{Book Review} How to Die by Senecca

Raise an eyebrow if you must, but yes, I read about dying so I can better understand how to live, making the most of what I am given. The topic of death is fascinating to me and this is a book of great rhetorical talent and sharp pencil. I cannot recommend it enough.

Senecca sees dying as an essential function of living and the only function that cannot be learned or refined through repetition. He says that a whole lifetime is needed to learn how to live [that’s if we’re smart enough to dive deep and pay attention] and perhaps you’ll find this even more surprising but a whole lifetime is needed to learn how to die as well.

Senecca sees death as a doorway to freedom. The love of life is seen as holding us in bondage, keeping us from doing what we need to do. I wish I could sees this as calmly and as objectively as he does, but I’m still too attached to everything that is alive and living.

Below some of my favorite takeaways.

  • Our minds and the love for ourselves are disturbed by death. We yearn for longer lives and that yearning holds us in its grip. We fear and shun death. We reject it. To what purpose? All things that live, die. They die from the moment they are born.
  • All things that seem to die are only transformed. The circuit of the universe returns upon itself. Everything falls and rises in turns, nothing is extinguished.

‘Nothing can be of such great benefit to you, in your quest for moderation in all things, than to frequently contemplate the brevity of one’s life span, and it’s uncertainty. Whatever you undertake, cast your eyes on death.’

[let the above sit with you]

On fear:

  • There’s nothing more worrisome in the act of dying than there is after death; it’s just as insane to fear what you’re not going to feel as to fear what you’re not even going to experience. [take a moment with this one]
  • Just as silly to fear death and it is to fear old age, for just as age follows youth so death follows age. Whoever doesn’t want to die, doesn’t want to live. Life is granted with death as its limitation.
  • Fear is for things we’re unsure of; certainties are merely awaited.
  • We tremble when death is near. But whom is it not near, when it’s ready and waiting at every moment, in every place? […] death in itself is always the same distance away; so if it is to be feared, then it should be feared always. What time is there that’s exempt from death?
  • Study death always so that you’ll fear it never.
  • The love of oneself, the desire to maintain and preserve oneself, are deeply rooted, along with an aversion to annihilation and a dread of the unknown.
  • It is fitting for us to experience pain, thirst, hunger, old age, illness, loss and death. But none of these things is bad, nothing is unbearable or harsh; fear attaches to them only by consensus.

We are in no one’s power, if death is in our power.

There’s only one way we can say that the life we live is long: if it’s enough.

It’s not in our power how long we exist, but rather how long we truly exist. Demand this of yourself: that you do not pass through a base life span as though passing through shadows, but that you live your life, not skip past it.

No one should promise himself anything regarding the future; the thing held in the hands slips away, and chance cuts short the very hour we hold before us.

Make haste to live and think of each of your days to be an individual life.

I’m curious, is this a book you’re keen to read? Let me know below.

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