why does this scare you? Why should you live in any sort of anxiety regarding your death? If you spend your life in fear of this inevitable event, then you will fail to live. I think if you are scared of death it is because you are scared that you haven't yet lived. Why is that? You haven't acknowledged your coming death and thought wrongly that your time is infinite. That a couple minutes here and a couple minutes there are not important and can be wasted away. How quickly those minutes become valuable in your final hours! The cure is partially to live, but more importantly to learn how to die. Live a life in which you can die at peace at any given moment, even now. A good life is not judged quantitatively. No amount of money can give you solace in the afterlife. Only a good life lived with good morals and great foundations in philosophy will give you this peace. Truly, your ability to handle your own death with equanimity will be the measure of that peace.